Leesburg Students Speak With Holocaust Survivor
By Alyssa Richardson
Posted With Permission of Stacey Page Online
On Tuesday, sixth grade students at Leesburg Elementary School gathered to talk face to face with a Holocaust survivor from France.
Simone Arnold Liebster, a Jehovah’s Witness who faced persecution during the Holocaust, was able to connect with students via Skype to answer their questions about her experiences.
According to Jason Roler, one of the four sixth grade teachers involved in the event, the school was approached by Kristi Keller, a Holocaust Resource Consultant. Keller works with the Arnold Liebster Foundation to help bring students’ awareness to the persecution and bravery of Jehovah’s Witnesses during the Holocaust.
“We did a project last year and it was put in The Paper and then Kristi Keller contacted me through an email and asked me if we’d be interested in doing a Skype conference call with Simone. We said of course we would,” Roler explained. “The students have loved it. They have been really getting into it – picking up as many books as they can, doing a lot of research and we have had a lot of really good discussions about it.”
Liebster, who at the age of 13 stood trial for her refusal to “hail” Hitler in her school, shared with students stories about her experiences at Wessenberg Institution for Juvenile Education and how her faith helped her stay courageous and strong during a time of cruelty and persecution.
In addition to stories of her own past, Liebster shared stories of her parents time in several jails and concentration camps, including Dachau Concentration Camp. Though the stories have a harsh reality, Liebster’s answers to the student’s questions were not filled with anger, hatred or resentment toward her captors.
When asked by one student if she hated the Nazi’s Liebster smiled and said, “There is no reason to hate people. People do sometimes bad things (and) they don’t know why they are bad. They just follow some ideology because someone told them to do that. It’s not necessarily that a person is bad who does that, not at all. So I wouldn’t say anything, I wouldn’t do anything, I wouldn’t retaliate and I wouldn’t condemn (against her captors). I would try and show them the way of the Gospel. That I would do, but not hating them.”
Though students spoke with Simone Liebster Tuesday, according to teacher Treleen Cox, the discussion will not be ending there. Students in Cox’s class have discussed the components of prejudice and how to stand up against hatred in today’s society. The students will also continue on to create a pottery tile project with Potter Bayou that will highlight the meaningful memories students will take away from their time studying the holocaust.
“We will conclude with a pottery project that Pottery Bayou helping us with,” said Roler. The kids will create their own tile with a memory they have had from this project. We have a memory garden outside that we created last year and we will put them around the trees.”