She may be one of the most iconic figures of Jewish history, and of one of its most painful chapters.
But Anne Frank was also an intelligent, happy young girl who was boy-crazy and a “chatterbox” who frustrated her teachers with her energy.
“She just couldn’t help it,” Frank’s stepsister, Eva Schloss, said recently. “When the teacher spoke, she just wanted to talk all the time. And the teacher would say, ‘Outside, you can do it.’ “
Schloss is now 90 and living in London, but her memories of Frank, and the Holocaust, are still clear — memories she will share on Nov. 5 at the University of Washington in an event co-sponsored by Chabad UW and Hillel International. She will be in conversation with UW President Ana Mari Cauce.
“I’m going to talk about my experience, tell people how terrible it was, how cruel people were,” Schloss said in a recent telephone interview. “At first people said after the war, ‘We have learned our lesson,’ but of course it was only a few years and terrible things started happening again.
“Wars. Prejudice. The killing of people of different religions and different races. Refugees not wanted,” she said. “We really haven’t learned anything.”
Indeed, earlier this year, Schloss met with a group of high-school students in Orange County, Calif., who had been photographed at a party giving Nazi salutes as they stood by cups arranged in the shape of a swastika. She was on a prearranged trip to the area, and met with the students, parents and staff at Newport Harbor High School to put a face on the pain that Nazis inflicted on millions of Jews.
Schloss is one of 500,000 Holocaust survivors, according to Claims Conference, which represents the world’s Jews in negotiating for compensation and restitution for victims of Nazi persecution and their heirs. There are an estimated 85,000 survivors living in the United States.
“I was shocked that in 2019 in a well-educated town, in a very high-educated school, that incidents like this could still happen,” Schloss told reporters after the meeting. “They said they didn’t realize what it really meant … it did show that education is still very, very inadequate.”
Schloss and Anne Frank were classmates and friends in Amsterdam until the age of 13, when both girls and their families went into hiding to avoid the Nazis. They were later betrayed, captured and sent to concentration camps.
Schloss’ father and brother perished, but she and her mother, Elfriede, were freed by Soviet troops and returned to Amsterdam. (“I have no idea how we survived.”) There, they were reacquainted with Otto Frank, who had lost his family — and was dealing with the fact that his late daughter’s diary had just been discovered. Otto Frank and Schloss’ mother married five years later.
“She was a happy little girl with a nice family and a wonderful dad that she adored,” Schloss said of Anne Frank.
Years later, after she read the diary, she realized how much Anne had been influenced by her father.
“He was a wonderful man, and you can see that in her writing,” Schloss said. “The opinions she had about everything in the world. If you live with someone who is a philosopher and a humanitarian, it rubs off on you.”
After Otto Frank died in 1980, Schloss took over her stepsister’s legacy. She is a co-founder of the Anne Frank Trust UK, has published two books and is the subject of a play called “Then They Came For Me: Remembering the World of Anne Frank.”
Rabbi Mendel Weingarten, the co-director of Chabad at the UW, is thrilled to have Schloss at UW, especially now.
“At a time when we face so much adversity and hate, Eva’s message is one of unity and respect,” he said. “If it’s important at any time, it’s important today.”
Schloss still has not forgiven the Nazis “who did the most horrible things, and were planning, sitting at the table, smoking and drinking and laughing and thinking up ways to kill six million Jews.”
She is also angry that the Holocaust is not being taught in all schools.
“Every state can decide of they want to teach it or not,” she said. “There are only six or eight states where it is compulsory. And if they have to teach it, there is no curriculum. They say, ‘We read the ‘Diary of Anne Frank,’ we know all about the Holocaust.’ It’s not true.”