Anne Frank's diary – and life – ended when the Nazis sent her to a concentration camp, but her stepsister is keeping her legacy alive in South Florida.
This week, Eva Schloss, who is 84 and lives in London, is traveling here and elsewhere in the state to share her memories of Frank and her experiences living through one of the most horrific times in human history. She's hoping many young people will hear her story.
"We have to share our message of what has happened, or I'm afraid in 20 or 30 years, more people will deny this happened," she said. "When young people speak to a Holocaust survivor, it seems to make a big impression and it has changed attitudes."
Schloss and Frank were playmates in Amsterdam, where their Austrian families were living to hide from the Nazis. Frank, who became one of the best known victims of the Holocaust, died along with her mother and sister. Schloss's father and brother died, but her mother survived and later married Frank's father.
Schloss said her relationship with Frank was friendly but not close. The girls would play games like hopscotch and skipping when they were pre-teens.
"She wasn't a genius at the time. Just an ordinary girl, who was perhaps a little advanced for her age," Schloss said. "She was interested in boys and her appearance, and I was more of a tomboy."
Schloss said their families tried their best to shield them from the dangers they faced. Schloss didn't realize how dire the situation was until the Nazis occupied the Netherlands in 1944, sending both families to concentration camps.
"At the time my family was arrested, I thought that would be my last days on earth, and that's a terrible thought, especially for a 15-year-old," Schloss said. "We expected to be killed."
She and her mother were separated from her father and brother in Auschwitz. For three months of her nine-month imprisonment, Schloss was separated from her mother and feared she had died. Still, she had a desire to keep living.
"There is a wonderful thing about human beings. As long as there is still life in you, there is hope," she said. "You don't give up fighting."
After liberation, Schloss and her mother found Anne's father, Otto Frank, the only survivor in his family. She described him as "a wonderful man who helped me after the war. I was a miserable teenager, and he helped me get over it."
Otto Frank regained his spirit and happiness after he found his daughter's diary and successfully worked to get it published, Schloss said.
"If he hadn't found the diary, I think he would have just faded away," she said. "But when he found it, he had a mission. He said would say, "I always feel like my little girl is still with me.'"
Local chabads are sponsoring Schloss's appearances Wednesday at the Palm Beach County Convention Center in West Palm Beach, at Chabad of Weston on Thursday, at the West Hotel on Fort Lauderdale Beach Boulevard Feb. 18, at the Rok Family Shul in Miami on Feb. 19, at the Chabad of Boca Raton on Feb. 20 and finally at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland March 2.
Each event is open to the public and charges an admission, ranging from $10 to $25 to cover Schloss's travel and event expenses, officials said.
Rabbi Mendy Gutnick, of Chabad of Parkland , said his congregation serves mostly young families, and he worries the significance of the Holocaust to them is waning.
"During the past High Holidays,, I shared a story of a survivor during a sermon," Gutnick said. "Someone came up to me afterward and said, 'I think we've moved past the Holocaust.'"
Rabbi Chaim Lipskar, of the chabad in Miami, said he thinks Schloss's story will resonate.
"As time goes by, it becomes more important to tell the story of Anne Frank and the struggle of the Jewish people," he said. "We continue to face anti-Semitism around the world. As Holocaust survivors get older, it's important to their stories before there are no more survivors."
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IF YOU GO
Here are some of Eva Schloss's South Florida appearances.
Feb. 12: 7:30 p.m., Palm Beach County Conventon Center, 650 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach, $25 general admission, $20 seniors, $8 students. 561-659-7770 or
Feb. 13: 8 p.m., Chabad of Weston, 18501 Tequesta Trace Park Lane, Weston, $15 advance, $18 at door; 954-349-6565 or
Feb. 18: 7:30 p.m. Westin Hotel, 321 N. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, $18 general, $15 seniors, $10 students; 954-607-1104 or http://www.jewishlauderdale.com
Feb. 19: Lunch event, 12 p.m., Law Firm of Shutts and Bowen, 201 South Biscayne Blvd., Suite 1500, Miami, $18; Evening event, 8 p.m., The Rok Family Shul, 1101 Brickell Avenue, 6th Floor North Tower, Miami, $18 general admission, $10 students, 305-373-8303, http://www.jewishdowntown.net
March 2: 7 p.m., Stoneman Douglas High School, 5901 Pine Island Rd, Parkland, $18 general; $10 students. 954-970-9551 or http://www.chabadofparkland.com