A 15-minute exposé of Nazi tyranny remembered 75 years later
SELTERS, Germany—On this day 75 years ago, Jehovah’s Witnesses in Germany distributed an “Open Letter” (Offener Brief) that was unsparing in its detail about the atrocities committed by Hitler’s regime throughout the German Reich. In just 15 minutes, from 12:00 p.m. to 12:15 p.m., the Witnesses blanketed Germany with tens of thousands of copies of a printed leaflet, which cited specific dates and places where arrests, torture, and murder of the Witnesses were becoming routine. The Gestapo were appalled by this exposure and the ability of the Witnesses to carry it off.
The Witnesses’ adherence to Bible principles and refusal to heil Hitler intensified the Nazi government’s persecution. British historian Dr. Christine King noted that the Nazis viewed the Witnesses’ position as a “rival ideology” and “rival center of loyalty” to the Nazi movement. This led to a Nazi campaign of misinformation and further persecution.
In her book The Nazi State and the New Religions: Five Case Studies in Non-Conformity, Professor King stated: “Only against the Witnesses was the government unsuccessful, for although they had killed thousands, the [Witnesses’] work went on and in May 1945 the Jehovah’s Witness movement was still alive, whilst National Socialism was not.” Of the almost 8,800 German Jehovah’s Witnesses that were incarcerated, 2,800 of them were put into concentration camps. Among the 1,500 Witnesses that died under Nazi tyranny (including 950 Germans), a total of 370 were executed. In 1933, as the storm clouds of National Socialism gathered, there were about 20,000 Witnesses in Germany. Today, they number more than 165,000.
J. R. Brown, Office of Public Information, tel. +1 718 560 5600
Germany: Wolfram Slupina, tel. +49 6483 41 3110