The Nazis Bluffed, but Not the Witnesses
The Theory and Practice of Hell is a book giving an analytical report of Nazi concentration camps. It was a best seller for years in Germany, and in April, 1955, an English edition was published. Of particular interest to readers of The Watchtower is what it has to say in the chapter “The Categories of Prisoners” about Jehovah’s witnesses, among which is the following:
“On September 6, 1938, the SS [Nazi elite guards] offered the witnesses [at Buchenwald] the chance to abjure their principles in writing, especially their refusal to swear oaths and render military service, and thus purchase their liberty. Only a very few failed to withstand this temptation. The others were henceforth subjected to savage pressure in order to break their spirit. On Easter Sunday of 1939 the Roll Call Officer of Buchenwald made another effort to persuade the Witnesses to acknowledge ‘State and Fuehrer.’ The success was nil. On Whitsunday all the Jehovah’s Witnesses again had to fall in on the roll-call area. A speech was delivered to them, and a fearful period of fatigue drill followed. For an hour and a quarter the wretched men had to roll about, hop, crawl and run while the boots of the Block Leaders helped them along.
“When the war broke out the Witnesses at Sachsenhausen concentration camp were invited to volunteer for military service. Each refusal was followed by the shooting of ten men from their ranks. After forty victims had been killed, the SS desisted. In Buchenwald this appeal to the Witnesses was made on September 6, 1939. First Officer-in-Charge Rödl told them: ‘You know that war has broken out and that the German nation is in danger. New laws are coming into force. If anyone of you refuses to fight against France or England, all of you must die!’ Two SS companies with full equipment were drawn up by the gate house. Not a single Jehovah’s witness answered the officer’s appeal. There was a brief silence and then came the order: ‘Hands up! Empty your pockets!’ The SS men began to assault them, robbing them of their last penny—a reprisal that seemed rather grotesque in view of what might have been expected. True, the witnesses were assigned to the quarry and during this entire time were barred from hospital treatment.
“One cannot escape the impression that, psychologically speaking, the SS were never quite equal to the challenge offered them by Jehovah’s Witnesses.”