From September 26, 2018, to January 6, 2019, the Munich Documentation Centre for the History of National Socialism hosted a special exhibit designed to raise the public’s awareness of the experiences of Jehovah’s Witnesses during the Nazi era. The Centre shares the same property as the former headquarters of the Nazi party.
During the opening ceremony, Dr. Hans-Georg Küppers, Munich’s cultural advisor, explained the motivation behind the exhibit in his welcome address: “This exhibition is important because for a long time Jehovah’s Witnesses were not perceived as persecuted by the Nazi regime. . . . It is the aim of this exhibition to bring these [victims] back into the public’s consciousness.”
The historical account of what our brothers in Munich experienced under the Nazi regime was presented on 60 panels filled with stories of courage, loyalty, and survival. One panel related the experience of Martin and Gertrud Pötzinger, who were arrested and sent to separate concentration camps after just a few months of marriage. They did not see each other for nine years. Both survived, and Brother Pötzinger later served as a member of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Another panel featured the story of Therese Kühner, who became one of Jehovah’s Witnesses (then known as the International Bible Students) in 1929. When Germany banned the Witnesses, secret religious meetings were held in her home and she began covertly printing Witness literature using a hand-cranked mimeograph machine. After the Nazis discovered her activities, she was arrested and accused of “publishing and distributing anti-state literature and demoralization of the troops.” Sister Kühner’s loyalty never weakened despite facing death. She was executed on October 6, 1944.
Other displays highlighted the politically neutral stand of our brothers who refused to give the Hitler salute—an act that made them special targets of the regime’s unrelenting hate.
In 1934, Hitler vowed to eradicate Jehovah’s Witnesses, proclaiming: “This brood will be exterminated in Germany!” The Witnesses endured brutal persecution as Hitler attempted to carry out his sinister resolution. Hitler and his party no longer exist, but our brothers now number over 165,000 in Germany. We are grateful to Jehovah, who turns our tribulation into hope that “does not lead to disappointment.”—Romans 5:3-5.