When the Anne Frank exhibit came to London for the first time in 1986, Holocaust survivor Eva Schloss was unexpectedly asked to speak.
"That changed my life," Schloss said. "I realized people wanted to know and were interested in this."
Schloss was Frank's childhood playmate in Amsterdam before the girls' families, trying to avoid arrest by the Nazis, went into hiding during World War II. Both were later imprisoned in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Frank, her mother and sister died, but Anne left a diary of her experiences.
Schloss lost her father and brother, but she and her mother survived Auschwitz. In 1953, Schloss' mother married Frank's widowed father, and the girlhood friends became "posthumous" stepsisters.
Thursday night, Schloss will share Frank's story and her own during an appearance at the Rocklin Event Center. The program, open to the public, is sponsored by the Jewish congregation Chabad of Placer County.
Rabbi Yossi Korik of Chabad said congregations throughout Northern California joined together to host Schloss' speaking tour. Since 1985, she has dedicated herself to educating people, particularly schoolchildren, about the Holocaust and promoting global peace.
"The Diary of Anne Frank," published by Frank's father, Otto Frank, is perhaps the world's most famous diary. "Practically every student in school reads it at some time," Korik said.
Schloss' account of her experiences reinforces the familiar story. During a telephone interview this week, Schloss, 83, said she accepts about 50 speaking engagements a year, many of them at schools and prisons in England, where she has lived since 1951.
As part of Schloss' Rocklin presentation, Korik said, he hopes to include an exhibit of paintings created by Schloss' brother, Heinz, while in hiding.
"My brother was only 16 when he went into hiding," Schloss said. "He had never painted before. He was a wonderful musician."
Cut off from the outside world, he relied on his imagination to create paintings ranging from outdoor scenes to portraits of himself studying with a stack of books, she said.
Before they were arrested, Schloss' father hid 30 paintings beneath the floorboards of the house where they had taken refuge. After the war, Schloss and her mother were able to go to the house and recover them.
"Like Otto (Frank) had Anne's diary, we had the paintings," she said.
Schloss has written two books about her youth and wartime experiences, "Eva's Story" and "The Promise."
In 1995, she cooperated with playwright James Still to create an educational play, "And Then They Came for Me: Remembering the World of Anne Frank," about four teenagers in the Holocaust. Schloss typically conducts a question-and-answer session following performances.
Her third book is to be published in April, focusing on her life after the war. She and her husband, Zvi Schloss, have three daughters and five grandchildren.
When she speaks to prisoners, she seeks to give them hope for their future.
"I was in the depths of hell," Schloss said.
But she stresses, "There is a life afterward if you want to achieve something."
Thursday's program will begin at 7 p.m. in the Rocklin Event Center, 2650 Sunset Blvd. Tickets are $18 in advance or $25 at the door. They are available online at www. JewishRoseville. com, or by calling (916) 677-9960.