Two items appear below:
1 A Holocaust Memorial Dr Potter
2 Letter Frank Russo
(Investigator 84, 2002 May)
A little more than twenty years ago, I was busily engaged researching the Jehovah's Witnesses, preparing my D Phil thesis at the University of Sussex. I found it quite distasteful, therefore, that Jehovah's Witnesses had set up an exhibition as part of the University's Holocaust Memorial Day on 23rd January 2002.
It was a small display, consisting of a dozen enlarged, captioned photographs. The real purpose of their presence was soon apparent. In 1997, the Watchtower Society produced an EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMME, available in 24 languages, aimed at secondary school students and being marketed throughout the world. There are lesson plans, two video tapes with work sheets, and a 'resource' list. Visitors to the exhibition were given copies of the 38-page Study Guide together with an order form. In almost every respect the material misreports the history of the Jehovah's Witnesses (or 'Bible Students') and their relationship with the Hitler regime. Their presence at Sussex University's event, as at other educational institutions, was an attempt to surreptitiously use the holocaust tragedy for publicizing their doctrines.
in January 1933, J F Rutherford, President of the
(based then, as now) in New York, drafted a Declaration of
A personal letter was sent to the German Fuehrer, which assured him:
The letter then drew Hitler's attention to the enclosed Declaration and its identification of the "common enemies" of the Watchtower Society and the German Reich, viz. "commercialistic Jews and Catholics". But let the Declaration speak for itself:
Rutherford explained whom he had in mind when he spoke of "Big Business oppressors":
The logical outcome is, according to the Declaration of Facts:
Rutherford 's Declaration was printed in the 1934 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses.
Rather than being "one of the few religious groups in Nazi-occupied Europe to take a bold stand against Nazism" as their leaflet claims, the Watchtower Society was anti-Semitic and supportive of Hitler's "religious and apolitical goals"; happy to discard their earlier loudly trumpeted principles of 'Christian neutrality' in the hope the Watchtower publishing and preaching work might be allowed to continue in Germany.
It would be a mistake, however, to believe that Rutherford's references to Jews were merely an attempt to ingratiate Jehovah's Witnesses with the Nazis. Speaking at a Watchtower convention in Canada, in the 1920s, he referred to Jews as "...the hooked nosed, stooped-shouldered little individual who stands on the street corner trying to gyp you out of every nickel you got".
Writing in the
23 Feb 1927:
However, Hitler dismissed Rutherford's communications. Watchtower HQs throughout Germany, including the Tennishallen, in Magdeburg, where Rutherford's Declaration had been read to the assembled 1933 Watchtower Convention in a hall bedecked with swastika flags, were raided; pamphlets and books confiscated and/or destroyed. Witnesses were interned – but unlike other 'enemies of the Reich', could, as their Study Guide states, obtain immediate release by signing a statement renouncing their faith.
Bible Students found an unexpected 'friend' in Heinrich Himmler.
In a lengthy
in part, in 1974 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses) Himmler
to senior SS officers Pohl and Mueller:
suggestion is that
all of the
Students be put to work — for example, farm work, which has nothing to
do with war and all its madness. One can leave them unguarded if
assigned; they will not run away. They can be given uncontrolled jobs,
they will prove to be the best administrators and workers. We can
Bible Students in our Lebensbornheime (homes erected to rear
fostered by SS men to produce a master race), not as nurses, but rather
as cooks, housekeepers, or to do work in the laundry or similar jobs. I
am convinced that, in most cases, we will have little difficulty with
... I will then personally distribute them among large families. In
households they are not to wear prison garb, however, but civilian
As promised, Himmler personally took charge of this process; he arranged for a Party of sixteen Bible Students to be sent to Czechoslovakia to take charge of the estate of Lina Heydrich, widow of the late SS Obergruppenfuehrer, Reinhard Heydrich.
The records of the Bible Students' fortunes in this period read rather differently from that of the millions who still remained in the Nazi camps. The Yearbooks of Jehovah's Witnesses document dozens of examples – like the forty-two brothers building a house for an SS official at Lake Wolfgang, who were able to go onto the lake in the evenings and entertain themselves with folk songs and concert pieces.
There is the
Gertrud Ott who,
eighteen other sisters, was incarcerated in Auschwitz to work
the hotel serving the families of the SS men employed there:
In the hotel they made contact with other 'sisters' and arranged to have regular Bible meetings in the toilet:
Many 'brothers and sisters' were given permission to make short visits to relatives living nearby.
Reading these records, provided by the Witnesses themselves, makes one very conscious that the experiences described come from a very different world than that inhabited by the millions of Jewish people and other real victims of the Nazi tyranny. The 1974 Yearbook states that during the years 1933 to 1945, 253 Bible Students were sentenced to death, of whom 203 were executed.
Whilst it is important to acknowledge and remember the death of every single innocent individual, these figures (compared with the estimated ten million Jewish victims) and combined with a knowledge of the true history of the Bible Students vis-a-vis the Third Reich, highlight the impertinence of the Watchtower Society introducing themselves into the Holocaust Memorial Day to market their so-called 'educational material'.
(Investigator 85, 2002 July)
I enjoyed Dr Potter’s article "A holocaust Memorial with the Jehovah's Witnesses" (#84).
Potter cited the 1933 Declaration of Facts wherein the Watchtower Society president, Joseph F Rutherford, tried to ingratiate himself with Hitler and called Jews "Big Business oppressors".
However, only eight years earlier Rutherford had no anti Jewish prejudice. He even got his book, Comfort for the Jews (1925), endorsed by a prominent Jew. What changed Rutherford’s attitude?
Until 1930 Rutherford taught that Israel would be restored and that the Watch Tower Society would have a prominent place in that restoration. Hence his cult put forth considerable effort to convert Jews.
However, Rutherford had also previously predicted, in his book Millions Now Living Will Never Die (1920), that the restoration of Israel would occur around 1925. When this didn’t happen he lost ¾ of his followers including Jewish followers. It was a bad knockback.
Furthermore, in the early 1930s about 25% of the world's JWs lived in Germany. Therefore, when Hitler came to power Rutherford considered, at least initially, that the future of the Watchtower Society lay with the Nazis rather than the Jews.