The stepsister of Anne Frank spoke with students in California who had been pictured performing a Nazi salute in front of a makeshift swastika made from beer cups.
The story teaches us that talking and educating can help people to learn valuable lessons and change their ways.
Students and former students of Newport Beach in California played the drinking game at a weekend party, and photographs of the swastika made out of red plastic cups, and the students making Nazi salutes, were posted on social media.
What appears to have been a woefully misguided attempt at humour turned into a national embarrassment for the Southern California city, leaving behind outrage, disbelief and finally, hope for change.
On Thursday, the stepsister of Anne Frank visited privately with students who attended the party and described an emotional meeting in which she recounted her experiences at the Auschwitz death camp, reports NBC.
Eva Schloss, an Austrian native, spent two years hiding in Amsterdam before being discovered by the Nazis on her 15th birthday. She spent nine months in Auschwitz. Her mother married Otto Frank in 1953; both had lost their spouses in Nazi death camps. Schloss is an activist and author who speaks widely about her Holocaust experiences.
When the students saluted the swastika at the party last weekend, “they didn’t realize what it really meant,” Schloss said. “They just thought it was a joke.”
They apologised profusely during the meeting, which also included parents, community members and student leaders from Newport Harbor High School.
Schloss said she hoped there would be more education about the Holocaust and a war now 75 years in the past. The photo was a reminder that the warning of the Holocaust — never forget — sometimes is.
The students “don’t realise what those signs really mean to victims who have gone through this period,” she said.
She expressed confidence that the students “have learned a lesson for life.”
The meeting was arranged by Rabbi Reuven Mintz, director of the Chabad Center for Jewish Life in Newport Beach.
“I am hopeful that despite their actions, these young individuals, with promising futures, have the potential to become advocates of tolerance, understanding and coexistence in the school, in our community and beyond,” Mintz said in a statement.
“My goal and hope is to seize this dark moment and use it as opportunity to illuminate Newport Beach as a whole; but specifically, to positively transform the lives of the erring students. We are working closely with the leadership at Newport Harbor High School to facilitate greater awareness, Holocaust education, and encounters with survivors to engage with students on an ongoing basis,” he wrote.
You can watch an interview with Eva Schloss on her story of the Holocaust below: