Holocaust Expert Visits Antwerp Freshmen
Posted With Permission of The West Bend News
Kristi Keller, a Holocaust Resource Consultant, recently visited Mr. Miesle’s freshmen world history classes to share information about victims of the Holocaust, especially Jehovah’s Witnesses. Most students are aware of the sufferings of Jewish victims but do not realize other minority groups were persecuted during the Holocaust as well, including Witnesses, the disabled, and homosexuals. Keller showed the students the badges worn by these different groups and explained how Witnesses were offered the chance to sign a declaration renouncing their faith in order to be set free from concentration camps.
Keller also introduced students to the stories of Max Liebster and Simone Arnold Liebster, a husband and wife who were both Holocaust victims during their youth. Max, a German Jew, was arrested when he was 24 and sent to Sachsenhausen, a concentration camp near Berlin. There, he found his dying father, whom he later had to carry on his back to the crematorium furnace. Max was a prisoner for nearly six years in five concentration camps. He lost seven family members in the Holocaust.
After the war, in 1956, Max married Simone Arnold, a Witness whose family also suffered during the Holocaust. When she was a child, Simone’s father was arrested and sent to a concentration camp, while she and her mother were left to fend for themselves without money or a working permit. Around that time, Simone was also expelled from school for refusing to “Heil Hitler.”
When she was 12, Simone was sent to a penitentiary house where Nazis tried to “reeducate” her; there, she could not talk, could only bathe twice a year, had to perform constant chores, and received beatings as punishment. After the war, Simone was reunited with her parents, but not before they had all suffered great physical and emotional loss.
After learning of the Liebsters’ story, students in Mr. Miesle’s class had the privilege of Skyping with Simone, who is 85 and lives in France. She and Max dedicated their post-war lives to telling their story and educating others on the Holocaust. Max died in 2008, but Simone continues to carry on their mission. Simone answered students’ questions about her experiences, and she emphasized the importance of adhering to one’s own voice of conscience and countering peer pressures that undermine one’s values.
To learn more about Simone, you can read her book, “Facing the Lion: Memoirs of a Young Girl in Nazi Europe.” You can also visit www.alst.org, the Arnold Liebster Foundation website.