History Comes to Life for students at
The Chapel School
Bronxville, NY- On Wednesday, May 21st, seventh grade students at The Chapel School in Bronxville had a special guest speaker. The class just finished reading The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. Mrs. Lucy Bollman, who was seven when the war started, came in specifically to talk to the students about her experiences living in German-occupied Holland during World War II. During the hour long visit, Mrs. Bollman regaled the students with stories in order to help them to better relate to what it felt like to live in a place that was completely controlled by another country.
She talked about how Dutch men ages eighteen to forty were recruited to either join the German army or to work for the war effort. She also discussed how her uncle, who was a banker and a photographer, was asked to take photos in order to create fake identification cards which would make someone either younger or older so that they would not be taken away. When the Germans shut off the gas and electricity, her uncle climbed to the roof next door, which was a German headquarters, and tapped into the electricity they had and connected it to her house so that he could continue taking the photographs needed.
The students learned about the ration system that was in place at that time. Mrs. Bollman told the students about her constant hunger. Even with rations and a coupon system there still was not enough food to satisfy her hunger. She remembers being afraid all of the time but learning to just cope and go on with her day to day life.
Across the street from her school was a Gestapo headquarters. She said the Gestapo was a “constant presence”. The students had prepared questions in advance and were fascinated to find out that her family hid a Dutch pilot, who was in the middle age range, in a secret room behind her parents’ bedroom. She told them about how the Dutch people on her street set up an escape route through their gardens by opening up fences so that if someone was being recruited by the German army, he could make their way to freedom by running through all of the yards. She explained to them that in the first year of occupation 100,000 people were taken away. By the end of the war that number would reach 200,000. Only four percent would come back. Finally, in sharing her memories of a difficult and frightening time in history, Mrs. Bollman gave the students a wonderful learning experience which they will always remember.
The Chapel School is located at 172 White Plains Road in Bronxville. For more information about The Chapel School and its programs, call 914-337-3202 or visit www.thechapelschool.org.
Picture Caption: Mrs. Lucy Bollman discusses growing up in German-occupied Holland.