This fall, Eva Schloss, Holocaust survivor and stepsister of Anne Frank, told her story of survival and perseverance to a riveted audience at NYU’s Skirball Center, at an event sponsored by Avenues and hosted by New York Hebrew.
More than 70 years ago, Mrs. Schloss was a teenager in Auschwitz – the concentration camp the Nazis build in Poland during World War II. She described the miserable conditions that she and her mother Elfriede had to endure: the starvation, the cold, the meaningless labor, the inhumane treatment, the fear. She also spoke of the painful separation from her father Erich and brother Heinz, who both perished during the war, and of her desire to keep their memories alive.
Mrs. Schoss also described how difficult it was to find meaning in her life after the war, when she suffered from a dark depression. She did it with the support and encouragement of her mother and, later, her husband Zvi Schloss, to whom she was married for 62 years and with whom she now has five grandchildren. Ultimately, Mrs. Schloss reinforced the importance of hope and tolerance – especially during times of darkness.
Mrs. Schloss’s discussion had added significance as this year marks 80 years since Kristallnacht. Co-director of New York Hebrew, Mrs. Gillie Shanowitz, who had the honor of interviewing Mrs. Schloss at this event, explained the significance of spreading Mrs. Schloss’s story: “We must teach our children tolerance and respect, and remind them of the tragic results of hatred and intolerance. Even as the number of living Holocaust survivors wanes, their message is more crucial now than ever.”
The event was attended by many Avenues Upper Division students and their families. Towards the end of the evening, one Avenues student, 7th grader Roni Z., had the opportunity to ask Mrs. Schloss a poignant question: “What gave you the strength to keep fighting during your time in the concentration camp?” Mrs. Schloss responded simply, “the desire to live.” She added that this single-minded goal, as well as luck, allowed her to survive her darkest days in Auschwitz.
Her overarching message to the young people in the audience is best summed up by a passage in her new book, Eva’s Story: “Everyone must have hope that things will get better; otherwise, we might as well give up. And that is clearly something we should never be prepared to do.”
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