March 24, 2022: Winterbourne Boys‘ Academy, Surrey, United Kingdom
To whom it may concern,
On March 21st, 2022 we had the privilege of speaking with Simone. As a Librarian in an all-boys primary school in England, I am constantly looking for authors from various backgrounds to visit us. I was so happy to be put in contact with the Arnold-Liebster foundation! They helped us arrange an interview with Simone and helped provide resources for the boys to use beforehand.
We read the abridged version of her novel Facing the Lion, and the boys spent time before the interview learning about the Holocaust and watching the documentary about her. It was an amazing learning experience, and the boys and myself really appreciated how Simone made history real for us. It offered us a real opportunity to understand what had happened and why it‘s so important for us to stand up for what we believe in.
The Foundation was also such a great help, working with our school schedule and offering guidance in how to discuss the subject and get the boys thinking about the impact of the Holocaust. I speak for my school when I say thank you, thank you, thank you!
Without a doubt, if you have an opportunity to arrange a school visit I would highly recommend it as it is an experience that will stick with your students forever.
Please keep up your good work!
Winterbourne Boys‘ Academy
Surrey, United Kingdom
March 19, 2021: Fieldstone Middle School, Montvale, NJ
I am so excited to share an amazing experience with fellow educators. Thanks to the Arnold Liebster Foundation, my students had a once in a lifetime experience. I am a special education teacher and a dyslexia specialist in a middle school and I am always looking for ways to provide authentic educational experiences. I am so grateful that I connected with this foundation and was able to set up two Zoom interviews/conversations with Simone Liebster. The foundation was able to set up an hour for my 5th graders and another hour for my 8th graders. I needed them to separate for various reasons and they graciously provided the time for that to work out. During each one hour session Simone told the students about different experiences and answered questions throughout, truly allowing for the students to receive very specific and detailed information. They learned details about the Holocaust that books and articles do not provide. Simone helped us all to understand the Holocaust at a much deeper level.
In advance to meeting with Simone we read her book, Facing the Lion. This really allowed us all to get to know her in advance which really helped us to understand her stories at a deeper level. In addition, my students generated questions in advance because they really wanted to learn even more about her story. There were so many questions and Simone answered each one with detail, in a way that all of my students were able to truly understand.
My students expressed to me after our time was over how they were in awe of Simone for so many reasons. In addition to how clear and detailed her stories were, they were in awe at how strong she was then, and now. Through her stories she taught us all so many valuable lessons about life that I know we will never forget. I hope my future students are able to meet with her and have this same experience.
My students and I will never forget our special time with Simone. She is a truly remarkable woman and speaker.
Dyslexia Specialist/Special Education Teacher
Fieldstone Middle School
47 Spring Valley Road
Montvale, NJ 07645
December 23, 2019: Elgin Community College, Elgin, IL
At Elgin Community College, we chose to bring the exhibit “Jehovah’s Witnesses: Faith Under Fire” on campus for the month of November 2019. The Global and International Studies Taskforce (GIST) and the English Department sponsored the event as part of an initiative to bring global education into the classroom and educate students, the community, and staff about the Nazi persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses during WWII. Most were familiar with the persecution of the Jews, but few were aware of the suffering and discrimination experienced by the Witnesses. To kick-off the event, U.S. Representatives of the Arnold-Liebster Foundation, Greg and Sandra Milakovich, gave a 30-minute presentation, followed by a 30-minute Skype-session with Simone Arnold Liebster, a Holocaust-era survivor.
The exhibit showcases Arnold Liebster’s persecution and that of others. It provides details of important and little-known history regarding the persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses during the Nazi regime. Jehovah?’s Witnesses were unique in that they were the only religion that took a stand, as a whole group, refusing to salute Hitler or to serve in the military. Their faith stood in strong opposition to the racism and hatred fomented by the Nazis. This infuriated Hitler, resulting in their arrests and internment in concentration camps and Nazi reeducation “schools.” Witnesses could be released by the simple act of signing a declaration that denied their faith and pledged allegiance to Hitler. Most did not. This exhibit includes a copy of the document and stories of Witnesses who stood firm, some to the point of death, many to the point of near starvation and severe and irreversible health problems.
These stories touched students, faculty, administrators, and community members alike. The media attention brought many people to see the exhibit, even from hours away. One gentleman drove two hours to see the exhibit, as he, too, had survived the Nazi persecution. While not a Witness himself, he remembers the Witnesses and the purple triangles on their prison uniforms. He recounted how one of the Witnesses featured in the exhibit, saved his life by feeding him scraps of food meant for the rabbits. Another family came after hearing about the exhibit from a family member who lived several states away. A Jewish student commented that she belonged to a local synagogue, and she knew that several members of her congregation were interested in the exhibit.
Since the exhibit was open to visitors whenever the school was open, we were not able to capture actual numbers but it is safe to say that several hundred people visited during the month. The response was so impressive that we have decided to bring it back next semester. I highly recommend the exhibit and the presentation. This is important history that demonstrates how individuals and groups can stand up against violence and hate, regardless of what others do.
Professor of English
Elgin Community College
1700 Spartan Drive
Elgin, IL 60123-7193
November 1, 2019: Ross Montessori School, Carbondale, CO
One of my greatest joys as a teacher is bringing history alive for my students. With each unit of study I carefully plan activities that will have a lasting impact on my students; if I’m lucky, a change in perception. We began this year studying the Holocaust. Many students had not heard of it and many others didn’t know what it was. Obviously, the setting was ripe for learning. While planning the unit, I was introduced to Simone. I read her book, Facing the Lion, and believed this was a great opportunity for students to learn about a different perspective, Jehovah’s Witness, during the Holocaust. Her story is powerful and it would give students a glimpse into the past.
We were invited to talk to Simone via Skype as a culminating activity for our unit. The students created questions to ask her. The students were excited and nervous to actually talk to a survivor. Simone’s in depth answers were extraordinary. She was candid and passionate while she explained her experiences as a Jehovah’s Witness. Her steadfast and determined nature, inherent in her generation, shone through.
Her experiences have given my students an understanding of the Holocaust that I could not give them. This was a wonderful opportunity for all of us and the students loved it. None of them will ever forget talking to Simone.
Ross Montessori School
Middle School Teacher
109 Lewies Lane
Carbondale CO 81623
August 7, 2019: Elgin Community College, Elgin, IL
Dear Foundation Members:
As an educator, I aim to engage the intellectual curiosity of my students, to encourage them to think critically, act responsibly, and feel compassionately. Studying Facing the Lion: Memoirs of a Young Girl in Nazi Europe, by Simone Arnold Liebster, opened the door to lively conversation about peer pressure, conformity, apathy, justice, and the impact of one person who refused to go along with the crowd. My students were especially impacted by the personal Skype interview with Simone, who shared her experiences, allowing students to really personalize the lessons and to better understand the roots and ramifications of prejudice, racism and stereotyping. I highly recommend it to other educators.
This story is essential to understanding the scope of the Holocaust, a genocide that impacted the world and persecuted not only the Jews, but other groups, including Jehovah’s Witnesses, who were, coincidentally, the only group that was able to avoid persecution, Nazi reeducation schools, and the concentration camps by signing a declaration that denounced their faith. Most did not.
Through a regime that legalized discrimination, encouraged prejudice and hatred, and demanded conformity, many felt powerless to oppose the forces. In reading and discussing Simone’s story, students were able to make relevant connections to current trends seen today, to better understand the power of propaganda, and to explore the ramifications of remaining silent. This material is relevant to teaching ethics, history, human behavior/psychology, and reading and writing in today’s classroom. It helps students to consider two very important questions we aim to answer in the classroom: What is the purpose of education? And, what does it mean to be a responsible citizen in today’s world?
Professor of English
Elgin Community College
1700 Spartan Drive
Elgin, IL 60123
March 24, 2019: Tempe Preparatory Academy, Tempe, AZ
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Our Tempe Preparatory Academy eleventh graders recently were privileged to participate in a Skype conference with Holocaust survivor Simone Liebster presented by the Arnold-Liebster Foundation. The experience was a compelling and powerful one for our students.
A couple of weeks previous to the conference, Foundation volunteers Renee Ochsner and Kristin Dickman introduced the students to Simone Liebster’s experience of persecution as a Jehovah’s Witness in Nazi Germany during World War II. Students were interested throughout the one-hour presentation, conducted through a video and question-and-answer format. Students were invited to submit questions for Simone to answer during the Skype conference, which almost all of them did.
For the conference, Kristin returned with volunteer Jennifer to host the hour-long event. Students whose questions were selected spoke directly with Simone via Skype technology, witnessed by the eleventh-grade student body. Simone’s answers were personal and specific, conveying not only knowledge about her experiences but a sense of their reality. Our students, participants and audience, were interested and engaged from beginning to end, and the understanding and rapport that were developed between Simone and them were evident and impressive.
Simone’s personal experiences were presented through the narrative of the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ treatment as a persecuted minority in Hitler’s Germany. The admirable stance of the organization as objecting to and resisting Nazi ideological domination was made clear, as was the religious basis for this stance. However, the organizational and religious commitment was never presented in a way to obscure the central emphasis on Simone’s experience of refusing and resisting Nazi coercion by her own individual choice. In her advocacy of fidelity to conscience and resistance to tyranny, Simone presented the students with a valuable and appealing example.
We appreciate Simone’s contribution to our students very much and thank the presenters and the Arnold-Liebster Foundation for making it possible. We hope they are able to return in following years to introduce more of our students to Simone and her experiences.
We would highly recommend this program to other educators.
Scott D. Evans, Ph.D.
Olivia Salcido, Ph.D.
Eleventh grade Humane Letters teachers at Tempe Preparatory Academy
Tempe Preparatory Academy
1251 East Southern Avenue
Tempe, AZ 85282
March 17, 2019: Basalt Middle School, Basalt, CO
Dear Basalt Middle School Community,
Earlier this month, our eighth-grade students and their teachers were able to participate in a Skype with a holocaust survivor and author of Facing the Lion: Memoirs of a Young Girl in Nazi Europe, Simone Liebster. As a school, this has been a tradition for over ten years, through three different teachers taking the lead to make sure it continues to happen. Not only is this a real-life experience tied to one of the eighth-grade literacy units on persuasion, it is a chance of a lifetime for our students. Eighty-eight year-old Simone is from France and is a Jehovah’s Witness. At the age of 11, Simone stood up for her beliefs and refused to sing Nazi songs or to salute Hitler as the savior of the chosen people and in turn she was put into a correctional facility to be re-educated. “This was not a time you couldn’t face the Nazis,” she said when she spoke to students last week. “There was constantly something that had to be done for the party. The whole time was cat and mouse, we being the mouse and they the cat. They were constantly after us.” Both of her parents were put in Nazi camps, yet all of her family members survived and were reunited after the war.
The messages that Simone shared with our students were deeply meaningful and just as applicable today as they were in her youth. Here are some salient messages that Simone shared:
- Stand up for what you believe. Your yes is yes, your no is no. Be clear in your mind and stick to it. Sometimes a silent no is better than many words.
- When you grow, you come to the conclusion that things could be done better. It’s the same as if you get a test back.
- Hope kept me going, solid hope that the good we do will be rewarded no matter when. The first reward is self-respect. This is priceless when you can say, “I have no regrets. No one has suffered because of me.” This is all possible. As long as I am in peace and respect, I am in harmony.
- What do you want to do with your anger when it comes up? Are you going to be bitter or work against it? My mother taught me that we have to forgive and forgive with no retaliation. I had a hard time accepting that. I was only 15 at the time but my mother had the chance to retaliate against the person who had sent her to the Nazi camp and she did not do it. She didn’t want to be responsible for anyone else’s pain no matter what.
- You see good and bad all around you. Both cannot be right. You have to find which is right. Say no to what is bad but also do what is good. Saying no is not enough. Doing good is important too.
- Nature helps. It brings us not only food but joy.
- Don’t follow something without knowing what it stands for. Ask yourself, will it bring love? Or create jealousy or opposition?
- We have to be careful what we choose. If you’re bullied in school, do you bully back? No. Just face them strongly, stand up, don’t pay them back. It was enough for the Nazis.
Knowing that Simone was an adolescent like many of our students during the time she was standing up to the Nazis is pretty incredible. What have we taught our children to stand up for? Are they able to speak up against unkind acts? How clear are they on their Yes and No and on what is right? Are we modeling the kind of response to anger that Simone learned from her mother? Teaching our children and modeling our own values for them is part of our responsibility, even in a time when it is harder and harder to sit down together as a family and have true conversation without distractions. I hope these encouraging words from Simone can prompt you to connect with your child about your values and stories from your past that illustrate for them how you have stood up for what you believed in during your own life.
BMS Weekly ENewsletter
Basalt Middle School
51 School Street
Basalt CO 81621
March 11, 2019: Basalt Middle School, Basalt, CO
Today 8th grade students were treated to a rare opportunity– the chance to interview Holocaust survivor and author Simone Liebster of the Arnold Liebster Foundation (www.alst.org). Simone skyped from Alsace, France, and spoke beautifully and gracefully about her memories and her time during WWII. She left students with many life lessons to consider. Ask your student about this remarkable interview.
Huge thanks go out to the students who asked questions, our tech guru Mike Cunningham who ensured everything worked, the Arnold Liebster Foundation, and to Sandra Milakovich, Kathy Sheperd, Tammy Koski, and Diana Netzer who continue to help us offer this amazing opportunity to students.
Basalt Middle School
51 School Street
Basalt CO 81621
July 17, 2018: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, DC
Press Release: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Remains Deeply Concerned Over The Russian Government’s Persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses
July 9, 2018: Natrona Virtual Learning, Natrona County School District, Casper, WY
Our virtual school in Casper, Wyoming, has come together to Skype with Simone for two years in a row. Mrs. Liebster shares a part of history that is not well known – the persecution of the Jehovah Witnesses in World War II. I believe that a unique point of view catches students’ attention and opens their eyes to our history. As a teacher, we know the experience is worthwhile when students write comments like these about the speaker:
“The thing that stood out to me about her life is how she stood her ground and did not give in to the Nazis’ beliefs and laws.”
“I can learn to know that it’s okay to stand up for my religion and rights. I know that people have had worse lives, and that they have gone through the worst to make the next generation have better lives.”
“Simone’s life changing ordeals started at a young age, being forced to follow the Hitler Nazi rules and laws. She transports you into her world to help you understand the hard, devastating impact she and her family went through. Their courage is an example of how they made it through the dark times and their defiance against the ways of the Nazis.”
Reading Facing the Lion and virtually meeting Simone has changed our lives. We look forward to the next Skype with her!
Natrona Virtual Learning
Natrona County School District
May 18, 2017: Social Studies and Science Teachers, Napoleon Elementary School, Napoleon, OH
We are 6th grade Social Studies and Science teachers from Napoleon, Ohio. As part of our 6th grade content standards we teach the major religions of the world. We do a slight spin off on the Holocaust when we discuss Judaism.
Mr. Swary was asked by a family of a student if he would be interested in having speakers in to discuss Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Holocaust and then we were given the opportunity to Skype Simone.
The students were so engaged in learning when the speakers came in and were beyond excited to be able to Skype Simone with questions that they composed.
This was a gift to all of us to be able to first handedly hear her story, her sadness, her fear and her joy. To be able to overcome the adversities Simone did is truly incredible.
Thank you again for this opportunity and the chance to bring to life history.
Tyler Swary and Sarah Rosebrock
6th Grade Social Studies and Science Teachers
Napoleon Elementary School
725 Westmoreland Avenue
Napoleon, OH 43545
April 17, 2017: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, DC
Press Release: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Expresses Deep Concern Over Treatment of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia
March 13, 2017: Principal, Westview Elementary School, Topeka, IN
I am writing this letter with great appreciation for Simone taking the time to conference with our 6th grade students. This opportunity provided our students with a real world connection with a Holocaust survivor. During the Skype conference Simone stressed the importance of standing up for what is right and the importance of our conscience in all aspects of life.
Thank you to the Arnold-Liebster Foundation for their continued commitment to educating students of all ages about perseverance in the most troubling of times. The resources and materials that are made available for teachers to use in their classrooms are age, content and public school appropriate.
I would recommend a partnership with the Arnold-Liebster Foundation to any school or group hoping to teach about inspiration, dedication, and perseverance and doing the right thing.
Westview Elementary School
1715 S. 600 W.
Topeka, IN 46571
November 7, 2016: Director of Education, Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center, Skokie, IL
Dear Greg and Sandra:
On behalf of Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center, we would like to commend the Arnold-Liebster Foundation in the continued pursuit to educate students and teachers throughout the Midwest on the persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses during the Holocaust. The Illinois Holocaust Museum has found the resources your organization has been able to provide us and our patrons most valuable, in particular our ability to promote the exemplary study guide and documentary video “Stand Firm.”
The power of your resources lies in their ability to allow the educator to present the history 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 teach 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 just a timeline of events; 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. 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.
Again, we 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 in our day. We often wonder about the human capacity to resist evil. And, by using the resources of the Arnold-Liebster Foundation, we are able to promote 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.
All the best in your future endeavors.
Kelley H. Szany
Director of Education
Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center
9603 Woods Drive
Skokie, IL 60077
November 2, 2016: Branch Manager, Carbondale Branch Library, Carbondale, CO
The Carbondale Branch Library had the privilege of hosting a Skype interview with Simone Liebster on August 8th, 2016. The event was attended by more than eighty people of all ages. Ms. Liebster was an engaging speaker who spoke about her story and childhood courageousness in standing up for her beliefs and took audience questions. I would highly recommend scheduling a Skype visit with Ms. Liebster for your library or school.
Carbondale Branch Library
Garfield County Library District
320 Sopris Avenue
Carbondale, CO 81623
June 2016: Teacher of Social Studies, Passaic Valley Regional High School, Little Falls, NJ
Re: Interactive Videoconferencing with Simone Liebster
It is with great pleasure and enthusiasm that I write this letter of reference for the Arnold Liebster Foundation and its programs. I am a high school Social Studies teacher in Little Falls, New Jersey. I teach ninth graders World History Honors and a twelfth grade elective called Contemporary Issues through Videoconferencing. After researching potential virtual connections with Holocaust remembrance organizations, I found the Arnold Liebster Foundation website. I emailed the organization and was able to arrange two videoconferences with Simone Liebster for my freshmen and seniors in high school during the 2015-2016 school year. The videoconferences were excellent, as are the organization’s resources. Part of the mission statement of the foundation reads: “…the foundation especially aims to help young people to repudiate racism, xenophobic nationalism, and violence, and to learn to listen to the voice of conscience.” As an educator, I want my students to have opportunities to study the Holocaust, including the Nazi persecution of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. My students write reflections on the videoconferencing experience and I feel that the best way to communicate the impact of the videoconferences with Simone is to share some of my students’ reflections:
“My class and I had the wonderful opportunity to speak with Mrs. Liebster. Although Mrs. Liebster was being persecuted for her faith, this tragic event reinforced the reason for her belief. Although she was offered a deal to leave a concentration camp if she would abandon her faith, she refused. Her faith had taught her to not retaliate or hold grudges. The videoconference was just inspiring because Simone radiated confidence and self-respect. She emphasized the importance of self-respect and viewed it as a “precious gift”. Her story has been a great inspiration for my class and I. Mrs. Liebster showed extreme courage that I one day strive to have.” — Andreah M.
“As we learned more and more about Jehovah’s Witnesses, we became exposed to their ideals, practices and beliefs. I became enamored by their unwavering practice of peace and equality. Their religion promotes love and denies vengeance and puts their God high above any other leadership figure that may be present. Through Simone’s story I have seen the power and strength we can gain when we believe in something with our entire being. Simone showed me that there is indeed a possibility for a holistic type of good. I witnessed bravery, strength and sustainability of self. I witnessed a Witness.” — Ashley P.
As teachers, we are dedicated to teaching our youth to be responsible global citizens. The offerings of this organization assist us in achieving that goal. I most enthusiastically recommend educators to utilize all the resources available through the Arnold Liebster Foundation in their classrooms.
Teacher of Social Studies
Passaic Valley Regional High School
100 East Main Street
Little Falls, New Jersey 07424
June 6, 2016: English Faculty & Dir. Genocide Conference, Scottsdale Community College, Scottsdale, AZ
Working with you and the Arnold-Liebster Foundation has been not only a pleasure but was a highlight of Scottsdale Community College’s annual genocide conference. The exhibit, Faith Under Fire, was most impressive and literally thousands of people saw and read it over the month it was displayed. Kristin Dickman Walter and Renee Ochsner’s presentation was superb. The volunteers who attended the conference for a week were exceptionally good at explaining more about the Holocaust and fielding a myriad of questions. All in all it was an exceptional part of the conference.
In light of the fact that since 1945 and despite the “Never Forget” and “Never Again” phrases, there have been over 100 million deaths due to genocide and it is due to education, presentations and exhibits such as the Arnold-Liebster Foundation has that the world is making a dent in this scourge of humanity.
I sincerely thank you and look forward to working with you again in the very near future at another one of our conferences.
John Liffiton BSc MA
English Faculty & Dir. Genocide Conference
Scottsdale Community College
9000 E. Chaparral Road
Scottsdale, AZ 95256
May 24, 2016: 8th Grade Language Arts Teacher, Troy Junior High School, Troy, OH
To Whom it May Concern,
I am writing to express my gratitude to the Arnold Liebster Foundation for their involvement in the Holocaust unit I teach to my 8th grade students each year. During this unit, my students learn about the causes and consequences of this important event in history. Each student researches the life of a Holocaust survivor. After their research, they write from the point of view of their chosen survivor to give them a rich first hand look at The Holocaust.
One of my students was fortunate enough to stumble upon Simone Arnold Liebster’s story. This student read Simone’s book, researched her life, corresponded with her, and ultimately, learned a great deal about Jehovah’s Witnesses and how their narrative fit into The Holocaust.
Simone was very gracious in offering to talk with my students via Skype. The conversation they were able to have with Simone was invaluable to their learning about this historical event. Oftentimes, Holocaust studies focus heavily on the Jewish community. I am fortunate that I was able to expose my students to the story of one of the smaller groups persecuted by the Nazis. They were very interested to learn the story of this group of people who stood so firm in the face of persecution and evil.
Teaching in a public school, my students come from many different cultural and faith backgrounds. It was a truly enriching experience for them to learn the dedication and faith of Simone regardless of their respective backgrounds. Simone did a wonderful job applying the lessons of The Holocaust to all people, regardless of background.
I would highly recommend that all interested educators include this story, and the story of the Witnesses as a whole into a well-rounded study of The Holocaust. I know that I, as well as my students, are richer and more knowledgeable for having learned Simone’s story.
Troy Junior High School
556 Adams Street
Troy, Ohio 45373
March 31, 2016: 10th Grade Humanities Team, Lakeland High School, Lagrange, IN
Dear Arnold-Liebster Foundation:
We are writing today to extend our gratitude for taking the time to visit our humanities classroom and share your resources and expertise about the persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses during the Holocaust. Learning about the perspective of these victims was an extremely valuable experience for our students. Many times as people study this dark time in history, we as teachers only share one account of the 11 million victims of Nazi persecution. However, with the in-class presentation and the online connection with Simone our students have a greater understanding of the true atrocities of the Nazi Holocaust.
We have run a project on WWII and the Holocaust for four years now, but not until we added the point of view and resources of the Arnold-Liebster Foundation did our students get a more complete understanding of what actually happened. As public school teachers there is often trepidation when bringing anything religious into the classroom for fear that we may offend someone from what is shared. We can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that opening our classroom to the Arnold-Liebster Foundation has been the best thing for our students and our community as a whole. At no point did any of the three teachers in our course feel uncomfortable with way the persecution of the Jehovah’s Witnesses was shared with our students. In fact the uniqueness of the experience of the Witnesses was something that sparked many good conversations that drove deeper learning in our classroom long after the presentation was over as well.
In closing, any partnership you can start with the Arnold-Liebster Foundation will be one that will positively impact your classroom for years to come. It is an investment of time that will reap rewards for your students long after the presentation is over.
Lakeland High School
805 East 75 North
Lagrange, IN 46761
March 21, 2016: 8th Grade Language Arts Teacher, Jamieson Elementary School, Chicago, IL
Dear Arnold Liebster Foundation,
My name is Rosemary Barilla, and I teach eighth grade Language Arts to a culturally diverse population at Jamieson Elementary School, a Chicago Public School. I strive to provide my students with a well-rounded and in-depth understanding of topics, and am always seeking a variety of texts to help support my students’ learning. When I came across Simone Liebster’s memoir, Facing the Lion, at the Illinois Reading Conference in Peoria, IL, I knew I had discovered a new perspective, that of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, to add to my Holocaust curriculum. Gaye Flowers, a representative with the Arnold Liebster Foundation, made sure to schedule a Skype session for my students to be able to hear from Simone personally, which made the students’ learning opportunity that much more compelling.
Simone’s memoir relays her strong faith and belief in doing the right thing throughout her experiences, and this is what resonated with my students. Her voice represents the unique experience of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and demonstrates the refusal to conform to Nazi ideology. My students gained knowledge of the extreme extent of Nazi persecution while reading her memoir, and were eager to compose questions to ask Simone directly during the Skype session. The Skype session was personal and intimate, even with our audience of almost 70 students. Simone stressed the importance of following one’s conscience when making decisions, a message that has far-reaching implications no matter one’s religion, race, age or gender. My students were engaged with Simone’s story, but more so with her genuine willingness to speak so openly and honestly about her experiences and spend time conversing with them in such a personal manner.
The Arnold Liebster Foundation provides a wealth of resources and materials for educators to use in their classrooms regarding the specific experiences of Jehovah’s Witnesses during Nazi Germany. The themes of determining one’s core values, making difficult decisions especially in the face of adversity and persecution, tolerance, and the beauty of human resilience are salient themes for our adolescence to examine as they enter adulthood. The Arnold Liebster Foundation provides a wonderful outreach opportunity for students to connect with these themes as they read Facing the Lion and speak with Simone directly.
Thank you for helping to educate our students on the specific experiences of the Jehovah’s Witnesses during the Holocaust, and for promoting the rights of all people.
Jamieson Elementary School
5650 N. Mozart Street
Chicago, IL 60659
March 18, 2016: English Teacher, Annawan H.S., Annawan, IL
My name is Jillian Huber and I have been a High School English Teacher at Annawan High School in Illinois for twelve years. I am always looking for creative and inviting ways to reach my students through books. I was very lucky to attend the Illinois Reading Conference held in Peoria, Illinois this year. At the conference I was intrigued by a certain booth that was promoting an autobiography. Due to budget cuts in our district, our school library has been cut to being open only two days a week so I have my own classroom library. I am always looking for nonfiction books, so I bought Facing the Lion by Simone Liebster. I instantly put it on my shelf and one of my senior boys picked it to read for part of his free reading requirements. He finished it in two days and said I HAD to read it! I did…and fell in love with the story as well! I just had to learn more.
Simone’s faith has made an impact on me as well as other students in my district after hearing her story. I currently am the huddle leader for our local Fellowship of Christian Athletes, so faith is something that my students know is very important to me. It is intriguing to be able to hear different stories from the Holocaust and this story is just that! Your school and students must hear Simone’s story. The students loved creating questions to ask her and they were so excited to hear her response to those very same questions. Her Skype session with us brought many to tears in the room. The life lesson that she taught us in a short hour will stay with the adults as well as the students who attended. I look forward to incorporating the book into my curriculum next year and working with Simone, Marge and Sandra! I, for one, feel so blessed that I have been given this opportunity and would recommend it to any junior high or high school English or Social Studies teacher!
Annawan High School
501 W. South Street
Annawan, IL 61234
February 22, 2016: 7th Grade Teacher, Mary Miller Junior High School, Georgetown, IL
My name is Misty Dicken and I teach at Mary Miller Junior High School in Georgetown, Illinois.
I first heard Simone Liebster tell her story while I was at an Illinois Reading Council 2015 Conference in Peoria, Illinois. I have taken many Holocaust classes throughout my college career and attended multiple conferences, but never had I heard the story of a Jehovah’s Witness during this time period. I was so thankful for Simone sharing her story with me and then even more thankful when I found the opportunity to make this an experience my students could also partake!
I was soon in touch with Marge Fulton who was to lead the Holocaust presentation for my school building. However, due to the long distance she would need to drive, she put me in contact with Sandra Milakovich who would assist me via email instead. Any questions I had, she immediately had an answer. Sandra created a three way Skype between herself, Simone, and me. She was constantly in contact with me should there be any problems to arise. Sandra sent me a wealth of resources including study guides, videos, and websites that I could use in order to prep my students for the interview Skype with Simone. My students gained a wealth of knowledge about the treatment of Jehovah’s Witnesses during the Holocaust. So many times we focus on what happened to the Jewish population, but we often forget that there were many others that were targeted in Nazi Germany.
When relaying her story, Simone was very forthcoming about her experiences and was extremely willing to share with the students. I particularly enjoyed the fact that she makes certain the students walk away realizing that if they believe something strongly, they must stand up for it. Under no circumstances should they just back down, if it is the right thing to do. One of my favorite parts to this conference is that the students were able to ask Simone the questions. They really felt ownership and that they were a part of something so large. How many students can honestly say they have spoken one on one with a Holocaust survivor? Twenty children in my school building can say just that. I highly recommend implementing a Skype interview with Simone Liebster. What a wonderful, giving organization to work alongside with.
Mary Miller Junior High
414 W. West Street
Georgetown, IL 61846