The extraordinary true story of a courageous school principal, Anna Essinger, who saw the dangers of Nazi Germany and took drastic steps to save those in harm’s way
By 1931, Anna Essinger had read Mein Kampf and knew that Hitler’s world view was violent, utterly destructive, and that many of her pupils in her small progressive school in Herrlingen, Germany were in terrible danger. She decided that in order to offer them a refuge, and a future, she must first move her school entirely out of the Nazis’ reach. So, she did just that, creating a safe haven in Kent, England.
Anna and the first seventy children escaped Nazi Germany in 1933, but in time she would accept waves of increasingly traumatized children from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia and then Poland as the crisis spread. Some children had, by the time they reached Essinger, been violated by five years of escalating deprivations. For those who escaped the camps and ghettos, Essinger offered the only salvation that mattered, in the words of a student: “a great deal of love and determination to help us.”
Acclaimed writer Deborah Cadbury retells the remarkable story of Essinger, drawing on moving first-person accounts of the children who escaped and their reflections on the lives they created from the ashes of WWII. The School That Escaped from the Nazis is not just a Holocaust survival story – many of the students were Jewish – but an inspiring narrative of one woman’s refusal to allow her beliefs in a better, more equitable world to be overtaken by violent force and political extremism. Essinger’s determination to move her school becomes a triumph of humanism in a time of increasing violence and intolerance.