Even the Society cannot give you a straight answer. The following is some of the information they have put out in their literature over the years. It is from my own research and includes some of my comments.
I started with the earliest reference that I could find and this came from the Watchtower magazine of 15 May 1950, just five years after the end of the war:
*** w50 5/15 153 Organized for United Testimony ***
11 The most notorious case of persecution for living up to the name is that of the witnesses in Germany. They were banned by Hitler soon after he signed the concordat with the Vatican in 1933. Their property was confiscated. Ten thousand ministers were placed in concentration camps. Only eight thousand were released after World War II; two thousand had been murdered.
As can be seen, it says that 10,000 Witnesses were placed in concentration camps and only eight thousand were released at the end of the war. It says that the other 2,000 were murdered. Moving forward a few months I found that this is roughly confirmed in the Watchtower magazine of 15 December of the same year although it does say that 1,000 of the 2,000 who died, were executed.
At this point I believed that I had the evidence that I was looking for, but then I came across the article on page 13 of the Watchtower magazine of 1 January 1964 which says:
*w64 1/1 13 ?
Hitler, a Roman Catholic, the arm of his church in Germany, forbade Jehovah?s witnesses to preach the kingdom of God, and these modern-day Christians had to say to Hitler?s Gestapo police: ?Whether it is righteous in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, judge for yourselves.? They kept preaching even though 10,000 of them were put in concentration camps and over 4,000 died there. The rest nearly starved to death. The war?s end aided their survival.
Here the figures change with 4,000 of the ten thousand inmates of the concentration camps dying and the remaining six thousand being released at the end of the war. But there are more changes to come. Thinking that this could be a simple error I checked further and found the following in the Yearbook for 1974.
*** yb74 212 Germany (Part One) ***
"But despite the hard conditions, how those who worshiped Jehovah rejoiced! They had been privileged to prove their integrity to the Sovereign Ruler of the universe. During Hitler?s rule 1,687 of them had lost their jobs, 284 their businesses, 735 their homes and 457 were not allowed to carry on their trade. In 129 cases their property had been confiscated, 826 pensioners had been refused their pensions and 329 others had suffered other personal loss. There were 860 children who had been taken away from their parents. In 30 cases marriages had been dissolved due to pressure by political officials, and in 108 cases divorces had been granted when requested by mates opposed to the truth. A total of 6,019 had been arrested, several two, three or even more times, so that, all together, 8,917 arrests were registered. All together they had been sentenced to serve 13,924 years and two months in prison, two and a quarter times as long as the period since Adam?s creation. A total of 2,000 brothers and sisters had been put into concentration camps, where they had spent 8,078 years and six months, an average of four years. A total of 635 had died in prison, 253 had been sentenced to death and 203 of these had actually been executed. What a record of integrity!"
These figures were confirmed in the Watchtower magazine of 1 July 1979 which says the following:
*w79 7/1 7-8 ?
By way of illustration, please consider the years 1933 to 1945, when Adolf Hitler?s "Third Reich" tried to exterminate Jehovah?s Witnesses in the German Reich. Their activities were banned and 6,019 were arrested, several of them two, three or more times. Two thousand suffered in concentration camps. A total of 635 Witnesses died in prison, 203 being executed.
So now we have a completely different picture with 2,000 Witnesses placed in concentration camps, not 10,000 ! 635 Witnesses died with 203 of these being executed. There is an enormous difference between this figure and that of 4,000 that died, as given in the 1964 Watchtower.
In the hope of being able to understand these figures a little better I used the Society?s CD Rom to look up the actual numbers of Witnesses in Germany just before and just after the war. This confused matters even further.
The Watchtower magazine of 1 January 1971 had this to say:
*** w71 1/1 16 Have You Entered the Great Contest of Faith? ***
35 In 1932 when the last report was received from Germany and before the ban was placed on Jehovah?s witnesses, there were 14,453 sharing in the Kingdom declaration.
By 1946, following the collapse of the German war machine and the opening of the gates of the concentration camps ? but not the graves ? there were 11,415 dedicated Christians still in the great contest for the faith. Ten years later this number grew to 50,530, and by 1970 in Western Germany there were 86,252 Christian witnesses of Jehovah.
It appears that this could not have been put plainer or more accurately yet the Awake magazine for 22 February 1975 says:
g75 2/22 22 ?
Yet among the 19,000 German Jehovah?s witnesses in 1933, "a higher proportion (97 per cent) suffered some form of persecution than any of the other churches."
This means that between 1932 and 1933 there were nearly 4,500 baptisms in Germany? But that?s not all. We see in the Awake magazine for 22 May 1987 that the figure given for the number of Witnesses in Germany at the end of the war had moved back from 11,415 to less than 9,000.
*** g87 5/22 15 Part 6: 1946-1959 Deceptive Prosperity Amid a Peace That Was Not ***
Jehovah?s Witnesses preserved Christian neutrality during World War II and thereafter. Rebounding from Hitler?s attempts to destroy them, the number of active Witnesses in Germany increased from fewer than 9,000 in 1946 to over 52,000 within five years.
But it gets worse. The Awake magazine of 22 August 1995 says that there were 25,000 persons who admitted to being Jehovah?s Witnesses in Germany before the war began!
*** g95 8/22 10 The Evils of Nazism Exposed ***
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
The Society?s publications give all of the following information:
The number of Jehovah?s Witnesses put into concentration camps in Germany during the second world war was 2,000 and also 10,000. The number that came out at the end of the war was 8,000 and also 6,000. The number who died was 635 and also 2,000 and also 4,000.
The number of Jehovah?s Witnesses in Germany before the second world war was 14,453 and also 19,000 and also 25,000.
The number of Jehovah?s Witnesses in Germany at the end of the war was
11,415 and also less than 9,000.
Some of these numbers have to be wrong!
CAN YOU EXPLAIN?