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Female Jehovah's Witnesses in the Women's Concentration Camp in Moringen: Research on the Resistance of Women to Nazism

by Jürgen Harder and Hans Hesse

Introduction

Detlef Garbe concluded, regarding the ratio of male to female within the group of Jehovah’s Witnesses, ”that among the Witnesses far more women proportionally took part in resistance activities than within other religious, social, and political groups, such as the forbidden parties.” (1) However, a separate study on the women among Jehovah’s Witnesses does not yet exist, except for two essays by Detlef Garbe and Christl Wickert. (2) Also, a special study on this prisoner group in one of the women’s concentration camps is lacking. (3) The same deficit in research can be noted regarding the history of the women’s concentration camp in Moringen. (4) Regarding the research on the resistance of women during Nazism, a number of studies were published during the past few years. (5) The ”Bible Students,” however, were always a marginal group. This by no means corresponds with the significance this group had, especially in the concentration camps. They made up the largest inmate group numerically (until the outbreak of war) in the women’s concentration camps in Moringen, Lichtenburg, and Ravensbrück. (6) And the admiration for the attitude of the Jehovah’s Witnesses finds very open expression in the words of a fellow prisoner, a communist concentration camp inmate in the Moringen concentration camp: ”Time and again, Jehovah’s Witnesses were the most courageous.” (7) ”They always refused to do a certain type of work and therefore had to endure very harsh punishments including denial of food,” (8) and they ”openly talked to the camp commandant. They said to his face: ‘Hitler is an anti-Christ and has devoted himself to the Devil.’ As a punishment, their Bibles were taken away from them, but they knew the Bible by heart; they spoke in chorus, or they helped each other if they had forgotten some passages.” (9)

This current state of research does not correspond to the source material. The source material can even be described as decidedly favorable. Basically, the inventory of 327 personal files from the women’s concentration camp in Moringen, (10) and 349 personal forms (11) were analyzed.

In view of this state of research, it seemed advisable in the first section to go into the history of the women’s concentration camp in Moringen in more detail. Thereafter, in the main part, the situation of the female Jehovah’s Witnesses in this concentration camp will be analyzed. The results will be discussed in the conclusion.

1. The Women’s Concentration Camp in Moringen

Moringen is a small town situated at the Solling, in the rural district of Northeim near Göttingen. In the center of the town stand the buildings of the present-day District Hospital.

Since 1732 the grounds were used for different purposes: first as an orphans’ home, then from 1838 as a ”Police Correctional House” (work house) (12); from 1885 it went under the name ”Provincial Workhouse”; from April through November 1933 as a so-called ‘early’ concentration camp (13) with a protective custody section for women; from 1933 to 1938 as a women’s concentration camp; from 1940 until 1945 as a so-called ”protective custody youth camp” (14); in 1944 the workhouse was closed (until then the concentration camp and workhouse existed in parallel in the building sectors); after 1945 the barracks of the ”protective custody juvenile camp” and the remaining parts of the building were used as a camp for Polish ”Displaced Persons” and, from 1948 on as a workhouse of the land again.

In all, about 4,300 persons were deported to the Moringen concentration camps. For many, the concentration camps in Moringen were a ”Way of the Cross,” a way that could mean death and extermination. Regarding the juvenile concentration camp, it can be assumed that approximately 10 percent of the concentration camp inmates in Moringen alone died as a consequence of inhumane housing conditions.

1.1 Early History

The women’s concentration camp in Moringen developed from the ”protective custody section for women” of the ‘early’ concentration camp. Since June 1933, women were interned as concentration camp inmates in a room of the workhouse hospital. The first two women were the Communist Marie Peix and Dr. Hannah Vogt.

As the number of imprisoned women increased continuously, first from the administrative district of Hildesheim, and then after October 1933 from all Prussian territories except the Rhine Province, the so-called women’s home of the workhouse was used as a concentration camp for the ”prisoners in protective custody.” Here the womenright from the beginning, together with the inmates of the workhouse,were locally separated from the other prisoners. It was a kind of camp within a camp with a separate courtyard (roll-call yard is not the correct word) for the daily round of exercise, and its own administration, etc. Although the SS had no entrance to this building complex, this ”protective custody section for women” still belonged to the entire concentration camp. The interconnection of the workhouse with the concentration camp is peculiar in the case of the Moringen concentration camp. It finds its most obvious expression in the person of Hugo Krack, the director of the workhouse. The workhouse was responsible for the food supply, housing, ”spiritual activity,” and ”job creation.” Only the supervision of the male concentration camp inmates remained in the hands of the SS. But as regards the female concentration camp inmates, the director of the workhouse reserved the right to supervise them too. Thus, this section probably belonged to the entire concentration camp complex respecting organization, but de facto it was run independently by the director of the workhouse.

With the closing of the men’s section, Hugo Krack became director of the women’s concentration camp in November 1933. At that time there were already 141 concentration camp inmates in the section. (15) At the closing of the men’s section, (16) the responsibility increased within a few months: from March 1934 on, (17) with the closing of the protective custody section for women in the Brauweiler concentration camp, the women’s concentration camp in Moringen became the central concentration camp for women in Prussia. In October 1935 (18), women from Saxony, Thuringia, Hesse-Darmstadt, Bremen, Hamburg, and Braunschweig, but not Prussia, were imprisoned in Moringen too. After February 1936, women from Bavaria were brought in as well. (19) However, no decree is known to this day that declared Moringen as a women’s concentration camp for the entire German Reich.

1.2. Size of the Camp Population

In all, probably 1,350 women were in the Moringen concentration camp during these five years. This number was determined as follows: taking as a basis an average of 90 women being kept in detention per month, with an average period of detention of four months, this would amount to 270 women being imprisoned in Moringen in one year and 1,350 women in five years. These figures most likely represent the upper limit.

This is substantiated by the fact that in the meantime 856 names of the women are known. If these names are added to those derived from other sources, (20) it comes to the number of approximately 1,100 women. This figure is very close to that of 1,350 mentioned at the beginning. To compare: in Lichtenburg, probably 1,415 (21) women were imprisoned during the one and a half years. These numbers differ considerably from those mentioned in literature so far. (22)

1.3. Daily Life (House Rules, Dress, Food, Housing, Work)

The conditions of detention in this women’s concentration camp differed extensively from those of the later women’s concentration camps. The food was considered to be wholly insufficient. One concentration camp inmate relates that the meals were ”very bad, very frugal, the nastiest I have ever known in my life.” (23) The ”house and work rules” were, in their main points, modeled after the common rules in prisons. As punishment in the home, the director had the following means available: reprimand, limitation or denial of privileges related to the house rules, a ban on letters and parcels, and confinement in a disciplinary cell.

At that time, there was not yet any camp clothing in Moringen such as they had in the later women’s concentration camps.

The concentration camp inmates were accommodated in large dormitories and day rooms. In the day rooms they sat closely packed on benches without backrests, back to back. The concentration camp inmate Hanna Elling reports about this: ”To sit on the hard stool without a back was very hard. But we found our way out. Almost everyone had her ‘backrest.’ We sat down back to back and leaned on each other.” (24) At night, the concentration camp inmates were brought to the dormitories, which were situated in the attic. Since there was no possibility of heating the rooms, the icy cold came through gaps in the loose roof tiles during winter.

The women had to spend the whole day darning men’s clothing, knitting, or working for the Winterhilfswerk (WHW, Winter Aid Campaign). This monotonous work, during which they were not allowed to talk at all or only in a very low voice, was interrupted by a daily walk in the yard for a half hour. In summer some concentration camp inmates were assigned to the workhouse farm for harvesting.

The supervision was taken over by women from the NS-Frauenschaft (Nazi Women’s Group). For work outside, the concentration camp director used the male guards of the workhouse.

This monotony and the uncertainty about their release was a great strain on many of the concentration camp inmates. Suicide attempts resulted, but many examples of solidarity among the concentration camp prisoners are evidenced by presents that were made in the concentration camp and given on birthdays or similar occasions. Likewise, so-called ”families” were foundedgroups of women who shared parcels and food among one another. And parcels were sent to concentration camp inmates in other camps.

1.4. Prisoner groups

Before we examine the prisoner group of Jehovah’s Witnesses in detail, a comparative preview will be given first that is based mainly on a statistical analysis. (25) In addition, the term ”prisoner group” has to be defined and discussed. In the women’s concentration camp in Moringen, division of the concentration camp inmates into the categories of ”political prisoners” (red triangle), ”criminals” (green triangle), ”Bible Students” (purple triangle), or ”asocials” (black triangle) did not yet exist as was usual in the later camps. It was, nevertheless, possible to form groups that could be compared with one another. But it must be emphasized and admitted that this division into groups was artificial. While there is no definition problem in assigning persecuted ones among Jehovah’s Witnesses to a corresponding group (the same being true for Social Democrats, remigrants, Communists, and so forth), it is difficult in the extreme, to classify the group imprisoned for making ”disparaging comments.” Among them are women who were imprisoned in the women’s concentration camp in Moringen because of what was termed ”inflammatory speech,” ”disparaging comments,” ”subversive comments,” ”defamation of the Fuehrer,” ”immoral conduct,” and ”disparagement of the Winter Aid Campaign.” In most cases persons in this group were victims of denunciation. (26)

In addition there is not always a clear delineation between the prisoner groups. Some examples should be outlined as an explanation:

1. Several women were brought to the Moringen women’s concentration camp for performing abortions. The camp director inquired of the Gestapo if they were ”professional criminals””professional criminals” because they had several times performed an abortion for moneyor if they should be placed with the ”political prisoners,” as he expressed it. The Gestapo agreed that they were ‘political’ women, for it was a ”crime relating to population policy” (27) that they had committed.

2. In another case a lesbian from Berlin (28) was denounced and imprisoned in Moringen because of ”subversive comments.” (It is told that she had said: Hitler had relations with his deputy, Hess.) She was forced to emigrate, being a Jewish woman.

3. Among the so-called Rassenschänder (defilers of race) was an ”Aryan” secretary (29) of the Reich chancellery who, like Lotti Huber for example, lived with an over 60-year-old man of Jewish belief.

4. Because of ”unsocial conduct in business management” a porcelain producer, (30) who was denounced in this way by her son in order to drive her from management, was imprisoned in the Moringen women’s concentration camp. Here the factory owner met her ”class enemies” from Berlin Wedding and, as the notes in her diary show, she considered that this in itself was already a humiliation.

In all, these problems of definition will never be solved satisfactorily without damaging the comparison. Here, there is, in any case, still a need for analysis.

The analysis of the two sources (31) (32) used, referring to the single prisoner groups, revealed the following proportions:

KPD (German Communist Party) 21.4%

”IBV” (33) 45.9%

‘Disparaging Comments’ (34) 13.8%

Remigrants 5.8%

Prostitutes 4.1%

”Defilers of Race” 3.8%

”Professional Criminals” 3.3%

SPD [German Social Democratic Party] 1.5%

”Welfare” 0.4%

The most surprising peculiarity, no doubt, is the fact that, with 45.9 percent, Jehovah’s Witnesses make up the largest prisoner group. Further notable results are that in 1937/38 the groups of Jewish remigrants, prostitutes, Social Democrats, and welfare cases, and the small number of ”professional criminals” no longer existed, as reflected in the sources. It can be said now regarding the ”welfare cases” that they were evidently a special arrangement that was no longer applied in later times. (35) Much more problematic are the possible explanations for other groups. In the transport lists for the ”transfer” of the concentration camp inmates to the Lichtenburg concentration camp, a differentiation is made only between ”political prisoners,” ”prisoner in protective custody,” and ”professional criminals.” The last transport leaving the Moringen concentration camp on March 21, 1938, consisted of 107 ”prisoners in protective custody” and 57 ”professional criminals.” (36) One possible explanation could be that the camp director Hugo Krack himself did not count the ”professional criminals” as part of the concentration camp inmates. It can be proved that in the case of one committal (37) to the Moringen women’s concentration camp instituted by the Bremen welfare authority, Krack placed her in the section of prisoners to be corrected, although the file was kept as part of the concentration camp.

In any case the answers are still unsatisfactory. These uncertainties can partly be explained by gaps in the sources. The fact has to be pointed out again, therefore, that these statements can be made for only about 50 percent of the ”prisoners in protective custody” that were probably imprisoned in the women’s concentration camp in Moringen.

2. The Female Jehovah’s Witnesses

Evidence of the presence of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the women’s concentration camp in Moringen goes back to 1935. (38) In June 1937, the proportion of Jehovah’s Witnesses was 17%, in July 28%, in August 38%, in September 46%, in October 80%, in November 51%, and in December 89%.(39)

2.1. Place of Origin

When considering the places where the imprisoned women came from, the distribution according to city or countryside, which is characteristic for this prisoner group, is remarkable. Prior to their imprisonment, only about 12 percent of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Moringen lived in the metropolises of the German Reich, such as Berlin, Hamburg, or Munich. Except for some local strongholds of the Bible Students in Frankfurt am Main, Dresden, and Leipzig, the vast majority of the women came from small towns or villages. In particular the anonymity of the cities explains this fact, since the religious activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses, which was made out to be criminal, was easier. In smaller towns, the distribution of literature into mail boxes and under the doormats of the houses, the missionary activities, as well as the conspiratorial meetings with fellow believers, were much more difficult to hide from the population and the local authorities. In addition, the women and their families were already known as ”Bible Student Families” before 1933, and especially in this provincial and village environment they were thus closely observed by their social environment and the governmental authorities. Thus, many women could be arrested during campaigns of the Witnesses, or became victims of denunciations from the neighborhood.

It is also striking that so many Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Moringen camp came from the Eastern territories of the German Reich, and here again mainly from Saxony. (40)

2.2. Social Structure

The Jehovah’s Witnesses imprisoned in Moringen, who on an average were about 45 years old, were obviously older than their fellow inmates of other prisoner categories.

Approximately half of the Jehovah’s Witnesses (52.3%) imprisoned in Moringen were married. Of the 310 Jehovah’s Witnesses there, 118 had children. (41) When arrested, 27 of these mothers were already single-parents. (42) The incarceration of these women had extremely severe consequences for their children. They were either taken to relatives or acquaintances or cared for by the ”Welfare.” Bear in mind that these measures also affected a large number of children of married women, because the husbands of these women often had already been arrested and interned in prisons and concentration camps. In one case, the files prove that the parents were deprived of the custody of the child because of their activities for the Association of Bible Students. (43)

Regarding their social background, the Witnesses differed little from the group of political inmates. Approximately one third had an occupation before their arrest. (44) 30.3% of these worked in domestic service, 26.6% in the textile business, (45) and 31.2% were factory workers or worked in an equivalent position. Thirteen of the 109 women who had a job do not fit into the groups mentioned. Five of these women worked as traveling saleswomen, and six as bookkeepers or office clerks. One woman ran a business until the middle of the 1920’s, (46) and another one was a retired post office official. (47) As far as can be determined, all the husbands of the women who were not of the occupational group were workers or craftsmen.

The vast majority of the Witnesses had attended elementary school, and only a small minority had the opportunity to attend secondary schools. (48) This was largely in line with the educational possibilities for women of the general populace at that time.

Hence, it can be noted that the vast majority of the Bible Students in the women’s concentration camp in Moringen had a ”simple” background but that the religious association of ”Bible Students” was not altogether a ”poor man’s religion” as is sometimes asserted in literature.

In this connection it must be remembered that the poverty and economic ruin of many Witnesses was caused by the Nazi persecution.

2.3. Reasons for Committal to the Moringen Concentration Camp Regarding Jehovah’s Witnesses

The analysis of the ”Schutzhaftbefehl” (”warrants for arrest in protective custody”) in the personal files gave the following picture:

a) Distribution of Literature

In most cases the Bible Students were arrested because of ”distributing illegal literature” of the International Bible Students Association and participating in meetings of their religious community. (49) Either they came into protective custody and awaited a judgment on the basis of law, or the state police authorities immediately agreed with the Gestapo that they were to be ”taken into protective custody” and committed to a concentration camp, if the issuing of a warrant for arrest through a judge seemed to be uncertain. (50)

b) Missionary Activity

After their association had been put under ban, other women still distributed brochures and leaflets at the doors and tried to get into a conversation with strangers in order to win them over to their religious beliefs. (51) The propaganda material was partly produced by the women themselves. So for example, Elfriede N. personally wrote an advertisement slip that she showed the occupant when visiting the homes of people. One of these slips was found on her at her arrest, and was quoted by an official of the Liegnitz State Police Station in the ”application for protective custody” to the Gestapo office in Berlin: ”As one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and Jesus’ followers, I come according to his command and proclaim that God’s Kingdom has drawn near. We live in the time when Jehovah God, the Father of the Lord Jesus, will set up a kingdom. Now is the judgment of the worldnow the prince of this world will be thrown out. All people have to take sides with God if they would like to get life in the future battle of God, the Almighty. The Bible shows us the way to escape from death. And this is the life eternal, that they should know you the only true God and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.” (52)

In the statement of reasons on the ”warrant for arrest in protective custody” of the Witness Lina F. of July9, 1937, the suspicion of advertising her religious association already proved to be enough to justify her imprisonment: ”Despite the preceding punishment because of illegal activity for the International Bible Students Association, there is again a strong suspicion of propagating the teachings and ideals of the IBV (International Bible Students Association) through illegal oral propaganda and therefore violating the obligations set up by the nation. ”It is necessary to take her into protective custody because the security of the State is directly endangered.” (53)

c) Receipt of Literature

Some members of Jehovah’s Witnesses were no longer active in public after the ban on the Association, but concentrated on the private ”Bible study.” Even if they did not visibly act ”for the International Bible Students Association,” they were still persecuted because religiously motivated sympathy for this religious association was put on the same level as a political stance. So the mere receipt of Bible Students’ literature, and the passing on of this literature to fellow believers, became a subversive act and generally led to arrest when being recognized and, as in the case of Maria K., to arrest and committal to the women’s concentration camp in Moringen. The ”statement of reasons” for this measure in the ”Schutzhaftantrag” (”application for protective custody”) of the Secret State Police in Dresden of August 28, 1937, reads: ”K. was arrested on August 20, 1937, transferred to the Office of the District Attorney in Dresden on August 24, 1937, and sent back to the police prison the same day because a committal to prison had been ordered. ”K. was getting and reading prohibited literature of the IBV until the beginning of 1937. I request her transfer to a concentration camp.” (54)

d) Private Meetings with Brothers and Sisters in Faith

Here and there the women and men of Jehovah’s Witnesses gave up their public missionary activity and the distribution of their association’s literature in view of the increasing pressure of persecution, and they limited their religious activities to a private domain. Although the state did not have to fear further actions resulting from these private meetings, the police authorities and special courts rated them as a subversive action endangering the ”public peace and order.”

So regarding Sophie F. from Munich, the regular personal conversations with a brother in the faith was enough reason for the special court there to justify a prison sentence . Before going to prison, however, she was committed to the women’s concentration camp in Moringen. In her ”warrant for arrest in protective custody” the ”reasons” for sentencing her to imprisonment were given as follows: ”Mrs. F. is a fanatic member of the International Bible Students Association. On December 17, 36, she was sentenced to 3 months’ imprisonment by the Munich Special Court because about three times per week she gathered with Max Sch., railroad mechanic, Truderingstr. 99/I, in order to converse about the Bible Students’ beliefs.” (55) Since she could not be accused of any further crime, the officials of the Bavarian Political Police emphasized the special danger of the religious association later on in the statement of reasons: ”Because of the subversive attitude and the carelessness with which the Ernest Bible Students are acting, it is the duty of the State to remove from such elements the opportunity to undermine the national (political) interests of the German Reich through imprisonment in protective custody and thus to grant public peace and order.” (56)

e) Central Mailing Addresses

From the end of 1934 onwards, the authorities imposed a more severe control of mail on all ”Bible Students known to the authorities” to gain an overview over their contact persons on the one hand and also to prevent the mailing of The Watchtower and of other literature. And so the male and female Witnesses established an extensive network of secret mail deposits. (57) The men and women involved were mainly persons who had not been publicly active as Bible Students before. (58)

The brochures and texts from Germany and other countries that were also called ”spiritual food” by Jehovah’s Witnesses were collected at these central mailing addresses first, and then couriers brought them to other local places of the association, where the distribution to the single communities was organized. A sufficient supply of new literature for the communities from other countries by mail became more and more difficult to obtain, so that in the autumn of 1934 the couriers started to smuggle literature directly over the borders of the Reich. (59) This transfer was done across the German-Czech border as well as across the French and Dutch borders. (60) Additional literature was smuggled in through the Saarland until March 1935 and for some time even through the regular Swiss checkpoints into the German territory of the Reich. (61)

It can be deduced from existing sources that at least two women of the Jehovah’s Witnesses imprisoned in Moringen had a big share in such activities. So the ”statement of reasons” for the ”protective custody,” for example, in one case reads: ”The dressmaker Hedwig D.…was arrested during the action ordered in the circulating decree of 8/28/36 against the members of the International Bible Students Association. ”D. has confessed that she took care of a central mailing address for her brother-in-law who served as district leader of the IBV [International Bible Students Association] although she knew that the IBV is under ban.” (62)

f) Production and Distribution of Literature

To win new members and to distribute further the literature smuggled in small amounts across the borders into the German Reich, Jehovah’s Witnesses established illegal printeries in different places. Where this was not possible because of lack of technical tools, members of the religious association made several carbon copies with a typewriter or used simple duplicating machines. (63) The couple Ida and Fritz H. from Bunzlau also participated in duplicating and then distributing literature of the Bible Students. They were arrested by the National Police Station in Liegnitz on July 3, 1937. (64) The next day the local police station proposed ”protective custody” to the Gestapo in Berlin. In this letter it was mentioned, for example: ”The couple H. have been active as zealous Bible Students in the Bunzlau region for some time. In 1934 both were already reported to the police as producers and distributors of handbills of the Bible Students.” (65)

In an ensuing case against them at the Special Court in Breslau, they were acquitted, gained their freedom for some time, and immediately continued their former activities. At the beginning of May 1935, they were discovered while distributing handbills, whereupon their apartment was searched. On this occasion, the police officers found approx. 850 advertising slips. After the further accusation had failed before the Special Court in Breslau again, the ”taking into protective custody” and the committal into a concentration camp was proposed for both mates. (66)

g) Reorganization of Local Groups After Waves of Arrest

Among the women who were imprisoned as Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Moringen concentration camp were many who had joined in the reorganization of their association after the mass arrests of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the years 1936 and 1937. To do this, they first had leading positions on a local level and from the middle of 1936 also on a more than regional level. (67) One of the women who participated in this restoration was Hermine K. of Baden-Baden. In 1935 she tried to win over customers to the religious beliefs of the association while traveling as a representative for a corset factory in the region of Baden-Baden, and was probably denounced by one of the customers, so that she was arrested for the first time in summer 1935 and sentenced to six weeks in prison. (68)

After the expiration of the prison sentence determined by the court, Hermine K. was released from prison and immediately took up her activities for the Witnesses. She started working as a home nurse because this work opened the way to have inconspicuous contact with different persons. But because of her first sentence, the authorities began to take notice of her and from time to time made checks so that she again came under suspicion. In the reason for her later ”being taken into protective custody” it was mentioned regarding her activity: ”During checks it was discovered that a remarkable number of persons known as Bible Students, even former leading members of this sect, were numbered among her clients. That she did not give them treatment, but rather that the visits were prohibited meetings, may be considered as self-evident.” (69)

Directly after her imprisonment, an application was filed for ”taking into protective custody” and committal to the Moringen concentration camp with special mention of her former activity.

h) Refusal of Salutation, Military Service Act, Air-raid Protection, Refusal to Participate in Elections

Quite a number of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Moringen women’s concentration camp passively refused to meet the State’s requirements. The refusal to participate in elections, to give the ”German Greeting,” and the absence from ”air-raid drills” were especially mentioned often in the statement of reason for ”taking them into protective custody.” In addition, mentioning the rejection of military service during a police and Gestapo interrogation, together with other accusations, for women also, could lead to committal into a concentration camp. (70)

So also in the case of Berta H., one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the general attitude of refusal was considered as an indication of potential danger for the State and, in June 1937, an application to ”take her into protective custody” was issued after she had served a two-month sentence: ”The served detention and protective custody could not divert H. from the false doctrines of the IBV. She does not agree with the State services and provisions of today’s government. She rejects participation in elections, the Military Service Act, and the German Greeting. The acceptance of the protective custody order and the signature were refused.

With regard to H.’s unteachableness, it can certainly be assumed that she will continue to support the goals of the illegal IBV on being released. Therefore I ask to continue the protective custody and for transfer to a concentration camp.” (71)

2.4. ”Verpflichtungserklärungen” (Declaration of Commitment)

In literature, special meaning is accredited to the so-called ”declarations,” which the Witnesses were to sign in order to renounce their religious convictions. (72) The existence of four ”declarations” could be established in the personal files as far as the Moringen women’s concentration camp is concerned. Three of them read as follows: ”I oblige myself to abstain from all subversive activities and from activities hostile towards the State after my release from protective custody. I have been informed that I cannot claim any compensation from the State for being taken into protective custody. If my own security seems threatened, I may voluntarily go into political arrest.” (73)

This ”declaration” was dated December 14, 1937. (74) Just six days later, on December 20, 1937, other ”declarations” were already being used in the women’s concentration camp. From this time on, the following typewritten addition to the above wording was made: ”I have been informed about the consequences of renewed activity for the International Bible Students Association. It was brought to my attention that refraining from propaganda is by no means sufficient, but that I am expected to turn my back on the International Bible Students Association. I have been informed that the warrant for arrest will be completely annulled only if my conduct is irreproachable, and that otherwise I have to expect to be arrested on the slightest provocation.” (75) Hence, it was an intensification of the previous declaration. The declarations used until that time had to be signed by all concentration camp inmates and also had the same wording for all concentration camp inmates. This declaration of December 20 marks for Moringen the adoption of a practice applicable only to the Witnesses.

Now, the following two questions arise: 1. How frequently were these ”declarations” signed since, in the case of Moringen, only the first version needs to be taken into consideration, because dissolving the concentration camp had begun already on December 15, 1937, and thus the new version could not have gained much importance? 2. What bearing did the signing of this ”declaration” have on being released from the Moringen women’s concentration camp?

For 1): It can be proved that a total of 310 Jehovah’s Witnesses were present in the women’s concentration camp. There were personal files of 71 (76) of them, and in 239 cases there was just a personal form (1st page of the personal file). (77) The latter were all sent to the Lichtenburg concentration camp. These forms do not indicate that a single Witness of Jehovah had signed a ”declaration.” Regarding the 71 women who had a personal file and who were released before the dissolution of the Moringen women’s concentration camp, it is assumed that 39 of them had signed a ”declaration.” This would make for a ratio of 13 percent of the total number. This number approximately corresponds with the one stated by Garbe regarding the Esterwegen concentration camp in 1935. (78) These figures, however, are rather problematic. Only in the four cases mentioned, do we find a direct reference to the term ”declaration.” In all the other cases, Hugo Krack mentions that a ”Verpflichtungsschein” (”commitment form”) had been signed. The existence of this ”commitment form,” in turn, could not be established from the personal files. But in one case we had the chance to look at the documents of the Gestapo office that filed the records, and we compared them with the Moringen personal file. On the day of the Witness’ release, Krack, the concentration camp director, wrote to the Düsseldorf Gestapo that Katharina Thoenes had been released and that the signed ”commitment form” was enclosed. (79) He did not mention that the ”declaration” had been signed. On the other hand, the ”commitment form” is missing in the Düsseldorf files. Instead, there is the ”declaration,” dated June 19, 1937, and signed in the Moringen concentration camp two days before Katharina Thoenes was released. (80) So there is some reason to believe that the term ”commitment.form” and ”declaration” refer to the same thing. If this was not the case, the percentage of Jehovah’s Witnesses who had signed the ”declaration” would drop to about 1 percent. This is unlikely. This also touches the second question.

For 2): In at least two cases, the ”declaration/commitment form” had not been signed, and yet a release was ordered. (81) In one case the ”declaration” had been signed and yet the prisoner was not released. (82)

Consequently, the declarations in the Moringen women’s concentration camp did not have the same importance that they had in the succeeding concentration camps. In the Moringen concentration camp, it was more the individual ”conduct” of Jehovah’s Witnesses that was decisive. This conclusion can be backed up by means of the reports of conduct that the concentration camp director, Hugo Krack, had to write every three months for the Gestapo offices who filed the records, and that, in most cases, were the basis for being released later.

2.5 Reports of Conduct

Every three months the concentration camp director, Hugo Krack, had to write a report of conduct about the respective concentration camp inmate for the Gestapo offices, who filed the records. The decision about the release of the respective woman was made on the basis of these reports of conduct that normally ended with a recommendation. In most cases the decision corresponded to Krack’s recommendation. So with these reports Krack had a weighty means of pressure in his hands, and he often used it.

To be in the position to give a ”report of conduct” at all, Krack established a spy system among the concentration camp inmates. (83) The guards, of course, also registered each comment and the conduct of the concentration camp inmates and reported their observations to Krack, if necessary. Hugo Krack, in addition personally, questioned the concentration camp inmates at regular intervals. The women did not necessarily recognize this as an interrogation but rather as a noncommittal conversation. The concentration camp director attached importance to a psychologically sympathetic situation for conversation. The idea that the concentration camp inmates did not know the meaning of these conversations and their daily conduct is quite conceivable.

The prisoner group of Jehovah’s Witnesses presents a very homogeneous picture. In the beginning of his reports, the concentration camp director could, to a large extent, state that the respective Jehovah’s Witness ”behaved well” or ”orderly” and ”worked hard,” (84) but then he wrote that the Witnesses were still ”pathologically fanatical,” (85) and ”unteachable,” and that their ”attitude” had not changed. (86) Krack therefore ”left” the release of this Witness sometimes ”to [the Gestapo offices].” (87)

How humiliating it must have been for some women who, in their desperate situation, decided to ”renounce the ideas of the IBV” (88)as Krack formulated itcan be derived from a collection of some reports: ”With this (the signing of the declarationauthor) she publicly renounced the ideas before the members of the IBV in the camp.” (89) ”I have the impression that she completely changed her mind and that she made herself absolutely free from the ideas of the Bible Students.”(90) ”She is cured of these ideas and thus signed the enclosed declaration.” (91) ”She has come to know that their ideas are false.” (92) ”While the other Bible Students out of fanaticism could not be moved to work despite the hard punishments, she conscientiously separated herself from these women right away…” (93) Marie L. ”made herself absolutely free from the ideas of the IBV. She also publicly acknowledges this and declares that she is transferring to the National Socialist State unconditionally…” (94) ”Meta E.…declared before me that she…realized that the ideas of the Bible Students are hostile against the State. She publicly declared this.” (95)

Concentration camp director Krack initiated these public humiliations of the women with the goal that they should give ”a fine example” (96) and ”model.” (97) Krack then recommended the release of this Witness ”even for educational reasons.” (98) At the same time, he explicitly emphasized the need to carry out his recommendation: ”So I urgently (request) her release to be pronounced so that the other Bible Students will see that someone is released on converting.” (99)

But sometimes the concentration camp director Krack also doubted the success of his repressive ”attempts to reform.” So he demanded a promise from a Witness to stop ”being involved in hostile activities” but he still recommended for her to be put under surveillance ”since these women were dominated by a considerable fanaticism and her promise is probably only lip service.” (100)

According to Krack’s opinion, signing the ”declaration” was not enough. He wanted the Witnesses to behave accordingly while in the concentration camp. Considering this background, the ”declaration” seems to be more like a manifestation of specific, desired, Nazi-conforming behavior. The Witnesses should publicly confess and not just sign a declaration, however it reads. It is safe to say that this ”public renouncing” caused more humiliation than would signing a declaration which, at this point in time, was relatively unimportant and which ultimately did not obligate them to something.

As already described, only a few Witnesses took this course.

2.6. The Resistance of Bible Students in the Moringen Women’s Concentration Camp

As explained, the Witnesses imprisoned in the Moringen women’s concentration camp did not allow the attempts of the camp authorities to turn them away from their beliefs. On the contrary they developed strong solidarity structures and also tried to continue their witnessing within the camp.

Since the number of Jehovah’s Witnesses committed to the Moringen women’s concentration camp was still small in spring 1935, they were still put together with women of other categories of prisoners in the same place at that time.

Benefiting from being imprisoned under these circumstances, individual Witnesses tried to win other fellow inmates over to their religious beliefs. One woman who was discovered doing missionary work, and whose punishment through the camp authorities was filed, was Maria C. She was imprisoned in the Moringen concentration camp because she had participated in a meeting in Altona on January 11, 1935, together with two other members of their association, to talk about the religious ideas contained in their teachings. (101) During this meeting all three participants were arrested by the State Police and were interrogated. Next, an application ”to take them into protective custody” was made at the Gestapo in Berlin, whereupon Maria C. was brought into the ”protective custody camp for women” in Moringen the very same day.

She did not allow imprisonment in a concentration camp to stop her from the preaching and missionary work that was required by her religious beliefs, just as other Witnesses also did not stop, and apparently she directly continued this activity in the camp. She was discovered doing so, and camp director Hugo Krack punished her with solitary confinement. The director reported about this incident in a written report of June 14, 1935, which he issued in view of a date for main examination: ”C. has been in the concentration camp here since January 11, 1935. She is one of the International Bible Students and is extremely fanatic. So some time ago I had to isolate her because she had tried to propagandize her ideas among other camp inmates. She also refuses to give the required German Greeting. …She told me that she would never give up her ideas even if she had to stay in a concentration camp all her life (sic!).” (102)

As this written report shows, director Hugo Krack still viewed this phenomenon of endeavoring to do missionary work as an exceptional case at that point, because he just referred to an individual woman and did not take the attitude of the prisoner group into consideration, in contrast to later ”reports” on Jehovah’s Witnesses. The camp authorities’ way of looking at things clearly shows the Nazis’ limited knowledge of the beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses, since it becomes obvious even from a superficial examination of their religious teachings that especially the missionizing of new members was one of the key tasks of their preaching work.

From 1936 on, the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Moringen collectively resisted the requirements of the camp authorities. From the establishment of the women’s concentration camp in Moringen, the camp authorities tried to get work orders for the women detained in this camp. The ”protective custody camp for women” in Moringen was asked to repair and to alter clothes that were given as so-called ”donations in form of clothing” during the collection effort for the Winter Aid Campaign (WHW), for the winter of 1936/37.

The introduction of the WHW was of central significance according to the National Socialists’ opinion. On the one hand, immense funds and quantities of material goods were gathered that served for the relief of persons in need, according to the propaganda, but in reality it mainly served to finance the preparations for the war. On the other hand, the provisions of the Winter Aid Campaign became an instrument for supervising the attitude of the German population. Adolf Hitler mentioned in his opening speeches the ”idea of national solidarity,” (103) ”teaching German national community,” (104) as well as ”teaching the German people to become true National Socialists,” as contents and goal of the WHW. (105)

Whoever tried to escape from the collections and the work for the WHW was considered to be politically unreliable and was kept under more careful surveillance by the responsible authorities.

The Witnesses in the Moringen women’s concentration camp considered the sewing work for the WHW that the camp authorities wanted them to do as directly supporting the Nazi State, and therefore they refused to participate as a whole group in winter 1936.

It was not until this obvious action as a community that Hugo Krack recognized the willingness of Jehovah’s Witnesses to resist as a group phenomenon. It was only from this point on that the Bible Students were no longer punished as individuals but the measures taken affected all women of this category of prisoners.

To prevent the spread of this attitude of refusal among all prisoners in the camp and to put the Bible Students under pressure, Hugo Krack isolated them from the members of other categories of prisoners. In a report of December 1936 on one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the camp director described these incidents as follows: ”K. was put here as one of ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses.’ She, as well as the other Bible Students here, is unteachable. On the contrary, they have a rebellious nature and refuse to do the sewing for the WHW that I ordered to be carried out in the camp on a large scale. Thus, I felt compelled to isolate the Bible Students in a cell for disciplinary reasons. I leave it up to the judgment there if she should be released under such circumstances.” (106)

The director of the place of detention had already put a ban on letters in the camp at the beginning of November, as is shown by the inquiry of another Witness’ husband, addressed to the outpost of the Düsseldorf Gestapo in Essen. (107)

This ban on outside contact, first declared for the entire camp for three weeks because of ”some incorrectness of the prisoners,” was maintained for the Witnesses only, after they were locally isolated from their fellow inmates. In addition to this measure, the Witnesses were not allowed to receive parcels and money for an indefinite period of time. (108) So from then on, they could receive neither mental nor financial support from relatives or friends because they were completely cut off from the outside world. Different inquiries by the women’s relatives, and Hugo Krack’s written reports, reveal that the imprisonment in isolation continued for several months. (109)

The files show that the camp director did not limit his measures to more severe conditions of imprisonment but also personally took care of the ”Bible Students problem” by passing a letter from the husband of the Witness Katharina T. on to the Gestapo in Düsseldorf in order to denounce him as a member of the Bible Students: ”Enclosed please find a letter to the Bible Student T. here that I confiscated. Her husband in Moers wrote the letter. From the contents of the letter can be derived that the entire family is hostile to the State; therefore, I consider it necessary to inform you about the letter.” (110)

The prisoner group of Bible Students almost entirely continued to refuse to work for the Winter Aid Campaign in one way or another, although the Witnesses were under enormous pressure because of their situation in detention, as they received no information about the fate of their families or friends, and many of them had to cope with the unusual situation of being imprisoned.

Hugo Krack, the director of the concentration camp seemed to give up regarding the Witnesses in view of their persistent attitude, so that in February 1937 he recommended the release of Helene K., one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and then to keep her under surveillance by the police, despite the continuing resistance of the Bible Students: ”K., as well as the other imprisoned Bible Students from Saxony, preserve their attitude despite all attempts to reform them and persistently refuse to share in the work for the Winter Aid Campaign. The prohibition of letters and money that has been imposed for months now has proved to be fruitless. I do not believe that Krieschnick and the other Bible Students will change. Since they have already been in the camp for a relatively long time, I ask you still to pronounce their release and put them under more severe police surveillance when they are free.” (111)

A confirmation that Helene K. was then released from the Moringen concentration camp does not exist in the files.

Also, during the next months until the final dissolution of the Moringen women’s concentration camp in the spring of 1938, the camp authorities were not able to get rid of the ”Bible Students problem.” In contrast to the previous years, the Witnesses in general were no longer released from their arrest in this camp from 1937 onwards because they continued to refuse any work for the Nazi state; and in parallel to this, the persecution of members of their association had been intensified. As the release from imprisonment was prevented, and an increasing number of Jehovah’s Witnesses was ”taken into protective custody” at the same time and then committed to the Moringen women’s concentration camp, the group of Bible Students increased in size enormously among the camp population, so that from fall 1937 on they made up more than 70 percent of the women imprisoned there.

2.7. Moringen-Lichtenburg-Ravensbrück

At the end of 1937, the women’s concentration camp in Moringen was dissolved. The first transport left Moringen for the Lichtenburg concentration camp on December15. On February 21, and March 21, 1938, two further transports followed. A total of 500 women were taken to the new concentration camp. (112) As shown, Jehovah’s Witnesses were the largest number of concentration camp inmates. Therefore, they also made up the largest prisoner group in the Lichtenburg concentration camp.(113) Detailed descriptions of the largest prisoner group in the Lichtenburg concentration camp, as well as in the women’s concentration camp in Ravensbrück, are still missing. (114)

A document should be mentioned that has scarcely been included in research but that throws a significant light on the further examination of the persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses during Nazism. On March 6, 1944, Dr. Robert Ritter (115) made an application to the President of the Reichsforschungsrat (Board for Research of the Reich) ”for approval of material support for the fiscal year 1944/45 for work in the field of research on asocials and biology of crime.” (116) After having given an overview of the current projects, Ritter turned to the future tasks. Under point 2 he announced: ”To get an idea about the genotype of the members of Bible Students families, an examination of the genealogical origin of the ‘Earnest Bible Students’ (highlighting in original) has been started in the women’s concentration camp (the Ravensbrück women’s concentration camp is meant author).” How to interpret this short sentence? The sentence, no doubt, is connected with the opinion that Himmler, the SS leader, had of Jehovah’s Witnesses since the beginning of 1943. (117) Himmler was fascinated by the ”religious fanaticism” (118) of Jehovah’s Witnesses and wanted to utilize the missionary zeal of Jehovah’s Witnesses for himself so that, for example, they should bring ”the thought of defenselessness to the peoples of the Soviet Union.” (119) This fits into the logic of a ”consequent delusion” (120) of a Nazi ideologist like Heinrich Himmler to have these ‘positive characteristics’ ‘scientifically’ substantiated. And Robert Ritter really seems to be the right person to find out probable ‘positive racial characteristics.’

Rather unlikely, but still possible, seems to be the thought that Ritter wanted to open a ”new field of research” on his own initiative, and to justify the persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses in retrospect, so to speak, through proving a connection between the ”Bible Students” and ”asocial elements” or families his original ”field of research.” But we do not want to exclude this possibility completely.

Yet the fact has to be noted that there was obviously an attempt in the women’s concentration camp in Ravensbrück (121) to base the ”Bible Student issue” on the racist Nazi-ideology and to ”examine” it in a correspondingly scientific way.

3. Conclusion

In summary, many of the results that Detlef Garbe (122) found regarding the Jehovah’s Witnesses could be confirmed and deepened by analyzing this group of prisoners in the women’s concentration camp in Moringen. So three waves of arrests have to be noted, whereas especially the enormous increase of committals to the Moringen concentration camp from summer 1937 onwards proves the thesis that, after the second wave of arrests in 1936, ”more women” moved up ”to leading positions” (123) and were arrested one year later. But here is an even greater need for analysis. So the statements of reasons for protective custody need to be analyzed according to the year when the person was taken into protective custody. The same is true for the places of origin. And the proportion of men in comparison to the women within the group of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the concentration camps should be examined more carefully. A rough overview showed that in 1935 the proportion of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the women’s concentration camp in Moringen was between 10% and 20%. In 1936 it dropped to about 5%, to go up to 89% in 1937. Comparable figures for Jehovah’s Witnesses show that their proportion ”in general” was ”…between five and ten percent.” (124)

The analysis of the social structure of Jehovah’s Witnesses is to be deepened especially to make comparisons with other groups of concentration camp inmates. Provable so far is the fact that the Witnesses on an average were 45 years old and thus were obviously older than the Communists (37 years), for example.

Also remarkable is the fact that the Witnesses in the Moringen women’s concentration camp already displayed the conduct and attitude of refusal that are known from the later women’s concentration camps. On the one hand, they had discipline and worked hard; and on the other hand, they consistently refused, as a group, some work or attitude that they were not able to do or to show out of their religious conviction. (125)

The historiography of the resistance still has not reached an agreement on how the opposition, the resistance, the religiously-motivated resistance of the Jehovah’s Witnesses should be evaluated. (126) It cannot be denied that there is the danger of making a hierarchy in the sense that politically-motivated resistance is considered to be more valuable than religiously-motivated resistance. Yet the resistance of Jehovah’s Witnesses shows that, in connection with religiously-motivated resistance and resistance with a political tendency, the borders are not clearly defined. (127)

The question of whether the resistance activities of the Witnesses were specific to women has to be denied. Similar to the political groups, the men among Jehovah’s Witnesses also had a dominant role. It is a different issue, however, why so many women turned to Jehovah’s Witnesses and were active there. A hint of the answer is the fact that mostly entire families were Jehovah’s Witnesses.

In all, there is still a large deficit of research. But within the thematic complex of resistance and persecution in general and with reference to the resistance of women in particular, Jehovah’s Witnesses no doubt had an essential, hitherto unnoticed share.

ANNOTATIONS

1) Detlef Garbe, Zwischen Widerstand und Martyrium. Die Zeugen Jehovas im ”Dritten Reich,” 3rd edition (Munich: 1997), p. 503; see also annotation 62, which points to additional, similar results in connection with the high ratio of women among Jehovah’s Witnesses.

2) Detlef Garbe, ”Kompromißlose Bekennerinnen. Selbstbehauptung und Verweigerung von Bibelforscherinnen,” in: Wickert, Christl (ed.), Frauen gegen die Diktatur Widerstand und Verfolgung im nationalsozialistischen Deutschland (Berlin: 1995), pp. 52-73; Christl Wickert, ”Frauen im Hintergrund das Beispiel von Kommunistinnen und Bibelforscherinnen,” in: Helga Grebing and Christl Wickert (eds.), Das ”andere Deutschland” im Widerstand gegen den Nationalsozialismus. Beiträge zur politischen Überwindung der nationalsozialistischen Diktatur im Exil und im Deutschen Reich (Essen: 1994), pp. 199-224. The dissertation (M.A.) by Jürgen Harder, Widerstand und Verfolgung der Bibelforscherinnen im Frauen-KZ Moringen, typed manuscript, University of Göttingen (1997), which had been written during the editing of this essay, is to be mentioned too.

3) To be possibly mentioned: Claus Füllberg-Stolberg, ”’Bedrängt, aber nicht völlig eingeengt verfolgt, aber nicht verlassen’ Gertrud Pötzinger, Zeugin Jehovas,” in: Claus Füllberg-Stolberg et. al. (eds.), Frauen in Konzentrationslagern. Bergen-Belsen Ravensbrück (Bremen: 1994), pp. 321-332.

4) The most detailed until now: Ino Arndt, ”Das Frauenkonzentrationslager Ravensbrück,” in: Frauen Verfolgung und Widerstand, Dachauer Hefte 3 (Munich: 1987), here quoted according to the dtv edition (Munich: 1993), pp. 125-157. Cf. also Hans Hesse, ”Und am Anfang war Moringen…?,” in: Gedenkstättenrundbrief der Stiftung Topographie des Terrors, No. 75, 3/1997, pp. 13-21. An unpublished manuscript by Hans Hesse about the women’s concentration camp in Moringen is available for study at the archive of the Moringen Concentration Camp Memorial. In addition both authors of this essay plan to publish a monograph about the Jehovah’s Witnesses in the women’s concentration camp of Moringen.

5) In addition to the literature already mentioned see also Ingwer Schwensen, ”Auswahlbiographie Frauenforschung zum Nationalsozialismus,” in: Mittelweg 36, magazine of the Hamburg Institute of Social Studies, issue 2 1997, pp. 34-42.

6) Regarding the Lichtenburg concentration camp the hint in Detlef Garbe, Zwischen Widerstand und Martyrium. Die Zeugen Jehovas im ”Dritten Reich,” 3rd edition (Munich: 1997), p. 403 and annot. 335.

7) Gertrud Keen, video interview by Loretta Walz, archive of the Moringen Concentration Camp Memorial.

8) Centa Herker-Beimler, interview in the archive of the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial.

9) Ilse Gostynske, archive of the Lichtenburg Concentration Camp Memorial, No. 805.

10) Hannover Main National Archive of Lower Saxony (hereinafter cited as: Nds. HSTA Hannover), Hann. 158 Moringen, Acc. 105/96, No. 1-327.

11) Nds. HSTA Hannover, Hann. 158 Moringen, Acc. 84/82, No. 6 personal forms of female prisoner in protective custody letters A-K; No. 7 (like No. 6) letters L-Z 1937-1938. These personal forms contain information such as name, date of birth, profession, and reason for arrest, and they come from the personal files of the women’s concentration camp in Moringen. They were returned to the Moringen concentration camp when the concentration camp inmates were transferred to the Lichtenburg concentration camp in 1938.

12) For the history of the workhouses see among others Wolfgang Ayaß, Das Arbeitshaus Breitenau (Kassel: 1992). Since the Breitenau workhouse has many parallels with the workhouse in Moringen (until the construction of a concentration camp on the area), I here point to Gunnar Richter (ed.), Breitenau Zur Geschichte eines nationalsozialistischen Konzentrations- und Arbeitslagers (Kassel: 1983); Dietfrid Krause-Vilmar, Das Konzentrationslager Breitenau. Ein staatliches Schutzhaftlager 1933/34 (Marburg: 1997).

13) For the ‘early’ concentration camp see Klaus Drobisch and Günther Wieland, System der NS-Konzentrationslager 1933-1939 (Berlin: 1993); regarding the ‘early’ concentration camp in Moringen an extensive unpublished manuscript by Hans Hesse is can be studied at the Moringen Concentration Camp Memorial (see also Klaus Mlynek, ”Der Aufbau der Geheimen Staatspolizei in Hannover und die Errichtung des Konzentrationslagers Moringen,” in: Hannover 1933. Eine Großstadt wird nationalsozialistisch (Hannover: 1981), pp. 65-80.) In Prussia about one third of all concentration camp inmates were housed in workhouses (referring to the entire German Reich this is still about 20% though). Until now this has been insufficiently considered in research.

14) Cf. Martin Guse and Andreas Kohrs, Die ”Bewahrung” Jugendlicher im NS-Staat Ausgrenzung und Internierung am Beispiel der Jugendkonzentrationslager Moringen und Uckermark (Hildesheim: 1985), thesis; Guse and Kohrs, ”Zur Entpödagogisierung der Jugendfürsorge in den Jahren 1922-1945,” in: Hans-Uwe Otto and Heinz Sünker (eds.), Soziale Arbeit und Faschismus (Frankfurt am Main: 1989), pp. 228-249.

15) Nds. HSTA Hannover, Hann. 180, Hannover 752, sheet 1951 (pagination illegible). To comp.: at the same time, 176 men were interned in the concentration camp.

16) They were divided to the concentration camps in Emsland and in Oranienburg.

17) Nds. HSTA Hannover, Hann. 158 Moringen, Acc. 84/82, No. 2, sheet 9.

18) Ibid., sheet 72.

19) Arndt, Ino, op. cit., p. 129.

20) In November, for example, 141 women were numbered in the report about the size of the camp population submitted by Friedrich Flohr, the commandant of the ‘early’ concentration camp. (Nds. HSTA Hannover, Hann. 180, Hannover 752, sheet. 1951). But only few names are known. The same is true for the month of December 1937. This ‘surplus’ was added to the number of women whose names are known.

21) Ino Arndt, op. cit., p. 131; Klaus Drobisch, Frauenkonzentrationslager im Schloß Lichtenburg, Dachauer Hefte 3, Frauen. Verfolgung und Widerstand (1987), pp.101-115.

22) Arndt’s (ibid., pp. 129f.) data about the number of inmates per month vary between 50 and 70 women. These differences result from the fact that Arndt did not analyze the files Nds. HSTA Hannover, Hann. 158 Moringen, Acc. 84/82, No. 1ff.

23) Gertrud Keen, video interview by Loretta Walz, archive of the Moringen Concentration Camp Memorial.

24) Hanna Elling, here quoted acc. to: Jutta Freyberg and Ursula Krause-Schmitt, Moringen-Lichtenburg-Ravensbrück: Frauen im Konzentrationslager 1933-1945, reading book to the exposition ”Frauen im Konzentrationslager” (Frankfurt am Main: 1997), p. 29.

25) Two sources were analyzed for this statistic: a) Nds. HSTA Hannover, Hann. 158 Moringen, Acc. 105/96. Personal files. 327 in all. b) Nds. HSTA Hannover, Hann. 158 Moringen, Acc. 84/82, No. 6 personal sheets of female inmate letters A-K; No. 7 (like No. 6) letters L-Z 1937-1938. Contains a total of 349 names and further information such as date of committal, date of birth, profession, school education, date of release, grounds for arrest, and conduct in the concentration camp.

For b) After the transfer of the camp inmates to the Lichtenburg concentration camp, the personal sheets, being the first page of the personal file, were returned to the administration of the Moringen concentration camp. These personal sheets represent the last phase of the women’s concentration camp in Moringen. It has to be considered that in contrast to the information in a) the women were not released but were brought to the Lichtenburg concentration camp. So if the average term of detention is indicated, this number then only refers to the Moringen concentration camp. In 1937 releases did not happen as often as for example in 1934. For a) and b) A comparison of names did not reveal any overlap.

26) The portion of the women who fell victim to denunciation and were consequently sent to concentration camp was very large. At the moment, there are no absolute figures regarding this matter.

27) Nds. HSTA Hannover, Hann. 158 Moringen, Acc. 105/96, No. 33 file B. B., sheet 4 and 5.

28) Ibid., No. 47 file E. C., sheet 3 (versus).

29) Ibid., No. 9 file E. B.

30) Ibid. No. 245 file H. M., sheet 1.

31) Nds. HSTA Hannover, Hann. 158 Moringen, Acc. 105/96, No. 1-327, personal files.

32) Nds. HSTA Hannover, Hann. 158 Moringen, Acc. 84/82, No. 6 personal sheets of female prisoners in protective custody letters A-K; No. 7 (like No. 6) letters L-Z 1937-1938.

33) ”Internationale Bibelforschervereinigung” (”International Bible Students Association”). These are Jehovah’s Witnesses.

34) The definition of this group is the most problematic one.

35) Or the ”cases” are hidden beneath another group.

36) Nds. HSTA Hannover, Acc. 84/82, No. 9, lists of the female prisoners in protective custody that were transferred to the women’s concentration camp in Lichtenburg, 1937 Dec. 1938 March.

37) Nds. HSTA Hannover, Hann. 158 Moringen, Acc. 105/96, No. 89 file S. F.

38) Numbers derived from: Nds. HSTA Hannover, Hann. 158 Moringen, Acc. 105/96.

39) Figures from: Nds. HSTA Hannover, Hann. 158 Moringen, Acc. 84/82, No. 2. Except for October 1937. Krack did not present any numbers for this month. The number was derived from: Nds. HSTA Hannover, Hann. 158 Moringen, Acc. 84/82, No. 6 and 7, personal sheets.

40) By means of personal files it was possible to determine that 49.8% of the Witnesses came from the so-called Eastern territories such as East-Prussia, Pomerania, and Saxony. This phenomenon can be explained by the history of the growth of the religious association. As a result of the move of the German head office to the ”Magdeburg Bible House” and the establishment of a large printery, the missionary activity was more successful after 1923. A center for the increased efforts to evangelize was therefore in the vicinity of Magdeburg in Saxony.

41) These 118 mothers had a total of 245 children, which is an average of two children per woman.

42) They were either widowed, divorced, or single.

43) HSTA Düsseldorf, RW 58 - 8433, sheet 4.

44) 109 women = 34%.

45) Twelve of the 29 women in the textile business worked as tailors.

46) Nds. HSTA Hannover, Hann. 158 Moringen, Acc. 105/96, No. 133 file Emma H.

47) Nds. HSTA Hannover, Hann. 158 Moringen, Acc. 84/82, No. 7, file Martha S.

48) Information about the education of 292 women could be found in the files. 280 of these attended only elementary school (96%) and twelve women secondary schools such as the commercial school or the commercial high school. Two of the twelve women attended the secondary school for girls.

49) Nds. HSTA Hannover, Hann. 158 Moringen, Acc. 105/96, No. 90 file Luise F., sheet 2, ”warrant for arrest in protective custody” of October 5, 1937: ”Mrs. F., since 1937 a member of the Intern. Bible Students Association, continued in a considerable way to be active for this sect after the ban on it and contributed to the organizational unity by distributing illegal IBV literature as well as by participating in meetings of this secret society.”

50) Nds. HSTA Hannover, Hann. 158 Moringen, Acc. 105/96, No. 133 file Emma H., ”warrant for arrest in protective custody” of May 13, 1935: ”H. declared that she will continue to witness and to distribute literature of the Bible Students if she should again receive some. The named one is known as a fanatic member of the sect, also after the dissolution of the association.…It is not taken into consideration to present her to the judge because no order of commitment to prison can be expected.”

51) Nds. HSTA Hannover, Hann. 158 Moringen, Acc. 105/96, No. 258 file Elfriede S., ”application for protective custody” of the Liegnitz Police Station of August 4, 1935: ”From house to house S. tried to win people over. So she made herself an identification card that she showed the persons she called on during her soliciting activities.”

52) Nds. HSTA Hannover, Hann. 158 Moringen. Acc. 105/96, No. 253 file Elfriede N. sheet 2, ”application for protective custody” of April 29, 1935.

53) Nds. HSTA Hannover, Hann. 158 Moringen, Acc. 105/96, No. 87 file Lina F., sheet 6.

54) Nds. HSTA Hannover, Hann. 158 Moringen, Acc. 105/96, No. 201 file Helene Maria K., ”application for protective custody” of August 28, 1937.

55) Nds. HSTA Hannover, Hann. 158 Moringen, Acc. 105/96, No. 91 file Sophie F., sheet 3, ”warrant for arrest in protective custody” of December 19, 1936.

56) Nds. HSTA Hannover, Hann. 158 Moringen, Acc. 105/96, No. 91 file Sophie F., sheet 3.

57) Cf. Elke Fröhlich, Die Herausforderungen des Einzelnen. Geschichten über Widerstand und Verfolgung (Munich: 1983), Bayern in der NS-Zeit, vol. 6, pp. 138f.

58) For adaption of conspirative techniques on the part of Jehovah’s Witnesses see Detlef Garbe, Zwischen Widerstand und Martyrium. Die Zeugen Jehovas im ”Dritten Reich” (Munich: 1994), pp. 215-231.

59) Cf. report of Ernst Wiesner, in: 1974 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses, pp. 141f.; Manfred Gebhard (ed.), Die Zeugen Jehovas. Eine Dokumentation über die Wachturmgesellschaft. Licensed editions of first edition published in the Urania-Verlag Leipzig (Schwerte/Ruhr: 1971), p. 178.

60) Cf. Gerhard Hetzer, ”Ernste Bibelforscher in Augsburg,” in: Martin Broszat (ed.), Herrschaft und Gesellschaft im Konflikt, Bayern in der NS-Zeit, vol. 4 (Munich: 1981), pp. 621-643; Detlef Garbe, Zwischen Widerstand und Martyrium. Die Zeugen Jehovas im ”Dritten Reich” (Munich: 1994), p. 225.

61) Cf. Detlef Garbe, Zwischen Widerstand und Martyrium. Die Zeugen Jehovas im ”Dritten Reich” (Munich: 1994), p. 225.

62) Nds. HSTA Hannover, Hann. 158 Moringen, Acc. 105/96, No. 48 file Hedwig D., sheet 5, ”statement of reasons for protective custody” from the Berlin Gestapo of March 18, 1937.

63) Until about 1937 the cities Altona, Kiel, and Bremen are known as duplication centers for The Watchtower in northern Germany. Cf. Elke Imberger, Widerstand ”von unten”. Widerstand und Dissens aus den Reihen der Arbeiterbewegung und der Zeugen Jehovas in Lübeck und Schleswig-Holstein 1933-1945, Diss. (Neumünster: 1991), pp. 320f.; 1974 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses, (Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, New York: 1973), pp. 139f.; Reiner Möller, ”Widerstand und Verfolgung in einer agrarisch-kleinstädtischen Region. SPD, KPD und ‘Bibelforscher’ im Kreis Steinbrug 1933-1945,” in: Zeitschrift für Schleswig-Holsteinische Geschichte 144 (1988), pp. 125-228, 212; Inge Marßolek and René Ott, Bremen im Dritten Reich. Anpassung Widerstand Verfolgung (Bremen: 1986), p. 303f.

Furthermore, in the other parts of the German territory, the literature was printed or rather duplicated partly with the simplest tools in Berlin, Munich, Karlsruhe, and Mannheim until 1936/37. Cf. Manfred Gebhard (ed.), Die Zeugen Jehovas. Eine Dokumentation über die Wachturmgesellschaft. Licensed editions of first edition published in the Urania-Verlag Leipzig (Schwerte/Ruhr: 1971), p. 175; 1974 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses, p. 112; Manfred Koch, ”Die kleinen Glaubensgemeinschaften,” in: Erich Mathias and Hermann Weber (ed.), Widerstand gegen den Nationalsozialismus in Mannheim (Mannheim: 1984), pp. 415-434. According to Garbe’s judgment these tasks were more often accomplished by women than were the courier activities. (cf. Detlef Garbe, Zwischen Widerstand und Martyrium. Die Zeugen Jehovas im ”Dritten Reich” (Munich: 1994), p. 227)

64) Nds. HSTA Hannover, Hann. 158 Moringen, Acc. 105/96, No. 144 file Ida H., ”application for protective custody” of July 4, 1935.

65) Ibid.

66) Ibid.

67) Cf. 1974 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses, pp. 160, 179; Elke Imberger, op. cit., pp. 305, 312; Detlef Garbe, Zwischen Widerstand und Martyrium. Die Zeugen Jehovas im ”Dritten Reich” (Munich: 1994), p. 253.

68) Nds. HSTA Hanover, Hann. 158 Moringen, Acc. 105/96, No. 188 file Hermine K., sheet 4 b, ”application for protective custody” of July 9, 1937.

69) Ibid.

70) Nds. HSTA Hannover, Hann. 158 Moringen, Acc. 105/96, No. 73 file Marie E., sheet 3, ”application for protective custody” of August 10, 1937: ”She refuses the State provisions such as the Military Service Act, air-raid protection, and the participation in elections on the pretext that she could not burden her conscience. She cannot accept the greeting ‘Heil Hitler’ because all salvation is from God.”

Nds. HSTA Hannover, Hann. 158 Moringen, Acc. 105/96, No. 186 file Meta K., sheet 5, ”protective custody order” of July 15, 1937: ”She does not acknowledge the German Greeting as well as the participation in elections. She had given her unbreakable faithfulness to her God. She refuses to accept the protective custody order and the signature.”

71) Nds. HSTA Hannover, Hann. 158 Moringen, Acc. 105/96, No. 124 file Berta H., sheet 5, ”protective custody order” of June 11, 1937.

72) Cf. also Detlef Garbe, Zwischen Widerstand und Martyrium. Die Zeugen Jehovas im ”Dritten Reich,” 3rd ed. (Munich: 1997), pp. 302ff. There he speaks of a ”reserve.” The existence of the ”declarations” mentioned there cannot be proved regarding the women’s concentration camp in Moringen.

73) Nds. HSTA Hannover, Hann. 158 Moringen, Acc. 105/96, No. 83 file Alma F.

74) The second identical ”declaration” dated June 18, 1937. Nds. HSTA Hannover, Hann. 158 Moringen, Acc. 105/96, No. 311 file Rosina S. A further one dated December 4, 1937, ibid. No. 10 file Anna B.

75) Nds. HSTA Hannover, Hann. 158 Moringen, Acc. 105/96, No. 309 file Herta S.

76) Nds. HSTA Hannover, Hann. 158 Moringen, Acc. 105/96, No. 1-327.

77) Nds. HSTA Hannover, Hann. 158 Moringen, Acc. 84/82, No. 6 personal forms of female inmates who were in protective custody, letters A-K; No. 7 (like No. 6) letters L-Z 1937-1938.

78) Detlef Garbe, Zwischen Widerstand und Martyrium. Die Zeugen Jehovas im ”Dritten Reich,” 3rd ed. (Munich: 1997), p. 305, annotation 324. ”It is supposed that in 1935, 13 of about 120 imprisoned Bible Students had signed, that means approx. one in ten.” Normally the numbers are much higher. According to the files of the Düsseldorf Gestapo more than half signed. Cf. ibid. annotation 333.

79) Nds. HSTA Hannover, Hann. 158 Moringen, Acc. 105/96, No. 317 file Katharina Thoenes, sheet no. 34. Letter of June 21, 1937.

80) HSTA Düsseldorf RW 58-8433, sheet 59.

81) Nds. HSTA Hannover, Hann. 158 Moringen, Acc. 105/96, No. 40 and No. 144.

82) Nds. HSTA Hannover, Hann. 158 Moringen, Acc. 105/96, No. 88 file Berta F. On November 6, 1937, she signed the ”declaration,” but since no order was given to release her, the concentration camp director Krack sent a reminder again on December 23, 1937, that Berta F. had renounced and therefore was to be released. The case became more complicated because Berta F. withdrew her renunciation (letter from Krack dated January 8, 1938: ”Since she does not want to free herself from these ideas, she cannot expect to be released for the moment.”), but one month later, she was released anyway.

83) According to statements of former concentration camp inmates.

84) See, for example, Nds. HSTA Hannover, Hann. 158 Moringen, Acc. 105/96, No. 310, 317, 57, 146.

85) Ibid., No. 102.

86) Ibid., e.g. No. 310, 117, 144.

87) Ibid., No. 310, 96.

88) Ibid., No. 239.

89) Ibid., No. 284.

90) Ibid., No. 57.

91) Ibid., No. 73.

92) Ibid., No. 84.

93) Ibid., No. 91.

94) Ibid., No. 213.

95) Ibid., No. 70.

96) Ibid. and No. 86.

97) Ibid., No. 91.

98) Ibid., No. 284, 84, 213, 91.

99) Ibid., No. 124.

100) Ibid., No. 102.

101) Nds. HSTA Hannover, Hann. 158 Moringen, Acc. 105/96, No. 40 file Maria C., ”application for protective custody” of the State Police Station in Altona of January 14, 1935.

102) Nds. HSTA Hannover, Hann. 158 Moringen, Acc. 105/96, No. 40 file Maria C., report [of conduct] of the camp director Krack of June 14, 1935.

103) Alolf Hilter on opening the WHW 1933/34, in: Ernst Wulf, ”Das Winterhilfswerk des Deutschen Volkes,” in: Schriftenreihe der NSDAP, Gruppe II: Deutsche Arbeit (Berlin: 1940), p. 12.

104) Ibid., p. 11.

105) Ibid., p. 12.

106) Nds. HSTA Hannover, Hann. 158 Moringen, Acc. 105/96, no. 178 file Helene K., sheet 13, camp director Krack’s written report of December 15, 1936.

107) HSTA Düsseldorf, RW 58-8433, file Katharina Thoenes, letter of Heinrich Thoenes to the outpost of the Düsseldorf Gestapo in Essen of November 26, 1936; Nds. HSTA Hannover, Hann. 158 Moringen, Acc. 105/96, no. 317 file Katharina Thoenes, sheet 14, letter of December 2, 1936, from the outpost of the Düsseldorf Gestapo in Essen to the Moringen concentration camp authorities.

108) Nds. HSTA Hannover, Hann. 158 Moringen, Acc. 105/96, no. 317 file Katharina Thoenes sheet 15, camp director Krack’s letter of December 4, 1936, to the Düsseldorf Gestapo.

109) Nds. HSTA Hannover, Hann. 158 Moringen, Acc. 105/96, no. 291 file Minna S., sheet 10, inquiry of the husband of January 20, 1937: ”The person signing asks for immediate response since I sent my wife ten marks some weeks ago, and I did not receive any information about it. I would like to know if she is still in the camp and whether she received the money.”

110) Nds. HSTA Hannover, Hann. 158 Moringen, Acc. 105/96, no. 317 file Katharina Thoenes sheet 13, letter of November 30, 1936, from the camp authorities to the Düsseldorf Gestapo.

111) Nds. HSTA Hannover, Hann. 158 Moringen, Acc. 105/96, no. 178 file Helene K., sheet 15, written report of February 12, 1937, from camp director Krack.

112) Cf. Nds. HSTA Hannover, Hann. 158 Moringen, Acc. 84/82, No. 8.

113) Cf. Detlef Garbe, ”Kompromißlose Bekennerinnen. Selbstbehauptung und Verweigerung von Bibelforscherinnen,” in: Christl Wickert (ed.), Frauen gegen die Diktatur Widerstand und Verfolgung im nationalsozialistischen Deutschland (Berlin: 1995), pp. 52-73; Klaus Drobisch, op. cit., p. 103. Both with short descriptions about Jehovah’s Witnesses as a group of inmates in the Lichtenburg concentration camp.

114) Cf. especially Claus Füllberg-Stolberg, op. cit.

115) Robert Ritter was as ”criminal biologist” one of the leading ”scholars” in the Third Reich who, with their pseudo-scientific research, founded the way to death of tens of thousands of people (especially his ”racial examinations” on Sinti and Roma meant death in a Nazi concentration camp for the majority) who were considered ”racially inferior” by Nazi ideologists. Cf. Joachim S. Hohmann, Robert Ritter und die Erben der Kriminalbiologie (Frankfurt am Main: 1991); Michael Zimmermann, Rassenutopie und Genozid. Die nationalsozialistische ”Lösung der Zigeunerfrage” (Hamburg: 1996); Lewy, Guenter, The Nazi Persecution of the Gypsies (New York 2000). And for the key point of National Socialism: Michael Burleigh and Wolfgang Wippermann, The Racial State, Germany 1933-1945, 5th ed. (Cambridge 1996); Henry Friedlander, The Origins of Nazi Genocide. From Euthanasia to the Final Solution (Chapel Hill/London: 1995).

116) BA Koblenz R 73/14005. We owe this information to Stefanie Endlich.

117) More details in Detlef Garbe, Zwischen Widerstand und Martyrium. Die Zeugen Jehovas im ”Dritten Reich,” 3rd ed. (Munich: 1997), pp. 461ff., especially pp. 468ff.

118) Ibid., p. 468.

119) Ibid., p. 469.

120) In accordance with the title of Wolfgang Wippermann, Der konsequente Wahn. Ideologie und Politik Adolf Hilters (Gütersloh: 1989).

121) Further information about Ritter’s ”work” in this field, and any possible questionnaires in the same format as for the Sinti and Roma, are not known at the moment.

122) Detlef Garbe, ”Kompromißlose Bekennerinnen. Selbstbehauptung und Verweigerung von Bibelforscherinnen,” in: Christl Wickert (ed.), Frauen gegen die Diktatur Widerstand und Verfolgung im nationalsozialistischen Deutschland (Berlin: 1995), pp. 52-73; but especially the analyses of data of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Hamburg, in: Detlef Garbe, Zwischen Widerstand und Martyrium. Die Zeugen Jehovas im ”Dritten Reich,” 3rd ed. (Munich: 1997), pp. 501ff.

123) Ibid., p. 61.

124) Ibid., p. 64.

125) A report points to the age of the Witnesses and their special position in the concentration camp that was based on their consistent attitude of refusal. The report was published by the Exil-SPD in Prague in the ”Deutschland-Berichten” in May 1937: ”The old Bible Students (author’s italics) gave the guard no end of trouble. They neither gave the Hitler salute nor can they be stopped from saying their prayers.” Quoted here according to Detlef Garbe, ”Kompromißlose Bekennerinnen. Selbstbehauptung und Verweigerung von Bibelforscherinnen,” in: Christl Wickert (ed.), Frauen gegen die Diktatur Widerstand und Verfolgung im nationalsozialistischen Deutschland (Berlin: 1995), p. 64.

126) Cf. the descriptions in Detlef Garbe, Zwischen Widerstand und Martyrium. Die Zeugen Jehovas im ”Dritten Reich,” 3rd ed. (Munich 1997); Christl Wickert (ed.), Frauen gegen die Diktatur Widerstand und Verfolgung im nationalsozialistischen Deutschland (Berlin: 1995), with further literature references.

127) Similar also Wolfgang Wippermann, op. cit., p. 222; Inge Marßolek and René Ott, op. cit., p. 308.

© by Jürgen Harder /Hans Hesse


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