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For the week of May 23 through May 29, 2001

Survivor and Inspirer

Eva Schloss offers insight to Holocaust production

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 for."

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 anti-Semitic."

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 good."

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."



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