Jehovah Witnesses were one of the groups of people hated by the Nazis and were killed by the hundreds, the numbers are unclear but are estimated to be between 1,000 and 2,500.
Nazi authorities denounced Jehovah’s Witnesses for their ties to the United States and derided the apparent revolutionary millennialism of their preaching that a battle of Armageddon would precede the rule of Christ on earth. They linked Jehovah’s Witnesses to “international Jewry” by pointing to Witness reliance on certain Old Testament texts.
Jehovah’s Witnesses could, however, escape persecution and personal harm by renouncing their religious beliefs. From 1935 Gestapo officers offered members a document to sign indicating renunciation of their faith, submission to state authority, and support of the German military.
From 1935 the authorities began sending hundreds of Jehovah’s Witnesses to concentration camps, where they were imprisoned with Communists, Socialists, other political prisoners and union members. Most of the Jehovah witnesses were conscientious objectors
August Dickmann was interned in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp in 1937. Three days after the outbreak of World War II in 1939, he was ordered to sign his military induction slip. When he refused, the camp commander contacted Heinrich Himmler,
Dickmann had refused to sign his military service record on religious grounds. The camp commander had asked permission to Himmler to make Dickmann an example for other conscientious objectors and Jehovah Witnesses.
Himmler agreed and on September 15 1939 after evening roll-call all 8,500 inmates were told to stay put in the main square.The camp staff forced the around 360 Jehovah’s Witnesses imprisoned in Sachsenhausen to stand in the front rows – where Dickmann’s brother Heinrich was also made to witness the shooting.
The execution squad was under command of Rudolf Höss, the future commandant of Birkenau. From his pistol August Dickmann received the coup de grace(merciful shot). There was no trial, no judge, no jury just an execution.
In the last days of the war, Himmler advised Höss to disguise himself among German Navy personnel. He evaded arrest for nearly a year. When captured on 11 March 1946 in Gottrupel , he was disguised as a gardener and called himself Franz Lang.
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