By Shaanaaz de Jager
HOLOCAUST survivor Eva Schloss, step-sister to Anne Frank, was in Port Elizabeth to tell the story of her incredible life and that of the World War 2 icon through a play, And Then They Came for Me ... Remembering the World of Anne Frank.
The play, which has been staged in the US, China, Australia and Europe, had its first South African showing at the synagogue hall in Port Elizabeth on Thursday December 6, before heading off to Cape Town.
The play will also be staged in California for two weeks in January next year.
Schloss, 83, was delighted to be in Port Elizabeth.
"In Europe we had great pity for South Africans during apartheid. With the change of government all went relatively peacefully. It was amazing.
"But we know things are not as good as they should be at the moment,” she said.
In the play, archive footage of Frank’s boyfriend Ed Silverberg, who was also known as "Hello”, and Schloss are streamed on video in the background. His birth name was Helmuth Silberberg.
"Ed and I met in 1996 again, after his family left for the US, at the opening of the New Jersey play. He is three years older and does not travel any more,” she said.
Schloss, who describes herself as a housewife, is a mother of three and grandmother of five. She lives in England with her husband Zvi.
"I live an ordinary life. I enjoy cooking, watching movies and spending time with my family.
"Unfortunately, this work [play] takes up a lot of my time, so I do miss my grandchildren’s school performances and birthdays. I always say, ‘Next year I’ll stop with the work,’ but I keep on making plans. This work is just too important to give up.”
Schloss, who visited South Africa 15 years ago with one of her daughters and her husband, said she was glad to have been invited by Port Elizabeth PR Michelle Brown to stage the play.
Brown met Schloss in September last year at a women’s conference in the US.
"It wasn’t easy to arrange for us to come here. We had to find sponsors to pay for our accommodation and travelling costs,” Schloss said.
Schloss, who lectures on tolerance and acceptance worldwide, said the one thing she could never do was "forgive”.
"I can never forgive them [nazis] for what they have done to us. It was inhumane. I never expected to see humans behave like that,” she said.
"Frank’s dad, Otto, was my step-father and he helped me deal with my anger back then. He was ... a proud German and said there were still good Germans. He was also a grandfather to my children.
"Even though I got over the suffering I do miss my family, extended family and the home we lived in.”
Even though Schloss and Frank were about the same age, she said her step-sister was slightly more mature.
"She was an ordinary little girl, but showed an interest in boys earlier than me. She also liked fashion and hairstyles. She loved to write and wrote stories at school. She was a chatterbox and her nickname was ‘Mrs Quack Quack’.”
During her capture by the Germans, Schloss was tortured and tattooed with the number A-5212, later changed to A-5272.
"When they tattooed my arm they later scratched out the number one and replaced it with a number seven. The Germans were very meticulous and someone must have noticed an error.
"I’ve been back there to Vienna but when I got there I couldn’t remember the street I had lived in. They [Nazis] destroyed millions of people and the whole way of life.”
Schloss is the author of Eva’s Story and The Promise.
This is a version of an article that appeared in the print edition of the Weekend Post on Saturday, December 8, 2012.