Marcel Sutter met the Arnold family when he was 22 years old, after his studies to become an engineer were interrupted by the outbreak of World War II. Within a short time he became a brother, friend, teacher, and role model for 11-year old Simone. Whenever he visited, he would ask Simone to play Mozart or Schubert on the piano.
After Simone’s father, Adolphe, was arrested, Marcel was a source of spiritual strength and friendship for Simone and her mother, Emma. He encouraged Simone to continue her piano lessons, which helped ease her anguish at the absence of her father.
In her memoir Facing the Lion: Memoirs of a Young Girl in Nazi Europe, Simone relates:
“Together we made plans, transforming the earth into a peaceful garden. Marcel would install lights to turn night into daylight, illuminating my parks and water fountains. I asked him to invent a special system to keep the cows clean, a sort of hallway with warm showers, automatic brushes, and hot air to keep the cows from catching a cold. We both pictured a wonderful future despite the fact that the present looked so uncertain.”
Marcel bought Simone a poetry book, which she called her “golden book.” At that time the term “golden book” was used in Europe for a book that collected cherished comments from friends.
Less than two years after Adolphe’s arrest, Marcel received his draft notice and came to tell Simone and Emma goodbye. Determined to live up to God’s law of love, “You must not murder,” he was ready to give his own life rather than kill his fellow man. Upon taking his leave, he promised young Simone: “Don’t worry, one day I’ll install your cow shower.”
Marcel was subsequently arrested and imprisoned for refusal to join the German army. He was beheaded as a conscientious objector on November 5, 1943 in the Roter Ochse fortress in Halle at the age of 24 years old. The Roter Ochse fortress now has a permanent exhibition in memory of all those who were executed there. Marcel Sutter’s name is on the list of victims.
Photo added at a later date because the original was lost.
Simone closes her memoir with the words:
“How true is Marcel’s inscription in my golden book: “Hope is the greatest treasure. If a man has lost everything, he still possesses hope!”