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Cameron Ackerland, 5th Grade

Class Assignment:  Book report about a person who survived something
Book report based on Facing the Lion: Memoirs of a Young Girl in Nazi Europe by Simone Arnold Liebster
Presented to class as newspaper article written by reporter for the Alsace Gazette
Glenview Middle School, East Moline, IL

Cameron Ackerland Project

Read the Alsace Gazette news reports about Simone Arnold:

(Next are the individual news items shown on the photo of the Gazette)

Witness girl survives the “lion”

Simone Arnold, a young Jehovah’s Witness girl, survived World War II. Simone lived in Alsace France.  Germany overtook Alsace during the war.  Simone’s religion was banned because Jehovah’s Witnesses wouldn’t Heil Hitler.  They also didn’t go to war.

Witnesses had a special code name for the Nazi’s, the “lion.”  Many families that were Jews were treated badly, but as a Witness girl, Simone was also treated badly.  First, her father was arrested for being one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and that split her family up a lot.

Next, Simone was sent to a boarding school for delinquent girls because she refused to Heil Hitler.  At this school Simone was not allowed to talk at certain times.  She was forced to take care of a girl named Anna who was five years old.  Simone was just entering her teen years.  She was responsible for anything that Anna broke, took, or soiled.  She had to get Anna up two times a night to go to the bathroom so she didn’t wet the bed.  Anna didn’t like this, so to get revenge when Simone got her up, she would just go to the bathroom on the bed.  If anyone disobeyed the rules of the school they would have severe punishment such as getting whipped on the hands and loosing dinner along with that.

One day, while she was at the school, Simone found out that her mom had been arrested, just like her father, for being one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.  While in a concentration camp her mother almost died of starvation, but fortunately was saved.  Others in the camp gave her food and drink to help her survive.

Her dad was also close to death in the camps. He had been assigned to a camp where people were forced to carry ninety pound granite on their back.  If anyone dropped their piece of granite they would be pushed down stone stairs to their death.  Fortunately he was reassigned to another camp.  When at the camp he was transferred to, he was beaten for working “too slowly.”  As a result he lost his hearing.

Simone was away from her dad for around four years and from her mom almost a year and a half.   At last, the war ended.  Simone’s family was back together.   It was wonderful to be back together, although it didn’t feel the same.  Simone had survived the lion.  She did this with help from God, and by having the courage to never give up her faith.

War takes shine from shoes

This is a picture of Simone Arnold.  She was a young girl that lived in Alsace, France during World War II. The picture was taken in June 1943 when she was twelve years of age. If you look closely you’ll see Simone’s shoes are worn out. Her mom sewed a new dress for her, but they could not afford new shoes.  Simone is known to have said that she isn’t smiling much in the picture because she is embarrassed of her shoes being older and worn out.

As mentioned, World War II was going on.  Stores and restaurants were being cleaned out because there was a shortage of food and goods. Many families like Simone’s were extremely poor.  Here today, we have it pretty good, and should appreciate being able to afford new shoes!

Hiding literature to survive

What do you think is needed to survive a crisis?  Many say money, others weapons, but Simone Arnold and her family didn’t rely on those things. What they did rely on, even though difficult, was their religion.  It was against the law to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and they would never change that.  Since it was difficult to keep material that involved their religion, they would have to make secret places to store these things.  They thought up clever things such as an extra compartment in the table to quickly place literature. (See clipping.)  Also when Simone had to go to a boarding school, because of being a Witness, her Mom put a tiny bible in her sewing box.  Simone would read the Bible and then hide it in some bed springs.  Simone’s Mom did other things like this, such as sew a secret girdle in her (Simone’s) vest to store literature.  Simone once had a letter taken away that her mother wrote her.  She realized that they could take the letter from her or anything else that she owned but they couldn’t take away her memories, or as she called it, a “library in her head.”

These things were all very brave and they show that Simone relied on God to get her through hard times.  Reading the Bible and Bible literature gave her hope that her trials would end. It also proved to her that God saw her and cared for her.  Simone was recently interviewed (by me on a Skype conference) and she said that the things her parents taught her about the Bible helped her to survive the Nazis.

Triangular unfairness

During World War II many people were unfairly arrested because of there race, or as with Simone’s family, their religion. Many were taken to concentration camps such as Dachau.  People were forced to work hard, almost as if they were slaves. They were beaten, starved, and even killed!

The prisoners were forced to wear triangles or badges on their clothing to identify their supposed “wrongdoing.” Simone’s parents weren’t in the concentration camp because they were Jews, they weren’t. They were in the camps because they were Jehovah’s Witnesses.  As such they were forced to wear purple triangles. (See samples.)  Since they were of that religion they wouldn’t support the war effort. They also refused to “Heil Hitler” because saying that means “salvation belongs to Hitler.” As Witnesses they believed that salvation only belonged to Jesus Christ.

At the concentration camps most had no chance to get out, but Jehovah’s Witnesses did.  To do that though, they had to sign a paper saying that they renounced their faith. (See sample.) Almost all, like Simone’s parents, wouldn’t sign.  They chose to stick to their faith even if it meant staying in the camp.