*JEWISH CHRONICAL CRITICS’ CHOICE: NON-FICTION OF THE YEAR 2022*
‘A devastatingly affecting book. . . Bunce Court! I keep saying the name to myself because it encapsulates all that is gentle and comically charming about wartime England’ The Times
‘Emotionally compelling’ Observer
‘All the violence I had experienced before felt like a bad dream. It was a paradise. I think most of the children felt it was a paradise.’
In 1933, as Hitler came to power, schoolteacher Anna Essinger hatched a daring and courageous plan: to smuggle her entire school out of Nazi Germany. Anna had read Mein Kampf and knew the terrible danger that Hitler’s hate-fuelled ideologies posed to her pupils. She knew that to protect them she had to get her pupils to the safety of England.
But the safe haven that Anna struggled to create in a rundown manor house in Kent would test her to the limit. As the news from Europe continued to darken, Anna rescued successive waves of fleeing children and, when war broke out, she and her pupils faced a second exodus. One by one countries fell to the Nazis and before long unspeakable rumours began to circulate. Red Cross messages stopped and parents in occupied Europe vanished. 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, showing them that, despite everything, there was still a world worth fighting for.
Featuring moving first-hand testimony, and drawn from letters, diaries and present-day interviews, The School That Escaped the Nazis is a dramatic human tale that offers a unique child’s-eye perspective on Nazi persecution and the Holocaust. It is also the story of one woman’s refusal to allow her beliefs in a better, more equitable world to be overtaken by the evil that surrounded her.
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