Eva Schloss met Anne Frank when they were both 11 years old.
Then, the girl who would go on to write the famous diary of hiding from the Nazis for two years was carefree, confident and so chatty that her nickname was “Quack Quack.” Already she was interested in boys, and she liked to write stories.
“She was very comfortable, sure of herself,” said Schloss, whose mother married Frank’s father after the Holocaust ended. Anne was “a very lively girl and really wanted to be the center of attention.”
Schloss, 89, did not speak publicly about the Holocaust for 40 years after it ended. But since the mid-1980s, she has devoted herself to addressing audiences around the world with her unusual perspective as the childhood friend of the teenage girl whose writing in an Amsterdam attic became a symbol of Jewish resistance and hope.
Schloss is coming to Long Island on Wednesday night, when she will speak at the Oceanside Middle School in an event sponsored by Chabad of Oceanside, part of the Orthodox Chabad Lubavitch movement.
“Eva’s story empowers us to work to end the violence and bigotry that continue to plague our world,” said Rabbi Levi Gurkov, head of Chabad of Oceanside. Schloss also “offers an inside look into the world of Anne Frank.”
The event also falls close to the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass. On Nov. 9 and 10, 1938, Nazis in Germany smashed the windows of Jewish businesses, homes and synagogues, and killed nearly 100 Jews.
While Schloss is not as well-known as Frank, her story is nonetheless gripping. She escaped with her family from her homeland of Austria as the Nazis rose to power, spent two years hiding in Amsterdam, was captured on her 15th birthday after a double agent betrayed her family, and survived nine months in a Nazi concentration camp, where she lost her father and brother to the Nazis. Eventually, Schloss went on to preach about fighting the horrors of the world and the importance of reaching out across racial, religious and other divides.
Schloss, who lives in London, recalls doing ordinary childhood things with Frank such as playing hopscotch, skipping rope and riding bikes. Frank had not yet experienced a lot of anti-Semitism since she had lived much of her life in Holland, so was relatively carefree, Schloss said in a telephone interview.
After the Germans invaded Holland, Schloss and her family — like Frank’s — went into hiding by 1942. “My dad made arrangements with people from the resistance to find us a place with a Dutch family who risked their lives to keep us safe,” Schloss said.
They hid for two years, in secret spaces under movable floorboards, or behind cupboards and false partitions. “We changed about seven times because the Nazis did house searches and so the people became scared,” Schloss said.
On her 15th birthday, in May 1944, a Dutch nurse who pretended to be a member of the resistance to the Nazis but was actually a collaborator betrayed her family, she said.
Schloss was brutally beaten, and left in shock. She was sent to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp and the Nazis tattooed “A5222” on her forearm.
“We were not supposed to survive” the camp, she said. “The conditions were very, very harsh. Very little food. Hard labor. No washing conditions. Very unhygienic. Many people starved to death. Many people got all kinds of terrible illnesses.”
However, she and her mother survived the camp, liberated by the Russians in January 1945. “It was a miracle,” she said. Her father and brother did not, victims of one of the Nazis’ infamous “death marches.”
By May 1945, Schloss and her mother were repatriated to Amsterdam. They renewed their friendship with Otto Frank, Anne’s father, who had lost his entire family. Anne had died of typhus at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
Schloss’ mother, Elfriede Geiringer, and Otto Frank fell in love and married, making Schloss Anne’s stepsister.
Her message when she speaks on Long Island will be that “we must not be bystanders” regarding the ills that the world still faces after the Holocaust, she said.
“There is still racism, prejudice against other people, religious differences, color differences, and we really must stop to accept each other for just human beings,” she said.
WHO: Eva Schloss, stepsister of Anne Frank, advocate and Holocaust survivor.
WHAT: Schloss will talk about her memories of Anne Frank from childhood as well as the importance of speaking out against the ills of the world.
WHERE: Oceanside Middle School in Oceanside, sponsored by Chabad of Oceanside.
WHEN: Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $25.