Ernst Bulova

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Ernst Bulova (born June 24, 1902 in Vienna ; † January 11, 2001 in New Milford (Connecticut) ) was a German-American educator. He was a pioneer of Montessori education in Berlin during the Weimar period and remained true to this educational concept during his first years of emigration in Great Britain and, still inspired by its ideas, built a youth camp in the USA that worked closely with progressive American private schools. The Beltane School in Wimbledon , where Ernst Bulova worked from 1934 to 1940, is one of the twenty schools in exile that Hildegard Feidel-Mertz examined for the first time .

The forgotten Bulovas

It is not easy to find out biographical details about Ernst Bulova. Feidel-Mertz only writes a few sentences about the Beltane School , without going into the person Ernst Bulova. More about him is only accessible when it comes to his life in the USA and the Buck's Rock Camp he founded there. So it is hardly surprising that most of the data presented below comes from an obituary in the New York Times in which he was thought of as the “Founder Of Camp With a Free Spirit”. There is no academic discussion of him and his work, especially over his years at the Beltane School .

The difficulties in obtaining information about his wife Ilse are even greater. She was born as Ilse Simachowitz on January 7, 1903 in what is now Hynčice (Heinzendorf) in Okres Náchod (Nachod district) in the Czech Republic , which at that time still belonged to Austria-Hungary , which is why she, like her later husband, had Austrian citizenship. As Ilse Bulova, she died on October 16, 1987 in New Milford. Nothing is known about her youth and education, but under her leadership the second Berlin Montessori children's home was opened on May 2, 1924 in Berlin-Wedding . After all, there is a short account of this “Volkskinderhaus am Leopoldplatz”, which had to be closed in 1933, in which Ilse Simachowitz's work is also discussed. In 1990 Feidel-Mertz speaks of her and her future husband as "the former head of the Montessori School in Berlin-Dahlem ", which was wrong, as this only applied to Ernst Bulova. Hermann Schnorbach revised this in 2012 when he declared Ernst Bulova head of the “Montessori Experimental School in Berlin-Dahlem”, while his wife was “responsible for the Berlin Montessori children's homes”. A source for all these statements is not given.

It is not known when Ilse Simachowitz and Ernst Bulova married, but it is known that they emigrated to Great Britain together in 1933. From now on, however, the traces of Ilse Bulova are completely lost, she becomes “the woman at his side”, nothing more can be found about her work at Wimbledon and later in the USA. Thus, in the following, something can only be said about Ernst Bulova's life and work.

Ernst Bulova's life before emigrating to Great Britain

Ernst Bulova's father was a lawyer in Vienna and was related to the Bulova family , from which the founder of the Bulova watch empire emerged. These family relationships were also useful for Ernst Bulova, as will be shown below.

Ernst Bulova studied behavioral sciences in Vienna, switched to a teacher training institution in Hamburg and passed his first academic final examination (“finished his undergraduate work”) in Berlin. During his time in Berlin, he attended a course on the Montessori method at his own institute (“at a separate institute”). Presumably it was one of the “Montessori courses” initiated by Clara Grunwald under the umbrella of the German Montessori Society . In 1928 Ernst Bulova became director of the Montessori experimental school in Berlin-Dahlem . He stayed that way until 1933, the year he emigrated to Great Britain.

During his time in Berlin, Ernst Bulova also wrote radio plays, 25 of which are said to have been broadcast. He also published books under the pseudonym Dr. Everywhere or Dr. Everywhere. No more information can be found for the radio plays, and the German National Library does not know a Dr. Everywhere the Dr. Everywhere. But there is still a book. It's called traveling with Dr. Everywhere and has been translated into several languages ​​(see works). Feidel-Mertz, who was made aware of the book by a former pupil of Ernst Bulova at the Dahlem experimental school, suspects that it is based on Bulova's radio lectures.

In 1933, Ernst Bulova was arrested by the Gestapo for earlier political activities on the left political spectrum . Due to his Austrian citizenship, he was released after a short prison term. He fled to England and became co-director of the Beltane School at Wimbledon, where he is said to have reunited with some of his former students from Berlin.

Beltane School, Wimbledon

There are no reliable sources as to how and why Ernst Bulova came to Beltane School . Feidel-Mertz speaks of the fact that this school was founded by "Ernst and Ilse Bulova [..] with Prof. Tomlinson from the University of Southampton in 1934". She does not name sources for this, which also leaves it unclear how the contact between Bulova and Tomlinson came about. Nor does she provide any further information about Tomlinson, and all attempts to find him on the Internet almost without exception end up in a single publication: Andrew Tomlinson and his wife Joan were the translators of a book by Jean Piaget in 1929 : The child's conception of the world

Apart from Feidel-Mertz's own short text, the sources on the Beltane School are very poor. Its only source appears to have been a letter from Ulrich K. Goldsmith dated May 1983. Goldsmith, who had lived as an exchange student in London since 1932 , worked as a language teacher for Latin, German and English at the Beltane School in Wimbledon from 1934 onwards . He was interned as an Enemy Alien in June 1940 and deported to Canada a month later. Quoting this letter from Goldsmith, Feidel-Mertz writes that the Bulovas had "brought 30 German and Austrian emigrant children of various ages to England and raised and taught bilingual and 'fairly permissive' 'children with an equal number of English children". Where your further statements about the school come from must remain open.

“The Montessori pedagogy practiced there was an innovation for the English school system. The school was run co-educational. Each teacher was responsible for a group of seven students to teach and their progress and difficulties to be discussed with them, which implied a "universal" type of educator. In accordance with the principles of Montessori pedagogy, the children's environment was designed to encourage learning. It was prepared for academic standards as well as through workshops, laboratories and music rooms a diverse training was provided. The teaching staff was relatively large in relation to the number of students. In 1937 there were 23 teachers for every 200 students. There was a high proportion of foreign children in the school who represented multiple nationalities. Particular emphasis was placed on the cooperation of the parents. The children developed their own forms of organization and learned a lot about the problems that arise when living together in a community. The rules of student self-administration had to be worked out and enforced by the students. "

Feidel-Mertz also mentions the spacious school grounds in rural surroundings. From today's point of view, that sounds pretty grotesque, because the "Mecca of tennis", designed for 14,000 spectators, has been in the direct vicinity of the former school grounds since 1922 . According to Feidel-Mertz, however, the rural yet convenient location near London made it possible to run the school mainly as a day school. But it also offered space for 60 boarding school students.

Ernst Bulova, whose role at the school is not really clear from all this, completed his own academic training at Wimbledon during this time. At the University of Vienna, to which he regularly returned from England for conferences and research stays, he received his doctorate in psychology and educational science in 1936.

After the outbreak of the Second World War, Ernst Bulova and his wife Ilse were interned in a camp, although they were both Austrian nationalities. This was apparently the trigger for both to leave England and move to the USA in 1940. They were supported by their American relatives, the owners of the "Bulova Watch Company".

From the Montessori school to the interrogation center

The reasons for the relocation of the Bulovas to the USA are unknown, and neither are the reasons for the school's closure. For Feidel-Mertz they were “due to the war”, but there is no explanation whatsoever. Possibly the reasons were also financial, because on Queensmere Road in Wimbledon was a rather large building on a spacious property. There are indications that work was carried out with funds from an external loan fund as early as 1936, in which, among others, George Bernhard Shaw , Sir Walter Layton and Cecil Lewis were involved. Documents suggesting this are in the holdings of the British Library of Political and Economic Science .

An article in The Independent of October 30, 2003 about Nicholas Hammer, a Hungarian witness of Nazi barbarism and Holocaust survivor, reports how he came to England with a false identity after his liberation from Dachau concentration camp . After his real identity was determined, he was placed under protection as a foreign internee and placed in the Beltane School. However, there were also a number of interned Nazis among his fellow inmates, including Otto Dietrich , Hitler's former press chief.

The actual purpose of these Nazi internments is highlighted in an article in the newsletter of "The Wimbledon Society" from June 2012. According to this report, up to 250 German scientists and technology experts who were brought to England from Germany in 1945 and 1946 were interned in the Beltane School . The idea behind it was to extract information and expertise from them about areas in which Germany was a leader compared to Great Britain. Reports have been published on the results of the interviews which have provided UK industry with information. The warehouse had up to 44 employees. It was moved to Hampstead in 1947 because the house was needed for a teacher training college. After this college was closed, the property was designated as a "Royal Close" in 1998.

The number of 44 employees is also confirmed in a response to a request from a member of the House of Commons on December 17, 1946. However, the MP's question also reveals that the Beltane School internment camp must have been a very open house, more of a boarding house than a camp: It is about guests who, with a few exceptions, also had the opportunity to spend the day free in London to move. A radio feature by the Hessischer Rundfunk, which dealt with the comparable situation in Trent Park , where German generals were interned , makes it clear that behind this open atmosphere there was presumably a sophisticated strategy by the British secret service to lull the internees into carelessness .

Buck's Rock Work Camp

The reasons for moving the Bulovas to the USA are obscure, but it was with the support of the Bulova family. According to the English Wikipedia page, the original plan was to create a refuge in the USA for children from England who were threatened by war. However, this plan was abandoned during or shortly after the crossing because it appeared to Ernst and Ilse Bulovas to be too treacherous ("treacherous"). It remains to be seen whether this refers to the dangers of crossing the Atlantic in view of the many German submarine attacks.

The site for the no longer pursued camp for English refugee children was already that on which Buck's Rock Work Camp was built. The name itself was good for many myths because it suggested the presence of a rock, which never existed as it was. Bulova's son Stephen suspected that it was the overall very rocky land of a man named Buck. The property comprised approximately 125 acres of wooded land and was approximately 85 miles north of New York City in the New Milford, Connecticut area . For the purchase, Bulova could fall back on the support of his wealthy relatives.

It was also the affluent relatives who established Ernst Buzlova in contact with two well-known progressive schools of the time, the Dalton School and the Walden School . He had the opportunity to become a teacher at both schools, but only taught at the Walden School . Students from these two schools were later the first guests in the camp. When it started there is not known for sure beyond the statement "in the early 1940s". In an interview with Pete Seeger about his encounters with Buck's Rock , the interviewer claims that the company was founded in 1943. The Friends of Buck's Rock website states that the camp has been working since 1942.

Since the early years, the camp philosophy has been shaped by Maria Montessori's teachings and her credo that work can be both a game and a rich learning experience. While other youth camps at the time mostly stipulated a highly regulated daily camp routine for the youth, in Buck's Rock they were encouraged to plan their time independently. Activities were offered but participation in them was voluntary. In the early years of the camp, the young people also had the opportunity to earn money through their own work. For example, the camp lent young people money to buy calves and piglets. They looked after and fattened them, and when the animals were sold they received a share of the sales proceeds based on the effort they had invested. In the early years it was also common for the children to work on neighboring farms to alleviate the war shortage. Students also took on the job of digging trenches, maintaining vehicles and driving tractors on the camp site. And, of course, household chores were also part of the program.

After the end of the Second World War, what has made the camp famous for decades began: the creative and artistic programs for and by the camp guests. Every artistic work, writing, music and theater was promoted, and for Ernst Bulova the aspect of making was always in the foreground, never the result. Work should make sense. Against this background, it is not surprising that the former visitors to the camp include many artists known in the USA.

The camp received a particular boost in the 1960s and 1970s. Ernst Bulovas, who himself was close to left-wing and socialist politics, was able to win thousands of young people for the camp who themselves came from a left-wing New York milieu. Bulova's target audience were creative, non-conformist children. And from this time onwards, what the New York Times describes: “But its spirit owed as much to Pete Seeger and Bob Dylan as to Montessori.” Pete Seeger held out several times in the 1950s and early 1960s in Buck's Rock . Stephen Bulova remembered Pete Seeger chopping wood with an ax and singing If I Had a Hammer . A regular emotional high point at that time was the annual Hiroshima Night, when campers gathered to commemorate the dropping of the first atomic bomb. And Ernst Bulova's habit was to answer questions with a Bob Dylan quote: "The answer is blowin 'in the wind."

The 1970s brought two cuts: a name change and a change of ownership. From the Buck's Rock workcamp was Buck's Rock Creative Camp before the camp was sold in 1974 to a group of three families. The buyers had previously gained experience as consultants in the camps and were therefore very familiar with its philosophy and practice. Among the buyers were the parents of Laura Morris, who then took over the camp together with her husband in 1996 (see below). Even after the sale, the Bulovas stayed on the camp site.

The camp also received literary appreciation in the 1970s. Under the name Break Neck Work Camp ee is mentioned in the novel Fear of Flying by Erica Jong . Jong's daughter Molly Jong-Fast remembered that her mother always described the camp as "like a big socialist summer camp, a big Jewish liberal Upper West Side camp".

Ilse Bulova's wife, who like her husband had been very involved in the camp, died in 1987. Ernst Bulova married Hertha Schleich in 1990 (she died in 1998) and kept his house on the property. Every summer he returned from all over Europe where he had spent the rest of the year.

In 1996 the camp was sold to the couple Mickey and Laura Morris, who operated it under the name Buck's Rock Performing & Creative Arts Camp until 2016 . Laura Morris, whose parents had been among the previous owners of the camp, grew up in Buck's Rock, first as a camp visitor, then as a counselor. Her decision to take over Buck's Rock was largely motivated by a desire to preserve her own positive camp experience for her 3 children and for the children of other alumni.

The successors of the Morris family, Noah and Smadar Salzman, continue to run the camp under the name Buck's Rock Performing & Creative Arts Camp . And again, the camp remains “in the family”: Noah Salzman is also very familiar with the camp from personal experience.

“In 1981 I discovered my passion in Buck's Rock. It was the glass blowing. Sure, I've done other things too, woodworking, jewelry making, and playing softball, but it was the glass blowing that caught my imagination. Little did I know that my first summer at Buck's Rock would shape my whole life. It opened up opportunities to work with glass superstars like Dale Chihuly and brought me to RISD . Buck's Rock also gave me the confidence to trust my instincts, which led me to pursue another passion. I was a teacher, a school principal, and now I have an educational counseling service. What is really amazing is that my story is not unique. There have been young adults for 75 years who went to Buck's Rock and then continued to pursue their passions. "

In 2001 the death of Ernst Bulova was the reason for many alumni to found the association "Friends of Buck's Rock". This is a non-profit organization that ensures that children from poor families can also visit the camp on a scholarship. 40 families could be supported in this way every year. This association refers to the crux of institutions like Buck's Rock : They offer left-wing, progressive models of upbringing for people who can afford it for themselves and their children. For 2017, the cheapest two-week camp stay costs $ 3,790, the two-month stay $ 10,990 per child or adolescent. Nevertheless, around 500 children and young people visit the camp over the course of a season.


  • Traveling with Dr. Everywhere , Williams & Co., 1. – 6. Ed., Berlin-Grunewald, 1932. (252 pages with color illustrations). The following contents were found in an antiquarian offer: "Ride on an express train locomotive"; "Ride in the car"; "With the tugboat on the North Sea"; "In the engine room of an ocean liner"; (..) "Journey to the moon".

A Dutch edition of the book was published in 1934:

  • Dr. Overal , Gebr. Kluitman, Alkmaar, 1934. In 1935 a Polish edition followed:
  • Najciekawsza podróż z dr. Wszędobylskim , nakładem "Mathesis Polska", Warszawa, 1935.

Based on the Dutch edition, an Indonesian was also published in 1952:

  • Berkeliling Dengan Dr. Pengembara ( On the way with Dr. Wanderer ), Noordhoff-Kolff, Djakarta, 1952.

In contrast to the German edition, the foreign-language editions are recorded in WorldCat: books by Ernst Bulova (Bulowa) in WorldCat . There is also evidence of another publication by Ernst Bulova:

  • Teknikkens Vidunderland: forklaret for Ungdommen ( Technical Wonderland: declared for the youth ), Forlagskompagniet, Copenhagen, 1933.


  • Hildegard Feidel-Mertz (Hrsg.): Schools in exile. The repressed pedagogy after 1933. rororo, Reinbek, 1983, ISBN 3-499-17789-7 . * Hildegard Feidel-Mertz (translation: Andrea Hammel): Integration and Formation of Identity: Exile Schools in Great Britain, in: Shofar. An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies, Volume 23, Number 1, Fall 2004, pp. 71-84.
  • Hildegard Feidel-Mertz : Education in exile after 1933. Education for survival. Pictures at an exhibition . dipa publishing house, Frankfurt am Main, 1990, ISBN 3-7638-0520-6 .
  • Hildegard Feidel-Mertz (updated version: Hermann Schnorbach): The pedagogy of the rural education homes in exile , in: Inge Hansen-Schaberg (ed.): Landerziehungsheim-Pädagogik , new edition, reform pedagogical school concepts, volume 2, Schneider Verlag Hohengehren GmbH, Baltmannsweiler, 2012 , ISBN 978-3-8340-0962-3 , pp. 183-206.
  • JOHN GIMBEL: GERMAN SCIENTISTS IN BRITISH CAUTION. A report from 1946 about the Wimbledon camp. In: VIERTELJAHRSHEFTE FÜR Zeitgeschichte , Institute for Contemporary History, Munich, Volume 38, Issue 3, July 1990, pp. 459–484. The article can be viewed online: VIERTELJAHRSHEFTE FÜR Zeitgeschichte , Issue 3/1990

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. a b c d e f g h i j k l m DOUGLAS MARTIN: Ernst Bulova, 98, Founder Of Camp With a Free Spirit, Jan. 28, 2001
  2. Manfred Berger: "Help me to do it alone!" - Maria Montessori died 50 years ago
  3. ^ Diana Stiller: Clara Grunwald and Maria Montessori. The development of Montessori pedagogy in Berlin. Diplomica Verlag, Hamburg, 2008, ISBN 978-3-8366-6522-3 , p. 66
  4. a b c d e f Hildegard Feidel-Mertz: Pedagogy in Exile after 1933 , p. 55 & p. 140
  5. Hildegard Feidel-Mertz (updated version: Hermann Schnorbach): The Pedagogy of the Landerziehungsheime im Exil , p. 193
  6. Unless other sources are named below, all information comes from the obituary in the New York Times : DOUGLAS MARTIN: Ernst Bulova, 98, Founder Of Camp With a Free Spirit, Jan. 28, 2001
  7. Hildegard Feidel-Mertz (updated version: Hermann Schnorbach): The Pedagogy of the Landerziehungsheime im Exil , p. 193
  8. ^ Author: Jean Piaget: The child's conception of the world ; Translator: Joan Tomlinson & Andrew Tomlinson, Harcourt, Brace and Company, London and New York, 1929. German title: Das Weltbild des Kind
  9. a b Hildegard Feidel-Mertz (ed.): Schools in Exile , pp. 67–68
  10. SHAW - Shaw; George Bernard (1856-1950); author and playwright: Business Papers; 21 - Register of investments and correspondence about investments.
  11. ^ Nicholas Hammer - Witness to the barbarity of the Nazi concentration camps
  12. ^ German prisoners helped UK firms with their expertise
  13. This part of the Beltane School history is treated in great detail in an essay by John Gimbel in the journal VIERTELJAHRSHEFTE FÜR Zeitgeschichte (see literature).
  14. See also: Andrew Nahum: 'I believe the Americans have not yet taken them all!'. The exploitation of German aeronautical science in postwar Britain. P. 113. Numerous real estate offers are available on the Internet (as of December 31, 2016) under the search term “Royal Close, Wimbledon, SW19”, in which luxurious residential units within the former school are advertised.
  15. ^ House of Commons Inquiry : Beltane School Camp, Wimbledon (Guards)
  16. HR2: '' bugged. German generals in British captivity. '' A feature by Uwe Westphal, broadcast on March 12, 2017.
  17. ^ A b c Norman A. Ross: An Interview with America's Balladeer Pete Seeger , July 25th, 2003
  18. Friends of Buck's Rock
  19. a b c One Cool Camp: Buck's Rock
  20. In the original the sentence reads: “My adolescence (at Break Neck Work Camp, the High School of Music and Art, and as a counselor-in-training at the Herald Tribune Fresh Air Fund) had been spent in the palmy days when a black was invariably elected president of the senior class, and it was blazing sign of social status to have interracial friends and dates. ”(quoted from Google Books: Fear of Flying: 40th Anniversary Edition ). In the German editions there is no reference to the Break Neck Work Camp. Here it is wrongly stated: "My young girl days (spent in the holiday camp of the University of Music and Fine Arts, as well as a leisure supervisor, employed by the Herald Tribune Holiday Foundation) [..]." (Quoted from the translation by Kai Molvig in the editions of 1978 for the Bertelsmann Group. Title reference in the DNB catalog . Molvig is also the translator of all editions of S. Fischer Verlag , including the German first edition.)
  21. About us: Noah Salzman . The original text: “In 1981, I discovered my passion at Buck's Rock. It was glassblowing. Sure, I did other things like woodworking, jewelry making and playing softball, but it was blowing glass that captured my imagination. Little did I know that my first summer at Buck's Rock would shape my entire life. It opened up opportunities to work with glass superstars like Dale Chihuly and led to my attending RISD. Buck's Rock also gave me the confidence to trust my instincts, which led me to pursue another passion — education. I have been a teacher, a principal and now I've got an educational consulting company. What's really amazing is that my story isn't unique. There are 75 years of young adults who went to Buck's Rock and have gone on to pursue their passions. "
  22. About Friends of Buck's Rock ( Memento of the original from May 11, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  23. Buck's Rock Performing & Creative Arts Camp: Dates & Rates, as of January 2, 2017