Earlier this week, the annual Yom Hashoah ceremonies took place under the auspices of the SAJBD in all the main Jewish population centres. The ceremonies in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Port Elizabeth took place on Sunday and in Cape Town and Durban the following day. The keynote speaker in Johannesburg and Durban was Eva Schloss, a survivor of Auschwitz whose mother later married Anne Frank’s father, Otto. On Wednesday, she also spoke at the Cape Town Holocaust Centre. One of the themes stressed by speakers at this year’s events was that this year marks the seventieth anniversary of the start of the Holocaust in Hungary, in which over 400 000 Hungarian Jews were murdered within a few months.
Schloss recounted how for many years after the war, she had not spoken about her experiences, and how since the 1980s she had increasingly dedicated herself to doing so. On the first occasion she spoke, she had been shocked to be told by a young Israeli in the audience that she and her fellow victims had gone like sheep to the slaughter instead of fighting back. This, she said, had helped inspire her to testify and educate people regarding the terrible realities of the Nazi genocide, and the helplessness to which its victims were reduced.
Like Anne Frank, whom she had known and been friendly with before the war, Schloss (born in Vienna to Erich and Fritzie Geiringer) survived in hiding in Amsterdam for a lengthy period before, after two years, she and her mother were betrayed and arrested. Her father and brother, Heinz, had by then been sent to the Mauthausen in Austria, where they died just days before the camp was liberated by US forces. Eva and her mother were sent to Auschwitz, where new arrivals were processed and sent either to work in Auschwitz or to immediate death in nearby Treblinka. Because she was wearing her mother’s hat and coat, the fifteen year-old Eva looked older than she was, and hence was selected by Josef Mengele for the former. Somehow, she and her mother survived for nine months before one day waking up to find that the Germans had abandoned the camp, taking most of the inmates with them. A few days later, the Soviet troops arrived to liberate the camp.
Schloss spoke movingly of her lost brother, a gifted musician, poet and artist whose paintings made whilst in hiding she was able to recover after the war. She concluded her address by reading one of his poems, which appears in her recent book The Promise and which she wrote in his memory to keep the promise made by his father that he would live on in the memory of those who knew him.
In Johannesburg, messages were delivered both by Israeli Ambassador Arthur Lenk, Hungarian Ambassador Bela Laszlo. The latter stressed the Holocaust had been a tragedy for the entire Hungarian people and further acknowledged and apologized for the fact, long suppressed, that the Hungarian government of the time had cooperated with the Nazi administration in the deportations and murders.
******note : EVA SCHLOSS left a few signed copies of 2 of her books in our offices, if you would like to purchase these please contact Jenni on 0116452521, stock is very limited.