The Jehovah Witnesses are often forgotten as Holocaust victims.
An estimated 1,000 German Jehovah’s Witnesses died or were murdered in concentration camps and prisons during the Nazi era, as did 400 Witnesses from other countries, including about 90 Austrians and 130 Dutch Jehovah Witnesses.
On May 29, 1940, the Vereeniging of Bible researchers(The name used by the Jehovah Witnesses) was banned by the German occupier in the Netherlands. The office in Heemstede, the Bethel House, was closed on July 6, as well as the printing works in Haarlem and the printing presses confiscated. Services were also no longer allowed to be invested. However, the Jehovah’s continued to preach and evangelize leading to arrests. Until the end of April 1941, the Sicherheitsplizei (Sipo) together with Dutch agents arrested 113 people.
The Netherlands had only 500 Jehovah’s Witnesses in May 1940. Nevertheless, the occupying forces banned the organization, which was then still called the Vereeniging van Boekenvorschers, on May 29 and had the headquarters in Heemstede closed. Printing presses were confiscated and the Bible researchers were no longer allowed to engage in services. However, the Witnesses did not mind and continued to preach and evangelize. They put up placards saying, “Persecuting God’s witnesses is a crime” and “Jehovah will punish the persecutors with eternal destruction.”
As in Germany, this unaccommodating attitude led to arrests. Until the end of April 1941, the Sicherheitspolizei (Sipo), together with Dutch agents, arrested 113 people. Also W.H. Kuik, an itinerant preacher, helped. He was arrested and released after signing the abjuration statement. Kuik used the slogan: ‘I will comb all of Rotterdam and Schiedam, so that there are no more Jehovah’s Witnesses left’. The ex-Jehovah also assisted in the capture of Jews and illegal workers. After the war, he was sentenced to fifteen years in prison.
By the end of 1941, 241 Jehovah’s Witnesses had already been arrested. They ended up in camp Amersfoort or in Vught. In Vught they secretly held Bible readings and worship services. From these camps they were transported to German camps. There they were often the target of teasing and abuse because they persisted in their faith. One of the victims was Betje Honders (picture above)from Utrecht. She , attended a baptismal service on September 6, 1941, which was betrayed to the SD. The SD arrested 29 Witnesses, including 31-year-old Betje.
She was imprisoned in the Oranjehotel in Scheveningen and deported to Ravensbrück in October. There, too, Betje remained true to her faith and refused to carry out certain activities, such as sewing clothes for German soldiers. Probably for this reason she was transferred to Auschwitz in the autumn of 1942, where she died in March 1943.
During the war, about 500 Jehovah’s Witnesses were arrested in the Netherlands. More than 300 of them ended up in a concentration camp and 130 of them died from illness, deprivation or the bullet.