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Who Am I? Young Minds Forced to Choose Feedback

Letters regarding the Who Am I? exhibit:

Dear Members of the Arnold-Liebster Foundation:

Stephen Hempstead High School in Dubuque, Iowa, was proud to display “Who Am I? Young Minds Forced to Choose.” This brief story of Jehovah’s Witnesses who suffered because they refused to succumb to the pressure of a world filled with hate and ignorance is an excellent teaching tool connecting the themes of history to our modern day lives. The display is interesting, meaningful, and thought-provoking. In the face of extreme adversity, the Witnesses showed moral courage. This theme connected to our recent reading of Harper Lee’s classic novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. Both works present the destructive force of racism. The display also serves as a connection to Elie Wiesel’s memoir Night, which is required reading for our sophomore English students. And our ninth grade students, who all attend a Youth Frontiers Respect Retreat, could read the stories and answer the probing questions that connect to their own developing moral character. 

I strongly recommend continued funding of projects such as this that offer teachers a chance to continue their own learning and to share different stories with their students. The teaching materials provided a strong background for the display and also offered follow-up ideas, including Facing the Lion, a memoir of Simone which further enhanced text-to-self and text-to-world connections. Through the display presentation, the Hempstead students were engaged in the history of people, who very close to their own age, said no to hate and yes to what was right. What a gift the Arnold-Liebster Foundation provided for young minds that truly are forced to choose every day of their lives.

Peggy Dolson
English and Reading Teacher
Hempstead High School
3715 Pennsylvania Avenue
Dubuque, IA 52002

Dear Members of the Arnold-Liebster Foundation,

On behalf of the Logan Magnolia Community Schools, I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing with us the traveling exhibit “Who Am I? Young Minds Forced to Choose.” Both our students and community members enjoyed viewing the exhibit. In addition, we had many other visitors from western Iowa and eastern Nebraska travel to our school to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity.

From a teacher’s perspective, I’d like to share with you that not only did my classes enjoy the exhibit, but we also had excellent discussions upon returning to the classroom. We include Holocaust material in various classes at both our junior high and senior high levels, but most students had never studied in depth how Jehovah’s Witnesses were specifically targeted. Many students wondered aloud whether or not they would have the courage to stand up for their faith. What an incredible teaching moment!

I would also like to thank Stephen Gaies from the University of Northern Iowa and Sandra Milakovich for their assistance in allowing our school to share in this event. I am also thankful for the wonderful resources sent to our school. During the exhibit, we had the videos playing, and many took the time to view them. Our library is including copies of Facing the Lion in our collection, and I look forward to reading the book, myself!

Patricia Diggins
High School Social Studies/English
Logan-Magnolia Community School District
1200 N. 2nd Avenue
Logan, IA 51546

Dear Sandra,

I am writing to express how worthwhile and educationally appropriate the Holocaust exhibit, “Who Am I? Young Minds Forced to Choose” was for our school. This exhibit has many good qualities that are important for students to see and experience. I am hoping this letter of recommendation will allow other schools to see the benefit of this exhibit.

The first thing I enjoyed about the exhibit was the fact that it was age appropriate. It was presented in a way that teenagers, and especially middle school age, would be able to understand. Simone was able to recall her experiences and relate them in language that teenagers would understand.

The next thing that I thought was an asset to the exhibit was the pictures. The pictorial evidence was good for young people and adults to see. The purple triangle, contract and pictures from the time period made the period come to life.

Finally, Simone’s personal account with the pictures was probably the most well done part of the presentation. She is able to engage the participant with firsthand accounts of the terror that she felt. She is able to relay the feeling of despair and fear. She is also able to relate the shared sense of pride and strength members of her group shared as they struggled against the Nazis. We were able to get a lot of people from the community in to view the exhibit. People from different Kingdom Halls around the area, parents from the community, members of the press, and Jehovah’s Witness families all came to view the exhibit.

Thank you for allowing us to use the exhibit. I was very much impressed with how many community members we were able to get into the building. I hope that they were able to take away interesting information from the exhibit and that we can bring something back like this again.

Jill Dykstra
7th Grade Literacy
Meredith Middle School
4827 Madison Avenue
Des Moines, IA 50310

Dear Ms. Milakovich,

As part of our continuing series exploring the “other” victims of the Holocaust, Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust hosted the premier of the 13-panel traveling exhibit Who Am I ? Young Minds Forced to Choose on November 5, 2006. Created by the Arnold-Liebster Foundation, the exhibit relates the story of Jehovah’s Witness youth persecuted during the Holocaust.

The premier was so successful that the Museum held two openings on the same day to accommodate the crowds of people that wanted to see it. It has continued to be received warmIy and the Museum has literally had hundreds of people come through every week to see it and listen to the audio recordings of survivors that accompany each panel. Visitors have been very moved by the exhibit.

Simone and Rudolf two young, persecuted Jehovah’s Witnesses, narrate the stories of their families and friends. Each panel heading poses a probing question for young viewers to reflect on. Short, true-life accounts show how Jehovah’s Witnesses answered these questions when faced with Nazi persecution.

The exhibit is accompanied by educational materials, many of which are free online at the Arnold-Liebster Foundation website. Since our target community has little to no money for teaching tools, they are very grateful when we can point them in the direction of quality materials that cost them little or nothing. The tri-fold teacher guide really benefits students and can be used as a pre-arrivaI by mailing teachers the guide when they book a tour, and as a “decompression session” after students see the exhibit. The classroom set of Facing the Lion: Memoirs of a Young Girl in Nazi Europe by Simone Arnold Liebster is a wonderful resource and has been added to our list of recommended reading for teachers bringing Holocaust education to their classrooms.

The exhibit has been very successful for us and is now a permanent feature of the Museum. While one cannot take religion out of the Holocaust – or out of what happened to Jehovah’s Witnesses – this exhibit is well done without proselytizing. We feel strongly about the importance of Who Am I ? Young Minds Forced to Choose, and recommend its use by other institutions.

Mark Rothman
Executive Director 
Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust

As we wind down our exhibit, I wanted to thank you personally for all your help and support in bringing Who Am I? to the School District of Palm Beach County.
The exhibit began at the District office and had a showing at nine of our high schools. The response was outstanding. Our students and staff who were able to view the exhibit had very positive comments, not just on the display, but more importantly on the information that they gained about the role that Jehovah’s Witnesses played during the Holocaust. 

Eileen Shapiro, Program Planner
Holocaust Studies 
The School District of Palm Beach County
Department of Multicultural Education
3388 Forest Hill Blvd., Suite A-204
West Palm Beach, FL 33406

Dear Mr. & Mrs. Liebster:

I want to thank you and your foundation for creating the Who Am I? exhibit. As it travels through our district from school to school, I’m getting only positive feedback about it.

Evaluations all came back excellent in terms of telling the story of young Jehovah’s Witnesses during the Holocaust. The panels are compelling and interesting, and the presentation is in a clear and concise manner. Not only is it very appropriate for public schools, but it promotes fascinating follow-up discussion.

Here are two of our student comments :

  • “This presentation was a more personal account of some of the victims in the Holocaust. It really hits you hard when you see the pictures of these innocent people and read their stories.”


  • “Displaying this presentation is crucial in teaching tolerance and understanding.”


Thank you for allowing us to have this in our school district.

Eileen Shapiro, Program Planner
Holocaust Studies 
The School District of Palm Beach County
Department of Multicultural Education
3388 Forest Hill Blvd., Suite A-204
West Palm Beach, FL 33406