Posted Online: May 04, 2008, 10:58 pm

‘Always remember’: Anne Frank’s stepsister speaks at Rock Island event

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By Stephen Elliott,

More photos from this shoot
Photo: Paul Colletti
Eva Schloss, a Holocaust survivor and stepsister to Anne Frank, speaks at the Tri-City Jewish Center in Rock Island on Sunday evening, May 5. Ms. Schloss shared her story of survival as part of the 27th Annual Quad Cities Holocaust Remembrance.
More photos from this shoot
Photo: Paul Colletti
Michelle Rubovits gives a standing ovation to Holocaust survivor Eva Schloss on Sunday evening, May 4, following Ms. Schloss' speech at the Tri-City Jewish Center in Rock Island.

ROCK ISLAND -- Her message, in a thick European accent, was clear for the hundreds listening on Sunday evening at the Tri-City Jewish Center.

Eva Schloss, Holocaust survivor and Anne Frank's stepsister, spoke about her own memories, about her stepsister, and why it's important for people to remember these things today. She was the featured speaker at Yom Hashoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day.

"As long as we remember, the spirits of those people are still alive," Ms. Schloss said.

She brought the silent audience, young and old, into a part of her world that took place some 64 years ago. Ms. Schloss and her mother survived the Auschwitz concentration camps; her father and brother did not.

Ms. Schloss' story made listeners feel the bitter cold when she described the snow piled high and the women existing and emaciated with little clothing.

Ms. Schloss made listeners feel the humiliation as she described how she had to strip naked in front of the German soldiers along with her mother, have her head shaved and identification numbers put into her arm.

She made listeners feel the fear when a large man, a Russian scout, came to the camp for the first time.

By this time, the camp had been deserted by German soldiers in late January 1945.

And, Ms. Schloss made listeners feel the unknown Russian soldier's heartbreak, the large man she originally thought was a bear from a distance, when she escorted him into the living quarters.

"I took him to the barracks," Ms. Schloss told the audience. "This big man, who had seen all this, burst into tears.

"All of us looking at him with hollowed eyes. We looked like skeletons."

It's a story worth telling, and even more compelling when Ms. Schloss explains some of the circumstances that changed how history viewed the Holocaust. She is linked to one of history's greatest books, a posthumously published diary written by a teenage girl.

After World War II, Ms. Schloss' mother married Anne Frank's father. Born in Vienna in 1929, Ms. Schloss and her family stayed in Amsterdam. It was here back in 1940 that she became friends with Anne Frank.

"We were both 11 years old," Ms. Schloss said. "We played together. We were friends. We were not best friends.

"She was already quite a sophisticated little lady. She was interested in clothes, her hairstyle, boys. I was more of a tomboy.

"But, she took me and introduced me to her family."

After the war, when Anne's father, Otto, met Ms. Schloss and her mother, he was a broken man. He had lost his family, including daughter Anne, to the concentration camps.

"I sat on my mother's lap, and we cried," Ms. Schloss said. "A few days later, he (Otto Frank) came in and opened a parcel carefully and said, 'I must show you something.'

"It was Anne's diary. That little book gave him purpose in life. A meaning. He said, 'I still feel as if my little girl is still with me.'"

On Sunday, Ms. Schloss complimented the Quad-Cities. She has traveled the world and co-authored two books. She will spend time with high school students after they watch a performance of, "And Then They Came for Me: Remembering the World of Anne Frank."

"I must say, I have been to many memorial services, but never have I seen where all the communities, all the religions working together," she said. "That is our aim. To have all religions of the world working together for a peaceful solution."

Amanda Raufeisen and Ashley Herron, both 14 of Rock Island, listened to the Holocaust survivor's message. They said they will remember.

"She was through so much and can still tell everybody what happened," Ms. Raufeisen said.

"It's inspiring," Ms. Herron added.