Students from North Bergen’s High Tech High School recently were given the opportunity to perform a stirring Holocaust play as one of the drama’s characters, Eva Schloss, watched from the audience.
And Then They Came for Me: Remembering the World of Anne Frank is a dramatic survivor story written by American playwright James Still based on several accounts from actual survivors, including Anne Frank and Schloss, her stepsister.
The show premiered March 29 and ran an additional three times on March 30 and 31.
Schloss, who flew in from England to attend the performance, also conducted a Q&A after each show.
“It was a beautiful experience,” said senior Erika Gonzalez, who portrayed Eva’s character. “It easily changed my life entirely.”
Drama Department Chair Deborah Arters said that there was a special connection between Schloss and the cast members.
“It was astounding,” said Arters, adding that Schloss said she felt the students were like grandchildren to her.
“When Eva came, we felt so much of a connection to her,” said senior Cypress Rhodes, who portrayed Ed Silverberg in the production. “The information and the visuals she gave us helped us connect so much more to our characters.”
Arters also said that the audience was able to feel the connection with Schloss.
“She shared with us some really horrific moments that she went through with the camp,” said Arters. “When she got up for the Q&A, the audience supported her with so much love. It was an extraordinary experience here at High Tech High School.”
“It was an outstanding opportunity to meet this woman,” added Arters. “It was really an extremely educational and yet socially beneficial experience.”
Gonzalez also said that the cast took a trip to the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Manhattan to further research their roles.
“We learned so much about Jewish culture, and we felt the need to represent that and share the story to make Eva’s life a remembrance,” said Gonzalez.
“This was a very unique experience for me,” said Kara Rodriguez, a senior who played Eva’s mother. “[The museum] really helped us to personalize this play. It really brought to life that these were real people that had to survive while not knowing what was going to happen.”
“Not only did we learn about the Jewish culture, but I think [the production] shed light on discrimination in general,” added Rodriguez.
“It was a beautiful experience. It easily changed my life entirely.” – Senior Erika Gonzalez
“My students really worked so hard that when Eva came they actually cried,” said Arters.
“I’m so impressed with these students and the hard work that they did,” continued Arters. “It’s been a loving, beautiful experience.”
A 70-minute production, the play featured the first-person accounts of Schloss and Silverberg, who offer personal perspectives on Anne Frank and the Holocaust itself.
Born in Vienna in 1929, Schloss and her Jewish family immigrated to Belgium and eventually Holland after the Nazis annexed Austria. She and her family went into hiding in 1942, but were soon betrayed by their neighbors and sent to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.
Schloss, who lost her brother and father in the camp, was eventually liberated by the Russian Army in January 1945. In May 1945, she repatriated to Amsterdam, where she became a photographer. She married in 1952 and has three daughters and five grandchildren.
Stephen LaMarca may be reached at email@example.com.