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Simone Arnold-Liebster awarded the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany


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On December 15, 2023, Consul General Thomas Pröpstl presented the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany to contemporary witness Simone Arnold-Liebster in Chambéry, near her home in Aix-les-Bains in the French Savoy.

On August 17, 2023, the German ambassador to France, Stephan Steinlein, informed Simone Arnold-Liebster, who was born 93 years ago on that day, that Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier had awarded her the Order of Merit for her services to “preserving and conveying the memory of National Socialist tyranny”.

In his speech, Consul General Thomas Pröpstl thanked Simone Arnold-Liebster for her tireless commitment to remembrance work, which she continues to carry out to this day. After receiving the medal, Simone Arnold-Liebster mentioned that she remembered the words of her teacher at the time, who said: “You can’t go on like this. You won’t get anywhere in Germany!”. She regretted that he had already passed away and was unable to witness this award.

In the 1930s, Simone Arnold-Liebster and her parents joined the Christian community of Jehovah’s Witnesses (Serious Bible Students) in Mulhouse, Alsace, who were persecuted in National Socialist Germany from 1933 and later throughout the entire German sphere of influence. After the invasion of France by the Wehrmacht, the Arnold family’s time of suffering began. Simone was abused as a schoolgirl and finally taken away from her mother in April 1943 and deported to a Nazi reformatory in Constance. She had to perform forced labor there and endure mental torture.

Simone’s closest friend Marcel Sutter was beheaded in Halle on November 5, 1943 at the age of 24 for refusing to do military service. After his arrest in September 1941, her father Adolphe Arnold was sent to the Schirmeck, Dachau, Mauthausen and Ebensee concentration camps, while her mother Emma Arnold was sent to the Schirmeck and Gaggenau concentration camps in 1943. Max Liebster, whom Simone married in 1956, survived Sachsenhausen, Neuengamme, Auschwitz and Buchenwald as a Jew.

Over the past decades, Simone Arnold-Liebster has conducted countless eyewitness interviews with tens of thousands of young people, especially in American schools, about Nazi persecution and the possibilities of resistance and humanity in inhumane times. To this day, she works with school classes and youth groups several times a week via video conference. Her book “Facing the Lion. Memoirs of a Young Girl in Nazi Europe”, a moving testimony to the persecution and resistance of a young person.

For many years, Simone Arnold-Liebster, together with other survivors and the foundation she set up, has been campaigning for a memorial to the Jehovah’s Witnesses who were persecuted and murdered under National Socialism. It is a great joy for her that the German Bundestag unanimously approved this memorial on June 22, just before the 90th anniversary of the ban on Jehovah’s Witnesses in Nazi Germany. It is supervised by Stiftung Denkmal.

The Board of Directors and all supporters of the Arnold Liebster Foundation offer their warmest congratulations!

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