Thirteen-a Part II. The 3rd Reich & the Holocaust Era, Jan. 1933-May, 1945

B. Sept. 1939-May, ‘45 - The period of World War II: Genocide & a ‘New Order’

Phase 2: 1941-45 From Dehumanization to Annihilation
Ostracize, Isolate, Annihilate - Policy Bureaucracy, & Technology

Jehovah’s Witnesses - Spiritual resistance,

The White Rose


Most individuals in occupied Europe did not actively collaborate in the Nazi genocide. Nor did they do anything to help Jews and other victims of Nazi policies. Throughout the Holocaust, millions of people silently stood by while they saw Jews, Roma (Gypsies), and other "enemies of the Reich" being rounded up and deported. Many of these bystanders told themselves that what they saw happening was none of their business. Others spoke out.


Spiritual resistance: Jehovah’s Witnesses. The ‘Jewish reaction patterns’ to a threat have taken 5 forms: armed resistance, alleviation, evasion, paralysis, & compliance. During the Holocaust, all five were a response to various incidents at various times. Jews, under duress, assisted the Nazi terror by becoming Kapos or by serving on Judenrat. Many Jews did not resist the ‘Final Solution,’ but many others did, & that resistance took many forms. There were many examples of armed & spiritual resistance in the death camps & ghettos which refute the myth that all the Jews walked to the gas chambers ‘like sheep to the slaughter.’ Though the majority of European peoples & nations can be faulted with inactivity, & even at times collaboration with the Nazis, there are many documented reports of the efforts made by individual non-Jews & whole nations who took great risks to save Jewish lives.

Instructional Objectives - Students will learn that:
There are various responses to dealing with a threat from an authority.

1. Spiritual resistance by Jehovah’s Witnesses. The White Rose Resistance
2. Jews did resist the Holocaust, despite a common misconception that there was no resistance.
3. Resistance can take many forms, both passive and active.

4 The inaction & complicity of the world community reduced the extent to which the Jews could resist the Holocaust.

Historian Raoul Hilberg has stated: ‘Jewish reaction pattern’ to a threat has taken 5 forms

1. Armed Resistance: This includes violent, confrontational challenges to persecution.

2. Alleviation: All those activities which are designed to avert danger, or, in the event that force has already been used, to diminish its effects. (Examples: petitions, protection payments, and ransom arrangements).

3. Evasion: Jews have placed less hope, less expectation, less reliance, upon the devices of evasion flight, concealment, and hiding. The Jewish tendency has been not to run from, but to survive with, anti-Jewish regimes. Jews have rarely run from a pogrom. Jews have migrated chiefly for two reasons: expulsion and economic depression.

4. Paralysis: This is the inability to respond at all. Paralysis occurs when the obstacles to resistance, to alleviation attempts, and to evasion are just
as formidable as the difficulties of cooperation.

5. Compliance: This is the acceptance of requirements of the authority in order to avoid sanctions or penalties. To the Jews, compliance with anti-Jewish laws or orders has always been equivalent to survival.

History is replete with examples of Jews resisting domination by other nations. The Bible details many of these examples. Jewish rebellions to the Roman Empire occurred frequently (Masada and the Bar Kochba revolt, 132 C.E.). The Jews of Palestine fought along with the British forces in World War I.

Accounts of Resistance

‘One question frequently asked by students studying the Holocaust is "Why didn't the victims fight back?" The answer is, "Many did." There are thousands of unsung heroes of the Holocaust, both Jewish and non-Jewish, who resisted in ways big and small. During the Holocaust, Jews and other targeted groups had little access to military training or weapons and found themselves surrounded by professional soldiers armed with machine guns and armored tanks. Yet, even though the Nazis did succeed in killing millions of "undesirables" as part of Hitler's plan of bureaucratic genocide, those millions did not submit willingly.

The systematic murders by the Nazis and their local collaborators in much of Europe was silently accepted by millions of bystanders. As in any case however, there are exceptions to the rule - organized resistance would be found in some areas.

Resistance occurred in many forms, from the simple act of prayer to the organization of armed partisans to the smuggling of food, arms, and people into and out of ghettos. These acts of resistance testify to the heroism of those who were faced with such evil circumstances. Unfortunately, countless dramatic tales that will never be told were buried with the victims of the Holocaust.’

Dutch & Danes; in Yugoslavia, Marxist, Josip Broz -Tito, led staunch resistance. Communists prominent in resistance.

During the Holocaust, resistance was any group action consciously taken in opposition to known or surmised laws, actions or intentions directed against the Jews by the Nazis or their supporters.

Resistance Inside Germany

Despite the high risk of being caught by police with the help of their many informers, some individuals and groups attempted to resist Nazism even in Germany. Socialists, Communists, trade unionists, and others clandestinely wrote, printed, and distributed anti-Nazi literature. Many of these rebels were arrested and imprisoned in concentration camps. Jehovah’s Witnesses. The "White Rose," June 1942

There were many plots to assassinate Hitler during the war. After the important Soviet victory at Stalingrad in early 1943, when it looked as though the tide was turning against the German army, a serious assassination attempt was planned by a group of German military officers and carried out in 1944. Hitler escaped the bomb blast with minor injuries. The four leaders of the conspiracy were immediately shot. Later, 200 other individuals convicted of involvement in the plot were executed.

Jehovah’s Witnesses - Spiritual Resistance

For their religious belief, they stood firm

Every European country, even Germany, had those who did not believe in the Nazi ideology and who were willing to die for their beliefs. Perhaps no other group stood so firmly in their beliefs as the Jehovah Witnesses. In 1933, the Jehovah's Witnesses in Germany totaled about twenty thousand. Although their religious meetings were outlawed after the Nazi rise to power, many continued to practice their religion. In 1934, Jehovah's Witnesses attempted to fend off Nazi attacks by having congregations send letters to the government explaining their beliefs and political neutrality.

Hitler felt particularly threatened by this strong group of Christians because they, from the very beginning, refused to recognize any God other than Jehovah. The Nazis did not tolerate the Jehovah's Witnesses' refusal, which was based on religious principles, to salute flags, to raise their arms to "Heil Hitler," or to serve in the German army - their religion prohibited them from swearing any oath to the state or providing service in the state military. The group was banned by national law in April 1935.

Those Witnesses who defied the ban on their activities were arrested and sent to prisons and concentration camps. The literature of the Jehovah's Witnesses was confiscated. They lost their jobs along with their unemployment benefits, social welfare benefits, and pensions. Many of them were put in concentration camps and prisons; their children went to juvenile detention centers and orphanages.
The May 15, 1940, issue of Consolation stated: "Hitler is such a perfect child of the Devil that these speeches and decisions flow through him like water through a well-built sewer."

Witnesses Among First in the Camps

In the Nazi years, about 10,000 Witnesses were imprisoned in concentration camps, most of them of German nationality.

After 1939 most active Jehovah's Witnesses were incarcerated in prisons or concentration camps (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, Sachsen-hausen, Ravensbrück, Auschwitz, Mauthausen, and other concentration camps). Some had fled Germany. In the camps, all prisoners wore markings of various shapes and colors so that guards and camp officers could identify them by category. Witnesses were marked by purple triangular patches. ... If Jehovah's Witnesses within the camps took a pledge of loyalty to the Third Reich, they would be freed. Very few ... signed the declarations. Even in the camps, they continued to meet, pray, and make converts. In Buchenwald concentration camp, they set up an underground printing press and distributed religious tracts.

Conditions in Nazi camps were generally harsh for all inmates, many of whom died from hunger, disease, exhaustion, exposure to the cold, and brutal treatment. But, as psychoanalyst Bruno Bettelheim and others have noted, Witnesses were uniquely sustained in the camps by the support they gave each other and by their belief that their suffering was part of their work for God. Individual Witnesses astounded their guards with their refusal to conform to military-type routines like roll call or to roll bandages for soldiers at the front. At the same time, Witnesses were considered unusually trustworthy because they refused to escape from camps or physically resist their guards. For this reason, Witnesses were often used as domestic servants by Nazi camp officers and guards.’

Horrors of Camps Exposed

Although the public was largely unaware of the existence of the concentration camps until 1945, detailed descriptions of them appeared often in Watch Tower publications in the 1930's. In 1937, for example, Consolation told of experiments with poison gas at Dachau. By 1940, Witness publications had named 20 different camps and had reported on their unspeakable conditions.

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."

In June 1940, Consolation said: "There were 3,500,000 Jews in Poland when Germany began its Blitzkrieg . . . , and if reports which reach the Western world are correct their destruction seems well under way." In 1943, Consolation noted: "Whole nations like the Greeks, Poles and Serbs are being exterminated systematically." By 1946, The Golden Age and Consolation had identified 60 different prison and concentration camps.

An estimated 2,500 to 5,000 Witnesses died in the camps or prisons. More than 200 men were tried by the German War Court and executed for refusing military service.

Faithful to Death

Wolfgang Kusserow was one of those put to death because he maintained faithfulness to God and refused to support Nazism. ... he was beheaded on March 28, 1942
Johannes Harms - his execution on January 8, 1941

MADAME Geneviève de Gaulle, niece of former president of France Charles de Gaulle, was a member of the French Resistance. Upon her capture and her later imprisonment in the Ravensbrück concentration camp in 1944, she met Jehovah's Witnesses. After World War II, Madame de Gaulle lectured throughout Switzerland and spoke often of the Witnesses' integrity and courage. In an interview on May 20, 1994, she said of them:

"They were among the first deportees in the camp. Many had already died . . . We recognized them by their distinctive badge. . . . It was absolutely forbidden for them to talk about their beliefs or to have any religious books, and especially the Bible, which was considered the supreme book of sedition. . . . I know of [one of Jehovah's Witnesses], and there were others I was told, who was executed for having a few pages of Bible texts. . . .

"What I admired a lot in them was that they could have left at any time just by signing a renunciation of their faith. Ultimately, these women, who appeared to be so weak and worn out, were stronger than the SS, who had power and all the means at their disposal. [Jehovah'sWitnesses] had their strength, and it was their willpower that no one could beat."

Conduct of Witnesses in the Camps

OUT OF love of neighbor-cell mate, barracks mate, camp mate-the Witnesses shared not only their spiritual food but also whatever physical food they had.

A Jew who survived the Buchenwald concentration camp explained: "There I met the Bibelforscher. They constantly testified to their beliefs. In fact, nothing would stop them speaking about their God. They were very helpful to other prisoners. When the pogrom sent a mass influx of Jews to the camp on November 10, 1938, the 'Jehovah's schwein', as the guards termed them, went round with a bread ration to the aged and famished Jews, going without food themselves for up to four days."

Similarly, a Jewish woman imprisoned in the Lichtenburg camp said of the Witnesses: "They were a brave people, who bore their fate patiently. Though the gentile prisoners were forbidden to talk to us, these women never observed this regulation. They prayed for us as if we belonged to their family, and begged us to hold out."

Nazis Frustrated by Witnesses

Although the Nazis tried to stem the flow of Watch Tower literature, a Berlin official admitted: "It is hard to find the secret places in Germany where the Bible Students' literature is still being printed; no one carries names or addresses and no one betrays another."

Despite their frantic efforts, the Gestapo were never able to capture more than half the total number of Witnesses in Germany at any given time. Imagine the frustration of the elaborate Nazi spy system-it could not round up and silence this tiny army or stop the flow of literature. The literature found its way to the streets and even penetrated the barbed-wire fences of the concentration camps!

Triumph Over Barbarism

The Nazis, who were considered masters at breaking the human will, tried desperately to get Jehovah's Witnesses to violate their Christian neutrality, but they failed miserably. The book The Theory and Practice of Hell said: "One cannot escape the impression that, psychologically speaking, the SS was never quite equal to the challenge offered them by Jehovah's Witnesses."

Indeed, the Witnesses, backed up by God's spirit, won the battle. Historian Christine King, chancellor of Staffordshire University in England, described the opponents in the conflict: "One [the Nazis] enormous, powerful, seemingly invincible. One [the Witnesses] very, very tiny . . . with only their faith, no other weapon . . . Jehovah's Witnesses brought morally to their knees the might of that Gestapo power."

Jehovah's Witnesses were a small, peaceable enclave within the Nazi realm. Yet, they waged and won a battle in their own way-a battle for the right to worship their God, a battle to love their neighbor, and a battle to tell the truth.

Efforts to Deny the Holocaust Predicted

In its September 26, 1945, issue, Consolation noted that future attempts might be made to revise history and deny what had happened. The article "Has Nazism Been Destroyed?" said:

"Propagandists think the people have short memories. It is their intention to erase past history, presenting themselves in the modern disguise of benefactors, their incriminating record being covered up."

The magazine gave this perceptive warning: "Until Jehovah does fight Armageddon, Nazism will continue to raise its ugly head."

"Potest of Youth" - The White Rose, June 1942

Of the Germans who opposed Hitler's dictatorship, very few groups openly protested the Nazi genocide against Jews. The "White Rose" movement was founded in June 1942 by Hans Scholl, a 24-year-old medical student at the University of Munich, his 22-year-old sister Sophie, and 24-year-old Christoph Probst. Although the exact origin of the name "White Rose" is unknown, it clearly stands for purity and innocence in the face of evil. Hans, Sophie, and Christoph were outraged that educated Germans went along with Nazi policies. They distributed anti-Nazi leaflets and painted slogans like "Freedom!" and "Down With Hitler!" on walls of the university. In February 1943, Hans and Sophie Scholl were caught distributing leaflets and arrested. Together with their friend Christoph, they were executed four days later. Hans's last words were "Long live freedom!"

"Protest of Youth" - The White Rose by ANTON GILL

This site tells the story of The White Rose, a group of students who produced pamphlets resisting the Nazi regime, and paid for it with their lives.

‘Today, the main square outside the University of Munich is called Geschwister-Scholl-Platz. The name commemorates a small group of students who, operating independently, managed to create one of the few single protests of great significance outside the main body of the Resistance, in the town which had, throughout the mid-thirties, advertised itself on tourist brochures as 'The Birthplace of the Party'.

Hans and Sophie Scholl were the second and fourth of the five children of Robert Scholl, the liberal and independent mayor of the little town of Forchtenberg on the River Kocher to the east of Heilbronn. ... The arrival of National Socialism was the first impact of politics on the children's thought. Hans was fifteen, Sophie, twelve. ...

Hans had read the sermons of Bishop Galen. He had not given up his own ideas of making some kind of stand against the regime, and had become markedly politicised. From his writing it is clear that had he lived he would have chosen politics, not medicine, as his career.

He was already at the centre of a group of young medical students--Willi Graf, Christoph Probst and Alexander Schmorell--who had decided to launch a leaflet campaign against the war, encouraging passive Resistance to the regime. They were joined by the popular philosophy lecturer Kurt Huber, who had already attracted the suspicion of the Nazis. He was considerably older than the others, but had no wish to lead the group. He guided his younger comrades' thoughts, and edited the last two of the six leaflets they produced. His lectures were always packed, because he managed to introduce veiled criticism of the regime into them.

The group had no wish to throw bombs, or to cause any injury to human life. They wanted to influence people's minds against Nazism and militarism. Already a sympathetic architect had lent them his studio in a rear courtyard for their clandestine activities, and the relatively well-off Sclhmorell had been able to buy a typewriter and a duplicating machine. They called their group the 'White Rose'. ...

The first four leaflets of the White Rose appeared in quick succession in June and July 1942. They were written jointly by Hans Scholl with Alexander Schmorell and Christoph Probst ... Tirelessly the group distributed the leaflets by the suitcaseload throughout towns in southern Germany, either traveling with them (a very dangerous undertaking) and delivering them by hand at night, or using the mail. ...

Hans, Willi and Alexander were ordered to the Russian Front, but they returned to Munich in October. ... Hans had seen the maltreatment of Jews and Russian prisoners at first hand. ... The group returned from the Front more determined than ever to carry on the work of Resistance, and to make the White Rose into a permanent Resistance cell. ...

On Thursday 18 February 1943 ... Hans and Sophie decided to distribute it in the university personally. ... They hurried to the university at 10 a.m. ... The university's caretaker, Jakob Schmid, charged towards them as they raced back down the staircase, seized them each by the arm and bellowed, 'You're under arrest!' ... Hans and Sophie were not tortured, but they were interrogated intensively for four days in Gestapo Headquarters at Wittelsbach Palace in Munich. ... The trial was set for 22 February.

Roland Freisler, Hitler's hanging judge, flew down from Berlin specially to preside. This was an indication of the importance the Nazi leadership considered the White Rose to have. The war was lost; the Allies were already bombing Munich; but protestors still had to be smashed. ... The verdict was a foregone conclusion: death by the guillotine. ... By 6 p.m. Sophie and Hans were dead.

Hans and Sophie were buried in Perlach Cemetery in south Munich on 24 February. In the town, graffiti appeared on walls: 'Their spirit lives.'

Copyright 2000 Edith Shaked


Collective responsibility
- The doctrine which asserts that a group is responsible for the actions of its individuals, and thus can be punished for
those actions.

Passive resistance - Resistance which is other than through force, such as spiritual, religious, or cultural resistance.

Resistance - Acts, both passive and active, which are non-compliance to the demands of an authority.

Sanctions - Penalties levied by an authority for not complying with an order or law.

Underground - A secret network which is organized to resist authority.