mass murder by a Witness

by Jerry Bergman 8 Replies latest jw friends

  • Jerry Bergman
    Jerry Bergman

    Has anyone read the book Jungle Gods by Carl von Hoffman? It tells of a Watchtower convert who decided that he needed to start Armageddon on his own and ended up killing over a hundred persons before he was caught. It is now long out of print but I found several copies using (a search engine) and on See page 42 - 68. It is must reading!!

  • Gopher

    I just want to be sure -- is this fiction, or an actual case?

    If this is an actual case, it illustrates the danger of the Armageddon-oriented theology, with its overemphasis on "end times". I feel sadness for the victims. The WT Society would say "but we only meant for the man to PREACH to people and not to bring God's judgment on them!". But in reality the WT Society preaches a slaughter of 99.9% of mankind, which is far more horrific than what this man did.

  • hillary_step

    Hi Jerry,

    I have not read this book and will track it down. Is this the person in Africa who started his own break-away sect from the WTS and proceeded to kill lots of people under the assumption that he was cleaning up te world for God? I seem to remember reading something about this at some stage.

    Best regards - HS

  • Earnest

    Judging from a description of Jungle Gods as "an account of the author's travels in Equatorial Africa and Rhodesia in mid 1920's, describing the Chiwahli people, witchcraft, animal tales, folk lore, native customs, etc.", I think the man referred to was Mwana Lesa, mentioned in the 1976 Yearbook, pp.95,96 :

    About the time that Brother Dawson visited the Rhodesias [1925], a person called Mwana Lesa caused terror among the Africans of Northern Rhodesia. Mwana Lesa (which means "Son of God") was an African from Nyasaland; his real name was Tom Nyirenda and he came over to Northern Rhodesia by way of the Congo. Reports speak of him as an adherent of one of the indigenous "Watchtower movements" who made himself a prophet. According to the account in the Sunday Times of July 1, 1934, by Scott Lindberg, he got hold of a copy of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. From this he saw how white men in olden times tied "witches" to a ducking stool and drowned them. Apparently this made a big impression on him. Traveling from village to village, he preached and told the natives "that Africa belonged to the Africans and that the white man must be chased out."

    Nyirenda then struck up a partnership with Chiwila, a headman of Lala (the southeast part of the present Copper Belt). These two made a plot for Nyirenda to wipe out Chiwila’s political enemies by labeling them "witches" and drowning them by baptism so that he could win the election for the kingship. Mr. Lindberg says: "Tom was then told the names of all Chiwila’s enemies. He called the headmen together and told them that he had been sent by God to cleanse the tribe of witchcraft, and that every man, wo

    man and child must be baptised in the river.

    "The superstitious natives were decoyed to a place where a swift river forced its way through a winding ravine among the hills, and there, on top of a boulder in the middle of the river, stood Tom, dressed in long white robes.

    "He told the people that God had sent him to separate the sheep from the goats. He then baptised each person by immersion in the river, with the help of Chiwila’s staunch supporters, who held their enemies under the water, with their heads upstream, until they were drowned.

    "The people sang hymns as they stood gazing at each lifeless victim, and all night long the forest echoed the frenzied exhortations of Mwana Lesa.

    "Having drowned twenty-two natives that night, Tom decided to cross the border and settle in the Katanga Province of the Belgian Congo, where the Rhodesian authorities would not be able to get him."

    In the Congo, Tom Nyirenda committed further atrocities before he was arrested by Northern Rhodesian police, tried, convicted and hanged in Broken Hill Prison Square in front of the native chiefs. These fiendish deeds were linked to the name "Watch Tower." But Mwana Lesa had no connection whatsoever with the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, or the Bible Students, as Jehovah’s witnesses were known then. To the contrary, Mr. Lindberg reported that Tom Nyirenda "had been received into the Roman Catholic Church and given absolution while in prison" before he was executed. In spite of this the enemies of God’s kingdom, the clergy of Christendom’s denominations, did their best to pin the blame for this on the genuine Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society and to prejudice authorities and the public against us to try to keep the Witnesses out of the country. So, we can appreciate the mountainous obstacle that had to be overcome to establish the Kingdom work in Northern Rhodesia.


  • Jerry Bergman
    Jerry Bergman

    Earnest This is the Watchtowers side. The book contains the other side. I have concluded that the book is as a whole more accurate, although the Watchtower's side helps us to put the whole event in perspective. Other historians have evaluated the account and side with the book Jungle Gods. At any rate, it is an excellent book and as far as I know the author just reported the facts as accurately as possible.

  • Pork Chop
    Pork Chop

    Other historians? Names please. "Other?" are you a historian? I thought you were a professional Watchtower detractor.

  • Earnest


    I wouldn't describe either the Watchtower or Carl von Hoffman as historians. The Watchtower would, of course, tell their side of the account. Captain von Hoffman seems to have been an adventurer who wrote of his adventures. A brief search on the internet shows he also contributed articles to a sort of 'Boys Own' magazine called 'The American Boy' in January ('Johnny Boy' - “The true story of a pet chimpanzee...") and March ('Night Raid' - "leopard hunting with dogs"), 1936 ( This doesn't detract from what he wrote but does suggest the nature of his writing and intended audience. If you do know of historians who have written about Mwana Lesa I would be interested in obtaining further background information.

    The growth of indigenous Watchtower (kitawala) movements in Africa in the early 20th century inclines me to accept that Mwana Lesa was just another one of these movements. The 1976 Yearbook gives some background to the development of these movements. It seems that a missionary named Joseph Booth was active in central and southern Africa at the turn of the century and was promoting the idea of equality for the Africans and "Africa for the Africans." He met with Russell in 1906 and agreed to act as a missionary for the Bible Students. The doctrine of the imminent end and a paradise earth where there would be no discrimination had a great appeal to a continent subjected to colonialism. Booth's mixture of self-rule with Watchtower literature led to the growth of movements for social change which were the antithesis of the apolitical stance of the Bible Students.


  • mouthy

    Earnest...( Norman lol) I must agree with Jerry...You still want to protect the WT...."Get out of her my people""""" Take it to heart love...I dont believe ANYTHING the WT said -They were the ones who told me even the Devil can speak truth>>>>me thinks NOT!!!!!

  • Jerry Bergman
    Jerry Bergman

    I wouldn't describe either the Watchtower or Carl von Hoffman as historians. The Watchtower would, of course, tell their side of the account. Captain von Hoffman seems to have been an adventurer who wrote of his adventures. Earnest. Thanks for the information. I guess the term a writer is more accurate. By the way, your assessment was in part very well done. I do remember the watchtower had a fair amount of influence on the events, although they obviously did not approve of his killing spree. Somebody else read the account and I would like to hear what they think. I do have several Ph.D. thesis and scholarly books that cover Africa at this time and, if I remember correctly, they mention this case. It would be a good topic to do a paper on but you would have to be fluent in French and have the funds to travel to Africa. Any takers?

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