Jehovah's Witnesses in the Holocaust

Chronology of events 1933-1945

1933 - About 25,000 Jehovah's Witnesses are active in Germany. March, first concentration camp, Dachau, established. April 1, all religious literature printed by Jehovah's Witnesses is banned from circulation in Germany. In June, Prussian State Police ban the work and organization of Jehovah's Witnesses. Some Witnesses sentenced to terms in labor and concentration camps. Watch Tower office in Magdeburg raided and closed. August 16, first mention of existence of concentration camps in the Golden Age magazine (now Awake!), published internationally by Jehovah's Witnesses.

1934 - October 7, telegrams of protest sent to Hitler by Jehovah's Witnesses in 50 countries, including Germany.

1935 - April 1, Jehovah's Witnesses banned from all civil service jobs and arrested throughout Germany. Pension and employment benefits confiscated. Marriage to one of Jehovah's Witnesses becomes legal grounds for divorce. Children of Jehovah's Witnesses banned from attending school. Some children taken from parents to be raised in Nazi homes and reform schools.

1936 - Mass arrests of Jehovah's Witnesses. Several thousand are sent to concentration camps and some remain there until 1945. December 12, Jehovah's Witnesses throughout Germany secretly distribute 200,000 copies of the Lucerne Resolution, a protest of Nazi atrocities, in one hour.

1937 - Buchenwald concentration camp established. Here is first known use of the purple triangle as a symbol for camp inmates who are Jehovah's Witnesses. April 22, Gestapo order directs that all of Jehovah's Witnesses released from prison be taken directly to concentration camps. June 20, Jehovah's Witnesses throughout Germany secretly distribute the "Open Letter," which supplies detailed accounts of Nazi atrocities.

1938 - October 2, Watch Tower Society President J. F. Rutherford, speaking over a network of 60 radio stations, denounces Nazi persecution of the Jews. November 9 and 10, Jews experience a nationwide attack in a pogrom called Krystallnacht (Night of Broken Glass). About 25,000 Jewish men deported to concentration camps. On November 15, all Jewish children expelled from school.

1939 - September 15, August Dickman, one of Jehovah's Witnesses and the first conscientious objector of the war to be executed, dies by firing squad at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp.

1942 - January 20, Wannsee Conference of Nazi officials formalizes plans for the so-called Final Solution, the extermination of European Jewry.

1945 - May 7, Germany surrenders and the war in Europe ends. The Nuremberg war crimes trials begin in November. September 30, verdicts of the war crimes trials announced in Nuremberg on the same day that Jehovah's Witnesses hold public convention at the Zeppelinwiese, formerly used for Nazi Party rallies.

A Teacher's Guide to the Holocaust
Produced by the Florida Center for Instructional Technology,
College of Education, University of South Florida © 1997-2013.