Holocaust survivor and stepsister of Anne Frank, Eva Schloss, spoke at the Memorial Student Center Great Hall after a showing of the film No Asylum on Friday, Sept. 15. The film recounts Otto Frank’s attempts to obtain a United States visa for himself and his family through his correspondence with American officials. Of the 300,000 Jewish people seeking asylum in the U.S., only 20,000 were approved.
Accompanied by the film’s director, Paula Fouce, Schloss shared personal stories of her time in Belgium and the Netherlands before her family was captured by a nurse acting as a double agent. “I’ve seen this documentary now 22 times, and each time I question ‘how was something like this possible in the 20th-century [in] a highly educated, highly cultured people,’ and I still can’t understand,” Schloss remarked. “The only one who saw what was happening was [Winston] Churchill. In Parliament, he said ‘We have to arm, we have to stop them, we have to prepare to go to war with Germany’—but he was just laughed at,” she said.
After Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany in 1934, Schloss lived in Austria, which was an independent country at the time. She was only five years old. It wasn’t until 1938 that Germany seized Austria. Schloss recounted, “[Austria] embraced Hitler coming in. They stood in the streets with the ‘heil Hitler’ salutes, with the swastika flags, and were enthusiastic. Of course, Jewish people became really very scared.” The situation worsened very quickly. Schloss said, “The Austrians became worse Nazis than the Germans. They wanted to show Hitler how good they could follow him. Shops were looted—Jewish people were pulled out of their houses and beaten up.”
Schloss’s family was no exception. “My brother—he was 12—came home from school and looked awful. Blood was streaming from everywhere. He said, ‘My own friends have done that and the teachers just watched it happen.’”
The Schloss family fled to Belgium in 1938 and lived in a boarding house until they were forced to flee to Holland in 1940. “The Dutch were very welcoming. They had to protect the Jewish population,” Schloss said. They felt welcome and were able to play freely in the streets. It was here that Schloss met Anne Frank. “We became friends—not best friends—because I was very shy and she was so sure of herself… I told her I had an older brother and her eyes grew very big and she asked, ‘Can I come to your apartment?’” Schloss said.
In May of 1940, the Germans bombed the city of Rotterdam, and the Dutch were forced to surrender. The Schloss family was forced into hiding in 1942 when conditions worsened, and the family was split up. After two years of hiding in seven different hiding spots, the family was exposed by a double agent and Schloss was sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau until the camp was liberated by the Russians on Jan. 27, 1945. The only surviving members of the Schloss family were Eva and her mother, Elfriede.
Even in the wake of a world-changing genocide, Schloss remained resilient. “We’re very proud to be Jews,” she said. “We have achieved a lot in the world. Sometimes in schools they ask, ‘How many Jewish people do you think are there in the world?’ There are only 15 million Jews in the world, and we have always been persecuted, but we are still around.”