“They Could Have Been Immediately Freed”
GENEVIÈVE DE GAULLE, niece of Charles de Gaulle, former president of France, got to know Jehovah’s Witnesses personally in the Nazi concentration camp at Ravensbrück, northern Germany. She wrote the above words in a letter in August 1945.
The concentration camp at Auschwitz, Poland, was liberated on January 27, 1945. Ever since 1996, this date has been a memorial day in Germany for victims of Hitler’s Third Reich.
During an official memorial speech on January 27, 2003, the president of the State Parliament of Baden-Württemberg, Peter Straub, commented: “All those who suffered persecution because of their religious or political beliefs and who were willing to accept death rather than submit deserve our great respect, such respect as is hard to express in words. Jehovah’s Witnesses were the only religion that completely refused to accede to the demands of the Hitler regime: They did not raise their hand to give the Hitler salute. They refused to swear allegiance to ‘Führer and State,’ just as they refused to perform military and labor service. And their children did not join the Hitler Youth Movement.”
Jesus Christ said of his followers: “They are no part of the world, just as I am no part of the world.” (John 17:16) Hence, the stand of Jehovah’s Witnesses was purely on religious grounds. Straub continued: “Jehovah’s Witnesses, who had to wear a purple triangle on their clothes as concentration camp prisoners, were the only ones who could themselves have put an end to their own martyrdom. Signing a declaration denying their faith would have been sufficient.”
For the vast majority of the Witnesses, denying their faith was out of the question. Thus, about 1,200 of them died during the Nazi period. Two hundred and seventy were executed as conscientious objectors. They paid much more than just lip service to the statement: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men.”—Acts 5:29.
Jehovah’s Witnesses were not extraordinary people, as noted by Ulrich Schmidt, president of the State Parliament of North Rhine-Westphalia. Referring to his speech, the brochure Landtag Intern called them “ordinary people who, following their conscience, stood firm for their religious beliefs, showed civil courage, and offered ideological opposition out of Christian conviction.” We can be sure that Jehovah God rejoices over all who stick loyally to him under difficult circumstances. At Proverbs 27:11, we read: “Be wise, my son, and make my heart rejoice, that I may make a reply to him that is taunting me.”
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Courtesy of United States Holocaust Memorial Museum