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The Secret Shelf

Under the Nazi regime, one of the favored methods of controlling people was to ban, confiscate and/or destroy any type of media that was considered a threat to their power.

In July 1935 and January 1936, police were instructed to confiscate all literature, including Bibles, and to take action against the distribution of any such literature by Bible Students, as Jehovah’s Witnesses were then identified. Possession of such literature could be punishable by imprisonment and even death. Why would individuals and families such as the Arnolds take such great personal risks to possess and share with others Bible literature and the Bible itself?

For Simone’s parents, Adolphe and Emma Arnold, spiritual survival meant even more than physical survival. They viewed the spiritual nourishment they received from the Bible and Bible-based literature as essential for their survival through severe persecution. It was vital that a copy of the Bible be kept from the Nazis!

The Gestapo arrested Adolphe Arnold, as well as other friends who shared their faith. Even though the Gestapo closed down the Arnold’s bank account, Emma Arnold recognized the need for a secure hiding place for smuggled Bible literature. Simone relates in her memoir Facing the Lion:

We’ll change our furniture around,” Mother decided suddenly. She got a new table for our pink salon and put the old one in my room. “This will give me more space for my sewing,” she said, as I helped her to set up her working place. She had bought the table from an antique shop for a very low price. It had just one leg in the middle. She took the tabletop off and sawed a few inches off the leg. With plywood she made a shallow box with two open sides and nailed it between the leg and the tabletop, bringing the table back to its original height. “Now we’ll have a discreet hiding place for Bible literature.”

The Gestapo searched their home several times and never found the hidden material. The overwhelming question facing Simone and her mother was, “When will it be our turn?” Without her husband’s income, Mrs. Arnold tried to find work for herself. However, no work or government assistance was available to those who would not lend their support to the German war effort. During this difficult time, she turned to her God and her faith. Doing so proved to have a powerful effect on Simone, and helped her to endure the following years outside of the protective care of her parents.

Simone suffered abuse, interrogation, and separation from her family at a young age. Yet, she still maintained the qualities of love and humanity in her dealings with others. The small Bible that Simone smuggled into the Wessenberg Institution for Juvenile Education allowed her to escape the deplorable conditions of her new home.