“Honest and Good People”
THE book The Man with the Miraculous Hands, by Joseph Kessel, is the story of the Finnish humanitarian Dr. Felix Kersten, a gifted manual therapist whose most influential patient was Heinrich Himmler, Nazi leader of the S.S. in the Third Reich. The dreaded S.S. chief was plagued by stomach cramps, and only Dr. Kersten’s treatments brought him relief. Dr. Kersten thus gained tremendous influence over the Nazi leader and he was able to wring concessions from Himmler that saved thousands of persons from death at the hands of the Gestapo. In a chapter entitled “The Jehovah’s Witnesses,” this book says:
“[The Jehovah’s witnesses] were seized and thrown into concentration camps, where they were treated in a particularly inhuman manner. Kersten found out about this and decided to help them. With war consuming more and more human lives, it had become common practice to use the people in concentration camps to work in factories and on farms. Inspectors, and even dogs trained to make them work as quickly as possible, came along with them. One day Kersten told Himmler that he lacked hands at Hartzwalde. He asked him if he could get some from the concentration camps.
“‘What kind of prisoners do you want?’ Himmler asked. ‘You have many Jehovah’s Witnesses,’ Kersten said. ‘These are honest and good people.’ ‘See here,’ Himmler cried, ‘they are against the war and the Führer.’ ‘Let’s not get into an intellectual discussion. I have a practical problem. Do me a favor, give me some women from this sect. They are real hardworking farmers.’ ‘Very well,’ Himmler said. ‘But without guards and dogs,’ Kersten continued. ‘That would make me feel like a prisoner. I promise you I’ll keep an eye on them myself.’ ‘Agreed,’ Himmler said.
“Sometime later, ten women in rags and with their skeletons showing through their skins, arrived at Hartzwalde. But they did not ask for bread or clothes; first they wanted a Bible. They had been deprived of theirs while they were in the camps. . . . The doctor asked Himmler for more Jehovah’s Witnesses for Hartzwalde. He got thirty in all, including some men.”