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Timeline of Events

Ban on Jehovah’s Witness Organizations

The Kusserow family were active Jehovah’s Witnesses who distributed religious literature and taught Bible study classes in their home, conveniently situated along a tram route. For the first three years of Nazi rule, local Gestapo agents often came to search the home for religious materials. In 1936, Nazi police pressure increased dramatically, eventually resulting in the arrest of the family members who were then  interned in concentration camps. Most of the family remained incarcerated until the end of the war. Bad Lippspringe, Germany, ca. 1935.

The Kusserow family were active Jehovah's Witnesses who distributed religious literature and taught Bible study classes in their home, conveniently situated along a tram route. For the first three years of Nazi rule, local Gestapo agents often came to search the home for religious materials. In 1936, Nazi police pressure increased dramatically, eventually resulting in the arrest of the family members who were then interned in concentration camps. Most of the family remained incarcerated until the end of the war. Bad Lippspringe, Germany, ca. 1935. —US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Waltraud and Annemarie Kusserow Read more about the Kusserow family.

May 1, 1935

The German government bans Jehovah’s Witness organizations. The ban is due to Jehovah’s Witnesses’ refusal to swear allegiance to the state; their religious convictions forbid an oath of allegiance to or service in the armed forces of any temporal power.

From 1935 onward, Jehovah’s Witnesses faced a Nazi campaign of persecution. Also in 1935, Germany reintroduced compulsory military service. For refusing to be drafted or perform war-related work, and for continuing to hold forbidden religious meetings, hundreds of Jehovah’s Witnesses were arrested and incarcerated in prisons and concentration camps. In 1936 some 400 Jehovah’s Witnesses were imprisoned at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp.

The number of Jehovah’s Witnesses who died in concentration camps and prisons during the Nazi era is estimated at 1,000 German citizens and 400 from other countries, including about 90 Austrians and 120 Dutch. (The non-German Jehovah’s Witnesses suffered a considerably higher percentage of deaths than their German co-religionists.) In addition, about 250 Jehovah’s Witnesses were executed—mostly after being tried and convicted by military tribunals—for refusing to serve in the German military.

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