“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”—Anne Frank
Anne Frank attended what is now called 6e Montessorischool Anne Frank from 1934 through 1941, when she was obligated by occupying forces to attend the Jewish Lyceum. According to the Anne Frank House website, her father said, “Anne was a demanding character. She continually asked questions . . . It was good that Anne went to a Montessori school, where each pupil gets a lot of individual attention." Those who knew Anne recalled her as a popular, bright, attention-hungry know-it-all. Her own mother liked to say, "God knows everything, but Anne knows everything better." In the Montessori environment, which emphasizes self-discipline, creativity, and inquisitiveness, Anne was able to explore her inherently strong character. She apparently felt the freedom to be herself, contradictions and all, judging from the remembrances of her classmates and guides.
On her thirteenth birthday, just before her family went in hiding in 1942, Anne received a diary she named Kitty. Her first entry was: “I hope I will be able to confide everything to you, as I have never been able to confide in anyone, and I hope you will be a great source of comfort and support.” It was through isolation that Anne’s Montessori education perhaps became most useful to not only help her cope with the circumstances forced upon her, but to bloom intellectually in writing to Kitty. She was compelled for the first time to turn inward rather than outward: “Writing in a diary is a really strange experience for someone like me. Not only because I’ve never written anything before, but also because it seems to me that later on neither I nor anyone else will be interested in the musings of a thirteen-year old school girl. Oh well, it doesn’t matter. I feel like writing.”
Contradictory as ever, Anne’s “school girl musings” evolved into a timeless, authentic document of the ever-expanding life of a young woman trapped for years inside a single building.
Kristin Peterson holds a PhD in Biology from Harvard University and a certificate from the NAMTA/AMI Montessori Orientation to Adolescent Studies.