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Encyclopedia > Jehovah's Witnesses and the Holocaust

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Jehovah's Witnesses and the Holocaust

Jehovah's Witnesses in Germany were persecuted between 1870 and 1936. Because Jehovah's Witnesses would not give allegiance to the Nazi party, and refused to serve in the military, they were put in concentration camps during the Holocaust. Unlike Jews and Gypsies who were persecuted for racial reasons, the Jehovah's Witnesses were persecuted on political and ideological grounds. If they were to submit to the state authority and serve in the military they would be free to go. Nevertheless, approximately 2500 Jehovah's Witnessess (about 10% of the pre-War total in Germany) were sent to concentration camps where they were forced to wear a purple triangle that specifically identified them as Jehovah's Witnesses.

Initially, in 1934, the leadership of the Jehovah's Witnesses attempted to mollify the Nazis in response to denunciations for being too closely tied to America. They told Hitler that they believed that the "commercial Jews of the British-American Empire" was responsible for "exploiting and oppressing the peoples of many nations" and that Jehovah's Witnesses "have no interest in political affairs, but are wholly devoted to God's Kingdom under Christ His King." After intensified persecution of this group, a world-wide body of Jehovah's Witnesses passed a resolution in 1936 strongly condemning the Nazi regime.

During the same time period this group was also persecuted in the United States and many other countries for similar reasons, mainly because they refused to serve in the military and help with the war effort. In Canada during that time, Jehovah's Witnesses were interned in concentration camps along with political dissidents and people of Japanese and Chinese descent. In the United States, the Supreme Court issued a series of landmark First Amendment rulings that permitted the Jehovah's Witnesses to avoid military service and to refuse to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.



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