Anna Essinger (September 15, 1879 – May 30, 1960) was a German-Jewish teacher. She founded a boarding school in Germany with her sister in 1926 and acted as headmistress.
Anna was a pioneer of progressive education. Her school used a program similar to a Montessori program, placing high value on communal living, mutual respect and a shared sense of responsibility for the school, for teachers and students alike. The school was co-educational and accepted students from all religions.
Considered a strict disciplinarian and “stout and stern”, Anna was also highly respected by students and staff, who called her “Tante Anna” (Aunt Anna).
During the Nazi era, Anna and her school quietly boycotted the Third Reich. When all public buildings were required to fly a Nazi flag on Hitler’s birthday, she arranged for a hiking trip so that the flag flew over an empty building, saying “Atop an empty building, the flag can neither convey nor harm as much.” Eventually, the Nazi’s negative attention toward her school forced her to relocate it to southern England. She was able to sneak 66 children out of the country with her.
Tante Ana also did a lot of charity work, working with Quaker-sponsored humanitarian aid, helping to set up kitchens for orphans, and collecting food and clothing for those in need.
Her motto was “Give children a hand, give them a chance.”
Image of Anna Essinger courtesy Wikimedia Commons.