To whom it may concern:
The video and accompanying 56-page study guide “Jehovah’s Witnesses Stand Firm Against Nazi Assault” is a valuable classroom tool for the study of the Holocaust in grades 6-12. While teachers and students are sometimes familiar with how Jews were imprisoned and murdered, they are often less knowledgeable about other targeted communities including Gypsies, political dissidents, artists, homosexuals, the handicapped, and Jehovah’s Witnesses. Studying the imprisonment of the Witness community adds to a teacher and student’s complex understanding of how the Nazi government was almost successful in their goal of a “pure nation”. The movie does a good job of presenting this material well within the lines of teaching about religion without advocating for one religion over the other.
Diana Zientek delivers a thorough presentation on the Holocaust geared to the ages of the students. She helps students and teachers understand the context of the persecution of the Jehovah’s Witness during this time period and the broad nature of genocidal actions that were perpetrated on Jews, Gypsies and others. Her work is a welcome complement to the work of the Center for Diversity Education which provides classroom materials and assists teachers in bringing local citizens who survived the Holocaust to the classroom. For more information visit www.diversityed.org.
Center for Diversity Education
UNC Asheville, One University Heights
Asheville, NC 28804
My name is Emily Anderson and I teach at Springfield Learning Academy, an alternative high school in Springfield, Illinois.
I first heard Simone Liebster tell her story while I was at an Illinois Council for Social Studies Spring 2015 Conference at Eastern Illinois University. Her words moved me and the chance to have my students also hear her first hand was a rare opportunity I am certainly glad I did not pass up.
I was soon in touch with Marge Fulton who was to lead the Holocaust presentation in my classroom. Marge is a wealth of knowledge about the Holocaust. Through her emails and materials, I was able to gain a great deal of background information and understanding about Simone’s unique experience during World War 2 as a Jehovah’s Witness. Never before had I heard about the Jehovah’s Witnesses experience during the Holocaust. This was a new avenue for my students and myself to explore. Rather than zoning in on the religious aspect of the beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses, we merely remained focused on the essential question and idea of standing firm in one’s beliefs, whatever those beliefs may be.
Simone’s message mirrored our approach. When relaying her story, Simone was honest about her life and her experiences which is necessary in allowing her audience to get a true glimpse into her life. A main message that I came away with from skyping with Simone was that people need to see where ideas come from and who is behind them rather than just blindly following along. Her ability to stand up for what she believed was right was because she had an educated conscience. Having an educated conscience is an essential component when truly standing firm in one’s beliefs.
Springfield Learning Academy
101 E. Laurel
Springfield, IL 62704
To Whom It May Concern:
I am an ESL teacher at Lake Forest Academy in Lake Forest, Illinois, and my classes and I have had the honor of bringing Simone Arnold Liebster via Skype interview into our classroom for many years. Prior to working at Lake Forest Academy, I worked as a history teacher at Rivermont Collegiate where my students also had the privilege of interviewing Ms. Liebster.
Many people are unaware that it was not only Jews who were victims of the Holocaust, but thousands of Jehovah Witnesses suffered under Nazi aggression as well. We were first introduced to the story of Jehovah Witness survivors and victims of the Holocaust by Sandra and Greg Milakovich. They provided many excellent resources both video and online to help my students understand this unique story. My students and I were moved by the fact that Jehovah Witnesses were the only group who were given the opportunity to gain freedom from the death camps by signing a declaration renouncing their faith and most significantly, thousands refused to sign. The DVD Sandra and Greg provide entitled Stand Firm, gave us the necessary background to prepare for the interview with Simone Liebster. Sandra and Greg also provided copies of Ms. Liebster’s inspirational book, Facing the Lion, which I had my students read and discuss prior to the interview as well. This book is a true testament to the faith and courage Ms. Liebster and her family possessed during this horrific time when their faith was tested. Facing the Lion has become my favorite book in teaching the Holocaust and is now required reading for my students each year. After reading the book and listening to Simone Liebster speak, my students have learned so much and are greatly humbled by her story.
I continue to teach this unit now with the help of Gaye Flowers who lives in the Chicago area and is a friend of Sandra Milakovich. Mrs. Flowers, like Sandra and Greg, bring a captivating power point presentation into the classroom with a focus on the story of Jehovah Witnesses in the Holocaust. Mrs. Flowers has also led my students on fascinating tours of the Holocaust Museum in Skokie, Il. It is very interesting to see a section of the museum devoted to Simone Liebster and other Jehovah Witnesses who suffered in the Holocaust. I have been blessed to have worked with such outstanding people over the years to help enhance the Holocaust study in my classroom. I have had many students return to tell me this unit and the interview with Simone Liebster was the highlight of their academic year. I know it has been and will continue to be for me as well. It is imperative that Simone Liebster’s story continues to be passed down to this generation and future generations in order for us to understand each other and bring peace in this world. As Simone Liebster said in her interview, “When making choices in life, choose only those things that bring about love.” This message as well as many others made by Ms. Liebster are very important for young people to hear. I hope more teachers will learn and teach Simone’s Liebster’s story.
Lake Forest Academy
1500 West Kennedy Drive
Lake Forest, IL 60045
My name is Lee Holder and I am a high school social studies teacher in eastern North Carolina. One of my accomplishments that I am most proud of is the creation of a stand-alone Holocaust and Modern Genocides courses at our high school. It has been in place for over a decade and I have enough students to fill 4 sections each semester. That is pretty amazing considering our school has a population of less than 1000.
My mission for the class has been three fold. I want my students to go out into the world having the confidence, knowledge, and skill set to not become perpetrators, not become bystanders, and not allow themselves to become victims.
I want to extend my heartfelt thank you to the Arnold Liebster Foundation for helping make that mission become a reality for over 1000 students at my school alone. That number is an under representation because as we all know we do not live in vacuums. Our teachers have used my lessons (and I theirs) and students have also spread the word to their friends and families.
The teaching of the Jehovah’s Witnesses history is an integral part of my class. Their resistance to National Socialism and the third Reich is a lesson and inspiration we cannot afford to forget.
Many if not most of the materials I use to teach of the Jehovah’s Witnesses comes from the Arnold Liebster Foundation either through the generosity of providing resources or through the use of materials on the organization’s website. Diana Zientek has been an incredible liaison for the Arnold Liebster Foundation and has helped increase my knowledge about the Jehovah’s Witnesses and their courageous history in the dark years of Nazi Germany.
I have been very fortunate in life when it comes to Holocaust education. I am a USHMM Fellow, a member of the North Carolina Council on the Holocaust, and have made several trips to Europe with Centro and the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching. The reason I mention this is because it has opened my doors allowing me to make several presentations on teaching the Holocaust throughout the state and a few times outside of North Carolina.
Once again the Arnold Liebster Foundation was there to support these efforts through their generosity. Numerous times the Foundation has donated books and DVDs that I am able to distribute to teachers as door prizes to help (not that any extra encouragement is ever needed) generate enthusiasm to learn more about this important aspect of our history and in turn educate our students of today and tomorrow. I always use your website as a base to illustrate to the teachers the wonderful resources and lessons that are at hand to teach this important history to our students.
Thank you gain for your years of support and generosity. That support has helped me in my own small way to promote the Arnold Liebster Foundation’s mission of promoting peace, tolerance, human rights, and religious freedom by peaceful and nonpolitical means.
North Lenoir High School
2400 Institute Road
La Grange, NC 28551
To whom it may concern:
On behalf of Leesburg Elementary School, in Leesburg, IN, I would like to thank William and Kristi Keller for bringing Simone Liebster to our classroom. The Arnold Liebster Foundation is an amazing resource to help teach our children about the Holocaust and to give them the knowledge to know that this time period in history is one that should never be repeated. William and Kristi visited our room and presented the background on how others, not just Jews, were also victims. They presented Simone’s life and educated the students on how important it is to stand firm in your faith, and to always do the right thing. Working with Mr. and Mrs. Keller has been an amazing experience and has enriched my World War ll/Holocaust unit greatly.
The Skype with Simone is fantastic. She delivers factual information and also reminds students how important it is to be able to forgive and to not hate. The experience gained by talking with an actual survivor is far more impacting than anything I can ever give them out of a book.
6th Grade Teacher
Leesburg Elementary School
6250 N. Old State Road 15
To whom it may concern:
I would like to express my thanks, on behalf of Northridge Middle School, Middleburg, IN to the Arnold Liebster Foundation for providing our students with such an informative opportunity. We had a wonderful presentation by the William and Kristi Keller in April 2015 to prepare our students with the background knowledge that was necessary to understand Simone’s story. They presented the Holocaust from a perspective that is sometimes overlooked: from the Jehovah’s Witness standpoint. Our Skype session with Ms. Liebster was outstanding and informative. We have participated in this program for three years now, and every time we have this opportunity, we are amazed by Simone’s descriptive responses to the students’ questions regarding her experiences during the Holocaust. Over 350 6th graders at our school were blessed with this amazing chance to “meet” with an actual Holocaust survivor. Thank you for allowing our students to have this wonderful opportunity.
6th Grade Social Studies Teacher
Northridge Middle School