Eva Schloss, a childhood friend and stepsister of Anne Frank, shared her experiences at the University of South Carolina’s President’s Leadership Dialogue at the Koger Center Monday.
Schloss has written two books and spoken to more than 1,000 audiences about surviving the Holocaust, stories she kept to herself for 40 years after the end of World War II. Since 1985, she has devoted herself to Holocaust education and global peace.
Nearly 2,000 people attended the free lecture Monday, including hundreds of middle and high school students from across the state, according to the university.
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Born in Vienna, Schloss and her family fled to Amsterdam when the Nazis invaded in 1938. It was there she met one of her neighbors, a German-Jewish girl named Anne Frank.
Frank was talkative and interested in boys whereas Schloss was shy and outdoorsy, but they became friends and playmates.
Both families were later forced into hiding and were ultimately caught and sent to concentration camps. Schloss spent eight months at Auschwitz-Birkenau. She and her mother survived. Frank was sent to Auschwitz and then to Bergen-Belsen, where she died.
Before enduring the horrors of the camp, Schloss had to contend with being separated from her father and brother.
“You can’t imagine what the scenes there were when fathers had to say goodbye to their daughters and mothers and sons clinging to each other, assuming that perhaps they’ll never ever see each other again on this Earth. It was awful,” Schloss said at a media event last week. Before her father was taken away, he told her, “God will protect you.”
At the Koger Center, Schloss said that people must speak up against injustice to create change. “There is just one race,” she said. “The human race.”
Many South Carolinians not only had a role in the liberation of the camps, but also were Holocaust survivors. Stories of S.C. liberators and survivors are featured in the other exhibit, “Holocaust Remembered,” which can also be seen at McKissick Museum. The exhibit is a collaboration between the museum and the Columbia Holocaust Education Commission.