Two items appear below:

1    A Holocaust Memorial    Dr Potter
2    Letter                                Frank Russo

with the Jehovah's Witnesses

Bob Potter

(Investigator 84, 2002 May)

A little more than twenty years ago, I was busily engaged researching the Jehovah's Witnesses, preparing my D Phil thesis at the University of Sussex. I found it quite distasteful, therefore, that Jehovah's Witnesses had set up an exhibition as part of the University's Holocaust Memorial Day on 23rd January 2002.

It was a small display, consisting of a dozen enlarged, captioned photographs. The real purpose of their presence was soon apparent. In 1997, the Watchtower Society produced an EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMME, available in 24 languages, aimed at secondary school students and being marketed throughout the world. There are lesson plans, two video tapes with work sheets, and a 'resource' list. Visitors to the exhibition were given copies of the 38-page Study Guide together with an order form. In almost every respect the material misreports the history of the Jehovah's Witnesses (or 'Bible Students') and their relationship with the Hitler regime. Their presence at Sussex University's event, as at other educational institutions, was an attempt to surreptitiously use the holocaust tragedy for publicizing their doctrines.

Following Adolf Hitler's appointment as German Reichskanzler in January 1933, J F Rutherford, President of the Watchtower Society (based then, as now) in New York, drafted a Declaration of Facts. A personal letter was sent to the German Fuehrer, which assured him:

"The Brooklyn administration of the Watch Tower Society is and in the past has been outstandingly friendly to Germany. For this reason the president of the Society and seven members of its Board of Directors in the United States were sentenced to 80 years imprisonment… two magazines, "The Watch Tower" and "Bible Student" were the only magazines in the United States which refused to publish war propaganda against Germany…"

The letter then drew Hitler's attention to the enclosed Declaration and its identification of the "common enemies" of the Watchtower Society and the German Reich, viz. "commercialistic Jews and Catholics". But let the Declaration speak for itself:

"The present government of Germany has declared emphatically against Big Business oppressors and in opposition to the wrongful religious influence in the political affairs of the nation. Such is exactly our position. Instead of being against the principles advocated by the government of Germany we stand squarely for such principles and point out that Jehovah God through Jesus Christ will bring about the full realization of these principles…"

Rutherford explained whom he had in mind when he spoke of "Big Business oppressors":

"It has been the commercial Jews of the British-American empire that have built up and carried on Big Business as a means of exploiting and oppressing the peoples of many nations... This fact is so manifest in America that there is a proverb concerning the city of New York... the Jews own it, the Irish Catholics rule it, and the Americans pay the bills…"

The logical outcome is, according to the Declaration of Facts:

"[The] Bible Students are fighting for the SAME high, ethical goals and ideals that the national German Reich proclaimed regarding the relationship of man to God...there are no opposing views...but that, to the contrary, respecting the purely religious and apolitical goals... these are in complete harmony with…the National Government of the German Reich."

Rutherford 's Declaration was printed in the 1934 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses.

Rather than being "one of the few religious groups in Nazi-occupied Europe to take a bold stand against Nazism" as their leaflet claims, the Watchtower Society was anti-Semitic and supportive of Hitler's "religious and apolitical goals"; happy to discard their earlier loudly trumpeted principles of 'Christian neutrality' in the hope the Watchtower publishing and preaching work might be allowed to continue in Germany.

It would be a mistake, however, to believe that Rutherford's references to Jews were merely an attempt to ingratiate Jehovah's Witnesses with the Nazis. Speaking at a Watchtower convention in Canada, in the 1920s, he referred to Jews as "...the hooked nosed, stooped-shouldered little individual who stands on the street corner trying to gyp you out of every nickel you got".

Writing in the Society's Golden Age magazine, 23 Feb 1927:

"Be it known once and for all that those profiteering, conscienceless, selfish men who call themselves Jews, and who control the greater portion of the finances of the world, will never be the rulers of this new earth. God would not risk such selfish men with such an important position."

However, Hitler dismissed Rutherford's communications. Watchtower HQs throughout Germany, including the Tennishallen, in Magdeburg, where Rutherford's Declaration had been read to the assembled 1933 Watchtower Convention in a hall bedecked with swastika flags, were raided; pamphlets and books confiscated and/or destroyed. Witnesses were interned – but unlike other 'enemies of the Reich', could, as their Study Guide states, obtain immediate release by signing a statement renouncing their faith.

Bible Students found an unexpected 'friend' in Heinrich Himmler.

In a lengthy letter (which is published, in part, in 1974 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses) Himmler wrote to senior SS officers Pohl and Mueller:

"Should problems develop in camp in future involving Bible Students, then I prohibit the camp commander from pronouncing any punishment. Such cases should be reported to me with a brief description of the circumstances.

"Now my suggestion is that all of the Bible Students be put to work — for example, farm work, which has nothing to do with war and all its madness. One can leave them unguarded if properly assigned; they will not run away. They can be given uncontrolled jobs, they will prove to be the best administrators and workers. We can employ Bible Students in our Lebensbornheime (homes erected to rear children fostered by SS men to produce a master race), not as nurses, but rather as cooks, housekeepers, or to do work in the laundry or similar jobs. I am convinced that, in most cases, we will have little difficulty with them ... I will then personally distribute them among large families. In such households they are not to wear prison garb, however, but civilian clothes...

With a 'guardian' such as Heinrich Himmler, Jehovah's Witnesses could look forward to a reasonably comfortable war. Witness prisoners were promptly placed in SS households, truck gardens, farm estates and the Lebensbornheime. In occupied countries SS personnel feared to employ house-staff from the native population and were delighted to learn from their SS Reichsfuehrer that a Jehovah's Witness would never pose a threat within the home. By February 1944 virtually all Jehovah's Witnesses still in detention had been moved to households and estates.

As promised, Himmler personally took charge of this process; he arranged for a Party of sixteen Bible Students to be sent to Czechoslovakia to take charge of the estate of Lina Heydrich, widow of the late SS Obergruppenfuehrer, Reinhard Heydrich.

The records of the Bible Students' fortunes in this period read rather differently from that of the millions who still remained in the Nazi camps. The Yearbooks of Jehovah's Witnesses document dozens of examples – like the forty-two brothers building a house for an SS official at Lake Wolfgang, who were able to go onto the lake in the evenings and entertain themselves with folk songs and concert pieces.

There is the report of Gertrud Ott who, with eighteen other sisters, was incarcerated in Auschwitz to work in the hotel serving the families of the SS men employed there:

"Those brothers and sisters who had been in Auschwitz for a time had positions of trust. Several sisters were allowed to walk the city without a guard to make purchases... in this way the sisters could contact brothers outside... they copied whole Watchtower articles into blue paper-covered school notebooks and tried to circulate them..."

In the hotel they made contact with other 'sisters' and arranged to have regular Bible meetings in the toilet:

"From then on, the sisters from outside regularly came and brought the sisters working in the hotel Watchtowers and other publications, which were then sent on to Ravensbruck".

Many 'brothers and sisters' were given permission to make short visits to relatives living nearby.

Reading these records, provided by the Witnesses themselves, makes one very conscious that the experiences described come from a very different world than that inhabited by the millions of Jewish people and other real victims of the Nazi tyranny. The 1974 Yearbook states that during the years 1933 to 1945, 253 Bible Students were sentenced to death, of whom 203 were executed.

Whilst it is important to acknowledge and remember the death of every single innocent individual, these figures (compared with the estimated ten million Jewish victims) and combined with a knowledge of the true history of the Bible Students vis-a-vis the Third Reich, highlight the impertinence of the Watchtower Society introducing themselves into the Holocaust Memorial Day to market their so-called 'educational material'.  

The Declaration of Facts and the letter sent to Adolf Hitler by the Watchtower Society together with many other contemporary and relevant documents can be found on internet sites:



(Investigator 85, 2002 July)

I enjoyed Dr Potter’s article "A holocaust Memorial with the Jehovah's Witnesses" (#84).

Potter cited the 1933 Declaration of Facts wherein the Watchtower Society president, Joseph F Rutherford, tried to ingratiate himself with Hitler and called Jews "Big Business oppressors".

However, only eight years earlier Rutherford had no anti Jewish prejudice. He even got his book, Comfort for the Jews (1925), endorsed by a prominent Jew. What changed Rutherford’s attitude?

Until 1930 Rutherford taught that Israel would be restored and that the Watch Tower Society would have a prominent place in that restoration. Hence his cult put forth considerable effort to convert Jews.

However, Rutherford had also previously predicted, in his book Millions Now Living Will Never Die (1920), that the restoration of Israel would occur around 1925. When this didn’t happen he lost ¾ of his followers including Jewish followers. It was a bad knockback.

Furthermore, in the early 1930s about 25% of the world's JWs lived in Germany. Therefore, when Hitler came to power Rutherford considered, at least initially, that the future of the Watchtower Society lay with the Nazis rather than the Jews.

Frank Russo

Investigator Magazine Home Page:

Dictionary of Jehovah's Witnesses at: