By the time the Nazis came to power in 1933, Germany had been home to Jehovah’s Witnesses for almost forty years. Despite incessant coercion, this peripheral congregation managed to actively resist Nazi ideology and maintain their religious convictions, becoming the first religious association banned by the National Socialist regime. However, contrary to this ban and a law requiring military service, Jehovah’s Witnesses continued to practice their faith and refused to be drafted or perform war-related work. Consequently, thousands of Witnesses were arrested and incarcerated in prisons and concentration camps. The Nazis offered the Witnesses a choice afforded no other victim group, however: a simple renunciation of faith could gain their freedom. Surprisingly few exercised this option. In the end, 2,500 of the 10,000 Witnesses incarcerated perished under Nazi abuse.
Up till now, scholars had devoted little attention to this small victim group, but Persecution and Resistance of Jehovah’s Witnesses During the Nazi-Regime, 1933-1945, edited by Hans Hesse, begins to change all that. Comprised of twenty-five previously unpublished essays, this anthology examines the treatment of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Nazi Germany and successfully narrates the Witnesses’ experiences despite an unfortunate lack of published documentation on their persecution.
The book’s first section offers essays largely dependent on the testimonies of Jehovah’s Witnesses and impressions recalled by other Nazi victims, with contributions from such notable Holocaust scholars as Michael Berenbaum, Henry Friedlander, and Sybil Milton. Several essays within this section reconstruct the collective experiences of Witnesses within the camps, including Sachsenhausen, Moringen, Bergen-Belsen, and Wewelsburg, and three works analyze the unique case of Jehovah’s Witness women and children. This section also features a series of vivid paintings by a Witness imprisoned at Buchenwald and a collection of original documents, reproduced and translated, that present stark evidence of the Nazi campaign against Jehovah’s Witnesses. Finally, two additional essays explore post-War life for Witnesses in Germany, highlighting their continued persecution within the German Democratic Republic.
The second section turns to the historiography of the Witnesses’ persecution, its relationship to the limited documentation on this subject, and its eventual presentation to a mass audience. This section boasts five different essays analyzing issues related to the Watch Tower Society’s film, Jehovah’s Witnesses Stand Firm Against Nazi Assault, such as the possible characterization of the film as propaganda rather than historical documentation and the use of the film for general religious studies. An additional essay analyzes the potential use of Witness’ testimonies for moral education, examining the impact of a committed and moral minority on the majority, even one as villainous as the Nazis.
Scholarly and well-researched, this book contains endnotes for each essay, a detailed chronology, and biographical details on all contributors. The extensive bibliography, organized by type of information, includes a large local history section, numerous works focused Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the helpful addition of books focused elsewhere that still address the persecution of Witnesses, with relevant page numbers indicated.
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|TABLE OF CONTENTS|
|Categories of Concentration Camp Prisoners
|Solidarity and the Will to Survive: Religious and Social Behavior of Jehovah's Witnesses in Concentration Camps
|Female Jehovah's Witnesses in Moringen Women's Concentration Camp: Women's Resistance in Nazi Germany
Jürgen Harder and Hans Hesse
|Jehovah's Witnesses in Wewelsburg Concentration Camp
|Jehovah's Witnesses in Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp
|"The Little One ... He Had to Suffer a Lot": Jehovah's Witnesses in the Moringen Concentration Camp for Juveniles
|Jehovah's Witnesses in Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp
|The Buchenwald Series: Watercolors by the Jehovah's Witness Johannes Steyer
|Jehovah's Witnesses as Forgotten Victims
|Jehovah's Witnesses: A Documentation
|Rescued from Oblivion: The Case of Hans Gärtner
Angela Nerlich and Wolfram Slupina
|Resistance and Persecution of Female Jehovah's Witnesses
|The Religious Association of Jehovah's Witnesses in Baden and Wurttemberg, 1933-1945
|Jehovah's Witnesses in the German Democratic Republic
|The Persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses in Weimar, 1945-1990
|Social Disinterest, Governmental Disinformation, Renewed Persecution, and Now Manipulation of History?
|Persecuted and Almost Forgotten
|History, Past and Present: Jehovah's Witnesses in Germany
|The Video Documentary "Jehovah's Witnesses Stand Firm Against Nazi Assault": Propaganda or Historical Document?
|History, Past and Present: Jehovah's Witnesses in Germany. An Analysis of the Documentary "Stand Firm Against Nazi Assault" from the Perspective of Religious Studies
|Critical Reflection on the Video Documentary "Stand Firm Against Nazi Assault": Propaganda or Historical Doccumentation?
|Between Historical Documentation and Public Promotion of One's Image. Comments about the Watch Tower Society Film: "Stand Firm Against Nazi Assault"
|"Jehovah's Witnesses Stand Firm Against Nazi Assault" --- Touring Exhibitions and Video Presentations, 1996-2000
|From Marginalization to Martyrdom
|Teaching Tolerance: A Case Study
James N. Pellechia
|Chronology: Development and Persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses
Hans-Herman Dirksen, Jürgen Harder, Hans Hesse, and Johannes Wrobel