Millions of children throughout the world have been educated about the Holocaust by reading The Diary of Anne Frank. On Feb. 25, Cape Coral was educated by Frank's childhood friend and step-sister, Eva Schloss, for a special lecture benefitting the Chabad Jewish Center of Cape Coral. The lecture was held at the exclusive Westin Cape Coral Resort at Marina Village.
Entitled "Learning from the past, living the present, looking to the future," Schloss' lecture detailed her relationship with Anne Frank, perhaps the most famous Holocaust victim in the world, and her own experiences being a Jewish person during the Holocaust. Like her step-sister, Schloss went into hiding in Holland and was betrayed, captured, and sent to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in 1942.
The crowd gasped in horror as Schloss recalled some of the hardships she and her family faced as they struggled to hide from the Nazi regime, and her time after capture at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.
Schloss discussing her two published memoirs with a journalist.
"We were living from day to day, really, seeing terrible things," she said. "I nearly expected my life to be finished every day. My mother was selected for the gas, by a miracle she was saved."
Schloss' mother, Elfriede Geiringer, survived the atrocities along with Eva upon being liberated in 1945 by Russian troops. She was 15 years old at the time.
Her father and brother, Heinz, both perished just weeks before the war ended during the forced march to Mauthausen. She Anne Frank and her family in Holland, where they fled from Nazi oppression in their respective countries, Schloss' Austria and Frank's Germany. She noted that, at the time, Anne Frank was just another one of her hopscotch friends.
"Anne was not in my class, she went to a Montessori school. I must say for me, she was just one of my playmates. We were friends, we did hopscotch, did what girls do, but Anne was very interested in boys," she said with amusement. "When she heard I had an older brother her eyes grew very big and she became very interested in my family!"
She recalled the day she met Otto Frank, who became her stepfather when Elfriede married him in 1953. Anne's mother and sister also perished during the Holocaust.
"He was a very gentle person, he was actually much older than my father. My grandparents were able to get out with the last visathey went to England. I missed my grandfather very much, so Otto was sort of a grandfather figure to me."
Sanibel artist Myra Roberts also featured her series of paintings of Anne Frank and images from the World War II era. One painting in particular stuck out to Schloss, a depiction of the entire Frank family with Otto and his wife, Edith, daughter Anne and her older sister, Margot.
"What an incredible story," Roberts said. "Eva loved this painting called 'Forbidden.' I'm sending her a copy of it to her home in London. It's really moving for her to see my paintings and enjoy them."
Roberts has been working for the last 5 years on an exhibit of paintings featuring images of the 1940s, including Anne Frank along with inspirational quotes from her diary. They will be on exhibit at the Holocaust Museum of Southwest Florida in Naples during March.
The museum's Executive Director, Amy Snyder, was on hand to moderate the lecture. She spoke at length about how historic an event it was.
"The Diary of Anne Frank has become a symbol of the Holocaust for many people," she said. "In Florida there is a mandate to teach about the Holocaust in the public school system."
Cape Coral Mayor Marni Sawicki wasn't able to make it to the lecture, but Dr. Nelson Ruble issued a proclamation on her behalf, proclaiming the week of Feb. 25 through March 4, 2014 as Holocaust Education Week in the city, to "be used by educators, clergy and civic leers to emphasize the God-given, innate rights endowed to every human being."
Schloss has written two books about her experiences, the latest titled "The Promise." She was frank about the message she hoped to send young people everywhere.
"We have made progress, and we have to carry on and accept each other for who we areReligious persecution is very much with us now, and we have to learn accept every religion for what it is, and not be prejudiced against them."
More information can be found about Eva Schloss, the Frank family, and their stories at evaschloss.com. To learn more about the Chabad Jewish Center of Cape Coral, visit chabadcape.com.