Watchtower alternative fact - JWs were among the first to expose concentration camps

by slimboyfat 19 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • Finkelstein

    Another case of the writers of the WTS spinning facts and truths around.

    Their own self supporting propaganda as it were.

    The reality is people were aware of the concentration camps in their existence but were not totally aware that they were death camps to discreetly annihilate opposers or undesirables deemed by the Third Reich.

  • sparky1

    "In the 1930's the regime made sure the concentration camps were reported in the press, held them up for praise, and proudly let it be known that the men and women in the camps were confined without trial on the orders of the police. ..........................The novelist Christa Wolf indicated some years ago, that anyone in NAZI Germany who wanted to find out about the Gestapo, concentration camps, and the campaigns of discrimination and persecution, need only read the newspapers." - BACKING HITLER: CONSENT AND COERCION IN NAZI GERMANY by Robert Gellately (Introduction)

    The NAZI'S didn't need Judge Rutherford to expose (and take credit for such exposure) the detention/concentration camps to the world. The Germans were proud enough of them and quite capable of introducing to the world their 'unique' penal system in their own media.

  • darkspilver

    Just because something is/was reported, doesn't mean people know about it - why?

    "I had been taught growing up that Americans didn't know and couldn't have known about the Holocaust while it was happening. I was curious about why and how I could be taught that Americans didn't know when it was in the mass media... The murder went on as if nothing peculiar was happening. Most people were indifferent to it."

    "It was reported. It was reported accurately. It was reported in detail. It was reported in a timely fashion but it was for the most part buried inside the newspaper in a way that would make it difficult for readers to find the information."

    Laurel Leff (Buried By The Times - see links below)

    "Americans, including many American Jews, were largely unaware of what we now call the Holocaust while it was going on; the nation was preoccupied with defeating the Axis."

    Peter Novick (The Holocaust in American Life)

    Reporting on The Times - How The New York Times and the American public managed to ignore the Holocaust

    The New York Times: Turning Away From the Holocaust

    AND then there was failure: none greater than the staggering, staining failure of The New York Times to depict Hitler's methodical extermination of the Jews of Europe as a horror beyond all other horrors in World War II -- a Nazi war within the war crying out for illumination.

    Only six times in nearly six years did The Times's front page mention Jews as Hitler's unique target for total annihilation. Only once was their fate the subject of a lead editorial. Only twice did their rescue inspire passionate cries in the Sunday magazine.

    What is interesting is that, following Laurel Leff's comments above, perceptions are now changing - thanks to modern technology and crowd sourcing that was unavailable 20 years ago when the OP WT quote was written.

    The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is leading the way with a forthcoming major exhibition due in 2018:

    History Unfolded: U.S. Newspapers and the Holocaust

    What could Americans have known about the Nazi threat from reading their local newspapers in the 1930s and 1940s? You can help. Join our team of citizen historians whose research will be shared with scholars, curators, and the public.
  • zeb

    I recall reading a letter sent by Rutherford to Hitler in which he praised Hitler. That would make an interesting tail piece on this article.

  • slimboyfat

    The Awake! magazine said that the names of concentration camps such as Dachau were unknown before the end of World War 2. This is false.

    Historian Laurence Rees states that they were very well known worldwide and quotes a number of sources to make the point. But he is not even trying to prove the point, he is merely stating the fact. Because outside of the 1995 Awake! the idea that names such as Dachau were "unknown" is itself pretty "unknown".

    The extent to which the outside world knew about the Holocaust from 1942 onwards is a separate issue which does not relate to widespread knowledge about concentration camps. JWs were inmates of concentration camps from 1933 onwards and spoke about their experiences there, as did many others, as worldwide media reported.

    JWs were not sent to extermination camps (unless they were also Jews) when the Holocaust began, so they could hardly report about it.

    I suggest you read more about the subject to appreciate the distinction between concentration camps and extermination camps, and between JW experience in concentration camps and Jews during the Holocaust.

  • darkspilver

    Does the newspaper it cites actually state, "...done to death..."?

    Yes, the article published in The Guardian Friday 20 September 1935, page 13 under the heading: "Nazi Concentration Camps Not Improved" uses the expression "done to death" twice with regard to Dachau, including in the very last sentence: "The total number of prisoners known to have been done to death in Dachau is 44."

    The article notes that the deaths, which happened between 12 April 1933 and 22 May 1935, included 15 who they list as being Jewish.

    As a side point - I note that the article also states that Dachau holds around 1,600 prisoners, explaining that: "The Jews include thirty who returned to Germany this year, thinking it to be safe, and were sent to Dachau."

    It is the above article that is referred to in The Golden Age 8 April 1936 which featured articles regarding the situation in Germany over the first 14 pages of the magazine.

  • slimboyfat
    BUT I believe the Guardian was notable for being one of the VERY few newspapers to consistantly expose, and in some depth, what was happening in Germany at that time.

    I've found that there were hundreds of articles in dozens of British newspapers that give details about the concentration camps in the 1930s. The camps that the Awake! claimed were "unknown" before 1945.

    A few examples from a very, very, long list:

    "Prisoners in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp", Liverpool Daily Post, 7th January 1939.

    "Jews Beaten to Death" (at Sachsenhausen), Cornishman, 15th December 1938.

    "Germany's Political Prisoners" (at Sachsenhasuen), Daily Record, 7th January 1939.

    "Pastor Dies at Nazi Camp" (Niemoeller at Sachsenhasuen), Scotsman, 24th July 1939.

    "Inside a German Prison Camp" (Sachsenhausen), Nottingham Evening Post, 22nd of July 1937.

    "The Toll of Dachau", Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer, 23rd June 1938.

    "The Twelve Months of Dachau Horror", Birmingham Daily Gazzette, 28th November 1938.

    "Brutality at Dachau", Yorkshire Evening Post, 31st October 1939.

    "Camps for political prisoners under the Nazi regime" (Dachau), Illustrated London News, 10th February 1934.

    "2000 Massacred in Reich Camps" (Dachau), Aberdeen Press and Journal, 20th July 1934.

    "The Situation in Germany" (Dachau), Belfast Newsletter, 20th July 1934.

    "Story of Massacre" (at Dachau), Western Morning News, 29th July 1934.

    "The German Upheaval" (at Dachau), Taunton Courier, 25th July 1934.

    "German Concentration Camps" (Dachau), The Scotsman, 24th October 1934.

    "Nazi Concentration Camps not Improved" (Dachau), Derry Journal, 27th September 1935.

    "Misled Germans - Life in the Concentration Camps - Electrified Wire", The Scotsman, 7th December 1936.

    "The Toll of Dachau", Yorkshire Post, 23rd June 1938.

    As I say, this is a very tiny sample from hundreds of articles published in dozens of newspapers exposing Nazi concentration camps by name in the British press in the 1930s. Examples from the Manchester Guardian not even included. And let alone newspapers in other countries.

    And what is striking about the way these stories refer to Dachau is that knowledge of the camp was simply taken for granted. It was common knowledge. When it is characterised in the text, it is described in terms such as "infamous", "most famous" and "the notorious" concentration camp.

    Yet the Awake! in 1995 claimed Dachau, Sachsenhasuen and other concentration camps were "unknown" to most, except readers of The Golden Age and Consolation magazines, before 1945.

  • slimboyfat

    Buchenwald was established in 1937 and stories about conditions in the camp soon appeared in the British press. It was sometimes referred to as "dreaded Buchenwald", the "great concentration camp", "grim concentration camp", and "the worst camp".

    Here is a very small sample of stories about the Buchenwald concentration camp that the Awake! claims was "unknown" to most non-Golden Age and Consolation readers before 1945.

    "Germany's Grim Forest Prison for Jews", Portsmouth Evening News, 10th August 1938.

    "Plight of Jews", Lincolnshire Echo, 10th August 1938.

    "Worst Camp", Yorkshire Evening Post, 2nd of December 1938.

    "Beaten to Death", Daily Record, 23rd January 1939.

    "Escaped Jew Saw Death Beatings", Dundee Courier, 23rd January 1939.

    "Nazi Concentration Camp Horrors - Savage Ill Treatment of Prisoners", Birmingham Daily Post, 31st October 1939.

    "Concentration Camp Revelations - Hitler's Order Regarding Punishment of Jews", The Scotsman, 31st October 1939.

    "Envoys Reveal Horrors of Nazi Lash", Daily Mirror, 31st October 1939.

    There were hundreds of such articles about Buchenwald just in the British press alone before 1945.

  • darkspilver

    Yes, there is a distinction between 'concentration camps' - established from the time at the Nazis came to power in 1933. These where fore-mostly prisons and forced labour camps, although many died at these camps - through, for example, ill-treatment, hunger and executions - that was not their main purpose.

    This is in contrast to the 'extermination (or death) camps' that where established primarily in Poland following the invasion and occupation of that country by the Nazis in 1939. These camps where designed and built to kill and where part of what is known as the 'Final Solution' - the extermination of all Jews. As such JWs where not sent to these camps, with the exception of Auschwitz - although it should be noted that Auschwitz itself comprised of a number of camps, not all that would be called 'extermination camps', and this would have been after the start of the war.

    Today I believe there is a tendency, especially in general conversations, for people to use the word 'concentration camp' to reference both types of camps - which is sad, because there was a clear distinction. (In the 1930's the British public was aware that Britain had also operated concentration camps in which thousands had died).

    As you highlighted, with clear 'black and white' newspaper examples, the 'names' of Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Dachau, and Sachsenhausen (all camps to which JWs had been sent) would have been known to those in Britain who read those articles - this means that the names of those camps where clearly more widely known amongst the general population than the WT article makes it appear - and thus the WT was wrong and misleading to make such a statement.

  • darkspilver

    I'm not sure what your interest (if any!) is vis-vis the views of the general British population to the dissemination of news from Germany pre-war, but it's an interesting subject area.

    Today we have the benefit of hindsight - we have a clearer idea of what was happening and what was going to happen. The treatment of the Jews was atrocious and we must not forget that.

    Those reading their newspapers during the 1930s did not have availability of multiple news channels and 24-hour news. They were also fitting what they were being told into a different knowledge background than we have today (for example the reporting of The Rape of Belgium 20 years previous) and they had their own expectations and hopes - this was, in Britain, generally an era of 'appeasement' (and in the US, an era of 'isolationism'). I believe it is important to historically contextualise what was being reported at that time - though we must not minimize in anyway what happened, or excuse it.

    Looking back, the Letters published in the Manchester Guardian from Monday 23 April 1945 are interesting:

    "... The fact that this has been practised on so large and scientific a scale may startle the more empirically minded. But it will not have surprised those who choose to recall the cruelties of the last-war German and the bestialities which marked the early Nazi years. Sceptics {surely by now a dwindling sect), and others, will perhaps recollect today the enlightened part played by the Manchester Guardian in the pre-war years in acquainting the thinking world with the facts of the concentration camp regime. Your then Berlin correspondent's timely dispatches are now proved beyond all doubt to have been tragically sober and well-informed accounts, and not unpalatable exaggerations to be quickly read and conveniently forgotten... " - B Melland, 20 April 1945

    "Now that we have irrefutable proof of the atrocities that have been perpetrated in the Nazi concentration camps, it is interesting, and instructive, to recall the attitude of much of the press (not the Manchester Guardian), of many Conservative MPs, and of a good section of the deluded public in the early days of the Nazi regime towards the accounts of atrocities which did filter through. Such accounts were dismissed as mere propaganda put forward by Socialists or Jews, or, alternatively, if the atrocities were admitted - well, it was only those 'wicked Socialists' or those 'despicable Jews' who were being ill-treated. Perhaps the democratic peoples have now learned that a nation or a Government that can perpetrate such atrocities against any of its people is a danger to the whole human race." - E Hough, 19 April 1945

    And regarding the British public's belief and view of the stories about Nazi atrocities, even towards the end of the war? In December 1944 37% believed them to be true - with 29% believing them to be 'partly true', 11% thinking them 'false', and (I think an amazingly high) 23% of the British public having 'no opinion' about them. BUT a few months later in April 1945 that had changed. Then 81% believed them to be 'true', 16% as 'partly true', 3% as 'false' and 0% as having 'no opinion'. One, of a number of 'turning points' for the British public was no doubt the publication of photos that had not been available before that time. Pictures played an important part.

    Thank you for the summary list (of just a few) of the newspaper articles you found.

    Interestingly, looking through them there was one reference which immediately stood out to me and I therefore looked it up - In contrast to the others it was not a newspaper, it was a mass-market weekly magazine with pictures, and I suspect would have had a longer 'shelf-life' in the house and was even likely to be kept.

    Remember, The Guardian had published on 1 January 1934 the following article (with no pictures): DACHAU CONCENTRATION CAMP - Report on its Organisation, Routine, and Recent History - PUNISHMENT AND ILL-TREATMENT OF PRISONERS

    This was followed five weeks later, as you highlighted, by the following double page spread, with eight (rather innocuous) pictures:

    Illustrated London News, 10th February 1934: Camps for political prisoners under the Nazi regime

    Hitherto little has been available by way of illustration of the German concentration camps for political prisoners under the Nazi regime, about which there has been so much rumour and discussion. Unique interest consequently belongs to these photographs, lately to hand from a French source, and secured, it is stated, on the first occasion on which a journalist has been authorised to take pictures in the camp at Dachau.

    Although as far back as last October a message from Berlin stated that the camps were to be abolished, and that "most of them had already been closed down," recent news does not fulfil that prophecy. On January 26 Herr Gerhardt Seger, former secretary of the German Peace Society, was reported to have said that there were still sixty concentration camps in Germany, containing 50,000 political prisoners. Meanwhile, however, there seems to be no doubt that large numbers of prisoners have been released from time to time, partly in view of the Nazi electoral triumph, and also as a gesture of goodwill at Christmas, preference being given to prisoners of good behaviour and especially to fathers of large families. Those released were urged to enter the Nazi fold, and at the same time were warned that any relapse on their part into hostility towards the Government would meet with "rigorous, unrelenting, and final measures."

    A recent sidelight on the question was thrown by the case of three Roman Catholic priests, arrested last November, who were sentenced on January 24, at Munich, to several months' imprisonment. One of the priests was accused of having fabricated stories of atrocities said to have been committed in the camp at Dachau, and the others of having passed on these stories.

    It may be recalled also that, some few months ago, attention was drawn, by Major General Sir Neill Malcolm, to alleged ill-treatment of a well-known prisoner, Herr Ebert, son of the first President of the German Republic, "to whom (said General Malcolm) Germans owe far more than many of them are now willing to admit." In a letter to The Times, all the more impressive from its sympathetic tone towards Nazi rule, General Malcolm made the following statements (here somewhat abridged): "I am not one of those who can see no virtue in the Hitler regime. To me it seems that his Government, like most other Governments, has done much that is good. It has certainly restored to a great majority of Germans that feeling of national self-respect which is perhaps the most precious possession of a great people. Nevertheless, in common with other revolutionary movements, the Hitler regime has an unpleasant side, which is doing Germany much harm in the eyes of the outside world. I believe that there are very many right-minded Germans who know little or nothing of the administration of the concentration camps. I believe there are others who do know and heartily disapprove." Some three weeks later General Malcolm made known, "without comment," an account of a visit to Herr Ebert, at the Borgemoor camp, by a member of the Prussian Ministry of the Interior, to whom Ebert said he had experienced no ill-treatment. At the same time it was reported from Berlin that, while no denial of General Malcolm's statements, or reference to them, had apparently been published in Germany. Herr Ebert had suddenly appeared at another camp, at Lichtenburg, where he was seen, looking physically fit and well-fed, by a group of foreign visitors including a British journalist.

    The correspondent from whom the above photographs came, describing his visit to Dachau, writes: "To this camp the Hitler Government has sent its most formidable opponents. Dachau is a little village on a hill thirty kilometres from Munich. The motor-bus from the station is always full, for the camp commandant allows the prisoners' parents to bring them, from time to time, food, linen, and tobacco. All about the camp were guards in green uniform, armed to the teeth, and from a turret in a corner two machine - guns point towards the gate. 'There are here,' said the Commandant, '2500 prisoners and 400 guards. That is why our men are armed and we have barbed wire charged with electricity. So far we have set free, provisionally, nearly 600 prisoners, of whom only about 50 have returned.' The prisoners were ordered to build a memorial to Horst Wessel, and adorn their barrack walls with portraits of Hitler, and the swastika sign, which appears on workshop walls, worktables, and even tools. The organisation of the camp is excellent, and when inspecting the dormitories, the living quarters, the kitchens, and the hospital, one recalls that meticulous organisation is the chief virtue of the Germans. The workshops are provided with modern machinery, and Dachau is, in effect, a highly up-to-date 'factory.'"

    (note paragraph breaks added)

    I think even articles written 20 years ago need to be historically contextualised within what was known and/or accepted at the time. Thankfully there has been a growing worldwide acknowledgement, in particular, since the 1990s that we must learn more and never forget what happened as more museums and memorials are established.

    For example the United States official Holocaust Memorial Museum ( in Washington was dedicated in 1993, and in Britain, The National Holocaust Centre and Museum ( opened in 1995. The recognition of Holocaust Remembrance Day/s in many countries has come much more into being from the 1990s, with the UN, in 2005, designating 27 January as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

    In addition, the relatively recent advent of technology, with for example the digitization of newspapers, is now enabling much research to be untaken in a more easier and comprehensive way. It is specifically due to those recent advances, that it is really only now that the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum can undertake to mount an exhibition such as the forthcoming 2018 History Unfolded: U.S. Newspapers and the Holocaust that I've previously mentioned in this thread. It will be interesting to keep an eye out for this.

    Sorry for going somewhat off-topic - in conclusion: Does anyone know of any books or studies that have been done regarding the news reporting in Britain during the 1930s??

    There appears to be a fair amount regarding reporting during and after the war - for example the PhD thesis below, but not really before (or the inter-war period)

    Belsen, Dachau, 1945: Newspapers and the First Draft of History

    Sarah Coates BA (Hons.) - Thesis - Doctor of Philosophy, Deakin University, March 2016

    This thesis examines how Nazi concentration camps were first presented to the British and American general public. It focuses on the nature of press coverage in 1945, identifying themes that emerged in British and American newspaper reportage of two Nazi concentration camps, Belsen and Dachau, in the immediate aftermath of liberation and during the subsequent trials of camp personnel. In examining the two historically critical events of liberation and military trials and focusing on two major Nazi camps, this thesis grapples with the links between early reporting and ongoing misunderstandings about the concentration camp system. Recognising the pivotal role journalists play in forming the 'first rough draft' of concentration camp history, it is argued that the way liberation is remembered today and what concentration camps are seen to represent is linked closely to the contemporary framing of camps. The thesis identifies how the press portrayed key themes in the camps and structured these to create, in some cases, a highly problematic discourse reflective of the values of correspondents and photographers, the conventions of the time, and national ideals and desires.

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