Thirty Years a Watch Tower Slave

by JAVA 26 Replies latest jw friends

  • JAVA

    Perhaps the first widely distributed book written by a former Witness about the Watchtower Society is, Thirty Years a Watch Tower Slave by William J. Schnell, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1956. It’s been out of print for several years, and very few libraries still have the book. Schnell was born in 1905, and was part of the Watchtower movement from 1921 to 1954.

    In part, the Foreword reads: “By the Lord’s grace I am a Christian. … Early in life I was inveigled to join the Watch Tower Organization, and subsequently became totally enslaved to it. … By the Lord’s grace I came free when He lifted my up from a night of prayer, and when I became so agitated and alive once again spiritually that I made a vow unto the Lord. That night I came free!”

    The theme of Schnell’s newly found Christian walk runs throughout the book, and his research cannot be considered scholarly. However, I think this book serves a valuable resource that started exposing some of the Watchtower’s underhandedness to the public in the USA. I found a second edition (November 1956) of the book at a used bookstore, and will share sections of Chapter 4 (“A Look at the Organization in America”). The following are segments from pages 37 to 42:

    The Judge Takes Over
    No sooner had Charles T. Russell died (1916) than there came into play a behind-the-scene tug of war for his mantel. Russell’s will left instructions for certain men to succeed him. However, the legal counsel, Judge Rutherford, was able to maneuver proxies of the Corporation in such a way that he emerged President of the Watch Tower Society. …

    The Judge in his pronouncement of 1919 had accomplished another result favorable to the Society. By seemingly opposing Christendom’s support of the war, he had been successful in separating the Watch Tower Society from all other organizations which lay claim to being Christian. Now it became necessary to build the Watch Tower Society into a powerful organization, which would not only supply Bible Students with literature and Bible helps and arrange conventions for them, but which would focus world attention on this esoteric Watch Tower, in exactly the sense as the first Watch Tower of Babel was elevated over the rank and file of mankind. … The Watch Tower Society of Brooklyn was now beginning to claim that its edifice would be the refuge which would carry millions across the rubicon, so to speak, that is across Armageddon into the Millenium, in which it would emerge as “The New World Society” to last a thousand years.

    The Judge Plans Changes
    In order to build this New World Society it became necessary to change the Organization’s policy. The Organization had to be given a forward focus, with a goal and an ideal embedded in a Scriptural setting. For the time being, using as a base the books of Charles T. Russell which were accepted everywhere in Bible Student circles, he settled on a theme of "The Kingdom,” using the World War and ensuing climactic conditions as the window dressing for the need of world-wide witnessing campaign. His first feelers in this direction in 1919 had been highly successful. This prompted him to bring about a Convention to be held in September of 1922 at Cedar Point, Ohio, where, as previously related, the assembled delegates of the Convention were prevailed upon to pass enthusiastically a resolution sponsored by him, titled “Advertise, Advertise, Advertise, the King and His Kingdom!”

    The Judge knew that it would take more than a motto to put his plans across. Up to that time the Bible Students had been of such rugged individuality type that they claimed they had fled various organizations in order to become and remain free and unencumbered in their quest of Bible studies and living as Christians. … In order to sell such people the idea of a super organization required not only a policy change, but an unusual acumen. The Judge had it!

    How was it done? Again by raising an issue outside of the core of Bible Students and outside of the orbit of their thinking. Realizing that Bible Students had left the various church organizations and denominations behind, because these were organized, the Watch Tower Society and its President framed an anti-Christendom or anti-organization policy, … While he drew this red herring across the horizon of the congregations of Bible Students throughout the world, he began to lay the ground for an organization far more absolute and far more rigidly organized than was the Catholic Church which it so bitterly opposes. This organization not only presumes to take the place of the organized Christian Churches which were so vociferously accused and condemned by the Watch Tower Society from 1919 on, but they daub their organization as “God’s Organization,” the churches and all others being the Devil’s organization.

    The Society Puts Its House in Order
    The next step was taken by the Watch Tower Society with the publishing of an entirely new set of books and booklets, with a new slant, paving the way for total organization. This literature was intended to affect change of thinking on all such matters amidst the Bible Student congregations and gradually to supplant individual thinking with organization mindedness. In order to make such media available cheaply and in large quantities, the Watch Tower Society purchased its own printing plants, and with the book The Harp of God (1922) began its publishing and printing career. Soon it was able to put out larger books for only 35 cents a book, coming down eventually to as low as 25 cents a book; and a flood of these began to flow out into the world.

    The use of Watch Tower Society published books, booklets and magazines had a three-fold purpose: (1) to effect mass thinking within the orbit of the Organization on all matters pertaining to the Scriptures; (2) to occupy all Bible Students, if possible, with the selling of these books to all mankind, and in doing so to raise issues for cleavage; (3) to form a financial backlog of funds to support a sustained world-wide increase campaign to come.

    … In order then to crystallize matters to the point of a crisis, the Society instituted early in 1925 a rigid method of accounting and reporting to it all time spent in witnessing with its books. …

    Having successfully invaded the congregations of the Bible Students, and after forcing about three-fourths of the adherents to leave them, the Society soon had the quorum to operate without opposition among those left behind. Now they were free to ignore individuality. Without opposition they could now establish set minimum monthly time requirements for each Publisher as well as book quotas of minimum numbers of books to be sold per month. …

    Thus the Society established a mode of “worship” within the new Organization based on business quotas and quantums, making “merchandise of men,” as had the Jews done in their temple in the days of Jesus (John 2:16). …

    ...counting time at the Coffee Shop

  • Fredhall

    Hey JAVA,

    I saw alot of his writtings, and I can see why my Overseer told me that Bill Schnell wined up in a nut house. Oh well, that what you get for leaving the truth.

  • JAVA

    Nice hearing from you Fred. Speaking of nuts, how's it going at your Kingdom Hall? Still hiding brothers screwing children from the authorities?

    ...counting time at the Coffee Shop

  • Fredhall


    Why are you asking these questions? Do you need a place to hide?

  • JAVA

    Fred--if I needed a place to hid from the authorities, the Kingdom Hall would be the place. No Fred, I don't violate children, but thanks for offering your sanctuary from morality.

    ...counting time at the Coffee Shop

  • Fredhall

    Well thanks JAVA. Next time you come to a Kingdom Hall, call the Elders first so they can hide the kids from you. We cannot have nuts like you and Schnell running in our Hall with bunch of kids.

  • HoChiMin

    Thanks JAVA, please post more clips when possible.


  • JT

    thanks for the info


  • expatbrit
    wined up in a nut house.

    Suppressed memories of the glorious years at Bethel with Rutherford, Fred?


  • outnfree

    Enjoyed your post, JAVA.

    Thanks for sharing.


  • patio34

    Java, thanks for the excerpts from the book. I enjoyed reading it.


  • TR


  • TR


    Schnell's book was the first xdub book I read. Interestingly, my wife presented me with the book when I was a dub. Of course, I rejected it at the time because "he's just a disgruntled JW", even though I knew nothing about Schnell or the book.


  • Norm

    See below

  • Norm

    Hi Java,

    I have also recently read this book and it confirms my thoughts that Rutherford was provoking many of the "persecution" issues in the US and elswhere. While a Witness Schnell also knew how to suck up to "Da Judge" by making servile butt kissing drivel like this one from the WT:


    Dear Brother Rutherford:

    Having a part in this wondrous witness work has filled my heart with joy and gladness.

    From my childhood days (I was fourteen when I started witnessing) until now, I’ve experienced a guiding hand, leading me to better usefulness, equipping me with better tools and teaching me to use them effectively to the praise and honor of our Father’s name. Through all these years I’ve come to the realization of a great truth: that by constant devotion to his service, in his witness work, we learn to love our Father above everything else and to appreciate the great truths which he gives us through The Watchtower, which truths again lead us to increased devotion and usefulness.

    I cannot help but notice that we are privileged with more light in one issue of The Watchtower now than we were in one whole year fifteen years ago. Such is real cause for joy; for we know that only those can follow the light who have made use of previous instructions. It shows our Father’s approval of our course of action. For that reason I am always eagerly awaiting the next issue, as an appreciation and understanding of each Tower is a continued testimony to me that I have still the approval of my Father; for it simply drives me on with more pep.

    This work is the Lord’s work, and all honor is due to him. I feel so elated with it, and particularly because of its increased effectiveness. During the past year I’ve had marvelous experiences with one branch of it, namely, the radio work. Your radio efforts are greatly blessed by the Lord. It’s a grand remover of lies and errors.

    One lady was so sorry she had been harsh to one of the JW’s a year ago that she cried. She said that your lectures had opened her eyes to what we’re doing, and I placed ten volumes with her, and was fed and treated like a king.

    The station in Athens, Ga., is doing great work. Due to your broadcasts there, we placed over a hundred volumes in four days in the business section. The books were taken because they liked the lectures. Your lectures reach people we couldn’t get at before. I worked in an exclusive section in Anderson, S. C., one Sunday morning. I placed many books with the people, and heard your voice in about twelve homes while working. Needless to say, I didn’t have to say much to place books.

    I’ve had many more such experiences, but this letter is getting too long. Just wanted to tell you why I am so happy, and I do know that you’ll be glad, too, to know. May the Lord continue to bless you, my dear brother, for you certainly have been a lot of encouragement to me.

    Yours for kingdom service,

    William J. Schnell, Pioneer

    Of course when Schnell "found Jesus" he found another butt to kiss.


  • JanH

    Schnell's book is in many ways a mystery, and it is one of the sources that annoys me more than anything. This could easily have been the best source to the whole Rutherford era. It could have been a book that had a wider impact on the JW community than Ray Franz' much less widely distributed Crisis of Conscience.

    And Schnell blew it. Problem is, the more I study it, the more I am convinced that he is correct. Not only is his recollection of facts and events not in conflict with any known facts, he also seems to get to the core of a few very important issues in his analysis of what really went on in the inner sanctrums (where he did not have access) during some critical years.

    "So what's the problem?" you ask. The problem is he doesn't document anything. There are no references. No sense of source criticism. It is a collection of assertions without any basis in evidence. As such, a JW can easily dismiss the claims. Schnell didn't go to the trouble to back up his claims, and I don't think I can forgive him that sin of omission.

    - Jan
    "Pluralitas non est ponenda sine neccesitate." - Occam

  • RR

    I felt the same way Jan, having read the book several times. It is also written with much hatred, this guy really did develop a lot of hatred for the Society. And as some of you know. he eventually accepted orthodox Christianity and wrote several other books refuting the Society based on his new found beliefs.

    In any event, keep in mind, as Schnell admitted that he was in Germany and that Germany it seemed, was the prototype for teh chnages worldwide. Most of the chnaged occured there first, then some six years later, we implemented in the USA.

    Finding the sources and facts shouldn't be hard for someone who knows Watchtower history.

    Less Religion and more Jesus!

  • Englishman


    I too found it impossible to buy the book.

    However, my local library was able to track a copy in another towns library, so I reserved it. It took 6 weeks before it was my turn to loan the book and I had to sign that I would return it within 7 days.

    When I collected it the "due back by" pages contained hundreds of date stamps which showed that an equal number of persons had been eager to read it. I was amused to see that there was a large number of lend-outs in the Leigh Park area, and wondered which recalcitrent dubs that I knew there had been secretly reading up on the WT's history.


  • trevor

    Thanks for reminding me Java,

    The 'WT Slave' book was the only book I read before jumping from the Tower.
    I remember sneaking into a library ten years before leaving to secretly take a
    peep into the mind of an evil slave. Of course I scrubbed my hands afterwards!
    I now have a copy of the book and keep it under my pillow to ward off Witnesses.
    It was one of the first of its kind and that reminds mw of one of the versus from
    a poem I wrote:

    The lark who's song is best,
    Is he who sang before the rest.
    Yes! Others sang in better tune,
    But he was first and all alone,
    And his song broke the Dawn.

    Sorry about that - it's one of those days ya know. By the way what happend to
    your photo - you haven't really grown horns have you!

  • cocolocoii

    Fred to be honest with you I think that you are just a kid.
    Your comments reflects the thoughts of a kid.
    Please if you are a good witness who follows what society says, don't come to this forum to read apostate views.
    I am a witness still, but I am very discontent with Society for the way they have handled the matters.
    Please tell the elders in your cong. that you are participating in this forum, and let see how they will treat you.

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