Eva Schloss stresses education during Holocaust Awareness Week

Serena Bettis

Her story began thousands of miles away and several decades ago in a fenced-off compound designed to kill. But even in the time since the fall of Nazi Germany, Holocaust survivor Eva Schloss argues that the lessons she brought to campus Monday afternoon are timeless. 

As community members planted over 2,000 flags in the grass patches outside the Lory Student Center this week in remembrance of the millions of people murdered in the Holocaust, that same remembrance was brought to the packed LSC Grand Ballroom to listen to one woman and her life story of perseverance.

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Invited to Colorado State University by Students for Holocaust Awareness in observance of CSU’s 23rd annual Holocaust Awareness Week, Holocaust survivor Schloss brought her story to hundreds of community members in the LSC, an event Rabbi Yerachmiel Gorelik said was five years in the making.

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  • Rabbi Yerachmiel Gorelik speaks to students, faculty, and community members gathered to hear Holocaust survivor Eva Schloss speak in the Lory Student Center Grand Ballroom Nov. 18. (Colin Shepherd | The Collegian)

  • Students, faculty and community members listen to Holocaust survivor Eva Schloss speak in the Lory Student Center Grand Ballroom Nov. 18. Schloss is the stepdaughter of Otto Frank, the father of Margot and diarist Anne Frank. (Colin Shepherd | The Collegian)

  • Eva Schloss discuss her experiences through the Holocaust with CBS 4 Denver Reporter Romi Bean in the Lory Student Center Grand Ballroom Nov. 18. Schloss is the stepdaughter of Otto Frank, the father of Margot and diarist Anne Frank. (Colin Shepherd | The Collegian)

  • Holocaust survivor Eva Schloss meets World War II Veteran Army Nurse Leila Morrison in the Lory Student Center Ballroom Nov. 18. (Colin Shepherd | The Collegian)

  • Holocaust survivor Eva Schloss meets World War II veteran Army Nurse Leila Morrison in the Lory Student Center Ballroom Nov. 18. (Colin Shepherd | The Collegian)

  • Audience members hold onto one another while listening to Holocaust Eva Schloss speak in the Lory Student Center Grand Ballroom Nov. 18. (Colin Shepherd | The Collegian)

  • Colorado State University President Joyce McConnell and Fort Collins Mayor Wade Troxell applaud Holocaust survivor Eva Schloss as she is directed onstage to speak to students, faculty and community members in the Lory Student Center Grand Ballroom Nov. 18. (Colin Shepherd | The Collegian)

  • Holocaust survivor Eva Schloss listens to Rabbi Yerachmiel Gorelik speak to students, faculty, and community members gathered to hear her speak in the Lory Student Center Grand Ballroom Nov. 18. Schloss is the stepdaughter of Otto Frank, the father of Margot and diarist Anne Frank. (Colin Shepherd | The Collegian)

  • Holocaust survivor Eva Schloss signs copies of her book Eva’s Story: A Survivor’s Unforgettable Journey by the Stepsister of Anne Frank Eva Schloss. For Holocaust Awareness Week, The Students for Holocaust Awareness at Colorado State University hosted Schloss to speak to students, faculty, and community members Nov. 18 in the Lory Student Center Grand Ballroom. (Colin Shepherd | The Collegian)

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After surviving eight months in the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp and two years in hiding during the Holocaust, Schloss dedicated her life to spreading education and tolerance across the world.

“It’s just a remarkable life, and to hear her story and to bring it here to Fort Collins and to have the Holocaust Awareness week is so important for our community to remember but also to truly understand what happened at that time,” Fort Collins Mayor Wade Troxell said.

CBS Denver Sports Anchor Romi Bean guided Schloss to detail her early life in Austria and her experiences in a Europe ruled by Adolf Hitler.

Schloss said she and her family immigrated from Austria to Holland in 1938, where Schloss found a playmate in none other than Anne Frank. 

We have a wonderful brain, and we should use it for goodness and kindness and help each other so that we give everybody a decent life.” -Eva Schloss, Holocaust survivor

Schloss not only knew Anne Frank as a childhood friend before both families went into hiding, but became her postmortem stepsister in 1953 when Schloss’ mother, Elfriede Geiringer, married Anne Frank’s father, Otto Frank.

This, along with her experience fleeing, or trying to flee, to several countries, living in multiple hiding places and being taken to Auschwitz, allows Schloss to share a unique perspective on the Holocaust and the treatment of marginalized groups during that time. 

“Having her speak and having awareness is very, very key because I think that people haven’t been educated enough on the Holocaust, and so this is a wonderful opportunity,” CSU President Joyce McConnell said. “I think having our students feel empowered enough to say, ‘No, that’s not right, and here’s why it’s not right,’ teaching one another how to do that, is really critical.” 

For CSU Hillel Campus Director Mariah Kornberg-DeGear, hearing Schloss speak was about more than Holocaust education.

Kornberg-DeGear’s ancestors lived in Austria at the start of Hitler’s rise to power, moved to Holland just as Schloss did and lost many family members in concentration camps. 

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“(Her) story was really true to me because I could relate to it,” Kornberg-DeGear said. “The fact that she’s been able to be a survivor and carry on her stepsister’s legacy and her family’s legacy, and (to do) that as a woman that is presenting their story, is very profound.”

Unfortunately, you can go through an entire high school and college education and know how to get a good job, but not necessarily know how to make the right moral decisions.” -Rabbi Yerachmiel Gorelik, faculty adviser, Chabad Jewish Student Organization

Schloss has made it her life mission to rid the world of hate as much as she can, whether that is through literature, Holocaust education or sharing her own personal story. 

“We have a wonderful brain, and we should use it for goodness and kindness and help each other so that we give everybody a decent life,” Schloss said.

Gorelik said having Schloss speak and educate on campus after the CSU Jewish community wanted to invite her to campus for so long was an honor. 

“Unfortunately, you can go through an entire high school and college education and know how to get a good job, but not necessarily know how to make the right moral decisions,” Gorelik said. “The answer about these atrocities not happening again is in our responsibility to bring this education and awareness, and it begins with each and every one of us.”

Schloss’ speech was sponsored by community members Sam and Karen Shelanski, Doug and Cindy Max in memory of Rachael Max, Les and Lee Kaplan, Spencer Kirson and the M.B. Glassman Foundation. CSU sponsors included the Associated Students of CSU, Chabad Jewish Student Organization, Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon Pi sorority, the Office of International Programs, the Residence Hall Association and the LSC.

Serena Bettis can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @serenaroseb