Kasteel Eerde (Castle Eerde) and I go way back. It’s where I went to school for nearly four years (start of 2000-end of 2003) while living in the Dutch village of Ommen close to the Dutch-German boarder. As the name suggests Kasteel Eerde is a castle in the middle of a forest in the rural Netherlands. Going to school here was an adventure, I mean how many children get to go to school in an old estate? Not many. While I have fond weekend memories of going to the property for family outings with our dogs, what has continuously drawn me to the estate is the WWII history surrounding the school. The history of the school was not talked about in class but my parents, mostly my mother, would attend talks on the history of the estate given by Baronet Erin van Pallandt, the eldest daughter of Baron Phillip van Pallandt. During one of these talks my mother acquired a cop of a typed document dated June 10th, 1945, a letter I believe, written by Baron Phillip van Pallandt about the activities of Kasteel Eerde during WWII and life under Nazi occupation. My mother then sent me a photo-copy of the document she had (a document so highly prized that it is kept in the family’s fire safe) when she learned that I was researching Dutch underground resistance for a Holocaust class.
The history of the International School Eerde starts in 1933 when the estate was set aside by Baron van Pallandt as a school and refuge for Jewish children who were living in fear of the Nazi regime. Around the same time the Dutch Quaker movement decided to take initiative in the education of Jewish students at Kasteeel Eerde serving as their teachers. During this time the estate was known as the Quaker School or the International Quaker School according to Baron Phillip van Pallandt. According the the letter that Phillip van Pallandt wrote shortly after the liberation of Kasteel Eerde by the Canadian Manitoba Dragoons he mentions that there were a number of Jewish children in hiding and receiving an education at Eerde until 1943 when the last group of nine children disappeared at the hands of the Nazis. This group of nine children were, according to Baron van Pallandt, were one of a small number of Jewish children that could not be saved by sending them abroad before the start of the war. The Baron also mentions that the group of nine children were sent to a concentration camp in Poland some time during 1943. A memorial for the students and their teachers now stands at the edge of the inner mote (the mote that the estate sits in) by the apple orchard. The memorial lists the name of the students and teachers who perished in the concentration camps.
After the disappearance of the Jewish school children and their teachers at the hands of the occupying Germans, the Nazis then turned the former International Quaker School into a German boarding school when a school Osnabruck, Germany was moved into the facilities. Baron Phillip van Pallandt mentions in the letter that the new German students were of the age to be members of the Hilterjugend (Hitler Youth). The new German school stayed at Kasteel Eerde until the British 2nd Army was preparing to enter the Netherlands with American paratroopers in preparation of Operation Market Garden (a failed attempt to liberate the Netherlands).
While Kasteel Eerde was hiding and educating Jewish students, there were other Jewish youth and military personal who took refuge at the estate. There were other members of the Dutch resistance that also took to hiding Jewish children at Kasteel Eerde because of it location in forested and rural part in the eastern Netherlands. One of these groups was the Utrecht Kindercomite (Utrecht Children’s Committee), a group of former students from the University of Utrecht who refused to sign Nazi allegiance papers when university students and staff where forced to by the Nazis. The Kindercomite was dedicated to helping save Jewish children from the Nazis by hiding them among the Dutch population. One member of the Utrecht Kindercomite, Anne Maclaine Pont, personally new Baron Phillip van Pallandt and approached him to ask if Jewish children could be hidden on his property. Anne Maclaine Pont already new of the Baron’s involvement in hiding Jewish children and military personnel on his property and was not disappointed when the Baron agreed to hiding an additional seven children on his property. The children were hidden in a small house on the estate but the exact location is not known (the estate also has a farming hamlet with a dozen or so houses). While the exact location of where the seven additional Jewish youth who were connected with Utrecht Kindercomite where hidden, the location of where the U.S. airman and the Dutch reserver officer where hidden is well known. Baron Phillip van Pallandt mentions in his letter that there where two onderduikers, those being hunted and hiding from the Nazis, hiding in the garden of his cottage. The Dutch reserve officer, the brother of Willie (Phillip’s wife?) had been hiding in the cottage garden for two years and during the last seven months of the war was joined by a U.S. airman who’s plane had gone down near Kasteel Eerde. The two men in hiding also had a radio (an item that the Germans didn’t allow) and provided the Pallandt family with much needed war time news. Baron van Pallandt hid Willie’s brother and the airman despite knowing that if the Germans found out the family would be shot. Willie’s brother, the U.S. airman, and he seven Jewish children associated with Kindercomite all survived the war and were liberated on April 6th, 1945 by Canadian forces, namely the Manitoba Dragoons while the village of Ommen was liberated by the Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada.
(Bottom Row: Photo of one of several centuries hold tapestries found in the Great Hall. The tapestries are currently undergoing restoration. Second photo: View of the canal to the Regge River from the library and study hall on the second floor of the castle. Third photo: Cottage where Erin van Pallandt lives and where Willie’s brother and the U.S. airman hid. Fourth photo: What my sister, parents and I called the White House. The Jewish youth associated with the Kindercomite might have hid in a house like this but smaller.)
Kasteel Eerde is now the International School of Eerde (ISE) with CIS (Council of International Schools) and IPC (International Primary Curriculum) accreditation. The school also uses the IPC for primary education, IMYC/CS1 (International Middle Year Curriculum), IGCSE, and IB (International Baccalaureate) programs. The estate is now a protected site under the (Dutch) Heritage Foundation and the estate building is currently undergoing restoration.