Survivor and Inspirer
Eva Schloss offers insight to Holocaust production
By DANA DUGAN
Express Staff Writer
"In one hour this play gives so much information. It’s
a very clever play," said Holocaust survivor Eva Geiringer Schloss.
This 72-year-old, vital grandmother of five is in Hailey
for two weeks to speak after each production of And Then They Came for
Me, by James Still.
Eva Schloss outside the Liberty Theatre
in Hailey. Express photo by Dana DuGan
The play is being produced by the Blaine County School
District Theatre Academy, in conjunction with CSI and Company of Fools,
and under the direction of Rusty Wilson.
Schloss has been traveling with the play for five years.
"More places than I can cope with…Chicago, Boston Phoenix,
Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Memphis, New Jersey, San Francisco, Boise,
Atlanta, Lexington," and now Hailey Idaho, she said. "I enjoy
every minute, especially because I get such wonderful response."
In Georgia alone, in three years, Schloss said, the play
has been performed in front of 90,000 children.
The play takes the audience back 60 years to 1940 when
Schloss moved with her family to Amsterdam via Brussels from their
homeland, Austria. There she did well in school, and made friends,
including "Anna Frank," as Schloss referred to her. "She
was actually a very ordinary little girl. She didn’t show what there was
inside her … she developed in hiding much faster. No outside
distractions—it’s still remarkable. Between 11 and 13 she was a child
like everybody else in the world."
Of course, that’s what makes her diary so wonderful,
touching and authentic for the scores of people who read it years later.
In 1942, the Geiringers and Franks went into hiding in
Amsterdam. Two years later they were arrested and sent to concentration
camp on Eva Geirginger’s 15th birthday.
Fritzi and Eva Geiringer did eventually survive Auschwitz
with the help of a cousin in the camp, who was a nurse from Prague. Eva’s
mother, Fritzi, was at one point "selected" to be gassed by Dr.
Josef Mengele, the infamous Dr. Death.
Liberated in January 1945 by the Russians, the surviving
200 infirm Auschwitz prisoners were evacuated to Odessa and housed in an
empty palace until the war’s end.
A New Zealand troop transport ship then took them back to
Amsterdam by way of the Mediterranean.
The survivors were served dinners in the ship’s dining
rooms, with plenty of food, silverware and crisp white linen on the
tables. "It was the first time we were treated like human
beings," she said.
Upon their they return to Amsterdam they found some
friends, among them Otto Frank, and their apartment exactly as they had
left it three long years before. By then they had learned that Eva’s
father and brother had died, and Otto Frank had learned of the deaths of
his two daughters, Anne and Margot, and his wife, Edith.
"Otto Frank came to us and told us the news. Mother
said, ‘I don’t think he’ll be able to carry on.’ Then he found the
diary. He was a changed person. He felt as if he had something to live
After the war, Eva Geirginer worked in photography, moved
to London and married Zvi Schloss in 1952. Her husband had come from
Palestine in the 1950s to study at the London School of Economics. His
family had been refugees and knew that he would be considered a traitor if
he left for good.
"They needed everyone. When we got married, my mother
made a condition with him that he wouldn’t take me to Israel, because
she couldn’t bear to be separated from me."
Otto Frank and Fritzi Geiringer married in 1953 and
resettled in Switzerland, where many of Otto’s family lived. Eva’s
mother died only three years ago at the age of 93.
Eva published her memoir, Eva’s Story in 1988.
"This is what I felt most after the war: We had a
very, very close family in Austria, we lost a lot of family. I really
wanted to make a family, to recreate" the feeling.
"Home….emotionally, it’s nowhere. I don’t
belong anywhere. It’s something I personally feel. I lack a family and a
country and I lack a home. I would have felt at home in Holland, but
England is a different culture—even after 50 years."
She did return to Austria twice.
"My youngest daughter wanted to see where we came
from and its middle European culture, I feel at home there, but I don’t
want to feel at home. They threw us out, and they are still
In 1995, Susan Kerner, of the George Street Playhouse in
New Jersey, sought to create a new play about other holocaust children
connected with Anne Frank. Ed Silverberg and Eva Schloss were recommended
and agreed to cooperate. James Still was then commissioned to write the
play based on their memories.
In a video which plays during the production, Eva Schloss
and Ed Silverberg speak movingly while actors portray their lives on the
stage. "This is a wonderful production, especially this one as played
by teen-agers—children relate to it easier than when it’s done by
adults. The direction is wonderful, very sensitive."
For Schloss the play is a way to bring her brother and her
father to life again. "The first time I was just in tears from
beginning to end, less and less after about ten times. It’s hard but it’s
Afterwards she walks up to the stage much to the amazement
of the audience. And they raise their hands with insightful questions such
as, "Do you forgive the Nazis?" Her answer was abrupt and
immediate. "No, but two generations have passed, and their young
people are sorry for what happened."
At the end of every day in the concentration camp that
terrible year, full of suffering hunger, extreme heat and bitter cold, Eva
Schloss said, "it was a good day, because we were still alive."