The extraordinary true story of a courageous school principal who saw the dangers of Nazi Germany and took drastic steps to save those in harm’s way
In 1933, the same year Hitler came to power, schoolteacher Anna Essinger saved her small, progressive school from Nazi Germany. Anna had read Mein Kampf and knew the terrible danger that Hitler’s hate-fueled ideologies posed to her pupils, so she hatched a courageous and daring plan: to smuggle her school to the safety of England.
As the school she established in Kent, England, flourished despite the many challenges it faced, the news from her home country continued to darken. Anna watched as Europe slid toward war, with devastating consequences for the Jewish children left behind. In time, Anna would take in orphans who had given up all hope: the survivors of unimaginable horrors. Anna’s school offered these scarred children the love and security they needed to rebuild their lives.
Featuring moving firsthand testimony from surviving pupils, and drawing from letters, diaries, and present-day interviews, The School that Escaped the Nazis is a dramatic human tale that offers a unique perspective on Nazi persecution and the Holocaust. It is also the story of one woman’s refusal to allow her belief in a better world to be overtaken by hatred and violence.
BBC producer Cadbury (Queen Victoria's Matchmaking) delivers a stirring account of a German schoolteacher's efforts to build an oasis for children fleeing the Nazi advance across Europe. Anna Essinger, the headmistress of a progressive boarding school in Herrlingen, Germany, was quick to see the coming horrors of life under Hitler and arranged to bring 70 of her students, some as young as nine, with her to Kent, England, in 1933. With help from local politicians and Quaker and Jewish groups, Anna transformed an old manor house called Bunce Court into a new school and eventually began accepting "waves of increasingly traumatised children from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia and then Poland." Cadbury intersperses daily life at Bunce Court (which closed in 1948) with profiles of Anna's students, including Sidney Finkel, who saw his father die at Buchenwald; Leslie Brent, whose parents put him on the very first Kindertransport out of Berlin; and Sam Oliner, who lost his family in the liquidation of the Bobowa ghetto in Poland and was brought from a displaced persons camp in Germany to Bunce Court in 1946. These and other youths ultimately found healing at Bunce Court, where students built greenhouses, grew their own food, and maintained the buildings and grounds. Impressively researched and vividly told, this is a captivating portrait of courage and resilience in the face of unspeakable horror.