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Holocaust survivor visits OKC metro area to share her story

Eva Schloss remembered the day her beloved father said words she had never heard him say before: "God will take care of you."

A Jewish man who was not particularly religious, he had realized that he couldn't protect her — not in Auschwitz, one of the most notorious Nazi death camps where the family had just arrived.

"He couldn't look after me anymore but he handed me over to God," Schloss said Thursday in Oklahoma City.

The Holocaust survivor and childhood friend and stepsister of diarist Anne Frank, spoke first to a group of Edmond middle school students and later to an overflow crowd of 1,050 people at the Oklahoma City Community College Visual and Performing Arts Center, 7777 S May Ave.

Her visit was sponsored by the Chabad Community Center for Jewish Life and Learning in northwest Oklahoma City and the agency's community partners.

Rabbi Ovadia Goldman, Chabad's spiritual leader, said he heard Schloss tell her story about five years ago and was struck by how she survived the horrors of the Holocaust without letting the experience quench her spirit and her love for others.

Schloss, 92, seemed to enchant both sets of audiences with her down-to-Earth personality and some hints of humor.

However, there was nothing funny about the unvarnished picture she painted of how she went from being an athletic schoolgirl from a loving home to a frightened teen in hiding and finally, a starving concentration camp prisoner.

Schloss talked of moving from her native Austria to Amsterdam when she was about 10. There, she met Anne Frank. Though they attended separate schools, the two girls played together in the open square near their their families' homes.

Anne, she said, was small and liked to talk and she wrote "little stories." They played hopscotch, marbles and other games with other children after school.

"She was a bit of a chatterbox. Her nickname was 'Miss Quack Quack,'" Schloss said of Anne.

"She wasn't famous. She was just a little girl. I had no idea that she would be famous and neither did she."

Schloss said she enjoyed a wonderful upbringing because her father had inherited a shoe factory and her parents were well-off and very loving. At a certain point, however, the family began to notice that they were being treated differently because they were Jewish. One day, her brother was beaten at school by two people he thought were his friends — and the teacher simply watched.

Like the Franks, Schloss and her family had to go into hiding to keep the Nazis at bay. She went with her mother while her father took her brother with him. She was just 13.

Anguished, she wondered why the family couldn't be together. Her father's answer shocked her. He said that by separating, there was a better chance that at least two of them would survive.

"That was the first time I realized that we were in danger of being killed," she said.

A woman who Schloss called a "double agent" pretended to befriend the family only to betray them for money.

She said the family was sent on a "transport" to Auschwitz when she was about 15. She and her mother and other women and children traveling with them were immediately scrutinized by Dr. Josef Mengele, the infamous "Angel of Death," who chose who died and who lived to work for the Nazis. Schloss said the majority of children were sent to the gas chambers but her mother had dressed her to look older than she was and she called surviving that first "selection" one of the "little miracles" of her life.

Schloss said inhumane treatment was the norm at the concentration camp. She said many people died from diseases like typhus in the lice- and bedbug-ridden barracks. Those who remained were perpetually hungry. They would steal food from each other even knowing that the theft might cause someone else to die for lack of food.

"If you never experienced it, you can never imagine a human being would treat another human being this way," she said.

Schloss said she survived by holding onto the dream that she would be free again to have her own family and the idyllic life she once knew.

Schloss' mother, Elfriede "Fritzi" Geiringer, and Anne Frank's father, Otto Frank, married after World War II, after their spouses were killed in the Holocaust. Both of Otto Frank's daughters, Anne and Margot, were murdered in the concentration camps, while Geiringer's son — and Schloss' brother — Heinz also was killed.

Schloss said she was a survivor but she came away from her horrific experiences feeling depressed and bitter. Her father and brother had been killed just seven days shy of the day Auschwitz was liberated by Allied Forces. She hated not just the Nazis and the Germans who had stayed silent as Hitler's evil regime killed 6 million Jews. She also hated other countries around the world who closed their borders to the Jews frantically trying to escape the Nazis' clutches.

Schloss said her faith had died in the death camp.

"In Auschwitz, the only thing that we could do was pray to God to stop these atrocities carrying on but God wasn't there for us. So I came out of the camp not believing in God but not believing in human beings either. I was an atheist and I didn't believe in anything," she said.

She said it was Otto Frank — "a man who had lost everything" — who encouraged her to let go of her hatred and dream again.

"He told me that when you hate people, they don't know it and you become a miserable person," she said.

Schloss said she finally took his advice and a camera he gave her and moved to London where she studied photography, met and married Zvi Schloss.

Schloss said the final vestiges of hatred fell away at the birth of her first child. The realization of her dream of having a family made her hopeful for the first time since before the Holocaust.

"The birth of my first daughter really changed my whole outlook on life," she said.

That hope spread, so much so that Schloss eventually began speaking about her experiences in the mid-1980s, encouraging people to exchange hate for love and to speak up when anyone is being oppressed and persecuted. She has had more than 1,000 speaking engagements over the years and written two books, "Eva's Story: A Survivor's Tale by the Stepsister of Anne Frank" and "After Auschwitz: A story of heartbreak and survival by the stepsister of Anne Frank."

In Oklahoma City, she asked the metro area students to become ambassadors to help spread her message that people need to treat one another with respect and dignity, despite their differences.

"If another person believes in something a little bit different, this is no reason to hate them," she told students from Edmond's Cheyenne Middle School. "We are all human beings. We should have the same chance to make opportunities in our lives."

She encouraged the students to be empathetic to refugees who are seeking a better life.

In the evening session, a person in the audience asked Schloss what should the world do when the next "Hitler" rises up.

Schloss answered with optimism.

"I don't think the world will tolerate it any more," she said. "And it wasn't just Hitler who killed. It was the people" who stood by and did nothing.

Related Photos
<strong>Eva Schloss, a Holocaust survivor and stepsister of diarist Anne Frank, speaks to students from Cheyenne Middle School about her youth during a discussion at the Skirvin Hotel in Oklahoma City. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman]</strong>

Eva Schloss, a Holocaust survivor and stepsister of diarist Anne Frank, speaks to students from Cheyenne Middle School about her youth during a discussion at the Skirvin Hotel in Oklahoma City. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-578aa9f78d83ba346e4219434e44d423.jpg" alt="Photo - Eva Schloss, a Holocaust survivor and stepsister of diarist Anne Frank, speaks to students from Cheyenne Middle School about her youth during a discussion at the Skirvin Hotel in Oklahoma City. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] " title=" Eva Schloss, a Holocaust survivor and stepsister of diarist Anne Frank, speaks to students from Cheyenne Middle School about her youth during a discussion at the Skirvin Hotel in Oklahoma City. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Eva Schloss, a Holocaust survivor and stepsister of diarist Anne Frank, speaks to students from Cheyenne Middle School about her youth during a discussion at the Skirvin Hotel in Oklahoma City. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-8ea3d34c14273fd497d65c09ed4aedab.jpg" alt="Photo - Cheyenene Middle School students from Edmond stand as Eva Schloss, a Holocaust survivor and stepsister of diarist Anne Frank, arrives for a discussion at the Skirvin Hotel in Oklahoma City. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] " title=" Cheyenene Middle School students from Edmond stand as Eva Schloss, a Holocaust survivor and stepsister of diarist Anne Frank, arrives for a discussion at the Skirvin Hotel in Oklahoma City. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Cheyenene Middle School students from Edmond stand as Eva Schloss, a Holocaust survivor and stepsister of diarist Anne Frank, arrives for a discussion at the Skirvin Hotel in Oklahoma City. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-83dfab421d58ed366ddbd14e8119866f.jpg" alt="Photo - Eva Schloss, a Holocaust survivor and stepsister of diarist Anne Frank, speaks to students from Cheyenne Middle School in Edmond about her childhood in Europe during a discussion at the Skirvin Hotel in Oklahoma City. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] " title=" Eva Schloss, a Holocaust survivor and stepsister of diarist Anne Frank, speaks to students from Cheyenne Middle School in Edmond about her childhood in Europe during a discussion at the Skirvin Hotel in Oklahoma City. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Eva Schloss, a Holocaust survivor and stepsister of diarist Anne Frank, speaks to students from Cheyenne Middle School in Edmond about her childhood in Europe during a discussion at the Skirvin Hotel in Oklahoma City. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-359a78396d98d463967a64b8d20e9b7f.jpg" alt="Photo - Eva Schloss, a Holocaust survivor and stepsister of diarist Anne Frank, is shown as a teenager. [Photo provided] " title=" Eva Schloss, a Holocaust survivor and stepsister of diarist Anne Frank, is shown as a teenager. [Photo provided] "><figcaption> Eva Schloss, a Holocaust survivor and stepsister of diarist Anne Frank, is shown as a teenager. [Photo provided] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-235d9e2480e51fef04b76973b8f1e413.jpg" alt="Photo - In this 1939 photo, Eva Schloss, at right, is shown with her brother Heinz Geiringer and her mother Elfriede "Fritzi" Geiringer at Zanndvoort, west of Amsterdam. [Photo provided] " title=" In this 1939 photo, Eva Schloss, at right, is shown with her brother Heinz Geiringer and her mother Elfriede "Fritzi" Geiringer at Zanndvoort, west of Amsterdam. [Photo provided] "><figcaption> In this 1939 photo, Eva Schloss, at right, is shown with her brother Heinz Geiringer and her mother Elfriede "Fritzi" Geiringer at Zanndvoort, west of Amsterdam. [Photo provided] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-d3741a01cc18f0be884aebcb49c8c440.jpg" alt="Photo - A crowd gathers at the Oklahoma City Community College Visual and Performing Arts Center, 7777 S May, for "A Story of Triumph: Learning from the Past, Living the Present, Looking to the Future" featuring Holocaust survivor Eva Schloss. [Photo provided] " title=" A crowd gathers at the Oklahoma City Community College Visual and Performing Arts Center, 7777 S May, for "A Story of Triumph: Learning from the Past, Living the Present, Looking to the Future" featuring Holocaust survivor Eva Schloss. [Photo provided] "><figcaption> A crowd gathers at the Oklahoma City Community College Visual and Performing Arts Center, 7777 S May, for "A Story of Triumph: Learning from the Past, Living the Present, Looking to the Future" featuring Holocaust survivor Eva Schloss. [Photo provided] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-23208c1af73046c8b2fa62a042c80d6f.jpg" alt="Photo - KFOR anchorman Kevin Ogle talks with Holocaust survivor Eva Schloss at the Oklahoma City Community College Visual and Performing Arts Center, 7777 S May. [Photo provided] " title=" KFOR anchorman Kevin Ogle talks with Holocaust survivor Eva Schloss at the Oklahoma City Community College Visual and Performing Arts Center, 7777 S May. [Photo provided] "><figcaption> KFOR anchorman Kevin Ogle talks with Holocaust survivor Eva Schloss at the Oklahoma City Community College Visual and Performing Arts Center, 7777 S May. [Photo provided] </figcaption></figure>
Carla Hinton

Carla Hinton, an Oklahoma City native, joined The Oklahoman in 1986 as a National Society of Newspaper Editors minority intern. She began reporting full-time for The Oklahoman two years later and has served as a beat writer covering a wide... Read more ›

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