Wow… there are simply no words that fully describe the chilling and horrifying tale which is ‘Eva’s Story’. Any book surrounding the Holocaust is obviously not going to be a light-hearted read, and ‘Eva’s Story’ is no different. This book is an incredibly personal and honest account, of a young girl and her family’s desperate attempt to survive one of the most appalling war crimes in history.
The Holocaust is one of the – if not the – most horrific incident of mass murder the world has ever seen. Throughout the Second World War, the Nazis targeted several groups within society whom they considered enemies of the Nazi state. These groups included homosexuals, communists, political prisoners, the disabled and Jehovah’s Witnesses; yet the most vulnerable group was arguably the Jews. From 1933 to 1945, millions of people were sent to various concentration and death camps, which were situated throughout Nazi-occupied Europe. The conditions found within these camps were so hopeless, that many of the Nazis’ victims were systematically killed not only through the gas chambers, but also through starvation, exhaustion, disease, medical experiments, suicide, beatings and shootings.
Anne Frank’s diary is probably the most infamous account of a Jewish girl’s life in hiding during the Holocaust, although Anne’s story sadly ended in tragedy. However, the story of Anne’s posthumous step-sister – which is one of survival – is not so well known. Anne’s diary and Eva Schloss’ book, are like two sides of the coin when it comes to the damage inflicted by the Holocaust. Whilst Anne died at the hands of the Nazis, Eva Schloss miraculously lived to tell the tale.
Many years after the liberation of Auschwitz, Eva felt that it was time to finally share her experience with the world. That’s how ‘Eva’s Story: A Survivor’s Tale by the Step-Sister of Anne Frank’ came into being. This small book is crammed full of love and loss, humiliation and bravery, brutality and sacrifice. Eva’s story is like something out of a nightmare – similar to many other accounts from Holocaust survivors. Thankfully, unlike Anne Frank’s diary Eva’s story has a relatively happier ending.
From the first page, readers are transported to 1920’s Austria where they are introduced to the young Eva, her mother, her father and her brother. From all appearances, Eva’s childhood before the war was simplistic, secure and full of love. Her family’s Jewish heritage was also no hinderance to their interaction with the rest of society.
However, the Nazi’s rise to power – combined with the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 – turned Eva’s world upside down. Suddenly her family’s Jewish faith made them vulnerable to the Nazi’s hate, and their safety entirely depended upon the kindness of others. Eva and her family suffered years of separation and trekking around Europe, all in a desperate attempt to escape the Nazis’ clutches. Anne Frank also makes a brief appearance during this time. However, by 1944 Eva and her family were betrayed, captured and sent to the Nazis’ most infamous concentration camp: Auschwitz and Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Throughout ‘Eva’s Story’, readers are confronted with a brutally honest and vivid description of life at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Eva Schloss was not afraid to tell the world just how ghastly conditions were within the camp, and how badly it affected her health and wellbeing. Readers are offered an unique glimpse into the mindset of a ‘prisoner’ at a Nazi concentration camp, and you swiftly sympathise with Eva’s plight and subsequent reactions. The months of pain, illness, cruelty and endurance which this young girl had to bear, triggers feelings of immense admiration, sympathy and respect.
Perhaps the most heartbreaking aspect of ‘Eva’s Story’, is Eva’s reunion and loss of her father and brother. If ‘Eva’s Story’ wasn’t a nightmarish reality, then her interactions with her father within Auschwitz-Birkenau is almost like something out of a movie. Readers are elated to discover that Eva was briefly reunited with her father against all the odds, whilst they were living within separate sections inside the camp. Unfortunately, readers are later left utterly devastated when they learn that Eva’s happiness was short-lived. Her father and her brother were not destined to survive the war, and so through the pages of this book readers encounter the most dramatic consequences of the Holocaust.
On a much lighter note, I personally loved the close relationship between Eva and her mother – ‘Mutti’. Their experiences within Auschwitz-Birkenau was so closely intertwined, that sometimes Eva’s story was interrupted by that of her mother’s. Mutti’s account of her own imprisonment, gives readers an snapshot into other areas of the camp, as well as interactions with infamous members of the SS. The friendships that the two women formed within the camp, and the self-sacrifice that comes with it, was also very endearing to read.
Auschwitz was finally liberated by the Russians in 1945, yet what many people don’t realise is that the struggle didn’t end there for many of the camp inmates, including Eva and her mother. Readers follow them as they travel through wartime Russia, where they encounter devastating scenes of destruction, and supportive individuals whom they couldn’t understand. Eva recollects her memories surrounding her return to Austria, as well as her grief over the death of her brother and father. Yet when Otto Frank, – (Anne Frank’s father) – enters Eva and Mutti’s life once more after the war, readers know that they are all on the slow road to recovery. Within the final pages of the book, Eva informs the reader how her mother eventually found happiness with Otto Frank, and how Eva herself amazingly moved on to establish her own family and career.
Ultimately however, ‘Eva’s Story: A Survivor’s Tale by the Step-Sister of Anne Frank’ is a miraculous, open and shocking tale. It recollects how a young girl experienced and eventually overcame the horrors of the Holocaust. As I said before, this book is certainly not a light read. It is intense, emotional and utterly captivating throughout. Readers become deeply involved with Eva and her family’s plight; sharing in their moments of fear, love, loss and rehabilitation. Anne Frank is not often mentioned in the book, because Eva’s mother only because associated with Anne’s father after the war. Yet this book, combined with Anne Frank’s diary, gives future generations a private, honest, human and diverse insight into the history of the Holocaust.
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