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What Historians Say About the Stand of Jehovah's Witnesses during the Nazi Period (1933 - 1945)

Professor Dr. Wolfgang Benz, Research Center for Antisemitism, Technical University Berlin:
"Jehovah's Witnesses. The religious community numbering 25,000 souls in Germany was banned in 1933. About half of them continued their 'preaching work' underground. Jehovah's Witnesses refused to give the Hitler salute and especially refused military service. They were persecuted mercilessly. About 10,000 were arrested. The resistance of this group, which also tried to inform the population about the criminal character of the Nazi state by distributing leaflets in the years 1936/37 and thus acted against the regime of injustice beyond their own interests, cost them about 1,200 lives." - Informationen zur politischen Bildung, no. 243, (1994): Deutscher Widerstand 1933-1945, page 21. Published by the Center for Political Education of the Federal Government of Germany.

Dr. Gabriele Yonan, Religious Scientist, Free University, Berlin:
"When the entire text of the June 25, 1933 'Declaration of Facts,' along with the letter to Hitler is, in retrospect, put into the context of the history of Jehovah's Witnesses during the Nazi regime, their resistance, and the Holocaust, it consequently has nothing to do with 'antisemitic statements and currying favor with Hitler.' These accusations made by today's church circles are deliberate manipulations and historical misrepresentations, and their obvious motivation is the discomfort of a moral inferiority. At the time of the convention [of Jehovah's Witnesses in Berlin, on June 25, 1933], as well as later, governments, statesmen, and diplomats from all countries negotiated with Hitler and demonstrated their respect and reverence for him. In 1936, even when thousands had already been imprisoned in concentration camps-among the first of whom were Jehovah's Witnesses-the international Olympic Games took place in Berlin under the swastika." - "Am mutigsten waren immer wieder die Zeugen Jehovas." Verfolgung und Widerstand der Zeugen Jehovas im Nationalsozialismus, published by historian Hans Hesse, Bremen, 1998, page 395.

Hans Hesse, historian:
"The first thing we can learn from the attitude of Jehovah's Witnesses under the 'Third Reich' is that a small group of people in Germany, relying on their faith and the solid unity among them succeeded in drawing away from the Nazi regime's totalitarian reach, even if at a heavy price . . . Second, it should be an obligation for us, the [later] generations ... to ensure that people will never again have to die in order to remain true to their conscience." - Historian Dr. Hubert Roser, Karlsruhe University. In: "Am mutigsten waren immer wieder die Zeugen Jehovas." Verfolgung und Widerstand der Zeugen Jehovas im Nationalsozialismus, published by historian Hans Hesse, Bremen, 1998, page 253.

Historian Hartmut Mehringer:
"As early as in the Weimar Republic, Jehovah's Witnesses were exposed to the hostilities of racial-nationalistic forces, of the church, and to the first legal measures from the state. ... Although in 1933 the IBV [International Bible Students Association] tried to adapt to the new situation and declared their strictly nonpolitical and anti-communist nature, harsh conflicts with the government agencies soon followed. Already the spring 1933 saw heavy persecution, confiscations, and bans of publishing, preaching, and organizing." - Widerstand und Emigration. Das NS-Regime und seine Gegner, by Historian Hartmut Mehringer, Munich, 1997, paperback edition, 1998, page 103.

Detlef Garbe:
"Being a 'total state' claiming the entire person, taking God's place, and demanding the whole 'Volkskorper' [entire population] to be concordant with their 'Fuehrer,' the Nazi regime left no room at all for people who lived according to the commandments of the Bible Students' doctrine. Thus, 'resisting' had to become a requirement for keeping the self-esteem and identity of the religious community." - Zwischen Widerstand und Martyrium. Die Zeugen Jehovas im "Dritten Reich," by Detlef Garbe, Munich, 1993, page 529. (The 4th edition was published in 1999.)

Dr. Elke Imberger, State Archivist:
"The distribution of the 'Resolution' [on December 12, 1936] and of the 'Open Letter' [on June 20, 1937] were not only a very spectacular, but also were a new way of public preaching ...[These were] campaigns throughout the 'Reich' which were so well coordinated that they could take place all over Germany on the same day and at the same time.... Throughout the whole Nazi era in Germany, there was no other resistance organization that took comparable initiatives." - Widerstand "von unten." Widerstand und Dissens aus den Reihen der Arbeiterbewegung und der Zeugen Jehovas in Lubeck und Schleswig-Holstein 1933-1945, by State Archivist Dr. Elke Imberger, Neumunster, 1991, page 345.

Michael H. Kater, Historian:
"It is striking that no other religious sect suffered as much under National Socialism as did the Earnest Bible Students [Jehovah's Witnesses]." - "Die Ernsten Bibelforscher im Dritten Reich," by Historian Michael H. Kater, published in Vierteljahrshefte fur Zeitgeschichte, April 1969, Stuttgart, 1969, page 183.

Dr. Friedrich Zipfel, Historian:
"The extent of loyalty towards the state was the criterion for initiating persecution. ... The 'International Association of Earnest Bible Students,' the 'Watchtower Bible and Tract Society,' were the first religious association to be hit by the Nazis, and they were hit the hardest. Hardly an analysis has been made, or any memoirs written about the concentration camps, which do not include a description of the strong faith, the diligence, the helpfulness, and the fanatical martyrdom of the Earnest Bible Students." - Kirchenkampf in Deutschland 1933-1945, by Historian Dr. Friedrich Zipfel, Berlin, 1965, page 175.
 

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