Tale of survival returns

It never gets old for Holocaust survivor Eva Schloss.

Even after attending 900 performances of “And Then They Came for Me,” Schloss is always moved by the play’s depiction of her life.

“And Then They Came For Me — Remembering the World of Anne Frank” returns for the fourth straight year to the Bay Area for a 12-day run at San Francisco’s New Conservatory Theater, and once again Schloss will be on hand for the post-show discussions. She always enjoys speaking with audience members, most of them young people who know little about that dark time in history.

The play, which opens Tuesday, Oct. 12, weaves together taped interviews of Schloss and fellow survivor Edmond Silverberg with live actors portraying them as young European Jews facing the horrors of Nazi genocide. Written by James Still, “And Then They Came for Me” has been staged across the United States, in London and in Latvia.

“When I first saw it,” Schloss remembers in a phone interview from her London home, “I was from beginning to end in tears, not so much to see myself but my father and brother who died. I felt it was bringing my family back to life.”

The play’s subtitle about Anne Frank is apropos in Schloss’ case. She knew Anne when both were girls in Amsterdam, and after the war, Schloss’ widowed mother married Otto Frank, Anne’s father. Thus, Schloss and Anne Frank would have been stepsisters.

“She was just an ordinary child like everyone else,” remembers Schloss, “It was only while in hiding she had time, and developed herself much quicker. Even her father said, ‘I didn’t even know my own child.’ She kept her second nature hidden.”

Schloss’ life, like Anne’s, was ripped apart by war. As the Nazi terror spread across the continent, her family was separated and went into hiding, Schloss with her mother. They, too, were betrayed by a Dutch Nazi sympathizer and sent to Auschwitz. Miraculously, both Schloss and her mother survived, though the rest of her family perished.

After the war, Schloss settled in London, married and raised a family. Life eventually became sweet again. Like many other Holocaust survivors, she waited a long time to tell her story, but not because she tried to hide a deep pain. It was because no one wanted to listen.

“I had experienced something horrendous,” notes Schloss. “I wanted to talk, but the world wasn’t ready to hear. People wanted to move on. Some survivors suppressed it, and for 30 years they couldn’t talk about it. Then in the ’70s and ’80s people really wanted to know. It was a relief.”

For Schloss, the healing process included writing a book about her life. “Eva’s Story” sold well, and helped serve as a springboard for “And Then They Came for Me.”

“The director got in touch with me in London and said he wanted to commission a play about a teen that knew Anne Frank,” reports Schloss. “The writer [James Sill] came to see me, did a lot of research in Amsterdam and wrote seven drafts. I was involved throughout.”

That was eight years ago.

Since then, Schloss has enjoyed the opportunity to teach new generations about the Holocaust, and to do her part to ensure something like that never happens again. Yet as she sees it, with the resurgence of anti-Semitism in parts of the world, that’s no longer a safe bet.

“Here in England and America, it is less,” she says. “But even here, people say, ‘I have nothing against Jews, but I don’t like Israeli policy.’ But as Jews we identify with Israel. The anti-Semitism is a tragedy.”

“And Then They Came for Me — Remembering the World of Anne Frank,” runs Tuesday, Oct. 12 through Sunday, Oct. 24 at the New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness Avenue, S.F. 10:15 and 11:45 a.m. weekdays, 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 22, and Saturday, Oct. 23, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 24. $7 youth, $10 adults, $5 group rate. Information: (415) 861-4914 ext. 109, or [email protected].

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is a contributing editor at J. He was a longtime staff writer at J. and retired as news editor in 2020.