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Make a Day of It: An Historic Evening with Anne Frank’s Stepsister in Salem

Eva Schloss & Salem Mayor Chuck Bennett

Run Oregon loves running – that’s no surprise. But we also love the Pacific Northwest and all that it has to offer. Running is a part of us, but it does not fully define us. In our new “Make a Day of It” feature, we aim to showcase some great local non-running events and highlight where to run and how to make the most of your experience!

We recently previewed An Historic Evening with Anne Frank’s Stepsister in Salem and attended the discussion on February 22, 2018 thanks to the Chabad Center for Jewish Life. We hoped to do a little reflection on the event afterwards. Here are some of my statements from that post, followed by our recap of the event:

I’m guessing that at least part of the reason you run each day is to do some level of self-care and get away from the ills and stresses of daily life. I hate to be cliché, but with the way the world currently seems to moving on any given day, I think it’s unequivocally necessary to surround yourself with good and choose love over hate.  Obviously, this historic night will showcase some hard to imagine times in world history, but also illustrate some themes and topics that we really need to keep in the forefront of our minds each day.

Being a Christian, I don’t necessarily have the direct connection to Anne Frank’s story, or at least not as much as a Jewish individual would. But really, that’s all the more reason to hear the story, understand the faith, and seek to continually learn from – and about – others who are different from me. Running, you may feel, is your religion, but we should all attempt to grow together. We all toe the same starting line and triumphantly cross the same finish after all.

The night kicked off with an emotionally charged 5-7 minute video of some images from the Nazi death camps, coupled with a powerful song from a Jewish musical artist encouraging those to never forget what happened, especially when the generation who experienced the terror first hand is gone. The event was bookended by a few short musical interludes from a very talented local violinist – playing an emotional rendition of the previously referenced song, as well as the music from Schindler’s List.

A packed house and rapt audience.

In the middle, the featured portion was the discussion and Q&A session with Eva Schloss. It is hard to put into words what an absolute joy it was to hear her speak and talk about her life and experience. We all learn about the Holocaust in schools growing up and understand, at a very basic level, what was going on. But hearing it from a first hand account painted things with even more shock, emotion, and reality. Some things that stood out:

  • There was some initial rumblings and concern that Hitler would attempt to take over Europe, but many Jews stayed in their residences because they thought that the world wouldn’t allow something that evil to happen.
  • It was extremely hard to get Visas, even when there was a realistic concern for safety due to Hitler’s rise. Many nations across the world met, and though they saw the risk of what could happen, they did little to nothing assist those at risk. As a Canadian, I was disgusted to hear her state that a Canadian official stated, “even taking one [Jewish refugee] is too much.”
  • As a father, I listened with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat as Eva described her father needing to make the decision to split the family to achieve a better chance of not being caught, as well as apologizing to his children as they arrived at Auschwitz and saying sorry he couldn’t protect them any longer.
  • Though we, as a country, aren’t too thrilled with Russia right now, she did state that the Russians were their eventual liberators and they treated her people so well when they were rescued.
  • Someone in the crowd asked if she made friends during her time in the camp, to which the response was that there wasn’t time and energy for friendship because you never knew if you would see them the following day.
  • When asked if she felt that German guards were “just following orders”, she suspected that it may have been possible, but from her eyes, she never saw any disgust and humiliation that someone may exhibit if they were compassionate human beings. She recalled a story where one guard joyfully, and in horrific detail, told them how a previous group had been guided to the showers under the guise of getting clean, only to be unsuspectingly gassed. Following this, the guard then informed them they were going to the showers themselves and laughed at them when actual water came out of the showers.
  • Following liberation, some Jews died from consuming an amount of food that their body was not prepared for.

Though many stories were heartbreaking, Eva was absolutely mesmerizing in her re-telling and, amazingly, had the audience chuckling at some numerous tales. From her discussion about her eventual marriage where she initially declined her suitor’s proposal, only to come back and accept when she was told that Otto Frank (Anne’s widowed father) had fallen in love with Eva’s mother. She also chuckled talking about how she loved “skipping” as a little girl for entertainment – not exactly video games.

Unsurprisingly, Eva states she lost faith in humanity, faith, and religion following her liberation. It took years for her to work through what she had experienced, physically and emotionally. As a Christian, this experience may not have been as “personal” as it was for many others in the audience. But it was a reminder of what hatred and a lack of compassion can produce. Sometimes I hear in certain news stories, and in some conversations of my own life, that Christians and Christianity are “under attack” and being persecuted here in America. I have never really understood that, and this night just cemented that even further in my mind. I would personally encourage reading about real terror and persecution (via the stories in Eva Schloss’ talks and book) before making such claims. People from all religions, who claim to promote peace, understanding, love, and virtue should be reminded what can happen if we don’t practice what we preach.

Eva’s book can be found on Amazon and I would also encourage connecting with the Chabad Center for Jewish Life if you want to learn more.

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About Matt Rasmussen (1252 Articles)
Matt Rasmussen lives in Keizer, Ore. with his wife and three daughters. He enjoys watching the Olympics, sampling craft beers, and all things Canada (he was born there). Matt was raised as a baseball player and officially transitioned over to running in 2010. Matt joined the Run Oregon team in October 2011, and since then he has spearheaded the blog’s efforts to cover product reviews, news about businesses related to running, and running events in the Willamette Valley.

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