I am writing this letter with great appreciation for Simone taking the time to conference with our 6th grade students. This opportunity provided our students with a real world connection with a Holocaust survivor. During the Skype conference Simone stressed the importance of standing up for what is right and the importance of our conscience in all aspects of life.
Thank you to the Arnold-Liebster Foundation for their continued commitment to educating students of all ages about perseverance in the most troubling of times. The resources and materials that are made available for teachers to use in their classrooms are age, content and public school appropriate.
I would recommend a partnership with the Arnold-Liebster Foundation to any school or group hoping to teach about inspiration, dedication, and perseverance and doing the right thing.
Westview Elementary School
1715 S. 600 W.
Topeka, Indiana 46571
Dear Greg and Sandra:
On behalf of Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center, we would like to commend the Arnold-Liebster Foundation in the continued pursuit to educate students and teachers throughout the Midwest on the persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses during the Holocaust. The Illinois Holocaust Museum has found the resources your organization has been able to provide us and our patrons most valuable, in particular our ability to promote the exemplary study guide and documentary video “Stand Firm.”
The power of your resources lies in their ability to allow the educator to present the history of the Holocaust in a way that causes the student to relate the experience of the Jehovah’s Witnesses to his or her own life today—the values we hold dear, the moral choices we each confront, and the recognizing that each of us has the power to stand up and speak out for what is right. By finding the courage, by standing firm for what they knew to be right, these ordinary people overcame extraordinary odds. The collective values that our educators are able to teach through these lessons affirm our human dignity, promote the good of the individual and the common good, and protect our human rights.
In history classes students should not only learn what happened, they should be given an opportunity to make ethical judgments about it. After all, history is not just a timeline of events; it is about people making choices that affected other people. Those choices had ethical and moral dimensions, and often produced profound consequences. At times, we know what we should do, feel strongly that we should do it, yet still fail to translate moral judgment and feeling into effective moral behavior. By bringing to the forefront the character dimension of this aspect of Holocaust history, you enhance the relevance of the subject matter to the student’s natural interests and questions, and in the process, increase student engagement.
Again, we appreciate your commitment to this important aspect of Holocaust history. Today’s events tell us that the lessons of the Holocaust remain all too relevant in our day. We often wonder about the human capacity to resist evil. And, by using the resources of the Arnold-Liebster Foundation, we are able to promote to our educators a way to bring a more positive example into their classrooms of one group of people who followed their conscience in the face of tyranny.
All the best in your future endeavors.
Kelley H. Szany
Director of Education
Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center
9603 Woods Drive
Skokie, IL 60077
The Carbondale Branch Library had the privilege of hosting a Skype interview with Simone Liebster on August 8th, 2016. The event was attended by more than eighty people of all ages. Ms. Liebster was an engaging speaker who spoke about her story and childhood courageousness in standing up for her beliefs and took audience questions. I would highly recommend scheduling a Skype visit with Ms. Liebster for your library or school.
Carbondale Branch Library
Garfield County Library District
320 Sopris Avenue
Carbondale, CO 81623
Re: Interactive Videoconferencing with Simone Liebster
It is with great pleasure and enthusiasm that I write this letter of reference for the Arnold Liebster Foundation and its programs. I am a high school Social Studies teacher in Little Falls, New Jersey. I teach ninth graders World History Honors and a twelfth grade elective called Contemporary Issues through Videoconferencing. After researching potential virtual connections with Holocaust remembrance organizations, I found the Arnold Liebster Foundation website. I emailed the organization and was able to arrange two videoconferences with Simone Liebster for my freshmen and seniors in high school during the 2015-2016 school year. The videoconferences were excellent, as are the organization’s resources. Part of the mission statement of the foundation reads: “…the foundation especially aims to help young people to repudiate racism, xenophobic nationalism, and violence, and to learn to listen to the voice of conscience.” As an educator, I want my students to have opportunities to study the Holocaust, including the Nazi persecution of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. My students write reflections on the videoconferencing experience and I feel that the best way to communicate the impact of the videoconferences with Simone is to share some of my students’ reflections:
“My class and I had the wonderful opportunity to speak with Mrs. Liebster. Although Mrs. Liebster was being persecuted for her faith, this tragic event reinforced the reason for her belief. Although she was offered a deal to leave a concentration camp if she would abandon her faith, she refused. Her faith had taught her to not retaliate or hold grudges. The videoconference was just inspiring because Simone radiated confidence and self-respect. She emphasized the importance of self-respect and viewed it as a “precious gift”. Her story has been a great inspiration for my class and I. Mrs. Liebster showed extreme courage that I one day strive to have.” — Andreah M.
“As we learned more and more about Jehovah’s Witnesses, we became exposed to their ideals, practices and beliefs. I became enamored by their unwavering practice of peace and equality. Their religion promotes love and denies vengeance and puts their God high above any other leadership figure that may be present. Through Simone’s story I have seen the power and strength we can gain when we believe in something with our entire being. Simone showed me that there is indeed a possibility for a holistic type of good. I witnessed bravery, strength and sustainability of self. I witnessed a Witness.” — Ashley P.
As teachers, we are dedicated to teaching our youth to be responsible global citizens. The offerings of this organization assist us in achieving that goal. I most enthusiastically recommend educators to utilize all the resources available through the Arnold Liebster Foundation in their classrooms.
Teacher of Social Studies
Passaic Valley Regional High School
100 East Main Street
Little Falls, New Jersey 07424
Working with you and the Arnold-Liebster Foundation has been not only a pleasure but was a highlight of Scottsdale Community College's annual genocide conference. The exhibit, Faith Under Fire, was most impressive and literally thousands of people saw and read it over the month it was displayed. Kristin Dickman Walter and Renee Ochsner's presentation was superb. The volunteers who attended the conference for a week were exceptionally good at explaining more about the Holocaust and fielding a myriad of questions. All in all it was an exceptional part of the conference.
In light of the fact that since 1945 and despite the "Never Forget" and "Never Again" phrases, there have been over 100 million deaths due to genocide and it is due to education, presentations and exhibits such as the Arnold-Liebster Foundation has that the world is making a dent in this scourge of humanity.
I sincerely thank you and look forward to working with you again in the very near future at another one of our conferences.
John Liffiton BSc MA
English Faculty & Dir. Genocide Conference
Scottsdale Community College
9000 E. Chaparral Road
Scottsdale, AZ 95256
To Whom it May Concern,
I am writing to express my gratitude to the Arnold Liebster Foundation for their involvement in the Holocaust unit I teach to my 8th grade students each year. During this unit, my students learn about the causes and consequences of this important event in history. Each student researches the life of a Holocaust survivor. After their research, they write from the point of view of their chosen survivor to give them a rich first hand look at The Holocaust.
One of my students was fortunate enough to stumble upon Simone Arnold Liebster's story. This student read Simone's book, researched her life, corresponded with her, and ultimately, learned a great deal about Jehovah's Witnesses and how their narrative fit into The Holocaust.
Simone was very gracious in offering to talk with my students via Skype. The conversation they were able to have with Simone was invaluable to their learning about this historical event. Oftentimes, Holocaust studies focus heavily on the Jewish community. I am fortunate that I was able to expose my students to the story of one of the smaller groups persecuted by the Nazis. They were very interested to learn the story of this group of people who stood so firm in the face of persecution and evil.
Teaching in a public school, my students come from many different cultural and faith backgrounds. It was a truly enriching experience for them to learn the dedication and faith of Simone regardless of their respective backgrounds. Simone did a wonderful job applying the lessons of The Holocaust to all people, regardless of background.
I would highly recommend that all interested educators include this story, and the story of the Witnesses as a whole into a well-rounded study of The Holocaust. I know that I, as well as my students, are richer and more knowledgeable for having learned Simone's story.
Troy Junior High School
556 Adams Street
Troy, Ohio 45373
Dear Arnold-Liebster Foundation:
We are writing today to extend our gratitude for taking the time to visit our humanities classroom and share your resources and expertise about the persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses during the Holocaust. Learning about the perspective of these victims was an extremely valuable experience for our students. Many times as people study this dark time in history, we as teachers only share one account of the 11 million victims of Nazi persecution. However, with the in-class presentation and the online connection with Simone our students have a greater understanding of the true atrocities of the Nazi Holocaust.
We have run a project on WWII and the Holocaust for four years now, but not until we added the point of view and resources of the Arnold-Liebster Foundation did our students get a more complete understanding of what actually happened. As public school teachers there is often trepidation when bringing anything religious into the classroom for fear that we may offend someone from what is shared. We can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that opening our classroom to the Arnold-Liebster Foundation has been the best thing for our students and our community as a whole. At no point did any of the three teachers in our course feel uncomfortable with way the persecution of the Jehovah's Witnesses was shared with our students. In fact the uniqueness of the experience of the Witnesses was something that sparked many good conversations that drove deeper learning in our classroom long after the presentation was over as well.
In closing, any partnership you can start with the Arnold-Liebster Foundation will be one that will positively impact your classroom for years to come. It is an investment of time that will reap rewards for your students long after the presentation is over.
Lakeland High School
805 East 75 North
Lagrange, IN 46761
Dear Arnold Liebster Foundation,
My name is Rosemary Barilla, and I teach eighth grade Language Arts to a culturally diverse population at Jamieson Elementary School, a Chicago Public School. I strive to provide my students with a well-rounded and in-depth understanding of topics, and am always seeking a variety of texts to help support my students' learning. When I came across Simone Liebster's memoir, Facing the Lion, at the Illinois Reading Conference in Peoria, IL, I knew I had discovered a new perspective, that of the Jehovah's Witnesses, to add to my Holocaust curriculum. Gaye Flowers, a representative with the Arnold Liebster Foundation, made sure to schedule a Skype session for my students to be able to hear from Simone personally, which made the students' learning opportunity that much more compelling.
Simone's memoir relays her strong faith and belief in doing the right thing throughout her experiences, and this is what resonated with my students. Her voice represents the unique experience of Jehovah's Witnesses, and demonstrates the refusal to conform to Nazi ideology. My students gained knowledge of the extreme extent of Nazi persecution while reading her memoir, and were eager to compose questions to ask Simone directly during the Skype session. The Skype session was personal and intimate, even with our audience of almost 70 students. Simone stressed the importance of following one's conscience when making decisions, a message that has far-reaching implications no matter one's religion, race, age or gender. My students were engaged with Simone's story, but more so with her genuine willingness to speak so openly and honestly about her experiences and spend time conversing with them in such a personal manner.
The Arnold Liebster Foundation provides a wealth of resources and materials for educators to use in their classrooms regarding the specific experiences of Jehovah's Witnesses during Nazi Germany. The themes of determining one's core values, making difficult decisions especially in the face of adversity and persecution, tolerance, and the beauty of human resilience are salient themes for our adolescence to examine as they enter adulthood. The Arnold Liebster Foundation provides a wonderful outreach opportunity for students to connect with these themes as they read Facing the Lion and speak with Simone directly.
Thank you for helping to educate our students on the specific experiences of the Jehovah's Witnesses during the Holocaust, and for promoting the rights of all people.
Jamieson Elementary School
5650 N. Mozart Street
Chicago, IL 60659
My name is Jillian Huber and I have been a High School English Teacher at Annawan High School in Illinois for twelve years. I am always looking for creative and inviting ways to reach my students through books. I was very lucky to attend the Illinois Reading Conference held in Peoria, Illinois this year. At the conference I was intrigued by a certain booth that was promoting an autobiography. Due to budget cuts in our district, our school library has been cut to being open only two days a week so I have my own classroom library. I am always looking for nonfiction books, so I bought Facing the Lion by Simone Liebster. I instantly put it on my shelf and one of my senior boys picked it to read for part of his free reading requirements. He finished it in two days and said I HAD to read it! I did...and fell in love with the story as well! I just had to learn more.
Simone's faith has made an impact on me as well as other students in my district after hearing her story. I currently am the huddle leader for our local Fellowship of Christian Athletes, so faith is something that my students know is very important to me. It is intriguing to be able to hear different stories from the Holocaust and this story is just that! Your school and students must hear Simone's story. The students loved creating questions to ask her and they were so excited to hear her response to those very same questions. Her Skype session with us brought many to tears in the room. The life lesson that she taught us in a short hour will stay with the adults as well as the students who attended. I look forward to incorporating the book into my curriculum next year and working with Simone, Marge and Sandra! I, for one, feel so blessed that I have been given this opportunity and would recommend it to any junior high or high school English or Social Studies teacher!
Annawan High School
501 W. South Street
Annawan, IL 61234
My name is Misty Dicken and I teach at Mary Miller Junior High School in Georgetown, Illinois.
I first heard Simone Liebster tell her story while I was at an Illinois Reading Council 2015 Conference in Peoria, Illinois. I have taken many Holocaust classes throughout my college career and attended multiple conferences, but never had I heard the story of a Jehovah's Witness during this time period. I was so thankful for Simone sharing her story with me and then even more thankful when I found the opportunity to make this an experience my students could also partake!
I was soon in touch with Marge Fulton who was to lead the Holocaust presentation for my school building. However, due to the long distance she would need to drive, she put me in contact with Sandra Milakovich who would assist me via email instead. Any questions I had, she immediately had an answer. Sandra created a three way Skype between herself, Simone, and me. She was constantly in contact with me should there be any problems to arise. Sandra sent me a wealth of resources including study guides, videos, and websites that I could use in order to prep my students for the interview Skype with Simone. My students gained a wealth of knowledge about the treatment of Jehovah's Witnesses during the Holocaust. So many times we focus on what happened to the Jewish population, but we often forget that there were many others that were targeted in Nazi Germany.
When relaying her story, Simone was very forthcoming about her experiences and was extremely willing to share with the students. I particularly enjoyed the fact that she makes certain the students walk away realizing that if they believe something strongly, they must stand up for it. Under no circumstances should they just back down, if it is the right thing to do. One of my favorite parts to this conference is that the students were able to ask Simone the questions. They really felt ownership and that they were a part of something so large. How many students can honestly say they have spoken one on one with a Holocaust survivor? Twenty children in my school building can say just that. I highly recommend implementing a Skype interview with Simone Liebster. What a wonderful, giving organization to work alongside with.
Mary Miller Junior High
414 W. West Street
Georgetown, IL 61846
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