The story of Anne Frank has exposed generations of Americans to the horrors of the Holocaust since its first publication in the U.S. in 1952. Frank’s diary, often read by middle school students, serves as a reminder that the past should be learned from so it is not repeated.
Before being sent to a concentration camp, Frank lived in Amsterdam, where she befriended a girl her own age named Eva Schloss. Following the war, Frank’s father Otto married Schloss’ mother, Elfriede Geiringer, making him Eva’s stepfather and Anne Frank into Eva’s stepsister.
Now 89, Schloss will be speaking at Georgia Tech’s Ferst Center for the Arts at 7:30 p.m. today. She will share the experience of her childhood friendship with Anne Frank, surviving the Holocaust and why it remains so important to teach tolerance. Students from Georgia Tech and area middle and high schools will be in attendance.
“When I came back from Auschwitz, people said the lesson had been learned and never again would something like that happen,” said Schloss, who published a memoir in 2010 titled “Eva’s Story: A Survivor’s Tale by the Stepsister of Anne Frank.” “For a few years, there was peace and harmony. And then there was a war in Cambodia, and in Korea and Vietnam, and there were racial problems again. We always have to work harder to create a more harmonious world.”
Schloss and Frank became friends after their families fled Austria for Amsterdam. In Holland, they enjoyed simple childhood activities such as playing hopscotch and drinking lemonade. Schloss said children today are actually much more informed about world events thanks to the internet, whereas during her childhood kids only knew of local matters.'
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That innocence was shattered in 1944 when both Schloss and Frank were sent to concentration camps in Germany. Schloss and her mother survived, but her brother and father did not. Otto Frank was the only member of his family to survive, though his daughter’s diary continues to inspire and inform new generations.
“For many of us, Anne Frank’s diary is the first way we learn about the Holocaust as kids,” said Ari Sollish, director of Intown Jewish Academy, which is presenting the event. “To witness Frank’s stepsister and childhood friend speaking on stage in Atlanta will be a literal piece of history coming to life.”
Schloss is one of a dwindling number of Holocaust survivors who can tell their stories first hand. She has spoken about Holocaust education and global peace since 1985, making more than 1,000 appearances in total and authoring three books.
With an eye on the future, in 2017 Schloss was part of a high-tech project to preserve her story. She spent a week answering questions as part of an interactive hologram now on display at museums all over the world. She later visited the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City to ask questions of her digital self.
It was in 1938 when Schloss met Frank in Holland, and they remained friends until each was sent to a concentration camp. After the war, Schloss moved to England, where she still resides today.
Otto Frank became stepfather to Schloss in 1953, and remained married to her mother until his death in 1980. She describes Frank as a wonderful stepfather who helped her overcome the bitterness and hatred she felt from her experience in the war.
“He had no hatred for anybody,” Schloss said. “When I came back from the war, I was full of hatred, not only for the Germans but the whole world. He told me that if you hate people they won’t know it, but you will become a miserable person. You have your whole life in front of you, and you will see that it’s worthwhile.”
7:30 p.m. today. $20-$125.
Ferst Center for the Arts, 349 Ferst Drive NW, Atlanta. 404-894-2787. arts.gatech.edu.
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Credit: John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com