Photo by Julia Weis
Eva Schloss met Anne Frank when she was 11 years old. The girls were playmates who lived in the same apartment building in Amsterdam, both from families who fled the Nazi regime in Germany and Austria. Schloss was 15 years old when the Nazis invaded her home in the Netherlands. She, along with her brother, mother and father, were sent to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps.
Eva Schloss, born Eva Geiringer, spoke to a crowd of 2,300 people in Laurie Auditorium on March 19 about her experiences surviving the Holocaust. The San Antonio-based Chabad Center for Jewish Life and Learning, in partnership with the university, brought Schloss to speak at Trinity. Several speakers introduced Schloss: Alex Serna-Wallender, university chaplain; Chaim Block, rabbi and executive director of the Chabad Center; Ron Nirenberg, mayor of San Antonio; and Eddie Alderte, senior vice president of IBC Bank, which helped sponsor the event.
Robert Rivard, the founder, editor and publisher of the San Antonio non-profit news organization the Rivard Report, was the moderator for the event. Throughout the night, Rivard asked Schloss questions about her life during World War II as well as her experiences with marginalization.
“People hate it when you have a different religion. It is something that to this day, I can’t comprehend. Religion should be something uplifting, and it is something very, very personal,” Schloss said.
Schloss spoke about the religious intolerance that she and the Frank family experienced. Anne Frank’s father, Otto Frank, was particularly close to the Geiringer family.
“There was a very famous Nazi song that went, ‘When Jewish blood drips from our knives, life is going to get better again.’ Otto told me: ‘When I heard this and saw this happening in our town, I realized, for the Jewish people, there is no future here,” Schloss said.
Schloss told the audience the story of her family’s escape to Amsterdam, where they lived openly and later in secret until the Nazis invaded the Netherlands. The Geiringers lived close to the Frank family until they were forced into hiding, moving seven times to avoid being caught by Nazi forces. The Nazis eventually captured the Geiringer family when they were betrayed by their host. Schloss then described how the family, along with about 80 other Jewish people in the Netherlands, were shipped in box cars to concentration camps in Germany and Austria.
“In England, some years ago, when sheep were transported to France in similar kind of trains, there was huge opposition. People stood next to the trains and shouted, ‘You must stop this!’ I was thinking, when the Jewish people were transported that way, the world was quiet,” Schloss said.
Schloss and her mother were sent to Birkenau, and her father and brother were sent to Auschwitz, which were located only about three miles apart in Poland. They spent the next year in the concentration camps until Soviet Union forces liberated them in 1945. Schloss and her mother survived, but her father and brother did not.
“I had really survived with the hope that we would be a family again,” Schloss said.
After the war, both the Geiringer and the Frank family were torn apart. They moved back to Amsterdam and found solace in each other. Otto Frank and Schloss’s mother, Elfriede Geiringer, married in 1953, making Anne Frank the stepsister of Schloss.
Students who attended the lecture said they felt strongly impacted by Schloss’s story.
“What impacted me the most was honestly putting myself in her shoes and wondering what I would have done and how I would have reacted had similar events taken place in my own life, and clearly every thought extending from those kind of questions is terrifying,” said sophomore Jessie Metcalf, who attended the lecture. “I thought it was amazing that Eva volunteers to tell her story and relive such distressing and tragic events in order to ensure that the Holocaust does not fade into history but remains with us as a reminder to never let something like that happen again.”
Sophomore Carmen Johnson attended the lecture to remind herself why discussions like these are still important today.
“I came because I didn’t want to forget. I wanted to inform myself more. The Holocaust was not just a problem for the Jewish people, but for the entirety of the humanity. Whenever a problem happens within a marginalized community, the rest of the world somewhat aches for them, but thinks, ‘oh, but it’s not my problem, so it’s okay.’ But at the end of the day, we’re all people,” Johnson said after the lecture.
In his introduction, Nirenberg spoke about the importance of remembering these horrors and where they come from, especially in light of the recent terrorist attacks on the two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.
“Religious intolerance and racial bigotry are not mere threats, but nevertheless dangerous and deadly ideologies that we must overcome. These horrific recent events are not random. I would venture they are connected. Around the world, there is a rising tide of nationalism and extremism, blaming immigrants and refugees and others for all of our problems. We must never forget the Holocaust and the atrocities of World War II, only 75 years in our past,” Niremberg said.
Serna-Wallender hopes that Schloss telling her story will help Trinity students learn from the past to create a better future.
“It is becoming increasingly rare to have the opportunity to hear first-hand accounts from Holocaust survivors,” Serna-Wallender wrote in an email interview. “So, I hope that as people hear Ms. Schloss’s story in person, they have the opportunity to learn, to confront some of the worst parts of human nature, and to grow as people willing to work towards a world where compassion and peace-building can overcome hate.”
| Class of 2019 | Major: Communication