Communists Put Jehovah’s Witnesses On Trial
“SINCE September, 1950, sentences of Soviet Zone courts [Eastern Germany] have condemned the Sect of Jehovah’s witnesses to 1,679 years in the penitentiary, by which 222 members have been affected!” This is the shocking report published by the Wiesbadener Kurier in its edition of February 23, 1951. However, these figures reveal very little of the gruesome details connected with these convictions, nor do they show the utter disregard for justice and righteousness displayed by the courts under Communist domination.
First a wave of arrests by the Communist “Volkspolizei” swept hundreds of Jehovah’s witnesses into prison. Then came the ill-famed “public trials”. These were patterned after Soviet court procedure, which means that the judges and lawyers are all under the absolute control of the Soviet “State Security Service” (SSD), the dreaded secret organization of Russia that controls every department of the Eastern Zone government. Under this system judges and state attorneys do not have to be professional lawyers. In fact, most of them are nothing more than fanatical members of the Communist party. Even the few professional lawyers who are still practicing are under such rigid control by the SSD that their licenses may be taken away any time they fail to follow the dictates of the party.
The charges brought against Jehovah’s witnesses by the SSD always contain the same impossible lies that the witnesses are American spies and instigators against peace and democracy. The defendants are usually represented by what are called “deputy counsels for defense” who dare not produce the facts for fear they themselves will be arrested. Outside witnesses cannot take the stand in defense of Jehovah’s witnesses without running a great risk of being immediately arrested. The defendants too are at a great disadvantage, having very limited freedom to defend themselves.
Before being brought to trial, Jehovah’s witnesses are prepared and conditioned for a long time by torture, hunger, cold and the severest threats, in order to force them, when brought into court, to confess they are guilty of the charges made. For example, Witness L—— said that he had been kept in a dark cell and saw daylight for the first time in many months when brought out for trial. Others told how they were subjected to the ordeal of standing as long as eight hours in the glare of spotlights, during which time they were constantly questioned. All the time these witnesses are in prison awaiting trial they receive very little food, their daily starvation ration consisting of 150 grams of bread and a little thin, watery soup. Conditions in these Communist prisons, it is reported, are worse than the worst of the Nazi concentration camps. So this explains why the witnesses appear in such frightful physical condition, often nearly as thin as skeletons, when placed on trial.
Headlines in a German newspaper read: “In Standing-Cells and Dark-Imprisonment,” “Bible-Students Stand in Cold Water,” “Fourteen Receive Prison Terms for Life.” Under a Berlin date line of March, 1951, the dispatch says: “Since the beginning of the persecution of ‘Jehovah’s witnesses’ last August, the Soviet-Zone’s Justice Department has rendered in fourteen cases the penalty of imprisonment for life. More than 1,300 members have been arrested. Of that number about 250 received heavy prison sentences.
“About two-thirds are still under arrest. In many cases the prisoners were kept for four months, without interruption, in ‘Dark-Imprisonment’. Others were locked up, for 16 days, in ‘Standing-Cells’, or, being tied to posts in cellars, had to stand for hours in water up to the chest.”
FAITHFUL AND TRUE WITNESSES
The instigators of these trials are experiencing one disappointment after another. Usually when one of these mock trials begins there is a lot of scoffing and mocking, but this soon quiets down. Those present, even the judges, become interested in the testimony of the defendants and pay close attention as Jehovah’s witnesses joyfully and vigorously take their stand for Jehovah’s kingdom and for freedom of worship. Their logical arguments put the truth so clear that the judges often have a hard time finding reasons for upholding the sentences, which are usually fixed before the trials begin. One is reminded of that ancient witness for Jehovah, the apostle Paul, who spoke with such sincere and forceful conviction when on trial that the judge in the case, King Agrippa, cried out in accusation: “In a short time you would persuade me to become a Christian!”—Acts 26:28, NW.
With only a few exceptions all of Jehovah’s witnesses have displayed frank and fearless conduct, following closely the Biblical examples of faithful witnesses in the past. As then so now, they climax their testimony as Peter did: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men.”—Acts 5:29, NW.
In their final words, after being sentenced, Jehovah’s witnesses often express implicit confidence and trust that their righteous course will be vindicated by the Supreme Judge over all, Jehovah God. Confidently one shouted: “We will outlive you the same as we outlived the Nazis!” Another defendant warned: “You have sentenced me to twelve years but Jehovah will sentence you to life!” Under enthusiastic applause by the courtroom audience another witness pointed to the title of one of the public talks given by the witnesses, and said: “The kingdom of God is established and the just vengeance of Armageddon is near—Mrs. State Attorney, it is nearer than you think!”
Though it was a great encouragement to the defendants when fellow witnesses attended these trials, it was not always easy or possible. Sometimes the public was excluded altogether, and at other trials only a restricted and controlled “public” was permitted, individuals such as reporters for Communist newspapers, party members, etc. These were admitted on special tickets which they had received from the Communist organization. Sometimes the back of the courtroom was filled with a mob that continually sneered at the mention of Jehovah God or His witnesses, in an attempt to mentally oppress and confuse the defendants.
At one trial several of the women witnesses who tried to attend were refused entrance because they did not have the special Communist tickets. In the course of conversation that followed they told the guard they were witnesses. “Now that is different,” the guard replied, “if you are witnesses come on in.” Later, when more of the witnesses came, it finally dawned on the court official that they meant they were Jehovah’s witnesses when they said they were “witnesses”.
SPECTACLE BEFORE MEN AND ANGELS
During a trial in Ch—— the courtroom was invaded en masse by Jehovah’s witnesses who desired to be with their captive brothers during their trialsome hours. The trial was very unusual in that it lasted two days, due to the fact the defense lawyer was one of the few who still had the courage to fight every one of the false charges made by the Communists. During this trial it was possible for the defendants to give a thorough and detailed witness about the Kingdom activity of Jehovah’s witnesses. At times, long discussions went on respecting the conduct of the theocratic ministry school. As a result the fellow witnesses in the courtroom developed so much enthusiasm that even political party members were caught by it. In the hallways and in the courtroom, when the court took its recesses, officials and others stood around in groups with the witnesses, asking questions and receiving a mighty witness about God’s wonderful kingdom. Finally, at the conclusion of the trial, when the defendants were led away after receiving their sentences, which ranged from many years to life imprisonment, the witnesses among the spectators formed a corridor at the exit and sang theocratic songs of farewell. “It was just like a circuit assembly,” was the opinion echoed by all witnesses present!
In all of these trials the demand of punishment made by the prosecution is for many long years of imprisonment, even for life in many cases. This is why at only 25 of these mock trials, during a two-month period, 200 of Jehovah’s witnesses, both men and women, received sentences totaling nearly 1,700 years! And this does not include the many lifetime sentences handed down. There is actually no just or true appeal in these cases either, for only a formal review by another politically controlled and demon-inspired court is allowed. But what else is one to expect in the way of justice under godless totalitarian rule?
The following translation of a portion of a letter received from an eyewitness at one of these kangaroo trials proves interesting. “When the mock trial was in E——, and all the brothers had been sentenced to many years in the penitentiary, they were told they could appeal. The first brother then got up, and later the others followed his example. He said: ‘We renounce this appeal, we need no mercy from man, we await mercy from the Highest Judge, and this day we are already looking forward to His judgment!’ In the meantime brothers from E—— and vicinity that were in front of the courthouse on the stairs, in the halls and in the courtroom, shouted in chorus—there were several hundred brothers who had stuck through the two days of the trial—they shouted: ‘We want to say good-by to our brothers! We want to see our brothers!’ There was nothing else for the court to do, because the police had already gone into action and had even beaten some of the brothers. But the brothers stood like a wall and did not budge. Not even if they would have arrested them all would they move. So the brothers that had been on trial were escorted to the front of the courthouse, where they all took one another in their arms, shook hands, admonishing one another to endure on the side of the Great King to the final victory, because the time is nearer than we think. All this took place before the eyes of the police, the population of E——, and the judges and officials of the court, who were watching from their windows. Truly a mighty theatrical spectacle before angels and men! (1 Cor. 4:9, NW) We cannot thank Jehovah enough that we belong to this people!”
WHAT A POWERFUL BOND IS LOVE!
Another very interesting letter reads: “As I was at the court prison discussing the case of my husband a policeman who sympathized with us came up to me and said: ‘Today there is a trial of Jehovah’s witnesses; maybe your husband is among them.’ He brought me into the courtroom from the rear, because only those having a court pass issued by the state attorney came in through the front door, and these passes were given only to those of the opposition, not to Jehovah’s witnesses, and yet this is what they call a ‘public trial’.
“There were seven brothers on trial from the Watchtower Bethel home who received penitentiary sentences ranging from eight to ten years. When they were led into the court I received an awful shock, in spite of the fact I can take a lot. They were all tied together, and escorted by dogs as if they were terrible criminals. They were in an awful state, physically; but out of their skinny, pale faces beamed forth a peculiar light. Their shining eyes literally sparkled. But a look at their bodies showed they had suffered a great deal of torture. The trial lasted ten hours. The determination and loyalty of the brothers which was manifest throughout their testimony was simply wonderful! And how disgraceful were the lies and how unjust the dealings of the enemy! The world in general has not yet seen the like.
“When the brothers were led out I stood in the hallway in order to see them once more. One of them said: ‘Be courageous, and may you be guided by the Lord.’”
Yes, the State Security Service and the court officials in the Soviet zone of Germany have gazed in perplexity at this attitude of Jehovah’s witnesses. Never had this happened to them before. All their so-called “tried and proved methods”, which have worked so successfully in causing others to present a broken, self-confessing and repentant attitude when brought to trial, have proved vain when applied against Jehovah’s witnesses. The truth of the matter is, the opposers of Jehovah God and His witnesses know nothing about the power of God’s spirit or active force.
For God’s servants to be forewarned is for them to be forearmed. Both the warning and the arming counsel are found in the Bible, a study of which gives God’s servants great comfort and hope and peace of mind during such ordeals. Warned Jesus the great Prophet: “Be on your guard against men; for they will deliver you up to local courts and they will scourge you in their synagogues. Why, you will be haled before governors and kings for my sake for the purpose of a witness to them and the nations. However, when they deliver you up, do not become anxious about how or what you are to speak; for what you are to speak will be given you in that hour; for the ones speaking are not just you, but it is the spirit of your Father that speaks by you.”—Matt. 10:17-20, NW.
If the apostle Paul were on earth today, and read these reports from the Soviet zone of Germany, surely he would exalt and praise Jehovah God that His witnesses are standing firm and faithful for Theocracy, fully determined not to bend or break under the pressure of totalitarian persecution. Again Paul would exclaim: “We ourselves take pride in you among the congregations of God because of your endurance and faith in all your persecutions and the tribulations which you are bearing.” Why would he do this? Paul explains: “This is a proof of the righteous judgment of God, leading to your being deemed worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are indeed suffering.”—2 Thess. 1:4, 5, NW.