The Holocaust... A Survivor's Tale...

never again...

Eva's Life

An Autobiography

I was born in Vienna, Austria in 1929. As our family was Jewish, we immigrated to Belgium and eventually to Holland in 1938, shortly after Hitler annexed Austria. After the Germans invaded Holland in 1942, our family went into hiding. In May 1944, we were betrayed, captured by the Nazis and sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp.   The whole point of the process was the de-humanization of us.  When we were liberated by the Russians and they shared their bread and water with us, I cried.  That was a kind, human action.

Only my mother and I survived. My father and brother did not. My mother and I were liberated by the Russian army in January 1945 and evacuated eastward into Russia, as fighting was still going on to the west. In May 1945, we were repatriated to Amsterdam.

I resumed my education and eventually passed my matriculation examination. I then studied History of Art at Amsterdam University for a year. In 1951, I moved to London to train as a professional photographer. I worked there in a commercial studio for five years. In 1952 I married Zvi Schloss. In 1953, my mother married Otto Frank, the widowed father of the diarist Anne Frank.

Zvi and I live in London and have three daughters and five grandchildren. From 1972 until 1997, I ran an antiques shop in Edgware. Since 1985, I have become increasingly active in Holocaust education, and was thrilled to receive and Honorary Doctorate in Civil Law from the University of Northumbria, Newcastle, England.  I also became a Trustee of the Anne Frank Educational Trust, U.K.

In 1988 Evaís Story was published, providing many opportunities for me to share my experiences.  In 1995, I cooperated with playwright James Still in the creation of the educational play, And Then They Came for Me: Remembering the World of Anne Frank about four teenagers in the Holocaust. The play has been widely performed and I have had the honor of sharing my experiences in cities across the United States, in England, Europe and AustraliaIn 2005 I wrote The Promise with Barbara Powers, an educator from Michigan.  It includes a strong message about a chain of goodwill that has been appreciated by people of all ages.

Many individuals respond to my story expressing shock, deep sadness and concern.  Some communities act on these concerns, share their stories of the past and their hopes for the future, listen to the older generation and enlighten the youth. youth


Eva at the Stadsarchief Amsterdam, the exhibition ĎIn Memoriamí

Images of Eva

Anne Frank's Step-Sister, Eva, Remembers

Eva - Exclusive Interviews

BBC News: Holocaust Survivor Visits Lambert School

Eva at the National WWII Museum

Orange County Register introduces Eva

In 1999, Eva joined United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan signing the Anne Frank Peace Declaration, along with a niece of Raul Wallenberg, a Schindler-like hero who rescued thousands of Jews in Budapest.Ē

Scotland Remembers the Holocaust

Cities Across Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, Florida, Texas, Louisiana, Canada, North Carolina, New York, Ohio, Virginia interview Eva on National Webcast

Ventura county star presents Eva

ĎAuschwitz Survivor Receives Degree.í BBC News: July 24, 2001.

Leaving a Mark: The Story of an Auschwitz Survivor is a documentary produced by Dheer Sujan of Radio Netherlands


Eva meets a young student signing the Anne Frank Declaration

INTERVIEW OF EVA with middle school students in March 2002 and February 2003

Were there any other groups that Germans were trying to kill besides the Jews and the Gypsies? 

Yes, there were other groups, you know, Hitler had this idiotic race policy.  The German people were the future, and the other races were supposed to be slaves or just to be eliminated.  There were physically and mentally handicapped people, even Germans; they definitely were killed.  A lot of political people who were against the system, communists as well a lot of Polish people and Russian people, and homosexuals, gay people, Jehovahís witnesses; any people who might not go along with the system.

If you werenít wearing the star, how did the Germans know you were Jewish?

You had to have identification papers- everybody had to have identification papers.  People would stop you in the street and you had to show your papers.  Every Jewish person had a number on their papers.  When a child was born, you had to register with the Jewish community, so all the papers were there and you had to have the papers with you. 

What was it like to be in hiding?

We decided to hide when the call up notice came for my brother and thousands of other young people to be deported to work camps.  Our parents decided this was the time to disappear. When I was in hiding there was very little food, and it was very monotonous.  Everything was rationed. We did know what was going on because we listened to radio broadcasts, and we realized that friends had disappeared.  We did not overcome the boredom.  The nights were very worrisome because there were searches.  During the daytime it was difficult to occupy yourself, because there was not much to do.

Was it hard to move so much when you were little?  Was hiding hard? 

Yes.  I moved first from Austria where I spoke German to Belgium where I spoke French to Holland where I learned Dutch and later to England.  So I speak four languages.  It was hard because people had no consideration for emigrants, especially in Belgium, where it was very difficult for me.  I wasnít accepted at all.  The hiding of course, was very, very hard as well because I never expected that it would last two years.  Two years of my childhood.  I had to sit still for two years, and as well, I had no company.  I loved my mother, but to me she was an older person and she wasnít a child I could have fun with.

How many times did the Germans come into the house while you were hiding? 

It happened every few weeks.  Before we were arrested (we couldnít show this in the play) we had to change hiding places very often because after several months, people became very nervous because this happened all the time and they thought they might find us one day.  There was so much tension that they said, you know, weíre sorry, you have to look for a different hiding place. In this place we were in AT the end, we didnít really have a hiding place yet, and we were really betrayed so people knew that we were there.

What happened to the people who helped to hide you?

In general, those people were arrested as well and were sent to concentration camps.  Not to Germany or Poland, but in Holland or Belgium where there were concentration camps as well.  People were not killed there, but the living conditions were so bad and there were all kinds of illness, so if you were there for any length of time, you sometimes starved to death or you caught an illness.  Sometimes they shot people.  People really had to have moral courage, and Luckily for us, there were many Dutch people who did help us.

In Auschwitz, one of the things I remember was a place where children were screened.  I wondered if you had this experience of walking under a stick, and if you were tall enough to touch it, you were sent to work, and if you were too short you were killed.  Is that what you experienced?

Not when we came to the camp.  They just looked you over, they didnít really go by size or by age, but how you looked.  But maybe there was a time when they did it the way you describe. There were definitely no children in the camp at Auschwitz

How many hours a day did you work in the concentration camps?

We had to get up at four oíclock when we had our roll call, and we didnít get to bed until eight or nine oíclock.  But, again, we didnít have watches, so we didnít even know exactly.  But we were always very tired.

What kind of work did you do in the camp? 

It varied from week to week, sometimes from day to day.  The best work I did was three weeks in a work command called Canada, which was a nickname people in the camp gave it meaning plenty; freedom.  It was really very sad work because we had to sort through the belongings of the people who had come to the camp.  Everything was taken away and by the time we sorted those belongings most of those people had already been killed.  We had to open all the hems of the garments because many people brought valuables to the camp hoping they could bribe their way out- all this we had to collect.  We found many photos.  A lot of what we found was sent back to Germany.  It was very sad looking at pictures of babies you knew had been killed. I had to carry big boulders of rock to one place, and my mother told me when she saw me walking in front of her burdened, and finding it hard, she cried that her little girl had to do this terrible work, and she couldnít help it.

Did you understand it as it was going on? Could you be scared in the moment because it was happening so fast?

As children, we donít take things so seriously at first, but the Germans were very clever.  Very slowly they made it more difficult, but not immediately.  So first we were not allowed this, but you could still do this.  Then you were not allowed that, but you could still do this.  So, we took it, we accepted it at first.  But then things got really hard, and sometimes we were really frightened.

What role did your mother play in helping you keep your will to live while you were in the camp? 

First of all, just being there.  Her presence helped me a lot, and then of course, she very often gave me her bread ration.  She gave me courage and I gave her courage as well, so being together was a great help for us.  But you didnít see this in the play, unfortunately.  At one point she was selected out to be gassed and for three months I though she was dead and this was really my worst time in the camp.  But she was not, she survived, she died only three years ago, she was 93, so I had her a long time, this was really wonderful.  But, in the camp, there came a time when the things reversed suddenly.  Suddenly I was looking after her, and I grew up, this was for me a very important moment that I felt.  You know she is not able to look after me anymore; I have to look after her.

Do you remember celebrating the holidays in the concentration camp?  Did you get to do anything?  Did you remember when they were during that whole time? 

No, we never even knew what day of the week it was. We really lost track. We never had any possibilities or extra food.  Everyday was the same as the next day.

Did you experience any help from any Nazis?

I did not experience any help from any Nazi.  I did not get to know any soldiers.  They were very distant and did not make eye contact with anybody.  They treated us, not as individuals, but as a group of animals.  They were taught that you must never consider the enemy as a person. I think in the beginning that the Germans were brainwashed.  But unfortunately they did not question what they were told, or what they were doing as time went on.

It was shocking to find out how horrible the camps were.  How did you survive them? 

I was really one of the lucky ones.  Millions of other people didnít survive it, and itís good that you know about this because a lot of people donít often realize what it really meant.  Very often people ask me a question Ö Did you make friends?  What did you do for entertainment?  Did you have free time?  And you know, there was just nothing.  We were waiting for death.  Who died before that was one person less that they had to kill.  So they made life as difficult and terrible as possible.  There were terrible illnesses- typhus, dysentery, choleraÖ thousands of people just died from exhaustion, from lack of food.  But, some were lucky to get through.

Did you think about dying in Auschwitz? What was the weather like?

When we were in Auschwitz, many times I felt that my life was threatened, but I never gave up hope.  If you thought for one second that you had no hope, you would soon be dead.  During the winter there was a huge amount of snow that was never cleared, there was no heat in the barracks.  The food was never warm.  When we slept at night there was no covering or no more clothing.

How did you escape from Auschwitz?

We did not escape from the concentration camp.  The camp was abandoned by the Germans, and we were waiting to be liberated by the Russians.  

Do you still have the tattoo?

Yes, I have it on my arm, Iíll show it to you, but itís really much smaller than everyone elseís.  This was the only compassion I ever experienced in the camp, that this woman gave me a small and weak tattoo.  (at the request of Evaís mother)

Were you good friends with Anne Frank?

We knew each other for two years, and she was just one month younger than me.  We played together, we saw each other almost every day because after school, all of the children went out in the street to play, now you canít do that anymore, itís not safe, but at the time it was actually very popular, itís what we did.   But she was more sophisticated than I was.  Already she was interested in boys, she liked to have a boyfriend, and she liked parties.  I had a brother, for me a boy, a boy was nothing special.  We were not great friends, but we were friends, yes.

How did your mother and Mr. Frank meet?

This is a nice part of the story.  Otto Frank came, after we had all gone home to Amsterdam, he first came to tell the terrible news that he had learned that his whole family had died.  A few days later he came again with a little parcel under his arm and he opened it very carefully, very expectant, and I remember it very clearly and it was the diary.  It was for him really, a lifeline to life again because before that he was in a desperate state but through the diary, he found that Anne was still really with him and then later it was his task to publish it and promote her story.  So he came very often to us, he helped my mother with me; I was a very sad teenager, very difficult.  I couldnít live an ordinary life, I couldnít make friends and he was a childless father, he was a man who lost his children, so we all became very close.  After finishing school, I left for a year to England and when I as away I suppose my mom and Otto became even closer.  When I got married in 1952 they got married the next year in 1953 and they were married for 27 years and Iíve never seen a happier marriage than those two.  They really devoted their lives to work with the diary, when it was eventually translated to seventy languages, they had thousands of letters from all over the world and they answered every letter.  When my mother died three years ago, I found copies of 30,000 letters which they had written to people all over the world.  This really was their life.

Was it hard for you when your mother married Otto Frank?

When my Mother was married again, I was extremely happy for her, that she had found someone and could "try" to be happy again.  Otto Frank was a very good stepfather to me, and a loving Grandfather.  He was very caring, and treated my children as if there were his own.  But at the same time I missed my father.

How did you feel when the war was over?  How do you feel about surviving?

When the war was over I felt thankfulness, but worry about my brother and father. I feel grateful that I survived the Holocaust, and a sort of victory that Hitler did not kill all the Jews.

Did any other relatives survive?

I have some relatives who escaped before the deportation to different countries.  But of those who stayed behind, no one survived.

How did you deal with the memories?  Could you block them out of your mind?

You could not block your mind out about the memories because they were too vivid.  You had to deal with seeing images of what happened all the time.  This stayed with me for years. 

How many people survived like you?

I donít really have an exact figure, but from the concentrations camps there were very, very few people. 10,000 people maybe?  There were more people in hiding who hadnít gone through this most terrible ordeal.  There is no exact figure in the different countries it was never really counted out.

How did freedom finally feel?  Can you describe what freedom felt like after going through that?

It didnít come until the Germans had left.  But we didnít really accept it at this timeÖ that we were liberated because the war was still going on for five months afterwards.  We didnít really know how much longer it would go, and there was still fierce fighting going on.  We were with the Russians and they had very little.  Whatever they had they did share with us, but we were still sleeping on the floor, we were still traveling in cattle trucks and we saw terrible devastation.  Many people even died after liberation because when they got food, the body couldnít digest it and they died from over-eating. We were very weak, so it took a long time to realize that we had survived; really only when we were back in the West again, and treated like human beings.  When we had sheets on our beds and proper cutlery, then we realized, but it was a gigantic process, and we were very anxious about what had happened to our family, so there was not really this rejoicing like you would have expected.

Do you have lingering health problems from the concentration camps?  Do others you know?  (this question references Evaís frostbite)

For many years I had trouble with my toes, and I had digestive problems as well.  After we got back, I was on a diet of just pasta, rice and mashed potatoes- things like that.  I couldnít really digest heavier foods for many, many years, and my mother was quite ill for many months after liberation.  But, the body is something very wonderful.  My mother was 93; Otto Frank was 91 when he died.  Iím good on my feet and quite activeÖ no problems.

Have you ever been back to Germany?  If so, how do the Germans react to you?

I did go back to Germany, but because my mother-in-law, my husbandís family, was from Germany (though they first lived in Israel.)  When we moved to London, she decided to move back to Germany because she couldnít speak the language and didnít like the climate in Israel.  So, I do visit occasionally.  I must say, not very often, because I donít feel at ease there.  I have never heard from a German who was part of it, you know, they always, whoever you speak to, say they didnít know and they never did anything so you never have a proper confrontation.

Do you wish to return to Austria?

I am very sorry that I cannot live in Austria, the country of my origin, because I feel that the people betrayed us so I would not choose to live there. 

Did you still have hope through all those scary times?  Did you still have hope that everything would be happy again, and that youíd find your family again? 

In life, if you give up hope for a better future, you canít carry on, so you always keep your hope.  Deep down, I didnít believe it, but you have to just keep hoping.  For me, it turned out not really well, because I lost my father and brother and this was something it took years and years for me to get over.  Iíve spoken to people who lost family on September 11th, and it was that they were just sort of told that a father or husband hadnít returned.  This is much harder than when you see somebody die in your own home, there is more closure.  But if somebody just disappears from your life, it is much, much more difficult to accept.

What do you tell your grandchildren?

With my grandchildren, I never talk about it.  They are more removed from it, but they do know, especially of course because Otto Frank was their grandfather, and so they grew up with the story of Anne.  I never really went into great details with them because we are very close and I think it is just too painful knowing what their grandmother has gone through.  When my grandson was five or six, he saw my tattoo and he asked me, what is this grandmother?  So, I said to him, well, itís my telephone number, because I didnít really want to tell him.  But now that theyíre older of course they do know.  Iíve told them, emotionally, I think they donít really want to feel it.

Who do you blame for the Holocaust?

I blame the world for the Holocaust, because nobody tried to prevent it or to help.  It was only after the war that we realized how this tragedy could have been avoided, and how the was could have been shortened.

Iím curious about what your personal feelings are about God. 

I think that this is an important question. Many, many people did lose their belief in the existence of God, me included.  But after the war when I started to begin a normal human life again, and I saw the wonderful things around me, I began to question again.  I thought life would be really meaningless if you just live it out and thatís it.  I looked at nature, I looked at the births of my children and grandchildren and I thought itís really all so wonderful, so marvelous, that there must be something really higher.  And again, I questioned, was it the responsibility of God in the camps?  And I decided no, itís our responsibility.   God gave us free will, and it is up to us to choose between good and evil.  This is a great gift we got from God, and you know, Iím a believer, and Iím a strong Jew, and I would never change my faith.

At what point did you write your memoirs?  Was it much later?

Yes, it was much later, in 1988, so it was 43 years.  Most of the survivorsí stories were written in the 80s or even later.  Just after the war, or in the 50s and 60s, nobody was able to do that.

Why did you write your book, Evaís Story?

I was inspired to write my book when I realized that the world had not learned what really happened.  I felt it necessary to tell what happened so that others would realize the truth and hopefully learn from it.  I share my story with children to teach them that hatred is destructive, and it is much better to live with love and helpfulness.

How long did it take to organize this play?  (to develop the script; this production) 

The script was written in 1995 by James Still, and he interviewed Ed and me, and he wrote seven scripts and he did a lot of research and then we came to do the video.  It was a very long process; it took him about two years to get it together.  The production itself, I think, about three weeks in rehearsal and a lot of research before.

How can you see this play again and again? 

Iíve seen 500 performances, many, many different productions, in America, and as well in England and Australia, and in Latvia.  The first ten performances, I was in tears from start to end.  It is an important message.  Very often, my mother talked about Anne, one of her wishes was that she would live on after she died, which I think she has done in a remarkable way, where ever you go, mention her name and everybody knows about her life and what happened to her.  My mother and I always felt that my brother and those other 1.5 million Jewish children who perished are sort of forgotten.  My brother was not even eighteen when he died and he was, to me, definitely a special person, a sensitive person, artistic, and very talented, and he has sort of been forgotten by the world.  I feel as a survivor, I owe to him to share my family, my close relations and my brother and the love we had with wonderful audiences all over the world and this is worth my finding it hard to sit through if people will remember him.

What can we do to prevent this from happening again?

We can prevent this from happening again by being more tolerant, choosing not to discriminate, not hate minority groups.  We must also speak up about injustices.  It is the task of todayís generation to share what they have learned with their children.

What can be doing to understand what happened?

You can understand some of what happening by reading about it, viewing documentary movies like "Schindlerís List" and "The Pianist," visiting the Holocaust Museum and talking with survivors. Every Holocaust survivor has now given testimony on videotape, which is kept in the Shoah Foundation in Los Angeles, California.

Have you read books about the Holocaust?

I have read many books about the Holocaust.  They have a lot of similarity.  But each person that survived had particular experiences that are very different as well.  

What would you like people to take away from this play, or to learn from the Holocaust? 

Like some say, it is partly to remember the twelve million people who were the victims of the Nazi regime all over Europe.  Whole families disappeared, and it would be nice if you remember those people who disappeared from the surface of the earth.  But not only this; unfortunately we have experienced again reports of genocide happening all over the world, for religious hatred, ignorance, discrimination; usually against minority groups which are among us.  This is really what has to stop.  We must learn to live with each other in harmony, and to accept each other for what we are. We must find that differences actually enrich our lives.  We shouldnít be afraid of people that are different but embrace their faiths and ways of life so that we give our children and future generations a safer life to live.  We all have to work on this, and to teach our children moral courage to stand up against the injustice weíve done.