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Museum Statement on Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia

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WASHINGTON – The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is deeply concerned over recent reports of harassment of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia and the Russian Justice Ministry’s announced intent to ban the religion due to its members engaging in “extremist activities.”

“The Holocaust teaches us the dangers of state-sponsored targeting of any group,” said Museum Director Sara J. Bloomfield. “While what is occurring in Russia is not at all comparable to Nazi Germany, it’s important to remember the Nazi Party perceived Jehovah’s Witnesses as a threat to the state and subjected them to intense persecution.”

The Nazis targeted Jehovah's Witnesses because their religious beliefs prevented them from adhering to the requirements of the Nazi state. Witnesses do not swear allegiance to any state or serve in the military. These religious convictions as well as their international connections—the headquarters are in the U.S. and some Witnesses travel abroad for their service–made them a perceived threat to Nazism. Of the 25,000 – 30,000 active Jehovah’s Witnesses in Nazi Germany, about half were convicted and sentenced during the Nazi period. Of those convicted or sentenced, between 2,000 and 2,500 were sent to concentration camps, as were a total of about 700 to 800 non-German Witnesses. An estimated 1,000 German Witnesses and 400 non-German Witnesses died in the camps.

A living memorial to the Holocaust, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum inspires citizens and leaders worldwide to confront hate, prevent genocide, and promote human dignity. Its far-reaching educational programs and global impact are made possible by generous donors. For more information, visit

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