Kelley H. Szany, Evanston, Illinois
On behalf of the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, we commend your organization for its unwavering mission to educate students and teachers throughout the Midwest on the persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses during the Holocaust. We have found the resources that your organization has provided to us and our constituents most valuable, in particular the exemplary study guide and documentary video, “Stand Firm.”
The power of “Stand Firm” lies in its ability to allow educators to present the story of the Holocaust in a way that causes the student to relate the experience of the Jehovah’s Witnesses to his or her own life today – the values we hold dear, the moral choices we each confront, and the recognizing that each of us has the power to stand up and speak out for what is right.
By finding the courage, by standing firm for what they knew to be right, these ordinary people overcame extraordinary odds. The collective values that our educators are able to impart through these lessons affirm our human dignity, promote the good of the individual and the common good, and protect our human rights.
In history classes, students should not only learn what happened, they should be given an opportunity to make ethical judgments about it. After all, history is not merely a timeline of events; rather it is about people making choices that affected other people. Those choices had ethical and moral dimensions and often produced profound consequences. At times, we know what we should do, feel strongly that we should do it, yet still fail to translate moral judgment and feeling into effective moral behavior. You might ask: Who were the people making those choices and what do you think about their actions? Did they do right, or did they do wrong? What could people have done to resist the Nazis? What if more people had chosen not to cooperate with Nazism? By bringing to the forefront the character dimension of this aspect of Holocaust history, you enhance the relevance of the subject matter to the student’s natural interests and questions, and in the process, increase student engagement.
We deeply appreciate your commitment to this important aspect of Holocaust history. Today’s events tell us that the lessons of the Holocaust remain all too relevant for our time. We often wonder about the human capacity to resist evil. By using resources such as “Stand Firm”, we are able to present to our educators a way to bring a more positive example into their classrooms of one group of people who followed their conscience in the face of tyranny.
We wish you all the best in your future endeavors.
Kelley H. Szany
Education Coordinator and Public Historian
Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center
1603 Orrignton Avenue, Suite 1625
Evanston, IL 60201
Leonita Nelson, Montgomery, Alabama
In twenty years as an educator in public schools, never have I had a learning experience as extraordinary as the webcast with Simone Arnold Liebster, Holocaust survivor. The pages of history came alive as ninth grade inner city students and their teachers took a virtual field trip to France to have a conversation in real time with a seventy-five year old Holocaust survivor. We have all read much about history, but rarely can we ask a character from the past personal questions that are burning on our minds.
The students, my fellow educators, and I were respectfully awestruck by the clarity, the detail, and the absence of bitterness with which Mrs. Liebster spoke. Rather than dwell on the atrocities of the Holocaust, she explained how she felt as everything she knew was taken away from her, even her name.
The strength of character needed to stand up for her beliefs during the years without her parents resounded as she answered the student’s questions.
World War II had many facets. Simone’s story is one that young people can easily relate to because she expressed the insecurities so common to adolescents. Simone took us back in time with her as she shared the untold experience of a twelve-year old girl taken from her mother and put in a German reeducation home during the Holocaust. Students were struck by the unfairness Mrs. Liebster received, however we did not pity her that day, we admired her. She made us wonder, “Could I have endured such maltreatment with the same kind of dignity that Simone Liebster displayed?”
As a Curriculum Specialist, I highly recommend the book, “Facing the Lion: Memoirs of a Young Girl in Nazi Germany“, the lesson plans on the SHOAH Foundation’s website, and the ultimate culminating experience – the live webcast with Mrs. Liebster arranged by the Arnold-Liebster Foundation. Using these materials, a ninth grade teacher, Mrs. Judith Bailey, was able to extend her unit on the Holocaust. Her students did crossword puzzles, wrote poems, and developed interview questions during their novel study.
I sincerely thank the Arnold-Liebster Foundation for their guidance, collaboration, and most importantly, the access to the primary source, Simone Arnold-Liebster, eyewitness to the Holocaust.
Title I Office
Montgomery Public School
3108 Fairwest Place
Montgomery, Alabama 36108
Melissa Cohen, Flagstaff, Arizona
We would like to thank you for your informative presentation on March 15, 2006 at the Martin-Springer Institute, located at Northern Arizona University. Your presentation to local teachers and students supported our mission of using the lessons of the Holocaust to promote moral courage, altruism, and tolerance. We were most impressed with your ability to discuss the topic and history of the Jehovah’s Witnesses without the presentation becoming an opportunity for proselytization. We believe that the Jehovah’s Witness community present an interesting case study for the examination of action and courage in the light of unspeakable horrors. The program successfully showed the strength of citizens who refused to conform to Nazi pressure, a theme that meshed perfectly with our institute’s mission.
We appreciate the commitment and professional work that the organization’s volunteers continue to exhibit.
Northem Arizona University
P.O. Box 5624
Flagstaff, AZ 86011-5624