The 1st Montessori School in Amsterdam opened its doors as a public institution on October 27, 1927. Almost 75 years later, a former student wondered how many of the children from the school had died in World War II. That sent one of the teachers, Ronald Sanders, on a quest. "When the war started," he writes, "about 20 percent of our students were Jewish. After the war, fewer than ten students came back to the 1st Montessori School; the Nazis had murdered more than 90 percent of the Jewish population of the Netherlands."
Hannie J. Ostendorf Voyles, longtime Butte College writing instructor now in active retirement, attended the school starting in 1939 with her sister Joosje. "Before that," she remembers, "we had been students at the 6th Montessori School with Anne Frank. Anne was older than I was; she was in the upper grades, but I remember seeing her at school and in the neighborhood."
Anne and her family went into hiding. "Before long, many students in our new school met a similar fate. Like Anne, they simply vanished. We were little children and could only watch as our friends were first deported to JEWS ONLY schools, and then were rounded up and carted off for extermination. From my own school, 173 students were murdered."
Some of the stories of those who survived, and those who didn't, are told in "Storming the Tulips" ($17.99 in paperback from Stonebrook Publishing), written and compiled by Ronald Sanders and translated and revised by Hannie Voyles.
Voyles will be speaking about the days of Nazi occupation at 7:00 p.m. this coming Wednesday, June 15, at Lyon Books in Chico.
The various accounts in the book are anchored by a love of 1st Montessori. Here are the stories of teachers who hid Jews; those in the Dutch Resistance who gave their lives; Jewish children who barely escaped the incinerators. In 1942, as "friends and neighbors were torn from their homes and sent off to the camps," the Pinkhofs, including three children who attended 1st Montessori, "committed suicide as a family." Another student, who stopped by on the way to school, discovered the bodies. That student was Hannie Voyles.
"The children have no monument," she writes. Now, they do.