It’s not every day that Jewish Atlanta gets a chance to meet a Holocaust survivor who not only was a friend of Anne Frank’s, but also became her father’s stepdaughter after World War II.
But it is something that will happen twice in less than two weeks.
Eva Schloss, who at age 87 is still going strong while living in London, is making 10 appearances across the United States, and two of them are in Roswell.
On Sunday, Feb. 19, she’ll join the Georgia Ensemble Theatre at the Roswell Cultural Arts Center for its one-night-only production of “And Then They Came for Me: Remembering the World of Anne Frank.” It’s a multimedia stage show she attended years ago, and she’s returning for the celebration of its 20th anniversary.
She’ll be back 10 days later at the Holiday Inn Roswell in a benefit appearance for Chabad of North Fulton and Chabad of Cobb. The spotlight will be entirely on Schloss as she talks about her Holocaust experiences, which were similar to Frank’s: Born in Vienna, she fled westward at age 9 to Belgium, then to Amsterdam, where the German invasion came in May 1940, three months after the Geiringer family arrived.
Schloss said she knew Frank for a couple of years in Amsterdam. They were friendly but not close. “She was quite a sophisticated little girl who was interested in boys.”
Like the Franks, the Geiringers went into hiding but were eventually betrayed and sent to Auschwitz. Eva and her mother didn’t have to go on a death march toward Germany before the Soviets liberated the camp Jan. 27, 1945, but her father and brother were forced on a hard march with other prisoners and died.
Schloss noted that Anne Frank’s boyfriend, Peter, had the chance to remain in Auschwitz as well but didn’t want to stay behind without her. “That was his mistake,” Schloss said. “You had to make all those choices. Some were good, some bad.”
A good decision for Schloss was to go to London in 1951 to train as a professional photographer. While she was there, she met an Israeli named Zvi Schloss, and they fell in love and married in 1952. He wanted to return to Israel, but her mother wanted them closer and persuaded them to stay in London, where they raised three daughters and have remained.
Elfriede Geiringer married Otto Frank in Amsterdam the next year and became a part of his work to share Anne’s diary with the world.
Eva Schloss, however, kept her silence about the Holocaust and acknowledged chafing a bit at being identified as Anne Frank’s stepsister until 1986, when a traveling Frank exhibit came to England. The organizer asked Schloss to speak, “and I realized it was important — people wanted to know.”
Her husband wrote that first speech, but she soon found her own words, to the point that she has written three books (signed copies of her autobiography will be available at the Chabad event). She has embraced her responsibility to bear witness, including talking about the Franks. She became friendly with the founding director of the Georgia Commission on the Holocaust, Sylvia Wygoda, and visited the state’s “Anne Frank in the World” exhibit when it was in Kennesaw.
“She was a very nice lady,” Schloss said of Wygoda.
She doesn’t have nice things to say about President Donald Trump, but she hopes he finds a way to make peace in Syria and Yemen so that people don’t have to flee their homes, just as she didn’t want to leave Austria back in 1938.
“The world hasn’t learned anything from the concerns of Auschwitz,” Schloss said, pointing to a rise in religious prejudice. “Now there are refugees all over, and nobody wants them. It reminds me very much of our time. We have to really change that. We can’t go on killing other people.”
What: “And Then They Came for Me”
Where: Roswell Cultural Arts Center, 950 Forrest St., Roswell
When: 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 19
Tickets: $10; get.org/family-stage
What: Evening with Eva Schloss
Where: Holiday Inn Roswell, 909 Holcomb Bridge Road, Roswell
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 1
Tickets: $18; 770-410-9000 or www.chabadnf.org/eva