How Many Jehovah's Witnesses in the Concentration Camps?

Norman Hovland


How many Jehovah's Witnesses was there in Germany before and shortly after the war? How many were arrested, and how many did die in concentration camps? The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society knows this perfectly well, but doesn't seem to be quite satisfied with the number of casualties. Somehow 635 dead, during the Nazi years doesn't quite satisfy Brooklyn. They have however found it convenient to use the "estimates" done by "modern scientists" -- which they in all other matters will claim have "no real knowledge".

The number of deaths however isn't the only thing the Watchtower have great difficulties with. They can't seem to make up their minds about how many Witnesses there actually were in Germany before the war, and seem to be equally confused about the number of Witnesses after the war too. If the Watchtower Society's handling of this matter is any indication of the accuracy of the other so-called "truth" distributed by them, there is absolutely no need to trust them. Let us investigate some of the material printed by the Watchtower:

"But despite the hard conditions, how those who worshiped Jehovah rejoiced! They had been privileged to prove their integrity to the Sovereign Ruler of the universe. During Hitler's rule 1,687 of them had lost their jobs, 284 their businesses, 735 their homes and 457 were not allowed to carry on their trade. In 129 cases their property had been confiscated, 826 pensioners had been refused their pensions and 329 others had suffered other personal loss. There were 860 children who had been taken away from their parents. In 30 cases marriages had been dissolved due to pressure by political officials, and in 108 cases divorces had been granted when requested by mates opposed to the truth. A total of 6,019 had been arrested, several two, three or even more times, so that, all together, 8,917 arrests were registered. All together they had been sentenced to serve 13,924 years and two months in prison, two and a quarter times as long as the period since Adam's creation. A total of 2,000 brothers and sisters had been put into concentration camps, where they had spent 8,078 years and six months, an average of four years. A total of 635 had died in prison, 253 had been sentenced to death and 203 of these had actually been executed. What a record of integrity!" [1974 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses, p. 212 (bold added)]

As we can see, the Watchtower did have accurate figures. The Watchtower leaders has always been "control freaks", and "Judge" Rutherford was not less so than the later leaders. Here are the figures.

  • Arrested: 6,019
  • Total number of arrests (some were arrested many times): 8,917
  • Total number in concentration camps: 2,000
  • Died in prison: 635
  • Actually executed: 203

With these numbers in mind, let us then investigate what the Watchtower has claimed elsewhere. The above figures is from 1974 and was given the year before Armageddon (that was supposed to be in the autumn [October] 1975). Let us look at other figures:

1950

  • 1,000 Witnesses executed
  • 1,000 died in prison and concentration camps
  • The Watchtower, December 15, 1950, p. 500: "Already during the Hitler regime about 1,000 Jehovah's witnesses were executed as traitors, because they not only refused to serve in the war but openly opposed Hitler's authority. Another 1,000 of Jehovah's witnesses died in prisons and concentration camps."

1951

  • 2,000 Witnesses died cruel deaths
  • The Watchtower, February 15, 1951, pp. 105-106: "That is why during the Nazi regime in Germany from 1933 to 1945 Jehovah's witnesses in that land refused to heil Hitler! as their Fuehrer or Leader, and went to concentration camps and prisons, where 2,000 died cruel deaths, and of the 8,000 that came out alive, 2,000 were invalided for the rest of their lives."

1960

  • 10,000 Witnesses were tortured
  • The Watchtower, June, 1, 1960, p. 327: "Hitler failed to break them in prisons and concentration camps where he tortured10,000 of them, and the Communists are failing to do it in their frightful prisons and slave-labor camps."

1964

  • Over 4,000 Witnesses died
  • 10,000 Witnesses were put in concentration camps
  • The Watchtower, January 1, 1964, p. 13: "Hitler, a Roman Catholic, the arm of his church in Germany, forbade Jehovah's witnesses to preach the kingdom of God, and these modern-day Christians had to say to Hitler's Gestapo police: 'Whether it is righteous in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, judge for yourselves.' They kept preaching even though 10,000 of them were put in concentration camps and over 4,000 died there. The rest nearly starved to death. The war's end aided their survival."

1976

  • 203 Witnesses executed
  • 635 Witnesses died in prison
  • A total of 6,019 Witnesses was arrested
  • The Watchtower, February 1, 1976, p. 82: "a total of 6,019 had been arrested, several of them two, three, or even more times, so that, all together, 8,917 arrests were registered; and these persons served sentences amounting to 13,924 years in prison. Many of these faithful men and women were put into concentration camps and thus collectively spent 8,078 years undergoing vicious treatment there. A total of 635 died in prison, 253 were sentenced to death, with 203 of these actually being executed."

1979

  • 203 Witnesses executed
  • 635 Witnesses died in prison
  • A total of 6,019 Witnesses was arrested
  • The Watchtower, July 1, 1979, pp. 7-8: "By way of illustration, please consider the years 1933 to 1945, when Adolf Hitler's "Third Reich" tried to exterminate Jehovah's Witnesses in the German Reich. Their activities were banned and 6,019 were arrested, several of them two, three or more times. Two thousand suffered in concentration camps. A total of 635 Witnesses died in prison, 203 being executed."

How Many Witnesses in Germany at the beginning of the Third Reich?

1971

  • 14,453 Witnesses in Germany in 1932
  • The Watchtower, January 1, 1971, p. 16: "35 In 1932 when the last report was received from Germany and before the ban was placed on Jehovah's witnesses, there were 14,453 sharing in the Kingdom declaration. By 1946, following the collapse of the German war machine and the opening of the gates of the concentration camps -- but not the graves -- there were 11,415 dedicated Christians still in the great contest for the faith. Ten years later this number grew to 50,530, and by 1970 in Western Germany there were 86,252 Christian witnesses of Jehovah."

1975

  • 19,000 Witnesses in Germany in 1933
  • Awake!, February 22, 1975, p. 22: "Yet among the 19,000 German Jehovah's witnesses in 1933, "a higher proportion (97 per cent) suffered some form of persecution than any of the other churches.""

1995

  • 25,000 Witnesses in Germany at the beginning of the third rich
  • 10,000 Witnesses in prison
  • 2,000 Witnesses in concentration camps
  • Awake!, August 22, 1995, p. 10: "Why were Jehovah's Witnesses so well acquainted with the concentration camps? When World War II started in 1939, there were already 6,000 Witnesses confined in camps and prisons. German historian Detlef Garbe estimates that the Witnesses constituted at that time between 5 and 10 percent of the total camp population! At a seminar on the Witnesses and the Holocaust, Garbe stated: "Of the 25,000 persons who admitted to being Jehovah's Witnesses at the beginning of the Third Reich, about 10,000 were imprisoned for any length of time. Of these, over 2,000 were admitted to concentration camps. This means that the Jehovah's Witnesses were, with the exception of the Jews, the worst persecuted by the SS of all the religious based groups."

How Many Witnesses Came Out of the Camps?

1950

  • 8,000 Witnesses came out of the Camps
  • The Watchtower, May 15, 1950, p. 153: "11 The most notorious case of persecution for living up to the name is that of the witnesses in Germany. They were banned by Hitler soon after he signed the concordat with the Vatican in 1933. Their property was confiscated. Ten thousand ministers were placed in concentration camps. Only eight thousand were released after World War II; two thousand had been murdered."

1951

  • 8,000 Witnesses came out of the Camps
  • The Watchtower, February 15, 1951, pp. 105-106: "That is why during the Nazi regime in Germany from 1933 to 1945 Jehovah's witnesses in that land refused to heil Hitler! as their Fuehrer or Leader, and went to concentration camps and prisons, where 2,000 died cruel deaths, and of the 8,000 that came out alive, 2,000 were invalided for the rest of their lives."

1971

  • 11,415 Witnesses came out of the Camps?
  • The Watchtower, January 1, 1971, p. 16: "35 In 1932 when the last report was received from Germany and before the ban was placed on Jehovah's witnesses, there were 14,453 sharing in the Kingdom declaration. By 1946, following the collapse of the German war machine and the opening of the gates of the concentration camps -- but not the graves -- there were 11,415 dedicated Christians still in the great contest for the faith."

1987

  • 9,000 Witnesses in Germany in 1946
  • Awake!, May 22, 1987, p. 15: "Jehovah's Witnesses preserved Christian neutrality during World War II and thereafter. Rebounding from Hitler's attempts to destroy them, the number of active Witnesses in Germany increased from fewer than 9,000 in 1946 to over 52,000 within five years."

The Yearbook of 1974 states that there was a TOTAL of 2,000 Witnesses in the camps! And that the number of deaths was "a total of 635"! Yet we see that the Watchtower throw around fantasy figures like 10,000 Witnesses in the camps, and 4,000 dead! Why?


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