Scrapbookpages Blog

February 16, 2010

Jehovah’s Witnesses – mistreated by the Nazis?

Jehovah's Witnesses at the Niederhagen camp near Wewelsburg

The photo above appears on my web site on this page.

Under the photo, I wrote this sentence:

“Note that the Jehovah’s Witnesses in the photo above appear to have been well treated.”

Recently, I got an e-mail from a woman who claimed that I was wrong in saying that the prisoners in this photo look like they were well treated.  She claims that the photo was taken long after the Jehovah’s Witnesses in the photo had been released and had recovered from their torture and mistreatment at the hands of the Nazis.

It is possible that some of the Jehovah’s Witnesses from the Niederhagen camp kept their striped prison shirts and posed years later for a photo.  It is also possible that their prison shirts still fit them when they gained weight after being released.

There is nothing that indicates the date of the photo.  Most of the Jehovah’s Witnesses at the Niederhagen camp were over 40 years old when they were sent there. They were selected from the Sachsenhausen concentration camp because of their building skills.  The Niederhagen camp was set up to house prisoners who were working on restoring the  Wewelsburg castle.

North tower of Wewelsburg Castle

The following quote is from my own web page about the Jehovah’s Witnesses at Niederhagen concentration camp:

After several escape attempts by the German criminals at Niederhagen, they were replaced by Jehovah’s Witnesses, called “Bible students,” who were considered to be more trustworthy and not likely to escape. The Nazis called the Bible students “volunteer prisoners” because they could have been released at any time if they would only renounce their religion and join the German Army. Note that the Jehovah’s Witnesses in the photo above appear to have been well treated.

According to a book by Hans Hesse, entitled “Persecution and Resistance of Jehovah’s Witnesses during the Nazi Regime,” published in 2001, there was a total of 306 Jehovah’s Witnesses sent to the Niederhagen-Wewelsburg camp and 19 of them died. Other sources say that there were 21 Jehovah’s Witnesses who died in the camp.

Hans Hesse attributed the low mortality rate among the Jehovah’s Witnesses to group cohesiveness and their willingness to help and support each other. By way of comparison, there were 903 German prisoners in other categories at Niederhagen-Wewelsburg and at least 357 of them died, according to Hans Hesse’s book.

Hans Hesse wrote that the Jehovah’s Witnesses were selected from prisoners at Sachsenhausen and Buchenwald for their professional skills in building construction. Although younger workers were preferred by the Nazis, 65% of the Jehovah’s Witnesses at Niederhagen-Wewelsburg were over 40 years of age, according to Hesse’s book.

Hermann Pister, the Commandant of the Buchenwald concentration camp claimed in his testimony before the American Military Tribunal at Dachau that the Jehovah’s Witnesses were imprisoned “not for their religious convictions, but for their Communist tendencies.”

The Jehovah’s Witnesses who were sent to the Niederhagen camp when they were over 40 years old could not have been imprisoned just because they refused to serve in the Army.  Could they have been arrested because of their “Communist tendencies?”

My e-mail correspondent also claimed that the Jehovah’s Witnesses were separated in the camps and were not allowed to live together.  So how did they support each other with “group cohesiveness” as Hans Hesse wrote?

In the early days at the Dachau concentration camp, visitors were brought to see the “model camp”  including some prison wardens from America.  According to a book written by Paul Berben, a former prisoner who wrote the official history of the camp, the visitors were always shown the barracks of the Jehovah’s Witnesses because they were the neatest and cleanest barracks of all.

Typically, the Jehovah’s Witnesses were given jobs in the homes of the SS officers because they were considered trustworthy.  In the movie “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas,” there is a scene where a Jewish doctor is peeling potatoes with a knife in the home of the Commandant of a camp that is supposed to be like Auschwitz.  There is no way that the Commandant of Auschwitz would have allowed a Jew to use a knife in his home, at least not while there were trustworthy Jehovah’s Witnesses available.

So what is the truth?  Were the Jehovah’s Witnesses mistreated by the Nazis or not?

According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, there were 20,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses in Germany and during the Nazi years, around 10,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses, mostly from Germany, were imprisoned in concentration camps. The USHMM estimates that 2,500 to 5,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses died in the concentration camps or prisons; more than 200 men were tried by the German War Court and executed for refusing military service.

According to the USHMM:

“After 1939, small numbers of Witnesses from Austria, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, the Netherlands, Norway, and Poland (some of them refugees from Germany) were arrested and deported to Dachau, Bergen-Belsen, Buchenwald, Sachsenhausen, Ravensbrück, Auschwitz, Mauthausen, and other concentration camps.”


  1. he release, why celebrate?
    I was providing service to a lady when she told me about the birthday of his granddaughter who was at his side, a Jehovah’s Witness, once remarked that not celebrate birthday. She immediately protested, saying, How? you have no identity?
    I told her that God sent his people to celebrate an important date. I told him that the people of Israel had been enslaved by the Egyptians for over 400 years and that Jehovah freed, with many signs that performed before Pharaoh Making known his name when he opened the Red Sea to the liberation of the people of Israel, where the Egyptians were drowned by trying to go after the people of Jehovah. I asked her what the Israelites were to celebrate? The day we were enslaved in Egypt? Or the day of his release? She said the day of his release. I answered her that the Israel that existed then though born in Egypt do not fit them celebrate being born under the yoke of slavery and Egypt but his release.
    I explained to her that the Pharaoh symbolizes the devil himself, who like the devil to Adam and Eve in subjection to the slavery of sin and death so the Pharaoh and his power subjected to slavery the people of Egypt under its yoke. God told Moses to raise a true liberator like him The Israelites were delivered on the day they celebrated the first Passover ie on 14 Nisan according to their timetable.
    We know that the Jews were celebrating Easter because if you read the reports about the death of Christ we can see that when he died in which the Jews were celebrating Passover.
    We know that Christ died on Easter and he even said he would and is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. So Christ is the continuation of the purposes of Jehovah.
    Therefore we as Jews do not celebrate the day we are born as descendants of Adam we enslaved to sin and death. But yes we commemorate the day that Christ has commanded us celebrate the day that Christ freed us from sin and death by giving his life a ransom for us mercy. Although we exist as descendants of Adam being there like the Israelites in bondage to Pharaoh. Do not celebrate this day. But we celebrate the day of redemption through Christ gave us the opportunity of living in relieving the burden of sin and death.
    “So if the subject of Jehovah’s justice for humanity is to stand before the only provision made for man, but the only one who can really deliver humanity from sin, sickness and death, but doing so is already in place while more forward to true freedom provided by Jehovah
    Sorry for my english. I am here using an automatic translator from Portuguese to English

    Comment by Voluntario — February 27, 2011 @ 9:59 am

  2. I am replying to Betty White: There is only one man in the photo of the Jehovah’s Witnesses who is wearing a tie. The other prisoners are wearing what looks like dark T-shirts under their striped shirts. The prisoners were given striped shirts but they also had striped jackets made of heavier material. Maybe they are wearing striped jackets.

    Only one man is wearing a striped cap. The others are wearing dark berets, which were typically worn by the Communist prisoners in the camps. The prisoners in the camps were not required to wear the striped uniform. In Dachau, the first camp, the prisoners were initially required to wear at least one piece of the uniform and most of them chose to wear the striped pants along with their own shirt. Later, the prisoners were not required to wear the striped uniform at all. The prisoners were allowed to receive packages from home, so their relatives were allowed to send them some clothes to wear. In the photo, we can’t see what kind of pants the men in the back rows are wearing.

    Look at the prisoners in the photo above taken at Dachau on April 29, 1945. Notice that some of the prisoners have a shirt on underneath their striped jackets. Some are wearing striped pants, but not striped shirts. Notice the dark berets. Notice that all of them appear to be in good health.

    Notice what the prisoners in the above photo are wearing. Two of the men are not wearing any striped clothing and the others have only one piece of striped clothing.

    Comment by furtherglory — May 17, 2010 @ 3:42 pm

  3. Maybe the Watchtower is exaggerating the number of JW’s who died in the concentration camps.

    Comment by SpiritualBrother — February 22, 2010 @ 4:13 pm

  4. It is my understanding that Jehovah’s Witnesses were arrested solely because they refused military service. There was no legal “Pacifism” in Germany – it was considered shirking. Shirkers were not tolerated anymore than
    OPENLY homosexual people were.

    Here’s something: Jehovah’s Witnesses who were interned at Auschwitz said they were sometimes allowed to swim in the Sola River, which ran alongside the Auschwitz 1 camp. I have also read and feel it is on good authority that the claim by the International J.W. officials of thousands of J.W.’s dying in the concentration camps is total rubbish. Just like the Roma, they ramp up the claims in order to both get sympathy and reparations.

    Comment by sceptic — February 17, 2010 @ 5:18 am

    • What about female Jehovah’s Witnesses? Why were they arrested? They were not required to serve in the military.

      Comment by furtherglory — February 17, 2010 @ 10:47 am

      • It’s very hard to find any information on femaile Jeohvah Witnesses. You don’t mention them in your blog here, nor on your website pages (I don’t think). I just did a pretty good search and all I found was ONE book, in a long list of books containing something about J.W.’s and Nazis, that mentioned females. It is:

        •Morrison, Jack G. Ravensbrück: “Everyday Life in a Women’s Concentration Camp 1939-45,” Princeton, NJ: Wiener, 2000. [Find in a library near you]
        Discusses the structure and routine of daily life in Ravensbrück. **Places the experiences of female Jehovah’s Witnesses in context with women of other persecuted groups**

        Obviously, there is not much specifically about female JW’s in it.

        As to your comment that they were not required to serve in the military … German women were also required to devote a certain no. of years (one or two?) in “Service” and ALL citizens were expected to be loyal to the German government. JW’s are notorious for refusing to give loyalty to any but (their idea of) Jehovah.

        Does that answer satisfy you?

        I’d like to add, that I found no mention anywhere of how many JW’s died or “were murdered” in the holocaust. I’m not taking the time to look for it now, but I do recall that the International organization came up with some very large number quite a few years back, but it was successfully challenged (maybe in court; certainly in the public eye) and the Intl. JW had to back down because they had no proof. In fact, the proof was against them. Now they don’t claim any large numbers; in fact, most survived and none were “murdered.”

        I notice in the photograph at the top of your blog that the prisoner on the lower left has his arm around the man to his right (hand on shoulder), who appears from his uniform to be a guard!! Is this correct?

        Comment by sceptic — February 18, 2010 @ 1:25 am

      • Yes, I think the man on the lower left in the photo of the Jehovah’s Witnesses is a guard. I didn’t mention this because I wasn’t sure that he was a guard. If that is the case, then this photo was NOT taken years after the war, and it shows the J.H. being in excellent health, considering that they were in a concentration camp.

        Comment by furtherglory — February 18, 2010 @ 3:37 am

        • Yeah, in the German concentration camps it was common for prisoners to be good buddys with their prison guards. Notice all the happy smiles too. They were all happy to be there. Of course the Nazis running the prison were more than happy to allow them to take this group photo while they were in prison because after all a happy prisoner is a good prisoner.


          And by the way genius, did it ever occur to you that prisoners were issued their prison garb when they first arrived. As in when they were still healthy! They didn’t exactly have tailored outfits. When they lost weight, they didn’t get new ones.

          Comment by Betty White — May 16, 2010 @ 8:20 pm

          • The Jehovah’s Witnesses typically worked in the homes of the SS officers at the camps, so they were on friendly terms.

            When the prisoners arrived in the camps, they were handed uniforms and then they had to trade with another prisoner to get the right size. They were not measured and fitted for their uniforms. When their uniforms were sent to be laundered and deloused, they did not get the same uniform back again. They were handed another uniform and again had to trade with others until they got the right size. So they did get a smaller uniform after they lost weight. The clothes that the prisoners were wearing when they arrived were kept for them and if they were released, they got back their own clothes. There are many stories of prisoners not being able to fit into their clothes because they had gained weight in the camp.

            Comment by furtherglory — May 17, 2010 @ 6:38 am

        • You sound like a typical holocaust denier trying to rewrite history without offer any evidence or using a single occurance to cover all events. You are obviously not familiar with the events that took place in the concentration camps. My suggestion to you is that you stop embassing yourself and shut up about things you know nothing about. And by the way, can you explain why several of the “prisoners” in the picture are wearing neck ties with dress shirts underneath? And why none are wearing their prison pants? Can’t wait to hear the spin on that one.

          Sherlock Holms you ain’t

          Comment by Betty White — May 17, 2010 @ 8:52 am

          • this photo was taken after the liberation of the concentration camps. why can i say this?

            one reason is that as pointed out, u can clearly see some of them wearing shirts and ties underneath the concentration camp uniform – this can mean only one thing – that a bunch of jehovahs witnesses returned to the camp dressed in suits as is the typical dress of jehovahs witnesses and they posed in their old uniforms for a group photo! if this photo was really taken whilst the camp was still in operation then where would they get shirts and ties from?

            another critic said that there is a man in uniform among them to the left of the group with a prisoners arm around him. this is true. does this mean that the prisoners and the guards were best buddies? no!!! a number of guards and of the elite SS guards no longer supported hitler in their hearts and some began helping prisoners. after hitlers downnfall, some guards were so impressed with the loyal stand of the jehovahs witnesses that some guards became jehovahs witnesses!!

            it has also been stated that jehovahs witnesses wasnt really hated by hitler but only those who expressed communist ideas ended up in the camps. this is not the case. jehovahs witnesses do not support or entertain commuist ideas and only look to gods kingdom. the person who wrote this comment is very naive of the fact that during hitlers speech at nuremberg he clearly stated that he would rid his empire of jehovahs witnesses. he attacked them as a group of people – ot just individuals who expressed anti nazism teachings.

            another point to mention is that at the end of the war there were thousands of jehovahs witnesses who were still free in germany and who hadnt been put into the camps. the reason for this is because the main work of a jehovahs witness is to preach and convert. thousands of german people became jehovahs witness during the war – and as the german officials had no idea who were jehovahs witness and who wasnt, unless caught on the preaching work, they could go untouched and could effectivly hide within the populace. so it wasnt because they wasnt hunted down, but because they get kept increasing their numbers by more than what the germans could imprison.

            Comment by joshua — December 3, 2011 @ 2:24 pm

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