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Educator comments 2010

Mary Johnson, Ph.D., Brookline, Massachusetts

For several years I have worked with Diana Zientek at a summer institute for teachers at Columbia College in Columbia, South Carolina. Before this year Diana did a spectacular lesson on resistance and the overall story of the Jehovah’s Witnesses during the Holocaust. She has amassed fascinating stories and artifacts and the South Carolina teachers always looked forward to her visit.

This summer was extra special. Diana did an introduction and exhibition of artifacts as a backdrop for a 45 minute skype session with Simone Liebster. Since Diana had prepared packets of information for teachers ahead of time as well as suggested questions, the session was incredible. Simone took each question and gave full explanations with wonderful anecdotes. Simone is a teacher par excellence!!!

I strongly recommend the type of program the Arnold-Liebster Foundation put together with the skype of Simone following fundamental information on the Jehovah’s Witnesses. I have already recommended that the Facing History offices in Chicago and Memphis look into the possibility of having Simone visit via skype and have told the Florida Holocaust Museum that Simone via skype would be a perfect enhancement for their Jehovah’s Witness exhibition.

I have also contacted teachers at Iowa State University about the work of the Arnold-Liebster Foundation since the faculty is trying to expand the students’ understanding of many groups and a more indepth understanding of the Holocaust. There is interest, and I believe someone will be contacting you directly from the university.

In conclusion, I strongly recommend the Skype Conference “Facing the Lion” that the Arnold-Liebster Foundation has created.

Mary Johnson, Ph.D.
Senior Historian
Facing History and Ourselves
16 Hurd Road
Brookline, Massachusetts 02445
July 22, 2010

Rositta E. Kenigsberg, Hollywood, Florida

We are most grateful to you and to the Arnold Liebster Foundation for once again sending us materials for us to distribute at our Annual Teacher Institute on Holocaust Education. This year, we had teachers from grades K – 12 who participated in our week-long institute.

It is our goal to provide the teachers with a variety of resources, information, materials, etc. so that they can take it back to their students. We are most interested in sharing with them the full gamut of what took place during the Holocaust. Your materials and information about the Nazi persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses are an important part of what needs to be taught.

We thank you for making sure that we receive these materials each year. We look forward to working with you in the future.


Rositta E. Kenigsberg
Executive Vice President
Holocaust Documentation and Education Center, Inc.
2031 Harrison Street
Hollywood, Florida 33020
July 12, 2010

Phoebe Penley, Asheville, North Carolina

It is a privilege to work with Diana Zientek in the facilitation of using Skype to conference with Simone Arnold-Liebster in France. My involvement in this process occurs after Diana delivers her Holocaust presentation, Persecution and Non-Violent Resistance of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Nazi Era, to students in schools in the Buncombe County district. My role is to provide the technical support to setup and facilitate the Skype conference.

Diana has shared with me the curriculum materials used in the presentation. The rich content and quality of the materials is outstanding. Through Simone’s story of the persecution suffered as a Jehovah’s Witness, students receive an invaluable lesson that throughout history, numerous groups and individuals were and continue to be persecuted due to their religious beliefs or practices.Our students have a rare opportunity to explore the importance of an individual’s personal integrity, holding true to one’s convictions and beliefs, and
how that choice impacts others, as Simone’s story exudes.

The culminating Skype conference with Simone provides the first person narrative that is engaging and meaningful for our students! As they sit in an auditorium, classroom or media center, and interact with a living Holocaust survivor in France, their captivation is evident on their faces as they participate in an experience that makes a lasting impression on their minds.

I am honored to have this role in the delivery of Simone’s story and look forward to working with Diana and the Arnold Liebster Foundation in the future.


Phoebe Penley
Instructional Technology Facilitator
Buncombe County Schools
175 Bingham Road
Asheville, North Carolina 28806
June 18, 2010

LeAnna Earls Swing, Asheville, North Carolina

To Whom It May Concern:

I recently participated in my first web conference with Simone Arnold-Liebster. I want to thank Simone and the Arnold-Liebster Foundation for providing my students and over 350 sixth graders at my school with such an extraordinary opportunity.

As a National Board Certified teacher of Social Studies, I feel strongly that teaching students about the Nazi persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses is a uniquely valuable and appropriate topic. Not only does this topic meet both national and state curriculum standards, but it meets social and emotional needs of our students. Adolescence is the ideal time to share the lessons of standing up for one’s convictions and for human rights. At a time in their lives when there are many pressures to conform, it is important to give students the tools to strengthen their own conscience and critical thinking skills. Learning of Simone’s stand against the Nazi lion is the perfect vehicle for these ideas — ideas that help us grow thoughtful, healthy, and productive citizens of the world.

A particularly valuable aspect of my students’ experience with the Arnold-Liebster Foundation was the conference with Simone through Skype. After reading excerpts from her book and using curriculum materials concerning core values, my students were able to formulate meaningful questions for Simone while also familiarizing themselves with technology. This event was a wonderful capstone to a thematic unit on the Holocaust and human behavior that I and my colleagues have used and developed over the years.

On behalf of the sixth grade social studies faculty, I thank you again for taking the time to share this experience with our students. I hope that we have the opportunity to offer this experience to our students in the future.


LeAnna Earls Swing
Clyde A. Erwin Middle School
20 Erwin Hills Road
Asheville, North Carolina 28806
June 10, 2010

Susan Bachmeier, Cherryville, North Carolina

To Whom It May Concern:

On May 27, 2010 my North Carolina Holocaust class had the wonderful privilege to Skype with Simone Arnold-Liebster who was in France. I have to admit at first I had some reservations about the indoctrination aspect of having my students hearing a Jehovah Witness testimony, but in March I was at a NCCAT teacher’s conference where we Skyped with Simone. I realized then my own stereotyping of Jehovah’s Witnesses was unfair and prejudicial. I had not on any previous occasion worried about the religious indoctrination of hearing the testimonies of Jews, Romas, or Catholic Poles involved in the Holocaust. It is sad to think that those of us who are charged with teaching intolerance are still learning the lessons ourselves.

Simone’s testimony proved to be a fantastic learning experience for my students. In reading her story as a class and then being able to interact with follow up questions proved a good lesson in morality. Being able to resist evil and standing up courageously for what one believes is an important lesson in integrity. Simone, as a young girl, lived this message, and in her 80s, Simone is still delivering this lesson to the next generation. Her faith is central to her as an individual, but the emphasis and focus of her testimony is to stand firm in one’s convictions. This is such an important lesson and few are able to deliver it with such kindness and personal fortitude as Simone. My students were spellbound hearing her recount having to go two years in boarding school without talking! Which of my students could do that? After hearing Simone’s stories my students were talking about her experiences and other teachers were telling me how touched these students were by her testimony.

I would like to thank Simone and the Arnold Liebster Foundation for the teaching materials, DVDs, and books that have enhanced my curriculum, all free of cost to me! I would also like to thank Simone for her willingness to give freely and generously of her time to interact with students around the world. Hearing the testimony of a Holocaust survivor in addition to the lessons in globalization is a privileged learning encounter I’m sure my students will remember for the rest of their lives.


Susan Bachmeier
Social Studies
Cherryville High School
313 Ridge Avenue
Cherryville, NC 28021
June 3, 2010

Amy Sanders, Richmond, Virginia

Dear Ms. Liebster,

On behalf of my seventh grade students at Manchester Middle School, I would like to thank you for taking the time to answer our questions about your experiences during the Holocaust. I am so grateful for the opportunity my students had to speak with you, a Jehovah’s Witness survivor.

After reading parts of your autobiography, Facing the Lion: Memoirs of a Young Girl in Nazi Europe, my seventh grade students were inspired. They also had many questions. The experience of interviewing you through the Skype videoconference on April 2 at the Virginia Holocaust Museum was invaluable.

It is not often that students are able to spend meaningful time speaking with, and learning from, a Holocaust survivor. Your perspective opened their eyes to the importance of tolerance and to standing by the courage of their convictions.

As a teacher, I appreciate the resources available on your website, especially the primary documents, displays, and artifacts. The excerpts from survivor testimony, the study guides, and the lesson plans are of great educational use.

Your book, Facing the Lion, puts a human face on the overwhelming statistics of the Holocaust. Speaking with you, and learning from your experiences, breathes spirit and meaning into our unit of study. Your voice brings the lessons of the Holocaust into our everyday lives, and I am so grateful for your generosity and compassion.


Amy Sanders, Teacher
Manchester Middle School
7401 Hull Street Road
Richmond, Virginia 23235
May 13, 2010

Teresa Bechen, Davenport, Iowa

I am writing this letter of reference for the Arnold-Liebster Foundation as a means to promote the program shared at McKinley Elementary School, Davenport, IA with all children across our nation because of the historical and ethical values that are evident in this program.

As educators, we are always on a quest to bring character building experiences to our students. Simone’s story in book form and in person is extremely personal and bears the qualities of outstanding character development in several areas:  responsibility, caring, perseverance, common sense, initiative and effort as she defended the right to practice one’s faith in freedom and to treat others with respect and dignity no matter the personal cost.  Simone’s story promotes honoring one’s parents, forgiveness and the overarching quality of loving people even when they do not behave lovingly toward us.

This is a timeless story and an inspiration to students and adults. We are reminded of the courage of those who have faced many trials and survived still believing we can learn to live in peace with one another through understanding, not control.  We have been especially fortunate to be able to share Simone’s story the past two years and offer her book for check out to both our students and parents.

Our world continues to be a place of unrest because of cultural and religious misunderstandings.  Providing opportunities like this for our children allows for us to become more culturally competent when interacting with people of other beliefs, and to speak openly about how we are similar and how we are different without becoming angry.  Thank you for your efforts in promoting a program of peace.

Teresa Bechen
McKinley Elementary School
Davenport Community School District
1716 Kenwood Avenue
Davenport, Iowa 52803
May 7, 2010

Joseph Macksey, Davenport, Iowa

As an educator, we are made constantly aware of the sacred trust we hold in educating our children. Rarely do we get an opportunity to hear from those who have lived during a particular time in history. Mrs. Liebster’s testimony, both in Facing the Lion and her visit with the children via Skype, remind us that even in the deepest of despair, there is hope. The children gained important insight on what it is to stick to one’s beliefs, and the power of choice.

Our common humanity is bettered by people like Mrs. Liebster, who have shared her faith in God and hope for a better tomorrow.

Joseph Macksey
Teacher Librarian
McKinley Elementary School
Davenport Community School District
1716 Kenwood Avenue
Davenport, Iowa 52803
May 7, 2010

Susie Rydder, Davenport, Iowa

Currently, I am the Talented and Gifted (TAG) teacher for two public elementary schools in Iowa. I am fortunate to be allowed the freedom to select areas of study and the way in which I “teach” the subject matter. I chose to work with 5th grade students on the subject of the Holocaust. I was supported by my principal, especially because our district is focusing on anti-bullying strategies. Learning to recognize and counter peer pressure that might undermine our values and understanding the importance of adhering to one’s own conscience and taking a stand for what we know is right is what we hope our students can achieve. This is the philosophy of the Arnold-Liebster Foundation.

My TAG students read and discussed several books about the Holocaust. Many read Simone Liebster’s book Facing the Lion. They developed questions to pose to Mrs. Liebster and were able to do so through a video conference. My students had a basic understanding of the Holocaust but it became very personal and meaningful once they “met” Simone. It was very moving to be able to see her and listen to her responses to their questions.

Susie Rydder
McKinley Elementary School
Davenport Community School District
1716 Kenwood Avenue
Davenport, Iowa 52803
May 6, 2010

Jason Smelski, Clearwater, Florida

I’d like to, on behalf of all of my students, thank you and offer my appreciation for the video conference and presentation. I saw the presentation last year, as another teacher hosted the Stand Firm group. I was thrilled when they agreed to come visit my 6th and 7th grade students.

I am a teacher of both Language Arts and History at a private school. I have tried to bridge the gap between the emotion in the literature we read, the facts and figures of the history we read, and the all too real world today’s students find themselves in. The Holocaust can be a difficult, emotionally challenging, and at times distant topic for children.

Often students are told about the tragedies that befell the Jewish people, and this is a story that needs to be told. However, the experiences of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and their persecution can be overshadowed or just skimmed over. I liked being able to teach the Holocaust and World War II from a fresh perspective.

The 7th graders had the unique opportunity to use technology to reach out to a Holocaust survivor. When I told the 7th grade class that we would be talking to someone in France in real-time via the internet they were thrilled. The video conference went very well, the students were engaged, excited, and smiling the entire time. They left the room talking about it and days later they are asking to video conference with someone else.

Thank you for enriching my lessons and the minds of my 6th and 7th grade students. I recommend that more students use the resources technology has to offer to tap into resources that literature and history have to offer.


Mr. Jason Smelski
6th and 7th Grade Language Arts & History
Plato Academy Charter School
401 S. Old Coachman Rd.
Clearwater, FL 33765
April 20, 2010