Very soon, tickets to a rare opportunity to hear Eva Schloss speak at the Lensic Performing Arts Center on Nov. 17 will be gone.
It’s no wonder. This 90-year-old inspiration has a story that people want, and need, to hear. Schloss, a survivor of the Holocaust, stepsister and friend to Anne Frank, is someone who has overcome tragedy and horror.
Like the Frank family, Eva and her relatives had fled to Amsterdam to escape from the Nazis. She and Anne, who became famous through the posthumous publication of her diary, became friends. In July 1942, the families went into hiding, where they were betrayed. The girls and their families ended up in the Auschwitz concentration camp.
Anne Frank did not survive.
Eva Schloss and her mother did. Eventually, Eva’s mother reconnected with Anne’s father, Otto, and helped him publish his daughter’s famous diary. They later married.
As a witness to the worst of humanity — and as a survivor who triumphed over adversity — Eva Schloss has generously shared what happened to her and other Jews during World War II. It’s estimated that the Nazi regime’s state-directed persecution resulted in the murder of 6 million Jews. Other groups, including the Roma, disabled people and homosexuals, also were persecuted and killed during this dark time.
Those memories are fading in the 70-plus years since the end of World War II. The people who witnessed evil firsthand are dying, which is why hearing people like Schloss in person is so important. She has recounted her experiences during more than 1,000 speaking engagements. Author of three books, there has been a play written about her life.
This visit to Santa Fe is courtesy of the Santa Fe Jewish Center-Chabad and it is rightly titled “Triumph and Hope, an Historic Event.” She is someone who decided that her very real sufferings would not stop her from living. That’s the triumph, made possible by Schloss’ ability to keep hope alive despite the darkness of events around her.
Today, in a world that is uneasy and full of ugliness, it is useful to remember that times once were even darker than today. The nation of Germany went to war determined to prove the superiority of its so-called master race, rounding up and eventually killing members of any group deemed lesser by the country’s Nazi leaders. The stain of that time remains with us still, a virulence we can’t seem to eradicate.
In today’s United States, the nation that fought against the evil of Nazism, white supremacy is alive and well. We have people in power who sympathize with Nazis, and who don’t mind labeling certain groups as the “other” and worthy of mistreatment.
As a nation, we have rounded up children of refugees and separated them from their parents, leaving them in makeshift camps. The citizenry is appalled but, so far, seems unable to stop our leaders from committing such wrongs against humanity. Across the country, anti-Semitic incidences are increasing, including in New Mexico. We say “never forget,” yet we watch as the powerful discriminate against our fellow human beings.
Hearing Eva Schloss tell what happened in Germany is a wake-up call we need to heed. She understands what is happening. In 2016, she wrote about global anti-refugee sentiment for Newsweek, in words that were alarmingly prescient: “If Donald Trump becomes the next president of the U.S., it would be a complete disaster. I think he is acting like another Hitler by inciting racism. During his U.S. presidential campaign he has suggested the ‘total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,’ as well as pledging to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico to keep illegal immigrants out.”
Survivors such as Schloss are precious these many decades after World War II. When we hear them speak, we can strengthen our resolve.
“Never again,” we say.
“Never forget,” we say.
Words have power, but they must be followed by action, using our collective will to resist evil and to ensure that never again means just that: Not on our watch.