(Vienna 1929): A Jewish girl in Auschwitz-Birkenaucamp survivor
“The system was designed to annihilate us all”
Eva Schloss grew up under the name Eva Geiringer in an upper middle-class family in Vienna, which she described as happy and harmonious. Her parents must have been an eye-catching couple – her father was a bundle of energy and a fitness fanatic. As in many other families, the Jewish religion played a rather subordinate role, but candles were lit every Friday to celebrate the Sabbath. After the Nazis had assumed power, her parents decided to set up a shoe factory in the south of the Netherlands; Eva and her mother fled there in June 1938. In the first year of their flight, she went to school in Brussels, then in Amsterdam. At first, the nine-year-old did not understand a word of the foreign language. When the Germans invaded Belgium and the Netherlands in May 1940 and the Dutch forces surrendered, the family was suddenly trapped. The situation became increasingly perilous; brother Heinz was to have been deported, so in the summer of 1942 the family went into hiding with the help of the Dutch resistance. Her brother and father were hidden separately from Eva and her mother. They saw each other from time to time; Eva Schloss describes how much she liked her brother, who was three years older, also because of his sensitivity and creativity; he wrote poems, composed and painted oil paintings.
On her 15th birthday, 11 May 1944, the doorbell rang during her birthday breakfast. Her hiding place, as well as that of her father and brother, had been disclosed. Brutal interrogations followed, brief imprisonment, the transit camp Westerbork and then a “journey to hell”, to Auschwitz-Birkenau; the shameful admission procedure with the loss of all belongings, nakedness, shaving off all body hair, a tattoo. Eva survived at her mother’s side. When they were separated, her mother tried to kiss her goodbye, “...but a Kapo caught her and beat her with a leather belt.” With that, Eva’s hope of survival crumbled. Nevertheless, both survived and returned to the Netherlands. The hope that Eva’s brother and father had also survived was shattered. On 8 August 1945, she and her mother received a letter from the Red Cross with the news that her father and brother had died at Mauthausen (actually near Ebensee).
Eva moved to England, got married and had three daughters. When her grandchildren asked her about the tattooed number, she told them it was her phone number, because she didn't want to talk about the past. When her mother married Anne Frank’s father in 1953, Eva became Anne Frank’s stepsister. They had known each other as neighbouring children, but had not had a close friendship, unlike her brother Heinz had had with Margot, Anne Frank’s older sister. With the worldwide success of the publication of Anne Frank’s diaries, exhibitions about Anne Frank went on display in many countries. At one such exhibition opening in 1986, Eva Schloss was invited to say a few words. Suddenly it all came flooding out, she couldn’t help herself, the words kept coming. Talking about her experiences was something she had to learn, as she was invited more and more often to speak as a contemporary eyewitness.
Eva Schloss was one of just a few to be invited to participate in the extraordinary and extremely elaborate project “New Dimension of Testimony” by the USC Shoah Foundation. In the future, visitors to museums and exhibitions will be able to ask the witness questions, and she, having been recorded in a special way, will provide suitable answers via voice recognition software. This is indicative of the high regard in which Eva Schloss is held as a contemporary eyewitness.
Literature and sources
Eva Schloss, Evas Geschichte. Anne Franks Stiefschwester und Überlebende von Auschwitz erzählt, Gießen 42018.
Eva Schloss, Karen Bartlett, After Auschwitz. A Story of Heartbreak and Survival by the Stepsister of Anna Frank, London 2013.
Jewish Survivor Eva Schloss Testimony, USC Shoah Foundation's Visual History Archive): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rdrtor-N6iE (23.11.2021).