Interview with Eva Schloss

Transcript of interview available below.

What happened after your mother married Otto Frank?

“I got married actually a year before they got married. I came for a year to England to study photography and I met a young man who had come from Israel to study economics. We both lived in a boarding house and he fell in love with me. After six months he said, “Eva will you marry me?” and I said, “No thank you because I am just here for a year and I’m going back to my mother, I couldn’t imagine leaving her alone.”

Then, Otto Frank came to visit me one day because he kept an eye on me. He told me that he and my mother had fallen in love as well. When I get settled, they are going to get married afterwards. So I went to this young man and said, “Well we can marry now.” He wanted to take me to Israel but when my mother met him she said to him “Don’t take her so far.” Because you know, the 40’s flying was practically not done, it was very very expensive and not very safe. So we stayed in England.”

What was your mother’s relationship with Otto Frank after the Holocaust? How did it progress?

“They were both miserable, they were both lonely. They both needed somebody to talk to and to suffer together sometimes. He came, and my mother cooked a meal for him and then they went out to lecture sometimes. My mother helped him write the letters that he had written after the diary had been published. They worked together a lot, and they realized they had fallen in love. It was really an amazing love story because Otto went to work on his bicycle and my mother went on the tram. At each stop, she came to the door and he stopped with his bicycle and they blew kisses. He was in his early 60s, and my mother was 17 years younger than he, but it didn’t matter. It was a wonderful marriage.”

What was Anne Frank like before the war? And did you see her during the war as well?

“I never saw her during the war, once people were in hiding that was it. But before the war, I knew her for 2 years. But we were kids, 11 years old, and she was very lively. I was shy actually at the time because I had suffered already in Austria and in Belgium – which we didn’t talk about it here- you know there was different languages, it was very difficult for me. But she was 4 years old when she came to Holland so she spoke Dutch perfectly, she settled down very easily and so she was very sure of herself and I wasn’t. So I kind of looked up to her. But she had those 2 friends, they were a clique of 3 girls, so it was a bit difficult to get close to them.”

Why did you decide to write about your experiences in your book?

“I didn’t talk for 40 years. I only started to talk in 1986 which happened through an Anne Frank exhibition which came to London. Of course I was invited and I was put on the spot. He said “come sit with us at the head table” where there were about 6 other people how talked about how important this is. This was the first time something like this had been shown in England. At the end, he said, “now Eva will want to say a few words” when I didn’t [want to], I wanted to hide under the table. But, 200 eyes looked up at me, and eventually, everything which I had suppressed for 40 years came flooding out. Then people said you have such an interesting story yourself, you should really write a book. That was in ‘86, and my first book, “Eva’s Story” came out in ‘88.”

What did you learn from your experience in the war and what did you take away from it?

“Lots of things of course. I had great difficulty in believing in God because the only thing we could do was pray for God to stop this and He wasn’t there for us. And I was interested in religion, and I questioned [the idea] that we are created in the image of God but those Nazi’s, they were really evil, so I thought that this didn’t work out, God is not supposed to be so evil. I was searching. As a young girl, I was more interested in sport, I was not so intellectual but through this experience, I’ve become much more interested in history and politics and religion and in people; why some people can be so wonderful and some so evil. My interests have expanded enormously through this experience.”

After being persecuted for no reason, how did you learn to forgive others who had singled you out based on your religion or those who stood by and allowed you and countless others to be persecuted?

“Again, most wars were religious wars; the Protestants against Catholics, Christians against Muslims, Jews were always prosecuted. All the differences were either land or religion. This is what is happening at this moment. Religion should be something that is uplifting but it turns out to be bringing more evil into the world than anything else. I am trying to understand and trying see what I can do to make religion something beautiful and helpful for people, not something that is a point of persecution and not accepting each other and so on. There are so many points where you can debate, and hear the opinions of others, we should have more dialogue between different factions instead of just fighting each other.”

Have you been able to accept Judaism again after being persecuted for your religion?

“I never gave up my Judaism, its not only a religion but its a racial thing. I am a very proud Jew. I know there are people, after the Holocaust, that converted and didn’t want to know anything about religion, but I would feel that I would betray my father and brother and the other 6 million victims who died because they were Jews if I would leave my religion. A Jew is born a Jew.”

Are you worried about history repeating itself?

“Not in exactly the same way, but yes. History, I think, is the most important subject because through the mistakes that have been made in history, we can learn. We don’t really know enough, why and how, it has to be studied in great depth. We have to study all the different things that happened, so [that we don’t make] the same mistakes but we make other mistakes so that all has to be studied very carefully.

For instance, the second world war happened because of the mistakes of the first world war, the Peace Treaty of Versailles which was impossible for Germany to live with. And after the second world war, America didn’t want to make the same mistakes so they gave marshall help for Germany. So Germany was the first country to be back on their feet. I think now, Hitler would laugh in his grave because Germany is the most powerful country in Europe. And that is again, because they shouldn’t have all this help, not Germany alone. England had to pay the war debt, and so England couldn’t cope for many many years. There was rationing in England when Germany had already all the luxuries.”

Has the world learned from the events of the Holocaust?

“No, I think including Obama, we don’t have any good, capable leaders. That is what is missing. A great man like Washington and Churchill and Napoleon, there were some great great leaders. Now, we have no one who can cope in this difficult world. If everything is easy-going then yes, but in difficult situations, America has to cope with this and people can’t cope.”

How have you come to accept the Holocaust and what has happened to you and other Jews?

“Persecution of Jews has always existed, and I don’t think it will ever stop, I think it will go on. But not in measures like the Holocaust, but it is happening in Israel right now with Palestine. I have accepted that this is what is happening and that this will always happen.

But the Holocaust, I haven’t really accepted it. The killing of children, of innocent babies, is something which  is not acceptable in anybodys lives. When I was in America, I have Native Americans sometimes coming to me saying we realize you went through the same things that we were going through. But I said, Yes but the persecution of Native Americans had a reason. The Europeans wanted the land, they had a reason. But the Holocaust had no reason whatsoever. The Jewish people were very very good Austrian, and German, and Czech citizens. They contributed a lot to society, to science, to medicine, to law. Nevertheless, they were not accepted. Just to gas them, just a cheap way to get rid of 6 million people- this has never ever happened before in history.”

Why have you dedicated such a large portion of your life to the Holocaust after the war?

“I realized that a lot of people didn’t know anything about it. In the 70’s, it wasn’t taught in schools. After the war, people said never again, we have learnt our lesson. I realized people hadn’t learned anything. I hoped that through education and learning about it, it will help. Now, people have learned. Now there is interest, people want to learn. There is a big demand for it and I get letters from people about how important it is to learn about it, and so I think we can change the attitudes of everyone, especially young people.

You rebuilt your life after everything that happened to you, what advice would you give to people about moving on?

Nowadays, there is help. After Auschwitz, both my mother and I pretended that we could cope very well. We never talked about how we were both were suffering. That was really very bad. This is important, talk about it if you have a problem.”