Account by Hans Levy, of his father’s experiences in Buchenwald concentration camp

The number of Jews murdered during the Holocaust is estimated on 6 million. I have often argued that this number is actually higher. I have no data to back this up, but if you read the testimony of Hans Levy, you can’t help but wonder. Did they include the number of suicides in that number of 6 million, and did they include the number of those we died somewhere else, as a result of the lingering effects of the maltreatment they got?

Below is the testimony of Hans Levy

“In 1933, at the start of the Nazi régime, my father lost his job working for the Berlin city council. He was a qualified banker and was employed by the council in this capacity.

Apart from the loss of his post, my father encountered relatively few problems right up until 1938. This was mainly because he was married to an “Aryan”, and the children from this marriage had been baptised and brought up in the Christian faith.

But in 1938 he was suddenly arrested, despite not having committed any criminal offence. Ten days later, we learned that he had been imprisoned in Buchenwald.

I have no cause to doubt my father’s testimony, which he revealed to us under pledge of secrecy. In Buchenwald he had to sign a declaration stating that he would tell nobody of his experiences, not even his closest family members.

On arrival, his head was shaved. Then he was made to hand over his personal effects. These were stuffed into a sack and

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drenched in a chemical fluid which meant the resulting creases could never be removed.

My father was given the hardest labour in the camp. He was assigned to work in the quarry. Shifts of 10-12 hours were not uncommon. The vast rocks had to be moved at a running pace. Any prisoner caught slacking, because he was simply too exhausted, was reported. This almost certainly led to him being put “over the block”. These punishments were inflicted by a young SS man known as “Jonny”. His brutality was feared throughout the camp.

The punishments were inflicted as follows: when the prisoners returned to the block after work, tired and near to collapse, a “roll-call” would suddenly be announced. What scant food the men were given had to be left behind as they scrambled to get to the parade-ground as quickly as they could. Once there, they were made to stand to attention for up to 18 hours until the camp leader “Jonny” appeared. The prisoner who was to be punished had to step forward as his name was called, and go and fetch the whipping-block on which he was about to be beaten. Three burly SS men would then strap the victim to the block. “Jonny” never let anyone get away with fewer than 25 lashes.

While two of the SS men beat the victim on the bare backside with sticks, a third would keep count. It often happened that after 20 lashes, this guy would suddenly announce: “I’ve lost count!” and the whole procedure would have to be started again. By the time the prisoner was unstrapped from the block he was completely broken, even unconscious. Very often the man’s kidneys had been struck so hard that the victim never ever recovered from the damage. This appalling “roll-call“ happened three times every week. The food, in short supply and of very poor quality, was dished out in the same bowls the prisoners washed in. Even those inmates with open tuberculosis were using the same bowls for eating and washing.

Inside Buchenwald camp was an area known as the “death zone”, a

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strip of land about 20 metres wide that ran all the way round the electrified perimeter fence. Any prisoner entering the “death zone” was shot dead either by one of the watch tower guards or an SS man who happened to be nearby – there was no warning. Stepping onto this strip of land was treated as an escape attempt.

One of the guards on duty grabbed my father’s hat and tossed it into the “death zone”. If my father had gone after it, he would have been immediately “shot while trying to escape”.

Many desperate prisoners chose to commit suicide by running onto the high-voltage fence. In the morning you could see their charred corpses hanging from the wire.

One of the most repulsive and degrading jobs was that undertaken by the “4711” column. The people chosen for this work were mainly those who had held high office or been important figures in the political and cultural life of the Weimar Republic. It was the job of this column to clean the latrines. Without any equipment. Anyone caught being physically sick would be thrown into the latrine by the SS guard on duty. Many drowned in the excrement.

One of the blocks housed Jehovah’s Witnesses and prominent Communists and Social Democrats. Unfortunately, my father did not know any of their names. For a “joke” the SS used to put these people on a chain and make them bark like dogs.

One of the cruellest punishments was what was known as the “iron maiden”, a torture implement modelled on that used in the Middle Ages. It consisted of an iron cage lined with long sharp nails. Prisoners subjected to this punishment rarely survived the ordeal.

We were only able to secure my father’s release because we (his family) managed to obtain a passage for him to Shanghai.

He was therefore freed earlier than others, but on the condition that he reported every day to his local police station.

My father left Germany on 20 February 1939. He died in Shanghai as a result of the ill-treatment suffered while in prison.”

Hans doesn’t mention this in his testimony but it is clear to me that the reference of 4711 is an additional cruel joke by the Nazis. 4711 is the original Eau de Cologne.

source

https://www.testifyingtothetruth.co.uk/viewer/metadata/105871/1/

May 29,1940- The ban on Bible study.

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.

https://kunst-en-cultuur.infonu.nl/geschiedenis/180722-de-vervolging-van-jehovas-getuigen-tijdens-de-oorlog.html

https://www.oorlogsbronnen.nl/thema/Verbod%20op%20Vereeniging%20van%20Bijbelvorschers

https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/nazi-persecution-of-jehovahs-witnesses

Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Holocaust

First of all let me start by saying I am not a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. I don’t agree with some aspects of their religion. However that doesn’t mean I don’t respect their faith, because I do. I respect anyone’s faith once it doesn’t include hatred and violence. Among my friends are Jews, Christians, , Buddhists, Baháʼí and Atheists. In fact I remember a few years ago I was doing a course in web development and I gave some of my fellow students a lift home, that time I had a microcosm of several faiths in my car, a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim and an atheists, all connected via one thing, education.

However the title of the blog is Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Holocaust and that is what I will be focusing on.

I have done blogs on the subject before but I found it important to do another one, because the more I read about it the more I realize how little is known about this.

Unlike the Jews and Roma victims who were persecuted and murdered by virtue of their birth, the Jehovah’s witnesses could save themselves by denouncing their faith. The courage the vast majority showed in refusing to do so, in the face of torture, maltreatment in concentration camps, and sometimes execution, won them the respect of many contemporaries.

Rather then going into too deep of details I will focus on just a few stories.

The picture at the start of the blog is of the Kusserow family. They were active in distributing religious literature and teaching Bible study classes in their home. Their house had been under intense scrutiny.

The oldest son,Wilhelm Kusserow,had been arrested for refusing to join the army. In 1940 he had made it clear to the judge that he only obeyed God’s law and not Hitler’s laws. He interpreted God’s command “thou shalt not kill” literally and refused to serve in the German army

For this he was executed by a firing squad in Muenster prison on April 27.

His younger brother, , also refused to join the army for the same reason . He was executed on March 28,1942 in Brandenburg prison by guillotine , aged 20.

Helene Gotthold was executed by guillotine in Berlin’s Ploetzensee Prison, on December 8. 1944.

Helene’s husband was arrested in 1936.basically for practicing his faith After searching her house, where they found Jehovah’s witnesses literature the Gestapo arrested her in 1937; she was beaten with rods and lost her unborn baby. The court gave her an 18-month sentence.

Helene and her husband were arrested again in February 1944. They were imprisoned in Essen, however after the prison had been destroyed in an Allied bombing raid, they were transferred to a prison in Potsdam. On August 4, the People’s Court sentenced Helene and five other Witnesses to death for illegally holding Bible meetings and undermining the nation’s morale. Before her execution, Helene was allowed to write a letter to her husband and children.

Helene was executed by guillotine in Berlin’s Ploetzensee Prison on December 8, 1944. Her family survived and resumed their Jehovah’s Witness missionary work in Germany.

I think many people underestimate the bravery of the Jehovah’s witnesses, still to this day. After reading and researching for this blog and the other blogs I did, I have found a new respect for this group of Christians. Does that mean I agree with all of their believes, of course it doesn’t but I don’t expect anyone to agree with all of my believes either. One thing I do know though, if I could have saved my live by denouncing my faith, there is a great chance I would have done that.

Sources

https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/id-card/helene-gotthold

https://www.fold3.com/page/286019312/jehovahs-witnesses-and-the-holocaust/stories

https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/photo/the-kusserow-family

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The survival of Robert Wagemann

A little known fact is that the Jehovah Witnesses were also persecuted by the Nazi regime.

It is estimated that 1,000 German Jehovah’s Witnesses died or were murdered in concentration camps and prisons between 1933 and 1945, as did 400 Witnesses from other countries, of which were about 90 Austrians and 120 Dutch Jehovah Witnesses . In addition, at least 273 Jehovah’s Witnesses were sentenced to death by military courts for refusing military service and were executed.

The imprisoned Jehovah’s Witnesses were given the document below. By putting a signature on that declaration they would be renouncing their faith and would be released. Of all the Jehovah Witnesses imprisoned, only fa handful of approximately two-thousand signed the declaration and were released.(The translation of the document is below too)

Lotte Wagemann was a practicing Jehovah Witness . In 1937 she was pregnant with Robert Wagemann. Despite being pregnant she was arrested and briefly imprisoned for her activities as a Jehovah’s Witness. She gave birth shortly after her release. Due to the stress of imprisonment and insufficient medical care, Robert’s hip was injured during delivery, resulting in a permanent disability.(His right leg is six inches shorter then the left)

Under the T4 Program, he was classified as “handicapped” , and two times he had been selected for ‘euthanasia’ but really it was for extermination. The first time they escaped to Berlin, and lived with relatives.

In 1943 amidst the growing chaos in Mannheim caused bu allied bombing Robert’s mother was ordered to go with Robert to Schlierbach near Heidelberg to a hospital where he would be examined. The Nazi Doctors confirmed the status of his disability . During the examination, Lotte overheard a conversation where one of the Doctors said that Robert was to be given a lethal injection after lunch..

Lotte waited for the doctors to break for lunch, took Robert and picked up his his clothes, and escaped while the nurses weren’t looking . Because of the increased bombings of the allies I presume the escape by Lotte and Robert didn’t get the same priority as it would have done earlier durig the war or even before the war. Their house was bombed in Mannheim So they spent the remainder of the war hiding with Robert’s grandparents in Iggelheim.

Despite having escaped the clutches of the T4 physicians ,Robert did not stay out of trouble. On his 1st school day he refused to to do the Nazi salute nor did he sing the national anthem.

This drew the attention of the authorities and Robert and his family were forced to move once again. This time to to a town called Haardt by Neustadt and lived with Robert’s maternal grandparents (. There in a little cabin in the woods they spent the remainder of the war.

The family survived the war, Robert emigrated to the United States in 1963 where he married . Robert and his wife have three sons and five grandchildren.

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sources

http://webapps.raritanval.edu/memorial/page1.htm

http://webapps.raritanval.edu/memorial/page2.htm

https://www.alst.org/pages-us/education/classroom-questions/Robert-Wagemann-classroom-questions.html

https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/nazi-persecution-of-jehovahs-witnesses

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August Dickmann-executed without a trial.

August_Dickman_(1910–1939)

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.

Nazi_JWrenunciationdocument

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.

heinrich-himmler-3

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.

 

SS-Sturmbannführer_Rudolf_Höß

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.

Sachsenhausen-18Je12-wyrdlight.jpg

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Source

The German War

Watchtower

International Tracing Services

Gregor Wohlfahrt and his Family.

 

Not every Holocaust victim was Jewish, besides the Roma,Sinti, Homosexuals,Disabled, the Jehovah witnesses were also persecuted by the Nazi regime.

https://dirkdeklein.net/2016/03/09/forgotten-history-the-jehovah-witnesses-holocaust/

Unlike Jews and Romani who were persecuted on the basis of their ethnicity, Jehovah’s Witnesses could escape persecution and personal harm by renouncing their religious beliefs by signing a document indicating renouncement of their faith, submission to state authority, and support of the German military.

Nazi_JWrenunciationdocument

Gregor Wohlfahrt was born in Koestenberg-Velden in the part of Austria known as Carinthia on March 10 1896 . During World War I, he served in the Austro-Hungarian army and was wounded. Raised a Catholic, Gregor and his wife became Jehovah’s Witnesses during the late 1920s. Gregor supported his wife and six children by working as a farmer and quarryman.

The Austrian government banned Jehovah’s Witness missionary work in 1936. Gregor was accused of peddling without a license and briefly jailed. When Germany annexed Austria in 1938, Gregor led his congregation in a boycott of the plebiscite ratifying Austria’s union with Germany. Because of Gregor’s anti-Nazi stand, the mayor of his town had Gregor arrested on September 1, 1939.

He was sent to a military jail.,where he had to wait about three months, to be transferred from the Vienna army jail to Berlin. Where he was put before the war court, the Reichskriegsgericht, and there, he was sentenced with about 28 other Witnesses to death.

Gregor was sent to Berlin to be tried by a military court for opposing military service. He was sentenced to death. On December 7, 1939, Gregor was executed by guillotine in Berlin’s Ploetzensee Prison.

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Authorities in Berlin, Germany, sent this notice to  Barbara Wohlfahrt, informing her of her husband Gregor’s execution on the morning of December 7, 1939. Although he was physically unfit to serve in the armed forces, the Nazis tried Wohlfahrt for his religious opposition to military service. As a Jehovah’s Witness, Wohlfahrt believed that military service violated the biblical commandment not to kill. On November 8, 1939, a military court condemned Wohlfahrt to beheading, a sentence carried out one month later in Ploetzensee prison in Berlin.

During the war, Gregor’s entire family was arrested for refusing to cooperate with the Nazis. Two of Gregor’s sons were killed: one son was beheaded in the Ploetzensee Prison, where Gregor had been beheaded in 1939; another son was shot. Gregor’s oldest son, Franz, refused to participate in military training, would not salute the Nazi flag, and was sentenced to five years of hard labor in a camp in Germany.

In addition to Gregor and two of his sons, other members of Gregor’s Jehovah’s Witness congregation were persecuted by the Nazis.

Franz Wohlfahrt:

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The eldest of the six children Born: January 18, 1920, Koestenberg-Velden, Austria.

HE was apprenticed to be a house painter and decorator. After Nazi Germany annexed Austria in 1938, like other Jehovah’s Witnesses HE refused to swear an oath to Hitler or to give the Hitler salute. Neighbors reported him to the police, but his boss protected him from arrest by saying that his work was needed.

Following his twentieth birthday, he refused to be inducted into the German army. In front of hundreds of recruits and officers he refused to salute the Nazi flag. He was arrested on March 14, 1940, and imprisoned. Later that year, he was sent to a penal camp in Germany. A new commander felt sorry for him; three times he saved him from execution between 1943 and 1945. He was impressed that Franz was willing to die rather than to break God’s command to love our neighbor and not kill.

Franz remained in Camp Rollwald Rodgau 2 until March 24, 1945. He was liberated by U.S. forces and returned to his home in Austria.

Gregor Wohlfahrt Jr:

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Gregor was the second of the six children: born July 24, 1921, Koestenberg-Velden, Austria.

Like his older brother, Franz, Gregor refused to be inducted into the German armed forces, following the Witnesses’ belief that military service violated God’s fifth commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.” Gregor was arrested. He was brought in chains before a military court in Berlin and sentenced to death on December 18, 1941. For Gregor, his father’s arrest and execution two years earlier on similar charges only strengthened his resolve to stand by his faith.

Gregor was executed by guillotine in Berlin’s Ploetzensee Prison on March 14, 1942. He was 20 years old.

Willibald Wohlfahrt

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Willibald was the youngest.born December 15, 1927, Koestenberg-Velden, Austria

When Willibald was 14, he and his remaining sisters and brother were taken away by the Germans. Willibald was sent to a Catholic convent in Landau, where a Nazi instructor tried to indoctrinate him. He beat Willibald when he refused to salute Hitler. When Allied armies approached, Willibald was sent to the battle front to dig trenches for the German home defense.

Willibald was killed in 1945 while on the work detail digging trenches in western Germany. He was 17 years old.

Regardless what you think of the Jehovah Witnesses’s doctrine you can’t but admire that they were willing to die for what they believed in. This to me makes these 4 men bonafide heroes of WWII. They refused to comply with the Nazi ideology and paid the ultimate price.

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