“Objects of Hatred by All the Nations”
DURING the last evening that Jesus spent with his apostles before his death, he reminded them: “A slave is not greater than his master. If they have persecuted me, they will persecute you also; if they have observed my word, they will observe yours also. But they will do all these things against you on account of my name, because they do not know him that sent me.”—John 15:20, 21.
It was not merely isolated instances of intolerance that Jesus had in mind. Just three days earlier, he had said: “You will be objects of hatred by all the nations on account of my name.”—Matt. 24:9.
Yet, Jesus counseled his followers that when faced with persecution, they must not resort to carnal weapons. (Matt. 26:48-52) They were not to revile their persecutors or seek to retaliate. (Rom. 12:14; 1 Pet. 2:21-23) Might it not be that even those persecutors would someday become believers? (Acts 2:36-42; 7:58–8:1; 9:1-22) Any settling of accounts was to be left to God.—Rom. 12:17-19.
It is well-known that early Christians were cruelly persecuted by the Roman government. But it is also noteworthy that the foremost persecutors of Jesus Christ were the religious leaders and that Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, had Jesus executed because they demanded it. (Luke 23:13-25) After Jesus’ death it was once again the religious leaders who were in the forefront as persecutors of Jesus’ followers. (Acts 4:1-22; 5:17-32; 9:1, 2) Has that not also been the pattern in more recent times?
Clergy Call for Public Debate
As the circulation of C. T. Russell’s writings quickly escalated into tens of millions of copies in many languages, the Catholic and Protestant clergy could not easily ignore what he was saying. Angered by the exposure of their teachings as unscriptural, and frustrated by the loss of members, many of the clergy used their pulpits to denounce Russell’s writings. They commanded their flocks not to accept literature distributed by the Bible Students. A number of them sought to induce public officials to put a stop to this work. In some places in the United States—among them Tampa, Florida; Rock Island, Illinois; Winston-Salem, North Carolina; and Scranton, Pennsylvania—they supervised public burning of books written by Russell.
Some of the clergy felt the need to destroy Russell’s influence by exposing him in public debate. Near the headquarters of his activity, a group of clergymen endorsed as their spokesman Dr. E. L. Eaton, pastor of the North Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church in Allegheny, Pennsylvania. In 1903 he proposed a public debate, and Brother Russell accepted the invitation.
Six propositions were set forth, as follows: Brother Russell affirmed, but Dr. Eaton denied, that the souls of the dead are unconscious; that the “second coming” of Christ precedes the Millennium and that the purpose of both his “second coming” and the Millennium is the blessing of all the families of the earth; also that only the saints of the “Gospel age” share in the first resurrection but that vast multitudes will have opportunity for salvation by the subsequent resurrection. Dr. Eaton affirmed, but Brother Russell denied, that there would be no probation after death for anyone; that all who are saved will enter heaven; and that the incorrigibly wicked will be subjected to eternal suffering. A series of six debates on these propositions were held, each debate before a packed house at Carnegie Hall in Allegheny in 1903.
What was behind that challenge to debate? Viewing the matter from a historical perspective, Albert Vandenberg later wrote: “The debates were conducted with a minister from a different Protestant denomination acting as the moderator during each discussion. In addition, ministers from various area churches sat on the speaker’s platform with the Reverend Eaton, allegedly to provide him with textual and moral support. . . . That even an unofficial alliance of Protestant clergymen could be formed signified that they feared Russell’s potential to convert members of their denominations.”—“Charles Taze Russell: Pittsburgh Prophet, 1879-1909,” published in The Western Pennsylvania Historical Magazine, January 1986, p. 14.
Such debates were relatively few. They did not yield the results that the alliance of clergymen desired. Some of Dr. Eaton’s own congregation, impressed by what they heard during the series of debates in 1903, left his church and chose to associate with the Bible Students. Even a clergyman who was present acknowledged that Russell had ‘turned the hose on hell and put out the fire.’ Nevertheless, Brother Russell himself felt that the cause of truth could be better served by use of time and effort for activities other than debates.
The clergy did not give up their attack. When Brother Russell spoke in Dublin, Ireland, and Otley, Yorkshire, England, they planted men in the audience to shout objections and false charges against Russell personally. Brother Russell deftly handled those situations, always relying on the Bible as authority for his replies.
Protestant clergymen, regardless of denomination, were associated in what is known as the Evangelical Alliance. Their representatives in many lands agitated against Russell and those who distributed his literature. In Texas (U.S.A.), as an example, the Bible Students found that every preacher, even in the smallest towns and rural districts, was equipped with the same set of false charges against Russell and the same distortions of what he taught.
However, these attacks against Russell sometimes had results that the clergy did not anticipate. In New Brunswick, Canada, when a preacher used his pulpit for a derogatory sermon about Russell, there was a man in the audience who had personally read literature written by Brother Russell. He was disgusted when the preacher resorted to deliberate falsehoods. About the middle of the sermon, the man stood up, took his wife by the hand, and called to his seven daughters who sang in the choir: “Come on, girls, we are going home.” All nine walked out, and the minister watched as the man who had built the church and was the financial mainstay of the congregation departed. The congregation soon fell apart, and the preacher left.
Resorting to Ridicule and Slander
In their desperate efforts to kill the influence of C. T. Russell and his associates, the clergy belittled the claim that he was a Christian minister. For similar reasons, the Jewish religious leaders in the first century treated the apostles Peter and John as “men unlettered and ordinary.”—Acts 4:13.
Brother Russell had not graduated from one of Christendom’s theological schools. But he boldly said: “We challenge [the clergy] to prove that they ever had a Divine ordination or that they ever think of it. They merely think of a sectarian ordination, or authorization, each from his own sect or party. . . . God’s ordination, or authorization, of any man to preach is by the impartation of the Holy Spirit to him. Whoever has received the Holy Spirit has received the power and authority to teach and to preach in the name of God. Whoever has not received the Holy Spirit has no Divine authority or sanction to his preaching.”—Isa. 61:1, 2.
In order to impugn his reputation, some of the clergy preached and published gross falsehoods about him. One that they frequently employed—and still do—involves the marital situation of Brother Russell. The impression that they have sought to convey is that Russell was immoral. What are the facts?
In 1879, Charles Taze Russell married Maria Frances Ackley. They had a good relationship for 13 years. Then flattery of Maria and appeals to pride on her part by others began to undermine that relationship; but when their objective became clear, she seemed to regain her balance. After a former associate had spread falsehoods about Brother Russell, she even asked her husband’s permission to visit a number of congregations to answer the charges, since it had been alleged that he mistreated her. However, the fine reception she was given on that trip in 1894 evidently contributed to a gradual change in her opinion of herself. She sought to secure for herself a stronger voice in directing what would appear in the Watch Tower.* When she realized that nothing that she wrote would be published unless her husband, the editor of the magazine, agreed with its contents (on the basis of its consistency with the Scriptures), she became greatly disturbed. He put forth earnest effort to help her, but in November 1897 she left him. Nevertheless, he provided her with a place to live and means of maintenance. Years later, after court proceedings that had been initiated by her in 1903, she was awarded, in 1908, a judgment, not of absolute divorce, but of divorce from bed and board, with alimony.
Having failed to force her husband to acquiesce to her demands, she put forth great effort after she left him to bring his name into disrepute. In 1903 she published a tract filled, not with Scriptural truths, but with gross misrepresentations of Brother Russell. She sought to enlist ministers of various denominations to distribute them where the Bible Students were holding special meetings. To their credit not many at that time were willing to be used in that way. However, other clergymen since then have shown a different spirit.
Earlier, Maria Russell had condemned, verbally and in writing, those who charged Brother Russell with the sort of misconduct that she herself now alleged. Using certain unsubstantiated statements made during court proceedings in 1906 (and which statements were struck from the record by order of the court), some religious opposers of Brother Russell have published charges designed to make it appear that he was an immoral man and hence unfit to be a minister of God. However, the court record is clear that such charges are false. Her own lawyer asked Mrs. Russell whether she believed her husband was guilty of adultery. She answered: “No.” It is also noteworthy that when a committee of Christian elders listened to Mrs. Russell’s charges against her husband in 1897, she made no mention of the things that she later stated in court in order to persuade the jury that a divorce should be granted, though these alleged incidents occurred prior to that meeting.
Nine years after Mrs. Russell first brought the case to court, Judge James Macfarlane wrote a letter of reply to a man who was seeking a copy of the court record so that one of his associates could expose Russell. The judge frankly told him that what he wanted would be a waste of time and money. His letter stated: “The ground for her application and of the decree entered upon the verdict of the jury was ‘indignities’ and not adultery and the testimony, as I understand, does not show that Russell was living ‘an adulterous life with a co-respondent.’ In fact there was no co-respondent.”
Maria Russell’s own belated acknowledgment came at the time of Brother Russell’s funeral at Carnegie Hall in Pittsburgh in 1916. Wearing a veil, she walked down the aisle to the casket and laid there a bunch of lilies of the valley. Attached to them was a ribbon bearing the words, “To My Beloved Husband.”
It is evident that the clergy have used the same sort of tactics that were employed by their first-century counterparts. Back then, they endeavored to kill Jesus’ reputation by charging that he ate with sinners and that he himself was a sinner and a blasphemer. (Matt. 9:11; John 9:16-24; 10:33-37) Such charges did not change the truth about Jesus, but they did expose those who resorted to such slander—and they expose those who resort to like tactics today—as having as their spiritual father the Devil, which name means “Slanderer.”—John 8:44.
Seizing on War Fever to Achieve Their Aims
With the nationalistic fever that swept the world during the first world war, a new weapon was found for use against the Bible Students. The enmity of Protestant and Roman Catholic religious leaders could be expressed behind a front of patriotism. They took advantage of wartime hysteria to brand the Bible Students as seditious—the same charge that was leveled against Jesus Christ and the apostle Paul by the religious leaders of first-century Jerusalem. (Luke 23:2, 4; Acts 24:1, 5) Of course, for the clergy to make such a charge, they themselves had to be active champions of the war effort, but that did not seem to bother most of them, even though it meant sending young men out to kill members of their own religion in another land.
It was in July 1917, after Russell’s death, that the Watch Tower Society released the book The Finished Mystery, a commentary on Revelation and Ezekiel as well as The Song of Solomon. That book roundly exposed the hypocrisy of Christendom’s clergy! It was given extensive distribution in a relatively short time. Late in December 1917 and early in 1918, the Bible Students in the United States and Canada also undertook the distribution of 10,000,000 copies of a fiery message in the tract The Bible Students Monthly. This four-page tabloid-sized tract was entitled “The Fall of Babylon,” and it bore the subtitle “Why Christendom Must Now Suffer—The Final Outcome.” It identified Catholic and Protestant religious organizations together as modern-day Babylon, which soon must fall. In support of what was said, it reproduced from The Finished Mystery commentary on prophecies expressing divine judgment against “Mystic Babylon.” On the back page was a graphic cartoon that showed a wall crumbling. Massive stones from the wall bore such labels as “Doctrine of the Trinity (‘3 X 1 = 1’),” “Immortality of the Soul,” “Eternal Torment Theory,” “Protestantism—creeds, clergy, etc.,” “Romanism—popes, cardinals, etc., etc.”—and all of them were falling.
The clergy were furious at such exposure, just as the Jewish clergy had been when Jesus exposed their hypocrisy. (Matt. 23:1-39; 26:3, 4) In Canada the clergy reacted quickly. In January 1918, upwards of 600 Canadian clergymen signed a petition calling on the government to suppress the publications of the International Bible Students Association. As reported in the Winnipeg Evening Tribune, after Charles G. Paterson, pastor of St. Stephen’s Church in Winnipeg, denounced from his pulpit The Bible Students Monthly, which contained the article “The Fall of Babylon,” Attorney General Johnson got in touch with him to obtain a copy. Shortly thereafter, on February 12, 1918, a Canadian government decree made it a crime punishable by fine and imprisonment to have in one’s possession either the book The Finished Mystery or the tract shown above.
That same month, on February 24, Brother Rutherford, the newly elected president of the Watch Tower Society, spoke in the United States at Temple Auditorium in Los Angeles, California. His subject was a startling one: “The World Has Ended—Millions Now Living May Never Die.” In setting forth evidence that the world as known till that time really had ended in 1914, he pointed to the war then in progress, along with accompanying famine, and identified it as part of the sign foretold by Jesus. (Matt. 24:3-8) Then he focused attention on the clergy, saying:
“As a class, according to the scriptures, the clergymen are the most reprehensible men on earth for the great war that is now afflicting mankind. For 1,500 years they have taught the people the satanic doctrine of the divine right of kings to rule. They have mixed politics and religion, church and state; have proved disloyal to their God-given privilege of proclaiming the message of Messiah’s kingdom, and have given themselves over to encouraging the rulers to believe that the king reigns by divine right, and therefore whatsoever he does is right.” Showing the result of this, he said: “Ambitious kings of Europe armed for war, because they desired to grab the territory of the other peoples; and the clergy patted them on the back and said: ‘Go to it, you can do no wrong; whatsoever you do is all right.’” But it was not only the European clergy that were doing it, and the preachers in America knew it.
An extensive report of this lecture was published the next day in the Los Angeles Morning Tribune. The clergy were so angered that the ministerial association held a meeting that very day and sent their president to the managers of the newspaper to make known their intense displeasure. Following this, there was a period of constant harassment of the offices of the Watch Tower Society by members of the government’s intelligence bureau.
During this period of nationalistic fervor, a conference of clergymen was held in Philadelphia, in the United States, at which a resolution was adopted calling for revision of the Espionage Act so that alleged violators could be tried by court-martial and subjected to the death penalty. John Lord O’Brian, special assistant to the attorney general for war work, was selected to present the matter to the Senate. The president of the United States did not permit that bill to become law. But Major-General James Franklin Bell, of the U.S. Army, in the heat of anger divulged to J. F. Rutherford and W. E. Van Amburgh what had occurred at the conference and the intent to use that bill against the officers of the Watch Tower Society.
Official U.S. government files show that at least from February 21, 1918, onward, John Lord O’Brian was personally involved in efforts to build a case against the Bible Students. The Congressional Record of April 24 and May 4 contains memos from John Lord O’Brian in which he argued strongly that if the law allowed for utterance of “what is true, with good motives, and for justifiable ends,” as stated in the so-called France Amendment to the Espionage Act and as had been endorsed by the U.S. Senate, he could not successfully prosecute the Bible Students.
In Worcester, Massachusetts, “Rev.” B. F. Wyland further exploited the war fever by asserting that the Bible Students were carrying on propaganda for the enemy. He published an article in the Daily Telegram in which he declared: “One of your patriotic duties that confronts you as citizens is the suppression of the International Bible Students Association, with headquarters in Brooklyn. They have, under the guise of religion, been carrying on German propaganda in Worcester by selling their book, ‘The Finished Mystery.’” He bluntly told the authorities it was their duty to arrest the Bible Students and prevent them from holding further meetings.
The spring and summer of 1918 witnessed widespread persecution of the Bible Students, both in North America and in Europe. Among the instigators were clergymen of Baptist, Methodist, Episcopal, Lutheran, Roman Catholic, and other churches. Bible literature was seized by officers without a search warrant, and many of the Bible Students were thrown into jail. Others were chased by mobs, beaten, whipped, tarred and feathered, or had their ribs broken or their heads cut. Some were permanently maimed. Christian men and women were held in jail without charge or without trial. Over one hundred specific instances of such outrageous treatment were reported in The Golden Age of September 29, 1920.
Charged With Espionage
The crowning blow came on May 7, 1918, when federal warrants were issued in the United States for the arrest of J. F. Rutherford, the president of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, and his closest associates.
The previous day, in Brooklyn, New York, two indictments had been filed against Brother Rutherford and his associates. If the desired results did not come from one case, the other indictment could have been pursued. The first indictment, which laid charges against the greater number of individuals, included four counts: Two charged them with conspiring to violate the Espionage Act of June 15, 1917; and two counts charged them with attempting to carry out their illegal plans or actually doing so. It was alleged that they were conspiring to cause insubordination and refusal of duty in the armed forces of the United States and that they were conspiring to obstruct the recruiting and enlisting of men for such service when the nation was at war, also that they had attempted to do or had actually done both of these things. The indictment made particular mention of publication and distribution of the book The Finished Mystery. The second indictment construed the sending of a check to Europe (which was to be used in the work of Bible education in Germany) to be inimical to the interests of the United States. When the defendants were taken to court, it was the first indictment, the one with four counts, that was pursued.
Yet another indictment of C. J. Woodworth and J. F. Rutherford under the Espionage Act was at that time pending in Scranton, Pennsylvania. But, according to a letter from John Lord O’Brian dated May 20, 1918, members of the Department of Justice feared that U.S. District Judge Witmer, before whom the case would be tried, would not agree with their use of the Espionage Act to suppress the activity of men who, because of sincere religious convictions, said things that others might construe as antiwar propaganda. So the Justice Department held the Scranton case in abeyance, pending the outcome of the one in Brooklyn. The government also managed the situation so that Judge Harland B. Howe, from Vermont, whom John Lord O’Brian knew agreed with his viewpoint on such matters, would sit as judge in the case in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. The case went to trial on June 5, with Isaac R. Oeland and Charles J. Buchner, a Roman Catholic, as prosecutors. During the trial, as Brother Rutherford observed, Catholic priests frequently conferred with Buchner and Oeland.
As the case proceeded, it was shown that the officers of the Society and the compilers of the book had no intent to interfere with the country’s war effort. Evidence presented during the trial showed that plans for the writing of the book—indeed, the writing of most of the manuscript—had occurred before the United States declared war (on April 6, 1917) and that the original contract for publication had been signed before the United States had passed the law (on June 15) that they were said to have violated.
The prosecution highlighted additions to the book made during April and June of 1917, in the course of processing the copy and reading the proofs. These included a quotation from John Haynes Holmes, a clergyman who had forcefully declared that the war was a violation of Christianity. As indicated by one of the defense attorneys, that clergyman’s comments, published under the title A Statement to My People on the Eve of War, was still on sale in the United States at the time of the trial. Neither the clergyman nor the publisher was on trial for it. But it was the Bible Students who referred to his sermon who were held liable for the sentiments expressed in it.
The book did not tell men of the world that they had no right to engage in war. But, in explanation of prophecy, it did quote excerpts from issues of The Watch Tower of 1915 to show the inconsistency of clergymen who professed to be ministers of Christ but who were acting as recruiting agents for nations at war.
When it had been learned that the government objected to the book, Brother Rutherford had immediately sent a telegram to the printer to stop producing it, and at the same time, a representative of the Society had been dispatched to the intelligence section of the U.S. Army to find out what their objection was. When it was learned that because of the war then in progress, pages 247-53 of the book were viewed as objectionable, the Society directed that those pages be cut out of all copies of the book before they were offered to the public. And when the government notified district attorneys that further distribution would be a violation of the Espionage Act (although the government declined to express an opinion to the Society on the book in its altered form), the Society directed that all public distribution of the book be suspended.
Why Such Severe Punishment?
Regardless of all of this, on June 20, 1918, the jury returned a verdict finding each of the defendants guilty on each count of the indictment. The next day, seven* of them were sentenced to four terms of 20 years each, to be served concurrently. On July 10, the eighth* was sentenced to four concurrent terms of 10 years. How severe were those sentences? In a note to the attorney general on March 12, 1919, U.S. president Woodrow Wilson acknowledged that “the terms of imprisonment are clearly excessive.” In fact, the man who fired the shots at Sarajevo that killed the crown prince of the Austro-Hungarian Empire—which incident triggered the events that plunged the nations into World War I—had not been given a more severe sentence. His sentence was 20 years in prison—not four terms of 20 years, as in the case of the Bible Students!
What was the motivation behind the imposing of such severe prison terms on the Bible Students? Judge Harland B. Howe declared: “In the opinion of the Court, the religious propaganda which these defendants have vigorously advocated and spread throughout the nation as well as among our allies, is a greater danger than a division of the German Army. . . . A person preaching religion usually has much influence, and if he is sincere, he is all the more effective. This aggravates rather than mitigates the wrong they have done. Therefore, as the only prudent thing to do with such persons, the Court has concluded that the punishment should be severe.” It is also noteworthy, however, that before passing sentence, Judge Howe said that statements made by attorneys for the defendants had called into question and treated severely not only the law officers of the government but “all the ministers throughout the land.”
The decision was immediately appealed to the U.S. circuit court of appeals. But bail pending the hearing of that appeal was arbitrarily refused by Judge Howe,* and on July 4, before a third and final appeal for bail could be heard, the first seven brothers were hastily moved to the federal penitentiary in Atlanta, Georgia. Thereafter, it was demonstrated that there were 130 procedural errors in that highly prejudiced trial. Months of work went into the preparation of required papers for an appeal hearing. Meanwhile, the war ended. On February 19, 1919, the eight brothers in prison sent an appeal for executive clemency to Woodrow Wilson, the president of the United States. Other letters urging the release of the brothers were sent by numerous citizens to the newly appointed attorney general. Then, on March 1, 1919, in reply to an inquiry from the attorney general, Judge Howe recommended “immediate commutation” of the sentences. While this would have reduced the sentences, it would also have had the effect of affirming the guilt of the defendants. Before this could be done, the attorneys for the brothers had a court order served on the U.S. attorney that brought the case before the appeals court.
Nine months after Rutherford and his associates were sentenced—and with the war past—on March 21, 1919, the appeals court ordered bail for all eight defendants, and on March 26, they were released in Brooklyn on bail of $10,000 each. On May 14, 1919, the U.S. circuit court of appeals in New York ruled: “The defendants in this case did not have the temperate and impartial trial to which they were entitled, and for that reason the judgment is reversed.” The case was remanded for a new trial. However, on May 5, 1920, after the defendants had appeared in court, on call, five times, the government’s attorney, in open court in Brooklyn, announced withdrawal of the prosecution.* Why? As revealed in correspondence preserved in the U.S. National Archives, the Department of Justice feared that if the issues were presented to an unbiased jury, with the war hysteria gone, the case would be lost. U.S. attorney L. W. Ross stated in a letter to the attorney general: “It would be better, I think, for our relations with the public, if we should on our own initiative” state that the case would be pressed no further.
On the same day, May 5, 1920, the alternate indictment that had been filed in May 1918 against J. F. Rutherford and four of his associates was also dismissed.
Who Really Instigated It?
Was all of this really instigated by the clergy? John Lord O’Brian denied it. But the facts were well-known by those who lived at that time. On March 22, 1919, Appeal to Reason, a newspaper published at Girard, Kansas, protested: “Followers of Pastor Russell, Pursued by Malice of ‘Orthodox’ Clergy, Were Convicted and Jailed Without Bail, Though They Made Every Effort That Was Possible to Comply with the Provisions of Espionage Law. . . . We declare that, regardless of whether or not the Espionage Act was technically constitutional or ethically justifiable, these followers of Pastor Russell were wrongfully convicted under its provisions. An open-minded study of the evidence will speedily convince any one that these men not only had no intention of violating the law, but that they did not violate it.”
Years later, in the book Preachers Present Arms, Dr. Ray Abrams observed: “It is significant that so many clergymen took an aggressive part in trying to get rid of the Russellites [as the Bible Students were derogatorily labeled]. Long-lived religious quarrels and hatreds, which did not receive any consideration in the courts in time of peace, now found their way into the courtroom under the spell of war-time hysteria.” He also stated: “An analysis of the whole case leads to the conclusion that the churches and the clergy were originally behind the movement to stamp out the Russellites.”—Pp. 183-5.
However, the end of the war did not bring an end to persecution of the Bible Students. It simply opened a new era of it.
Priests Put Pressure on the Police
With the war past, other issues were stirred up by the clergy in order to stop, if at all possible, the activity of the Bible Students. In Catholic Bavaria and other parts of Germany, numerous arrests were instigated in the 1920’s under peddling laws. But when the cases came into the appeal courts, the judges usually sided with the Bible Students. Finally, after the courts had been deluged with thousands of such cases, the Ministry of the Interior issued a circular in 1930 to all police officials telling them to stop initiating legal action against the Bible Students under the peddling laws. Thus, for a short time, pressure from this source subsided, and Jehovah’s Witnesses carried on their activity on an extraordinary scale in the German field.
The clergy also exercised powerful influence in Romania during those years. They succeeded in getting decrees published banning the literature and activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses. But the priests were afraid that the people still might read the literature that they already had and as a result would learn about the unscriptural teachings and fraudulent claims of the church. To prevent this, priests actually went with the gendarmes from house to house looking for any literature that had been distributed by Jehovah’s Witnesses. They would even ask unsuspecting little children whether their parents had accepted such literature. If any was found, the people were threatened with beating and prison if they ever accepted more. In some villages the priest was also the mayor and the justice of the peace, and there was very little justice for anyone who would not do what the priest said.
The record that some American officials made in doing the will of the clergy during this era is no better. Following the visit of Catholic Bishop O’Hara to La Grange, Georgia, for example, the mayor and the city attorney had scores of Jehovah’s Witnesses arrested in 1936. During their incarceration, they were made to sleep alongside a manure pile on mattresses spattered by cow urine, were fed wormy food, and were forced to labor on road gangs.
In Poland too, the Catholic clergy used every means they could devise to hinder the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses. They incited the people to violence, burned the literature of Jehovah’s Witnesses publicly, denounced them as Communists, and haled them into court on the charge that their literature was “sacrilegious.” Not all officials, however, were willing to do their bidding. The state attorney of the court of appeal of Posen (Poznan), for one, refused to prosecute one of Jehovah’s Witnesses whom the clergy had denounced on the charge that he had referred to the Catholic clergy as “Satan’s organization.” The state attorney himself pointed out that the immoral spirit that spread throughout Christendom from the papal court of Alexander VI (1492-1503 C.E.) was, indeed, the spirit of a satanic organization. And when the clergy charged one of Jehovah’s Witnesses with blasphemy against God by reason of distributing Watch Tower literature, the state attorney of the court of appeal in Thorn (Toruń) demanded acquittal, saying: ‘The Witnesses of Jehovah take exactly the same stand as did the first Christians. Misrepresented and persecuted, they stand for the highest ideals in a corrupt and falling world organization.’
Canadian government archives reveal that it was in compliance with a letter from the palace of Catholic Cardinal Villeneuve, of Quebec, to the minister of justice, Ernest Lapointe, that Jehovah’s Witnesses were banned in Canada in 1940. Other government officials thereafter called for a full explanation of the reasons for that action, but Lapointe’s replies were not at all satisfying to many members of the Canadian Parliament.
On the other side of the globe, there was similar scheming by the clergy. The Australian government archives contain a letter from the Roman Catholic archbishop of Sydney to Attorney General W. M. Hughes urging that Jehovah’s Witnesses be declared illegal. That letter was written on August 20, 1940, just five months before a ban was imposed. After reviewing the alleged basis for the ban, Mr. Justice Williams of the Australian High Court later said that it had “the effect of making the advocacy of the principles and doctrines of the Christian religion unlawful and every church service held by believers in the birth of Christ an unlawful assembly.” On June 14, 1943, the Court ruled that the ban was not consistent with Australian law.
In Switzerland a Catholic newspaper demanded that the authorities seize literature of the Witnesses that the church viewed as offensive. They threatened that if this was not done, they would take the law into their own hands. And in many parts of the world, that is exactly what they did!
Religious Leaders Resort to Violence
The Catholic clergy in France felt that they still had a firm hold on the people, and they were determined not to let anything interfere with that monopoly. During 1924-25, the Bible Students in many lands were distributing the tract Ecclesiastics Indicted. In 1925, J. F. Rutherford was scheduled to speak in Paris on the subject “The Frauds of the Clergy Exposed.” Regarding what took place at the meeting, an eyewitness reported: “The hall was packed. Brother Rutherford appeared on the stage, and there was warm applause. He began to speak, when suddenly about 50 priests and members of Catholic Action, armed with sticks, rushed into the hall singing La Marseillaise [the French national anthem]. They threw tracts from the top of the stairs. One priest got up onto the stage. Two young men threw him down. Three times, Brother Rutherford left the stage and then came back. Finally, he left for good. . . . The tables showing a display of our literature were overturned and our books thrown all around. It was utter confusion!” But it was not an isolated incident.
Jack Corr, while witnessing in Ireland, frequently felt the fury of the Catholic clergy. On one occasion a mob, instigated by the parish priest, pulled him out of bed at midnight and then burned all his literature in the public square. At Roscrea in County Tipperary, Victor Gurd and Jim Corby arrived at their accommodations only to find that opposers had stolen their literature, soaked it with petrol, and set it on fire. Around the bonfire stood the local police, the clergy, and children from the area, singing “Faith of Our Fathers.”
Before Jehovah’s Witnesses met in Madison Square Garden in New York in 1939, threats were made by followers of the Catholic priest Charles Coughlin that the assembly would be broken up. The police were notified. On June 25, Brother Rutherford spoke to the 18,000 or more in that auditorium, as well as to a large international radio audience, on the subject “Government and Peace.” After the discourse had begun, 200 or more Roman Catholics and Nazis, led by several Catholic priests, crowded into the balcony. At a given signal, they set up a terrific howl, shouting “Heil Hitler!” and “Viva Franco!” They used all manner of vile language and threats and assaulted many of the ushers who took action to quell the disturbance. The mobsters did not succeed in breaking up the meeting. Brother Rutherford continued to speak forcefully and fearlessly. At the height of the tumult, he declared: “Note today the Nazis and Catholics that would like to break up this meeting, but by God’s grace cannot do it.” The audience gave support with round after round of vigorous applause. The disturbance became a permanent part of the sound recording made on that occasion, and it has been heard by people in many parts of the world.
Where possible, however, as in the days of the Inquisition, the Roman Catholic clergy made use of the State to suppress any who dared question the church’s teachings and practices.
Brutal Treatment in Concentration Camps
In Adolf Hitler the clergy had a willing ally. During 1933, the very year that a concordat between the Vatican and Nazi Germany was signed, Hitler launched a campaign to annihilate Jehovah’s Witnesses in Germany. By 1935 they were proscribed in the entire nation. But who instigated this?
A Catholic priest, writing in Der Deutsche Weg (a German-language newspaper published in Lodz, Poland), said in its issue of May 29, 1938: “There is now one country on earth where the so-called . . . Bible Students [Jehovah’s Witnesses] are forbidden. That is Germany! . . . When Adolf Hitler came to power, and the German Catholic Episcopate repeated their request, Hitler said: ‘These so-called Earnest Bible Students [Jehovah’s Witnesses] are troublemakers; . . . I consider them quacks; I do not tolerate that the German Catholics shall be besmirched in such a manner by this American Judge Rutherford; I dissolve [Jehovah’s Witnesses] in Germany.’”—Italics ours.
Was it only the German Catholic Episcopate that wanted such action taken? As reported in the Oschatzer Gemeinnützige, of April 21, 1933, in a radio address on April 20, Lutheran minister Otto spoke about the “closest cooperation” on the part of the German Lutheran Church of the State of Saxony with the political leaders of the nation, and then he declared: “The first results of this cooperation can already be reported in the ban today placed upon the International Association of Earnest Bible Students [Jehovah’s Witnesses] and its subdivisions in Saxony.”
Thereafter, the Nazi State unleashed one of the most barbaric persecutions of Christians in recorded history. Thousands of Jehovah’s Witnesses—from Germany, Austria, Poland, Czechoslovakia, the Netherlands, France, and other countries—were thrown into concentration camps. Here they were subjected to the most cruel and sadistic treatment imaginable. It was not unusual for them to be cursed and kicked, then forced to do knee-bending, jumping, and crawling for hours on end, until they fainted or dropped from exhaustion, while guards laughed with glee. Some were forced to stand naked or lightly clad in the courtyard in midwinter. Many were whipped until they were unconscious and their backs were covered with blood. Others were used as guinea pigs in medical experiments. Some, with their arms tied behind their back, were hung by their wrists. Though weak from hunger and inadequately clothed in freezing weather, they were forced to do heavy labor, working long hours, often using their own hands when shovels and other tools were needed. Both men and women were thus abused. Their ages ranged from the teens into the seventies. Their tormentors shouted defiance of Jehovah.
In an effort to break the spirit of the Witnesses, the camp commander at Sachsenhausen ordered August Dickmann, a young Witness, to be executed in the presence of all the prisoners, with Jehovah’s Witnesses out front where they would get the full impact. After that, the rest of the prisoners were dismissed, but Jehovah’s Witnesses had to remain. With great emphasis the commander asked them, ‘Who is now ready to sign the declaration?’—a declaration renouncing one’s faith and indicating willingness to become a soldier. Not one of the 400 or more Witnesses responded. Then two stepped forward! No, not to sign, but to ask that their signatures given about a year earlier be annulled.
In the Buchenwald camp, similar pressure was brought to bear. Nazi officer Rödl notified the Witnesses: “If anyone of you refuses to fight against France or England, all of you must die!” Two fully armed SS companies were waiting at the gatehouse. Not a single one of the Witnesses gave in. Harsh treatment followed, but the officer’s threat was not carried out. It came to be well recognized that, while the Witnesses in the camps would do almost any sort of work they were assigned, yet, even though punished with systematic starvation and overwork, they would firmly refuse to do anything in support of the war or that was directed against a fellow prisoner.
What they went through defies description. Hundreds of them died. After the survivors were released from the camps at the end of the war, a Witness from Flanders wrote: “Only an unswerving desire to live, hope and trust in Him, Jehovah, who is all-powerful, and love of The Theocracy, made it possible to endure all this and win the victory.—Romans 8:37.”
Parents were torn away from their children. Marriage mates were separated, and some never heard from each other again. Shortly after he got married, Martin Poetzinger was arrested and taken to the infamous camp at Dachau, then to Mauthausen. His wife, Gertrud, was incarcerated in Ravensbrück. They did not see each other for nine years. Recalling his experiences in Mauthausen, he later wrote: “The Gestapo tried every method to induce us to break our faith in Jehovah. Starvation diet, deceitful friendships, brutalities, having to stand in a frame day after day, being hung from a ten-foot [3 m] post by the wrists twisted around the back, whippings—all these and others too degraded to mention were tried.” But he remained loyal to Jehovah. He was also among the survivors, and later he served as a member of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Imprisoned Because of Their Faith
Jehovah’s Witnesses were not in the concentration camps because they were criminals. When officers wanted someone to shave them, they trusted a Witness with the razor, because they knew that no Witness would ever use such an instrument as a weapon to harm another human. When SS officers at the Auschwitz extermination camp needed someone to clean their homes or care for their children, they selected Witnesses, because they knew these would not try to poison them or try to escape. When the Sachsenhausen camp was being evacuated at the end of the war, the guards positioned a wagon on which they had their loot in the midst of a column of Witnesses. Why? Because they knew that the Witnesses would not steal from them.
Jehovah’s Witnesses were imprisoned because of their faith. Repeatedly they were promised release from the camps if they would only sign a declaration renouncing their beliefs. The SS did everything in their power to entice or force the Witnesses to sign such a declaration. Above all else, this was what they wanted.
All but a few of the Witnesses proved unbreakable in their integrity. But they did more than suffer because of their loyalty to Jehovah and their devotion to the name of Christ. They did more than endure the inquisitional torture that was inflicted on them. They maintained strong ties of spiritual unity.
Theirs was not a spirit of personal survival at all costs. They showed self-sacrificing love for one another. When one of their number became weak, others would share their meager food ration. When deprived of all medical treatment, they lovingly cared for one another.
Despite all the efforts of their persecutors to prevent it, material for Bible study reached the Witnesses—concealed in gift packets from outside, through the mouths of newly arriving prisoners, even hidden in the wooden leg of a new inmate, or by other means when they were on work assignments outside the camps. Copies were passed from one to another; sometimes they were surreptitiously duplicated on machines right in the offices of camp officials. Although there was great danger involved, some Christian meetings were held even in the camps.
The Witnesses kept right on preaching that God’s Kingdom is mankind’s only hope—and they did it there in the concentration camps! Within Buchenwald, as a result of organized activity, thousands of inmates heard the good news. In the camp at Neuengamme, near Hamburg, a campaign of intensive witnessing was carefully planned and carried out early in 1943. Testimony cards were prepared in various languages spoken in the camp. Efforts were made to reach each internee. Arrangements were made for regular personal study of the Bible with interested ones. So zealous were the Witnesses in their preaching that some political prisoners complained: “Wherever you go, all you hear is talk about Jehovah!” When orders came from Berlin to disperse the Witnesses among the other prisoners in order to weaken them, this actually made it possible for them to witness to more people.
Regarding the 500 or more faithful female Witnesses in Ravensbrück, a niece of French General Charles de Gaulle wrote following her own release: “I have true admiration for them. They belonged to various nationalities: German, Polish, Russian and Czech, and have endured very great sufferings for their beliefs. . . . All of them showed very great courage and their attitude commanded eventually even the respect of the S.S. They could have been immediately freed if they had renounced their faith. But, on the contrary, they did not cease resistance, even succeeding in introducing books and tracts into the camp.”
Like Jesus Christ, they proved themselves conquerors of the world that sought to make them conform to its satanic mold. (John 16:33) Christine King, in the book New Religious Movements: A Perspective for Understanding Society, says regarding them: “The Jehovah’s Witnesses offered a challenge to the totalitarian concept of the new society, and this challenge, as well as the persist[e]nce of its survival, demonstrably disturbed the architects of the new order. . . . The time-honoured methods of persecution, torture, imprisonment and ridicule were not resulting in the conversion of any Witnesses to the Nazi position and were in fact back-firing against their instigators. . . . Between these two rival claimants on loyalty, the fight was bitter, even more so, since the physically stronger Nazis were in many ways less sure, less rooted in the firmness of their own conviction, less certain of the survival of their 1,000 year Reich. Witnesses did not doubt their own roots, for their faith had been evident since the time of Abel. Whilst the Nazis had to suppress opposition and convince their supporters, often borrowing language and imagery from sectarian Christianity, Witnesses were sure of the total, unbending loyalty of their members, even to death.”—Published in 1982.
At the end of the war, over a thousand surviving Witnesses came out of the camps, with their faith intact and their love for one another strong. As the Russian armies neared, the guards quickly evacuated Sachsenhausen. They grouped the prisoners according to nationality. But Jehovah’s Witnesses stayed together as one group—230 of them from this camp. With the Russians close behind them, the guards became excited. There was no food, and the prisoners were weak; yet, anyone who lagged behind or dropped because of exhaustion was shot. Thousands of such were strewed along the line of march. But the Witnesses helped one another so that not even the weakest was lying on the road! Yet some of them were between 65 and 72 years old. Other prisoners tried to steal food along the way, and many were shot while doing it. In contrast, Jehovah’s Witnesses seized opportunities to tell people along the evacuation route about Jehovah’s loving purposes, and some of these, out of gratitude for the comforting message, supplied them with food for themselves and their Christian brothers.
The Clergy Continue to Fight
Following World War II, the clergy in the eastern part of Czechoslovakia continued to instigate persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses. During the time of Nazi domination, they had charged that the Witnesses were Communists; now they claimed that the Witnesses were against the Communist government. At times, when Jehovah’s Witnesses were making calls at the homes of the people, the priests urged teachers to let hundreds of children out of school to throw stones at the Witnesses.
Similarly, Catholic priests in Santa Ana, El Salvador, agitated against the Witnesses in 1947. While the brothers were having their weekly Watchtower Study, boys threw stones through the open door. Then came the procession led by priests. Some carried torches; others carried images. “Long live the Virgin!” they shouted. “May Jehovah die!” For some two hours, the building was pelted with stones.
In the mid-1940’s, Jehovah’s Witnesses in Quebec, Canada, were also subjected to horrible abuse, at the hands of Catholic mobs and officials alike. Delegations from the bishop’s palace called daily at the police department to demand that the police get rid of the Witnesses. Frequently, before an arrest was made, the police were seen emerging from the back door of the church. In 1949, missionaries of Jehovah’s Witnesses were driven out of Joliette, Quebec, by Catholic mobsters.
But not all the people in Quebec were in agreement with what was being done. Today, there is a fine Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses on one of the main thoroughfares in Joliette. The former seminary there has been closed down, purchased by the government, and turned into a community college. And in Montreal, Jehovah’s Witnesses have held large international conventions, with attendance running as high as 80,008 in 1978.
Nevertheless, the Catholic Church has used every means possible to maintain an iron grip on the people. By bringing pressure on government officials, they saw to it that Witness missionaries were ordered to leave Italy in 1949 and that, when possible, permits secured by the Witnesses for assemblies there were canceled during the 1950’s. In spite of this, the numbers of Jehovah’s Witnesses continued to grow, and by 1992 there were more than 190,000 Witness evangelizers in Italy.
As in the time of the Inquisition, the clergy in Spain did the denouncing and then left it to the State to do the dirty work. For example, in Barcelona, where the archbishop launched a crusade against the Witnesses in 1954, the clergy used their pulpits as well as the schools and the radio to advise people that when the Witnesses called on them, they should invite them in—and then quickly call the police.
The priests feared that the Spanish people might learn what was in the Bible and perhaps even show others what they had seen. When Manuel Mula Giménez was imprisoned in Granada in 1960 for the “crime” of teaching others about the Bible, the prison chaplain (a Catholic priest) had the only Bible in the prison library removed. And when another prisoner lent Manuel a copy of the Gospels, this was snatched from him. But the Bible has now reached the common people in Spain, they have had opportunity to see for themselves what it says, and by 1992, there were upwards of 90,000 who had taken up the worship of Jehovah as his Witnesses.
In the Dominican Republic, the clergy collaborated with Dictator Trujillo, using him to accomplish their aims even as he used them for his own purposes. In 1950, after newspaper articles written by priests denounced Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Watch Tower Society’s branch overseer was summoned by the Secretary of the Interior and Police. As he waited outside the office, the branch overseer saw two Jesuit priests enter and then leave. Immediately after that, he was called in to the Secretary’s office, and the Secretary nervously read a decree banning the activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses. After the ban was briefly lifted in 1956, the clergy used both radio and press in renewed slander of the Witnesses. Entire congregations were arrested and ordered to sign a statement renouncing their faith and promising to return to the Roman Catholic Church. When the Witnesses refused, they were beaten, kicked, whipped, and had their faces smashed with rifle butts. But they stood firm, and their numbers grew.
In Sucre, Bolivia, there was more violence. At the time of an assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses in 1955, a gang of boys from the Sacred Heart Catholic School surrounded the assembly place, yelled, and threw stones. From the church building across the street, a powerful loudspeaker urged all Catholics to defend the church and the “Virgin” against the “Protestant heretics.” The bishop and the priests personally tried to disrupt the meeting but were ordered out of the hall by the police.
The previous year, when Jehovah’s Witnesses were holding an assembly in Riobamba, Ecuador, their program featured a public talk entitled “Love, Practical in a Selfish World?” But a Jesuit priest had stirred up the Catholic populace, urging them to prevent that meeting. Thus, as the talk got under way, a mob could be heard shouting: “Long live the Catholic Church!” and, “Down with the Protestants!” The police commendably held them back, with swords drawn. But the mob hurled stones at the meeting place and, later, at the building in which the missionaries lived.
The Roman Catholic clergy have been in the forefront of the persecution, but they have not been the only ones. The Greek Orthodox clergy have been just as fierce and have used the same tactics, in their more limited area of influence. In addition, where they felt that they could do it, many of the Protestant clergy have demonstrated a similar spirit. For example, in Indonesia they have led mobs that broke up Bible studies in private homes and that savagely beat Jehovah’s Witnesses who were present. In some African lands, they have endeavored to influence officials to exclude Jehovah’s Witnesses from the country or to deprive them of freedom to talk about God’s Word with others. Although they may differ on other matters, the Catholic and Protestant clergy as a whole are in agreement on their opposition to Jehovah’s Witnesses. On occasion they have even joined forces in trying to influence government officials to stop the activity of the Witnesses. Where non-Christian religions have dominated life, they too have often used the government to insulate their people from any exposure to teachings that might cause them to question the religion of their birth.
At times, these non-Christian groups have joined forces with professed Christians in scheming to maintain the religious status quo. At Dekin, in Dahomey (now Benin), a juju priest and a Catholic priest conspired together to get officials to suppress the activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses early in the 1950’s. In their desperation they fabricated charges that were calculated to stir up all sorts of hostile emotions. They charged that the Witnesses were urging the people to revolt against the government, were not paying taxes, were the reason why the jujus did not give rain, and were responsible for the ineffectiveness of the prayers of the priest. All such religious leaders feared that their people might learn things that would free them from superstitious beliefs and a life of blind obedience.
Gradually, however, the influence of the clergy has diminished in many places. The clergy do not now find that the police are always behind them when they harass the Witnesses. When a Greek Orthodox priest tried to break up an assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses by mob violence in Larissa, Greece, in 1986, the district attorney along with a large contingent of police intervened on behalf of the Witnesses. And at times the press has been quite blunt in its denunciation of acts of religious intolerance.
Nevertheless, in many parts of the world, other issues have led to waves of persecution. One of these issues has involved the attitude of Jehovah’s Witnesses toward national emblems.
Because They Worship Only Jehovah
In modern times it was first in Nazi Germany that Jehovah’s Witnesses were outstandingly confronted with issues involving nationalistic ceremonies. Hitler endeavored to regiment the German nation by making the Nazi salute “Heil Hitler!” compulsory. As reported by Swedish journalist and BBC broadcaster Björn Hallström, when Jehovah’s Witnesses in Germany were arrested during the Nazi era, the charges against them usually included “refusal to salute the flag and to give the Nazi salute.” Soon other nations began to demand that everyone salute their flag. Jehovah’s Witnesses refused—not out of disloyalty but for reasons of Christian conscience. They respect the flag but regard the flag salute as an act of worship.*
After some 1,200 Witnesses had been imprisoned in Germany early in the Nazi era for refusal to give the Nazi salute and to violate their Christian neutrality, thousands were physically abused in the United States because they refrained from saluting the American flag. During the week of November 4, 1935, a number of schoolchildren in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, were taken to the school boiler room and whipped for refusal to salute. Grace Estep, a teacher, was discharged from her position in that school for the same reason. On November 6, William and Lillian Gobitas refused to salute the flag and were expelled from school at Minersville, Pennsylvania. Their father sued to have his children readmitted. Both the federal district court and the circuit court of appeals decided the case in favor of Jehovah’s Witnesses. However, in 1940, with the nation on the brink of war, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Minersville School District v. Gobitis, by an 8-to-1 decision, upheld compulsory flag saluting in public schools. This led to a nationwide outburst of violence against Jehovah’s Witnesses.
There were so many violent attacks upon Jehovah’s Witnesses that Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt (wife of President F. D. Roosevelt) pleaded with the public to desist. On June 16, 1940, the U.S. solicitor general, Francis Biddle, in a coast-to-coast radio broadcast, made specific reference to the atrocities committed against the Witnesses and said these would not be tolerated. But this did not stem the tide.
Under every conceivable circumstance—on the streets, at places of employment, when Witnesses called at homes in their ministry—flags were thrust in front of them, with the demand that they salute—or else! At the end of 1940, the Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses reported: “The Hierarchy and the American Legion, through such mobs that have taken the law into their own hands, violently worked havoc indescribable. Jehovah’s witnesses have been assaulted, beaten, kidnapped, driven out of towns, counties and states, tarred and feathered, forced to drink castor oil, tied together and chased like dumb beasts through the streets, castrated and maimed, taunted and insulted by demonized crowds, jailed by the hundreds without charge and held incommunicado and denied the privilege of conferring with relatives, friends or lawyers. Many other hundreds have been jailed and held in so-called ‘protective custody’; some have been shot in the nighttime; some threatened with hanging and beaten into unconsciousness. Numerous varieties of mob violence have occurred. Many have had their clothes torn from them, their Bibles and other literature seized and publicly burned; their automobiles, trailers, homes and assembly places wrecked and fired . . . In numerous instances where trials have been held in mob-ruled communities, lawyers as well as witnesses have been mobbed and beaten while attending court. In almost every case where there has been mob violence the public officials have stood idly by and refused to give protection, and in scores of instances the officers of the law have participated in the mobs and sometimes actually led the mobs.” From 1940 to 1944, more than 2,500 violent mobs assaulted Jehovah’s Witnesses in the United States.
Because of the wholesale expulsion of the children of Jehovah’s Witnesses from school, for a time during the late 1930’s and early 1940’s it was necessary for them to operate their own schools in the United States and Canada in order to provide education for their children. These were called Kingdom Schools.
Other countries too have harshly persecuted the Witnesses because they refrain from saluting or kissing national emblems. In 1959, children of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Costa Rica who would not engage in what the law describes as ‘worship of the National Symbols’ were barred from the schools. Similar treatment was meted out to Witness children in Paraguay in 1984. The Supreme Court in the Philippines ruled in 1959 that, despite religious objections, children of Jehovah’s Witnesses could be compelled to salute the flag. Nevertheless, school authorities there, in most cases, cooperated with the Witnesses so that their children could attend school without violating their consciences. In 1963, officials in Liberia, West Africa, charged the Witnesses with disloyalty to the State; they forcibly disrupted a Witness assembly at Gbarnga and demanded that everyone present—both Liberians and foreigners—pledge allegiance to the national flag. In 1976 a report entitled “Jehovah’s Witnesses in Cuba” stated that during the previous two years, a thousand parents, both men and women, had been sent to prison because their children would not salute the flag.
Not everyone has agreed with such repressive measures against people who, for reasons of conscience, respectfully refrain from participating in patriotic ceremonies. The Open Forum, published by the Southern California Branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, stated in 1941: “It is high time that we came to our senses regarding this matter of flag-saluting. Jehovah’s Witnesses are not disloyal Americans. . . . They are not given to law-breaking in general, but lead decent, orderly lives, contributing their share to the common good.” In 1976 a newspaper columnist in Argentina, in the Buenos Aires Herald, frankly observed that Witness “beliefs are only offensive to those who think patriotism is chiefly a matter of flag-waving and anthem-singing, not a matter of the heart.” He added: “Hitler and Stalin found [the Witnesses] indigestible, and treated them abominably. Lots of other dictators yearning for conformity have tried to suppress them. And failed.”
It is well-known that some religious groups have supported armed violence against governments that they disapproved. But nowhere on earth have Jehovah’s Witnesses ever engaged in political subversion. It is not because of disloyalty—because of supporting some other human government—that they refuse to salute a national emblem. They take the same stand in every country where they are found. Their attitude is not one of disrespect. They do not whistle or shout to disrupt patriotic ceremonies; they do not spit on the flag, trample on it, or burn it. They are not antigovernment. Their position is based on what Jesus Christ himself said, as recorded at Matthew 4:10: “It is Jehovah your God you must worship, and it is to him alone you must render sacred service.”
The stand taken by Jehovah’s Witnesses is like that taken by the early Christians in the days of the Roman Empire. Regarding those early Christians, the book Essentials of Bible History states: “The act of emperor worship consisted in sprinkling a few grains of incense or a few drops of wine on an altar which stood before an image of the emperor. Perhaps at our long remove from the situation we see in the act nothing different from . . . lifting the hand in salute to the flag or to some distinguished ruler of state, an expression of courtesy, respect, and patriotism. Possibly a good many people in the first century felt just that way about it but not so the Christians. They viewed the whole matter as one of religious worship, acknowledging the emperor as a deity and therefore being disloyal to God and Christ, and they refused to do it.”—Elmer W. K. Mould, 1951, p. 563.
Hated for Being “No Part of the World”
Because Jesus said that his disciples would be “no part of the world,” Jehovah’s Witnesses do not share in its political affairs. (John 17:16; 6:15) In this too, they are like the early Christians, concerning whom historians say:
“Early Christianity was little understood and was regarded with little favor by those who ruled the pagan world. . . . Christians refused to share certain duties of Roman citizens. . . . They would not hold political office.” (On the Road to Civilization—A World History, A. K. Heckel and J. G. Sigman, 1937, pp. 237-8) “They refused to take any active part in the civil administration or the military defence of the empire. . . . It was impossible that the Christians, without renouncing a more sacred duty, could assume the character of soldiers, of magistrates, or of princes.”—History of Christianity, Edward Gibbon, 1891, pp. 162-3.
This position is not viewed with favor by the world, especially not in lands where rulers require that everyone participate in certain activities as an evidence of support of the political system. The result is as Jesus stated: “If you were part of the world, the world would be fond of what is its own. Now because you are no part of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, on this account the world hates you.”—John 15:19.
In some lands, voting in political elections is viewed as an obligation. Failure to vote is punished by fine, imprisonment, or worse. But Jehovah’s Witnesses support the Messianic Kingdom of God, which, as Jesus said, “is no part of this world.” Therefore, they do not participate in the political affairs of the nations of this world. (John 18:36) The decision is a personal one; they do not force their views on others. Where religious toleration is lacking, government officials have seized on the Witnesses’ nonparticipation as an excuse for vicious persecution. During the Nazi era, for example, this was done in lands under their control. It has also been done in Cuba. However, officials in many lands have been more tolerant.
Yet, in some places those in power have demanded that everyone indicate support of the controlling political party by shouting certain slogans. Because they could not conscientiously do that, thousands of Jehovah’s Witnesses in eastern parts of Africa were beaten, deprived of their livelihood, and driven from their homes during the 1970’s and 1980’s. But Jehovah’s Witnesses in all lands, though they are industrious and law-abiding, are Christian neutrals as to political issues.
In Malawi, there is only one political party, and possession of a party card indicates membership. Although the Witnesses are exemplary in paying their taxes, in harmony with their religious beliefs, they decline to buy political party cards. To do so would be a denial of their faith in God’s Kingdom. Because of this, late in 1967, with the encouragement of government officials, gangs of youths throughout Malawi launched an all-out attack on Jehovah’s Witnesses that was unprecedented in its obscenity and sadistic cruelty. Over a thousand devout Christian women were raped. Some were stripped naked before large mobs, beaten with sticks and fists, and then sexually assaulted by one person after another. Nails were driven through the feet of the men and bicycle spokes through their legs, and then they were ordered to run. Throughout the country their homes, furniture, clothing, and food supplies were destroyed.
Again, in 1972, there was a renewed outbreak of such brutality following the annual convention of the Malawi Congress Party. At that convention it was officially resolved to deprive Jehovah’s Witnesses of all secular employment and drive them away from their homes. Even appeals of employers to keep these trusted workers availed nothing. Homes, crops, and domestic animals were confiscated or destroyed. Witnesses were prevented from drawing water from the village well. Large numbers were beaten, raped, maimed, or murdered. All the while, they were mocked and ridiculed for their faith. Upwards of 34,000 finally fled the country to avoid being killed.
But it was not over yet. First from one country and then from another, they were forced back over the border into the hands of their persecutors, only to experience more brutality. Yet, despite it all, they did not compromise, and they did not abandon their faith in Jehovah God. They proved to be like those faithful servants of God concerning whom the Bible says: “Others received their trial by mockings and scourgings, indeed, more than that, by bonds and prisons. They were stoned, they were tried, they were sawn asunder, they died by slaughter with the sword, they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, while they were in want, in tribulation, under ill-treatment; and the world was not worthy of them.”—Heb. 11:36-38.
Persecuted in All Nations
Is it only relatively few nations of the world that have betrayed their pretensions of freedom by such religious persecution? By no means! Jesus Christ warned his followers: “You will be objects of hatred by all the nations on account of my name.”—Matt. 24:9.
During the last days of this system of things, since 1914, that hatred has become especially intense. Canada and the United States led off the attack by imposing bans on Bible literature during the first world war, and they were soon joined by India and Nyasaland (now called Malawi). During the 1920’s, arbitrary restrictions were imposed on the Bible Students in Greece, Hungary, Italy, Romania, and Spain. In some of these places, distribution of Bible literature was forbidden; at times, even private meetings were prohibited. More countries joined in the assault during the 1930’s, when bans (some on Jehovah’s Witnesses, others on their literature) were imposed in Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, certain cantons of Switzerland, what was then Yugoslavia, the Gold Coast (now Ghana), French territories in Africa, Trinidad, and Fiji.
During World War II, there were bans on Jehovah’s Witnesses, their public ministry, and their Bible literature in many parts of the world. This was true not only in Germany, Italy, and Japan—all of which were under dictatorial rule—but also in the many lands that came directly or indirectly under their control before or during that war. Included among these were Albania, Austria, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Korea, the Netherlands, Netherlands East Indies (now Indonesia), and Norway. During those war years, Argentina, Brazil, Finland, France, and Hungary all issued official decrees against Jehovah’s Witnesses or their activity.
Britain did not directly outlaw the activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses during the war, but it deported the Watch Tower Society’s American-born branch overseer and endeavored to strangle the activity of the Witnesses by a wartime embargo on shipments of their Bible literature. Throughout the British Empire and the British Commonwealth of Nations, outright bans on Jehovah’s Witnesses or prohibitions of their literature were imposed. Australia, the Bahamas, Basutoland (now Lesotho), Bechuanaland (now Botswana), British Guiana (now Guyana), Burma (now Myanmar), Canada, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Cyprus, Dominica, Fiji, the Gold Coast (now Ghana), India, Jamaica, the Leeward Islands (B.W.I.), New Zealand, Nigeria, Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia), Nyasaland (now Malawi), Singapore, South Africa, Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), and Swaziland all took such action to express hostility toward Jehovah’s servants.
After the end of the war, there was a letup in persecution from some quarters but an increase from others. During the next 45 years, in addition to the fact that Jehovah’s Witnesses were refused legal recognition in many lands, outright bans were imposed on them or their activities in 23 lands in Africa, 9 in Asia, 8 in Europe, 3 in Latin America, and 4 in certain island nations. As of 1992, Jehovah’s Witnesses were still under restrictions in 24 lands.
This does not mean that all government officials personally oppose the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Many officials uphold religious freedom and recognize that the Witnesses are a valuable asset to the community. Such men do not agree with those who agitate for official action against the Witnesses. For example, before the Ivory Coast (now Côte d’Ivoire) became an independent nation, when a Catholic priest and a Methodist minister tried to influence an official to get Jehovah’s Witnesses out of the country, they found that they were talking to officials who were not willing to become pawns of the clergy. When an official tried to shape the law of Namibia, in 1990, to discriminate against refugees who were known to be Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Constituent Assembly did not allow it. And in many countries where Jehovah’s Witnesses were at one time under ban, they now enjoy legal recognition.
Yet, in various ways, in every part of the earth, Jehovah’s Witnesses are persecuted. (2 Tim. 3:12) In some places, that persecution may come mainly from abusive householders, opposed relatives, or workmates or classmates who manifest no fear of God. Regardless of who the persecutors are or how they try to justify what they are doing, however, Jehovah’s Witnesses understand what is really behind the persecution of true Christians.
Watch Tower publications have long pointed out that in symbolic language the first book of the Bible foretold the enmity, or hatred, of Satan the Devil and those under his control toward Jehovah’s own heavenly organization and its earthly representatives. (Gen. 3:15; John 8:38, 44; Rev. 12:9, 17) Especially since 1925, The Watch Tower has shown from the Scriptures that there are just two principal organizations—Jehovah’s and Satan’s. And, as 1 John 5:19 states, “the whole world”—that is, all mankind outside of Jehovah’s organization—“is lying in the power of the wicked one.” That is why all true Christians experience persecution.—John 15:20.
But why does God permit it? Is any good being accomplished? Jesus Christ explained that before he as heavenly King would crush Satan and his wicked organization, there would be a separating of people of all nations, as a Middle Eastern shepherd separates sheep from goats. People would be given opportunity to hear about the Kingdom of God and to take their stand on its side. When the proclaimers of that Kingdom are persecuted, the question is thrust even more prominently to the fore: Will those who hear about it do good to the “brothers” of Christ and their associates and thus show love for Christ himself? Or will they join with those who heap abuse on these representatives of God’s Kingdom—or perhaps remain silent while others do so? (Matt. 25:31-46; 10:40; 24:14) Some in Malawi saw clearly who were serving the true God and so threw in their lot with the persecuted Witnesses. Not a few prisoners as well as some guards in German concentration camps did the same.
Even though lying accusations are made against them and they are physically abused, even taunted for their faith in God, Jehovah’s Witnesses do not feel forsaken by God. They know that Jesus Christ experienced the same things. (Matt. 27:43) They also know that by his loyalty to Jehovah, Jesus proved the Devil a liar and contributed to the sanctification of his Father’s name. It is the desire of every Witness of Jehovah to do the same.—Matt. 6:9.
The issue is not whether they can outlive torture and escape death. Jesus Christ foretold that some of his followers would be killed. (Matt. 24:9) He himself was killed. But he never compromised with God’s chief Adversary, Satan the Devil, “the ruler of the world.” Jesus conquered the world. (John 14:30; 16:33) The issue, then, is whether worshipers of the true God will remain faithful to him in spite of whatever hardship they may undergo. Jehovah’s modern-day Witnesses have given abundant evidence that they are of the same mind as the apostle Paul, who wrote: “Both if we live, we live to Jehovah, and if we die, we die to Jehovah. Therefore both if we live and if we die, we belong to Jehovah.”—Rom. 14:8.
The Bible Students did not clearly understand at that time what the Witnesses now know from the Bible regarding men as teachers in the congregation. (1 Cor. 14:33, 34; 1 Tim. 2:11, 12) As a result, Maria Russell had been associate editor of the Watch Tower and a regular contributor to its columns.
Joseph F. Rutherford, president of the Watch Tower Society; William E. Van Amburgh, secretary-treasurer of the Society; Robert J. Martin, office manager; Frederick H. Robison, a member of the editorial committee for The Watch Tower; A. Hugh Macmillan, a director of the Society; George H. Fisher and Clayton J. Woodworth, compilers of The Finished Mystery.
Giovanni DeCecca, who worked in the Italian Department in the Watch Tower Society’s office.
Circuit Judge Martin T. Manton, an ardent Roman Catholic, refused a second appeal for bail on July 1, 1918. When the federal court of appeals later reversed the judgment of the defendants, Manton cast the one dissenting vote. It is noteworthy that on December 4, 1939, a specially constituted appellate court upheld the conviction of Manton for abuse of judicial power, dishonesty, and fraud.
That these men were unjustly imprisoned, and were not convicts, is demonstrated by the fact that J. F. Rutherford remained a member of the bar of the United States Supreme Court from his admission in May 1909 until his death in 1942. In 14 cases appealed to the Supreme Court from 1939 until 1942, J. F. Rutherford was one of the attorneys. In the cases known as Schneider v. State of New Jersey (in 1939) and Minersville School District v. Gobitis (in 1940), he personally presented oral argument before the Supreme Court. Also, during World War II, A. H. Macmillan, one of the men wrongly imprisoned in 1918-19, was accepted by the director of the federal Bureau of Prisons as a regular visitor to federal prisons in the United States to care for spiritual interests of young men who were there because of having taken a stand of Christian neutrality.
The Encyclopedia Americana, Volume 11, 1942, page 316, says: “The flag, like the cross, is sacred. . . . The rules and regulations relative to human attitude toward national standards use strong, expressive words, as, ‘Service to the Flag,’ . . . ‘Reverence for the Flag,’ ‘Devotion to the Flag.’” In Brazil, Diário da Justiça, February 16, 1956, page 1904, reported that at a public ceremony, a military official stated: “Flags have become a divinity of patriotic religion . . . The flag is venerated and worshiped.”
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The foremost persecutors of Jesus Christ were the religious leaders
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“God’s ordination, or authorization, of any man to preach is by the impartation of the Holy Spirit to him”
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“The Finished Mystery” book roundly exposed the hypocrisy of Christendom’s clergy!
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Christian men and women were mobbed, thrown into jail, and held there without charge or without trial
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“The terms of imprisonment are clearly excessive”—U.S. president Woodrow Wilson
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There was very little justice for anyone who would not do what the priest said
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The priests urged teachers to let children out of school to throw stones at the Witnesses
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The clergy joined forces to oppose the Witnesses
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Mobs assaulted Jehovah’s Witnesses in the United States
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In every part of the earth, Jehovah’s Witnesses are persecuted
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The Clergy Show Their Feelings
Reactions of religious periodicals to the sentencing of J. F. Rutherford and his associates in 1918 are noteworthy:
◆ “The Christian Register”: “What the Government here strikes at with deadly directness is the assumption that religious ideas, however crazy and pernicious, may be propagated with impunity. It is an old fallacy, and hitherto we have been entirely too careless about it. . . . It looks like the end of Russellism.”
◆ “The Western Recorder,” a Baptist publication, said: “It is a matter of small surprise that the head of this cantankerous cult should be incarcerated in one of the retreats for recalcitrants. . . . The really perplexing problem in this connection is whether the defendants should have been sent to an insane asylum or a penitentiary.”
◆ “The Fortnightly Review” drew attention to the comment in the New York “Evening Post,” which said: “We trust that teachers of religion everywhere will take notice of this judge’s opinion that teaching any religion save that which is absolutely in accord with statute laws is a grave crime which is intensified if, being a minister of the gospel, you should still happen to be sincere.”
◆ “The Continent” disparagingly styled the defendants as “followers of the late ‘Pastor’ Russell” and distorted their beliefs by saying that they contended “that all but sinners should be exempted from fighting the German kaiser.” It claimed that according to the attorney general in Washington, “the Italian government sometime ago complained to the United States that Rutherford and his associates . . . had circulated in the Italian armies a quantity of antiwar propaganda.”
◆ A week later “The Christian Century” published most of the above item verbatim, showing that they were in full agreement.
◆ The Catholic magazine “Truth” briefly reported the sentence imposed and then expressed the feelings of its editors, saying: “The literature of this association fairly reeks with virulent attacks on the Catholic Church and her priesthood.” Endeavoring to pin the “sedition” label on any who might publicly disagree with the Catholic Church, it added: “It is becoming more and more evident that the spirit of intolerance is closely allied to that of sedition.”
◆ Dr. Ray Abrams, in his book “Preachers Present Arms,” observed: “When the news of the twenty-year sentences reached the editors of the religious press, practically every one of these publications, great and small, rejoiced over the event. I have been unable to discover any words of sympathy in any of the orthodox religious journals.”
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“Persecuted on Religious Grounds”
“There existed a group of people in Mauthausen Concentration Camp who were persecuted on religious grounds only: members of the sect ‘Earnest Bible Students,’ or ‘Witnesses of Jehovah’ . . . Their rejection of the loyalty oath to Hitler and their refusal to render any kind of military service—a political consequence of their belief—were the reason for their persecution.”—“Die Geschichte des Konzentrationslagers Mauthausen” (The History of Mauthausen Concentration Camp), documented by Hans Maršálek, Vienna, Austria, 1974.
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Translation of Declaration That the SS Tried to Force Witnesses to Sign
Concentration camp .......................................
I, the ...................................................
born on ..................................................
herewith make the following declaration:
1. I have come to know that the International Bible Students Association is proclaiming erroneous teachings and under the cloak of religion follows hostile purposes against the State.
2. I therefore left the organization entirely and made myself absolutely free from the teachings of this sect.
3. I herewith give assurance that I will never again take any part in the activity of the International Bible Students Association. Any persons approaching me with the teaching of the Bible Students, or who in any manner reveal their connections with them, I will denounce immediately. All literature from the Bible Students that should be sent to my address I will at once deliver to the nearest police station.
4. I will in the future esteem the laws of the State, especially in the event of war will I, with weapon in hand, defend the fatherland, and join in every way the community of the people.
5. I have been informed that I will at once be taken again into protective custody if I should act against the declaration given today.
.................................., Dated ................ ...........................................................
[Box on page 662]
Letters From Some Who Were Sentenced to Death
From Franz Reiter (who was facing death by guillotine) to his mother, January 6, 1940, from the detention center Berlin-Plötzensee:
“I am strongly convinced in my belief that I am acting correctly. Being here, I could still change my mind, but with God this would be disloyalty. All of us here wish to be faithful to God, to his honor. . . . With what I knew, if I had taken the [military] oath, I would have committed a sin deserving death. That would be evil to me. I would have no resurrection. But I stick to that which Christ said: ‘Whosoever will save his life will lose it; but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same will receive it.’ And now, my dear Mother and all my brothers and sisters, today I was told my sentence, and don’t be terrified, it is death, and I will be executed tomorrow morning. I have my strength from God, the same as it always was with all true Christians away back in the past. The apostles write, ‘Whosoever is born from God cannot sin.’ The same goes for me. This I proved to you, and you could recognize it. My dear one, don’t get heavyhearted. It would be good for all of you to know the Holy Scriptures better still. If you will stand firm until death, we shall meet again in the resurrection. . . .
“Until we meet again.”
From Berthold Szabo, executed by a firing squad, in Körmend, Hungary, on March 2, 1945:
“My dear sister, Marika!
“These one and one half hours I have left, I will try to write to you so that you will be able to let our parents know about my situation, immediately facing death.
“I wish them the same peace of mind that I experience in these last moments in this world fraught with disaster. It is now ten o’clock, and I will be executed at half past eleven; but I am quite calm. My further life I lay into the hands of Jehovah and his Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, the King, who will never forget those sincerely loving them. I know too that there will soon be a resurrection of those who died or, rather, who went to sleep, in Christ. I should also like to particularly mention that I wish you all Jehovah’s richest blessings for the love you bestowed on me. Please kiss Father and Mother for me, and Annus too. They should not worry about me; we shall be seeing each other again soon. My hand is calm now, and I shall go to rest until Jehovah calls me again. Even now I shall keep the vow I took for him.
“Now my time is up. May God be with you and with me.
“With much love, . . .
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Noted for Courage and Convictions
◆ “Against all odds, Witnesses in the camps met and prayed together, produced literature and made converts. Sustained by their fellowship, and, unlike many other prisoners, well aware of the reasons why such places existed and why they should suffer thus, Witnesses proved a small but memorable band of prisoners, marked by the violet triangle and noted for their courage and their convictions.” So wrote Dr. Christine King, in “The Nazi State and the New Religions: Five Case Studies in Non-Conformity.”
◆ “Values and Violence in Auschwitz,” by Anna Pawełczyńska, states: “This group of prisoners was a solid ideological force and they won their battle against Nazism. The German group of this sect had been a tiny island of unflagging resistance existing in the bosom of a terrorized nation, and in that same undismayed spirit they functioned in the camp at Auschwitz. They managed to win the respect of their fellow-prisoners . . . of prisoner-functionaries, and even of the SS officers. Everyone knew that no ‘Bibelforscher’ [Jehovah’s Witness] would perform a command contrary to his religious belief.”
◆ Rudolf Hoess, in his autobiography, published in the book “Commandant of Auschwitz,” told of the execution of certain ones of Jehovah’s Witnesses for refusal to violate their Christian neutrality. He said: “Thus do I imagine that the first Christian martyrs must have appeared as they waited in the circus for the wild beasts to tear them in pieces. Their faces completely transformed, their eyes raised to heaven, and their hands clasped and lifted in prayer, they went to their death. All who saw them die were deeply moved, and even the execution squad itself was affected.” (This book was published in Poland under the title “Autobiografia Rudolfa Hössa-komendanta obozu oświęcimskiego.”)
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“They Are Not Anti-Country”
“They are not anti-country; they are just pro-Jehovah.” “They don’t burn draft cards, rise up in rebellion . . . or engage in any form of sedition.” “Honesty and integrity of Witnesses is a constant. Whatever one may think about the Witnesses—and a lot of people think a lot of negative things—they live exemplary lives.” —“Telegram,” Toronto, Canada, July 1970.
[Box on page 674]
Who Is in Charge?
Jehovah’s Witnesses know that their responsibility to preach does not depend on the operation of the Watch Tower Society or any other legal corporation. “Let the Watch Tower Society be forbidden and its Branch offices in various lands be forcibly closed down by state interference! That does not nullify or lift the divine charge from the men and women who are consecrated to do God’s will and upon whom He has put his spirit. ‘Preach!’ is written down plain in his Word. This order takes precedence over that of any men.” (“The Watchtower,” December 15, 1949) Recognizing that their orders come from Jehovah God and Jesus Christ, they persevere in proclaiming the Kingdom message regardless of the opposition they encounter.
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Like the Early Christians
◆ “Jehovah’s Witnesses have a religion they take far more seriously than the great majority of people. Their principles remind us of the early Christians who were so unpopular and who were persecuted so brutally by the Romans.”—“Akron Beacon Journal,” Akron, Ohio, September 4, 1951.
◆ “They [the early Christians] lived quiet, moral, indeed model lives. . . . In every respect except that single matter of incense-burning they were exemplary citizens.” “While sacrifice to the Genius of the emperor remained the test of patriotism, could the state authorities afford to wink at the contumacy of these unpatriotic Christians? The trouble in which the Christians consequently found themselves was not wholly unlike the trouble in which, during the war years, that aggressive sect known as Jehovah’s Witnesses found itself in the United States over the matter of saluting the national flag.”—“20 Centuries of Christianity,” by Paul Hutchinson and Winfred Garrison, 1959, p. 31.
◆ “Perhaps the most notable thing about the Witnesses is their insistence upon their primary allegiance to God, before any other power in the world.”—“These Also Believe,” by Dr. C. S. Braden, 1949, p. 380.
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“The Pittsburgh Gazette” gave extensive publicity to the debates that resulted from Dr. Eaton’s challenge to C. T. Russell
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Gross falsehoods about the marital affairs of Charles and Maria Russell were widely circulated by opposers
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The clergy were furious when 10,000,000 copies of this tract were distributed exposing their doctrines and practices in the light of God’s Word
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Newspapers fanned the flames of persecution of the Bible Students in 1918
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During the trial here of members of the Society’s headquarters staff, much attention was focused on the book “The Finished Mystery”
Federal court and post office, Brooklyn, N.Y.
[Picture on page 653]
Sentenced to punishment more severe than was the assassin whose shot triggered World War I. From left to right: W. E. Van Amburgh, J. F. Rutherford, A. H. Macmillan, R. J. Martin, F. H. Robison, C. J. Woodworth, G. H. Fisher, G. DeCecca
[Pictures on page 657]
When this assembly of Witnesses was held in New York in 1939, some 200 mobsters led by Catholic priests tried to break it up
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During World War II, thousands of Jehovah’s Witnesses were thrown into these concentration camps
Skull insignia of SS guards (left)
[Picture on page 664]
Part of a book for Bible study photographically reduced, put into a matchbox, and smuggled to Witnesses in a concentration camp
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Some of the Witnesses whose faith endured the crucible of the Nazi concentration camps
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Mob violence near Montreal, Quebec, in 1945. Such clergy-inspired violence against the Witnesses was frequent during the 1940’s and 1950’s
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Thousands of Jehovah’s Witnesses (including John Booth, shown here) were arrested when they distributed Bible literature
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Following a Supreme Court decision against the Witnesses in 1940, mob violence swept through the United States, meetings were disrupted, Witnesses were beaten, and property was destroyed
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In many places it was necessary to establish Kingdom Schools because Witness children had been expelled from the public schools