Watchtower defiance against Hitler

by The Quiet One 37 Replies latest watchtower scandals

  • Band on the Run
    Band on the Run

    My grandmother made my mother practice her witness for when the Nazis invaded America. My mom was born-in and came of age during this period. She said I could read all the books about WWII but she lived through it. She was very traumatized by being a witness in almost fascist times in the States. Imagine what would have happened to Bethel if that letter were printed in the New York Daily News. A pro-German group? A right-wing Catholic priest, Fr. Couglin, stirred up simmering sentiments against JWs. My father was at Bethel and fought them off with a cane when the Catholic group invaded Madison Sq. Garden and threw ammonia bombs on women and children.

    She was expelled for not saluting the flag during this period.

    So the Witnesses are persecuted by Hitler. Yet they also kiss up to Hitler? It is confusing. I wonder what Rutherford's intent was with the letter. Does anyone know what happened to the assets of the JWs thrown into othe camps?.

    Slightly off-topic, I stumbled upon a law review article written by a female JW lawyer about JWs and Japan, both before and during WWII. In contrast to my memories of Witness books which told moving individual stories of Witnesses in Germany, this article went on about how wonderful Brooklyn was during this time. It is a tribute to the org. and not to any Witnesses. Thousands lost their lives. I kept waiting for short but moving tales of Christian faith.

    The Judge never faced the SA or SS or the Japanese authorities. He sat behind a desk in a comfortable chair in Brooklyn. The closest he ever came to being under fire was when an occasional U-2 boat would be seen in NY Harbor. My mom would always tell me what it was like when the US was losing the war. I don't think my grandmother was the only American Witnesses all hyped up to sacrifice her children to the Gestapo. It is not a fun way to grow up.

    Rutherford basically says you believe x about the Jews and JWs agree with you.

  • soft+gentle

    to be fair during the early years Hitler did not reveal the extreme measures he was later to take against the Jews. Indeed when he found that his anti-jewish stance was not as welcome amongst Germans as he'd hoped he tended to foreground more palatable ideology during his rise to power and during the early part of his government. Rutherford's letters relate to this early part of Hitler's 3rd reich.

    are there any letters from rutherford to Hitler from later on?

    band on the run your grandmother was a brave woman

  • TheOldHippie

    I think pellechia's comment was very balanced.

    And as the last poster said, the earlier public programs and statements of the Nazi government - as those of most of the governments' down thru history - was not that difficult to agree with. It was not written in bold letters in the first public statements for what the government aimed at achieving, that "we are to kill all Jews and Gypsies and Homosexuals within a couple of years, and also kill all mentally ill people". Naive people, like US religious groups, could easily find points to support. More thorough studies of the movement would have told them otherwise, but after all, the German upper classes believed they could use Hitler for their own benefit, British and other political parties believed they could negotiate with Hitler and boasted of "peace in our time".

    Behind the polished surface was another, grim story. But taken at face value, as the WT did, much could be thought of as "good enough" for further negotiations.

  • Aussie Oz
    Aussie Oz

    The Watchtower did just enough to have the look of neutrality while trying to get on hitlers good side.

    They were playing both fields in order to try and come out winners either way.

    I wonder as to why... did Rutherford want to hold onto real estate in Germany, or was he trying to save german jws by cosing up to Hitler? Did he need the germans to be martyrs to boost the religion in the west? Was it a case of throw them under the bus like later happened in africa?

    Either way, the JWs died because rutherford pissed off Hitler bigtime me thinks


  • J. Hofer
    J. Hofer

    the jews were persecuted for being jewish. they could be decorated WWI officers, they'd still be deported.

    JWs were not persecuted for being JW. JW men were persecuted for not joining the armed forces. they would have gone to jail/concentration camps either way, no matter what rutherford would have written.

    however, the watchtower wasn't neutral at all. they wrote articles against the nazis (as well as against the sovjets, which led to another problem). now imagine being forced into an undercover resistance role in a fascist country. that's why not only JW men, but all JWs/bible students were persecuted (bible students including adventists and similar groups). this can be viewed as heroic, important or idiotic... still, even in the camps, some JWs would make their situation worse than it already was, by - for example - refusing to work in factories that were somehow connected to the war (such as sewing bags, which also would be used by soldiers).

    be it as it be, in the end hitler and his minions were solely responsible for the deaths and torture of several thousand JWs. but rutherford might have added to this pain.

  • The Quiet One
    The Quiet One

    Soft+gentle-- Good point, you are right that Hitler hadn't declared that the jews were to be murdered at that time (there were only plans to strip their power and deport them until the wannsee convention), but even though the killing of jews wasn't promoted , the anti-semitism in the letter can't be denied. But what can else can be expected from a religion that believes all others, including jews who don't join them, will die at armageddon?

  • soft+gentle

    the quiet one

    I don't see antisemtism in Rutherford's letter or the 1934 yearbook quote. Both seem to be refuting that Jehovahs witnesses are funded by Jews, catholics, big business etc. Rutherford comes across as trying to negotiate a path of peaceful co-existence for Jehovahs witnesses in Germany and of trying to avoid conflict as much as possible.

    Jehovahs witnesses have always spoken out against other religions and against materialism etc. But I would not class this as antisemitism which to me is racial hatred. Hitler and his party were guilty of antisemitism - Hitler thought the jews were not human and that they were parasites living off of other humans. Jehovahs witnesses do create much conflict by their religious intolerance so they are not against conflict in itself but where possible they do try their darndest to work with governments .

    In reply to Terry's quotes from Ernest Helmreich 1979 I am stunned because the Catholic Church also suffered persecution under Hitler. The concordat was an attempt at negotiation for as peaceful a co-existence as possible on behalf of Catholics in Germany and elsewhere. And the truth is that many priests were sent to concentration camps and murdered. The Vatican was instrumental in saving many Jews particularly in Italy.

    some more from wikipaedia....

    The nature of the Nazi Party's relations with the Catholic Church is also complicated. Before Hitler rose to power, many Catholic priests and leaders vociferously opposed Nazism on the grounds of its incompatibility with Christian morals. After Hitler took over and rose to power, party membership was not forbidden anymore and the Catholic Church actively looked for opportunities to work together with the Nazi government. At his trial Franz von Papen said that until 1936 the Catholic Church hoped for a Christian alignment to the beneficial aspects he said they saw in national socialism. (This statement came after Pope Pius XII ended Von Papen's appointment as Papal chamberlain and ambassador to the Holy See, but before his restoration under Pope John XXIII.)

    In 1937 Pope Pius XI issued the encyclicalMit brennender Sorge condemning Nazi ideology, notably the Gleichschaltung policy directed against religious influence upon education, as well as Nazi racism and antisemitism. Pius XI's encyclical Humani Generis Unitas was never published due to him dying before it could be issued, but the similar Summi Pontificatus was the first encyclical released by his successor (Pius XII), in October 1939. This encyclical strongly condemned both racism and totalitarianism, without the anti-Judaism present in Humani Generis Unitas. The massive Catholic opposition to the euthanasia programs led them to be quietly ended on 28 August 1941, (according to Spielvogel pp. 257–258) in contrast Catholics only at some occasions actively and openly protested Nazi anti-Semitism in any comparable way, except for several bishops and priests like bishop Clemens von Galen of Münster.

    In Nazi Germany, all known political dissenters were imprisoned, and some German priests were sent to the concentration camps for their opposition, including the pastor of Berlin's Catholic Cathedral Bernhard Lichtenberg and the seminarian Karl Leisner. Hitler was never excommunicated by the Catholic Church and several Catholic bishops in Germany or Austria are recorded as encouraging prayers of support for "The Führer"; this despite the fact the original Reichskonkordat (1933) of Germany with the Holy See proscribed any active political participation by the priesthood.

    Criticism also arose in that the Vatican pontificate headed by Pope Pius XI and Pope Pius XII had remained circumspect about the national-scale race hatred before 1937 (Mit brennender Sorge). In 1937, just before the publishing of the anti-Nazi encyclical, Eugenio Cardinal Pacelli in Lourdes, France condemned discrimination against Jews and the neopaganism of the Nazi régime. A statement by Pius XI on 8 September 1938 spoke of the "inadmissibility" of anti-semitism, but Pius XII is criticised by people like John Cornwell for being unspecific. Pius XI may have underestimated the degree that Hitler's ideas influenced the laity in light of hopes the Concordat would preserve Catholic influences among them. The evolution of the Vatican's understanding has faced criticism of weakness, slowness, or even culpability. On culpability this is perhaps clearest with regards to the German hierarchy as after the Concordat there was a radical reversal of the former episcopal condemnation of Nazism, according to Daniel Goldhagen and others. It is less certain in other cases. From the other extreme the Roman Catholic hierarchy in the Netherlands officially and formally condemned Nazism in 1941 and therefore faced violence and deportation of its priests, along with attacks upon monasteries and Catholic hospitals, and, the deportation of thousands of Jews to Auschwitz, who were hiding in the Catholic institutions, among them the famous Saint Edith Stein. Likewise, the Polish Roman Catholic hierarchy was violently attacked by the Nazis and saw thousands of its clerics sent to concentration camps or simply killed, a famous example of this being Father Maksymilian Kolbe. Most nations' hierarchy took a mixture of the two positions, oscillating between collaboration and active resistance.

  • james_woods
    However, I have seen several quotes and passages of stuff from the '30's where J Rutherford printed stuff that was kind of conciliatory to Hitler, before the persecution on J W's began. At the time U S A was not contemplating war and I think that he was just being "tactful"? or deceptive .....Others have seen it as supporting Hitler
    So the Witnesses are persecuted by Hitler. Yet they also kiss up to Hitler? It is confusing. I wonder what Rutherford's intent was with the letter. Does anyone know what happened to the assets of the JWs thrown into othe camps?.

    Rutherford was decidedly anti-US in sentiment - remember, the US threw him in jail during WW1 for practicing sedition (encouraged active US service members who followed the bible students to resist the war).

    So, in the 30s, the enemy of his enemy was his friend in his deluded thought process. I believe Rutherford and his prophecy machine thought that Hitler would win, according to their prophetic ravings, early in the development of WW2. Just like Freddy thought the "King of the North" (Soviet Union) would win over the "Anglo-American World Power". Strange that the watchtower has always been quite anti-American, given all the advantages of religious freedom they have had in the U.S. Probably their strange & unforgiving religion could not have developed in any other nation.

    That is, Rutherford was pro-Hitler up until Hitler started jailing JWs in Germany because they were antiwar and would not conform to the Nazis.

    After that, they started a Malawi-like letter writing campaign and made things worse for German JWs.

  • Band on the Run
    Band on the Run

    Several people report a different history of the Nazi party than I have ever read. German Jews fled in droves b/c they had more assets than Polish Jews. Protestant clery, such as Dietrich Bonhoffer, fled the country and came to the United States. An entire university in New York, the New School was formed to provide teaching jobs for the academics who fled. Mein Kampf was clear.

    We don't know if Hitler ever expressly approved the Final Solution.

    Triumph of the Will and other Nazi propaganda films made the Nazi ideology abundantly clear. Triumph of the Will about the Olympics in Germany before the war freaked me out. The Messianic symbols associated with Hitler were creepy. Yet it was a brilliant film as film goes. I fled the theatre.

    My understanding was that Hitler started by highlighting German grievances concerning their economy and the severe punishments imposed on Germany in the aftermath of WWI.

    I read several documents posted here a few months ago regarding this letter. The Witnesses seemed to be strongly opposing Hitler. Hitler hated them with a passion. It struck me that they were being a tad provocative. Perhaps they were merely faithful. Rutherford's letter seems a very different approach. Hitler, We're you're nonJewish pals. I'm wondering if Hitler was now going to fully confiscate Witness assets. Perhaps that was Rutherford's motivation far more than individual Witnesses carted off to death camps.

    Does anyone know if JWs in Allied Countries tried to help the German JWs? Some groups in the WEst paid bribes so Jews could leave. Signmund Freud was one example. I've read a bit about Bonhoffer.

    Americans always say they had no idea about the concentration camps until the end of the war. The New York Times dutifuly reported the truth. The publisher believed American Jews first duty was to America, not Europe, so they ran on the 4 th or 5th page, rather than the front page. It was an ongoing series of articles. American Jewsih groups repeatedly met with Roosevelt to bomb the railroad lines to the camps.

  • trailerfitter

    I had read that Rutherford was against the money making Jews. I do not think the JWs did themselves any favors during the war. I wathced the latest JW DVD recently. They had issues in the USA in the 1940's with saluting the American flag. i know it sounds a bit accusitory but I thik the WTBTS put their members up for persecution rather than protecting them..

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