When World War II ended in 1945, much of Germany lay in ruins. Cities had been destroyed, schools were empty, hospitals were unusable, and unexploded bombs lay everywhere. Additionally, food was in short supply, resulting in high prices. For example, on the black market, 500 grams (1 lb) of butter cost the equivalent of six weeks’ wages!
Among those affected were hundreds of Jehovah’s Witnesses who had spent years in prisons and concentration camps because of their faith. In 1945, they were freed with nothing but the prison clothes they were wearing. Other Witnesses had lost property and possessions. Some suffered from hunger so severe that they fainted during Christian meetings.
Witnesses in Other Lands Respond Swiftly
Jehovah’s Witnesses in other parts of the world responded swiftly to the urgent need for food and clothing. The brothers at world headquarters in the United States asked the branch office in Bern, Switzerland, to help the brothers in Germany. Nathan H. Knorr, a representative from headquarters, visited Europe to coordinate and speed up relief operations.
The Witnesses in Switzerland generously donated food, clothing, and money. The items were first sent to Bern, where they were sorted and packed before being shipped to Germany. Witnesses in other lands, including Sweden, Canada, and the United States, also helped in the relief effort, which benefited Jehovah’s people not only in Germany but in many war-torn countries in Europe and Asia.
Within a few months, the Switzerland branch shipped coffee, milk, sugar, cereals, dried fruit, vegetables, and tinned meat and fish. Cash was also donated.
In addition, the Witnesses in Switzerland sent five tons of clothing, including overcoats, women’s attire, and men’s suits. The January 15, 1946, issue of The Watchtower stated: “The brethren had not given their worst, but everything was of the very best. A real sacrifice had been made by them to help their German brethren.”
The Witnesses in Switzerland also donated nearly 1,000 pairs of shoes, which were checked to see that they were in good repair before they were sent. The brothers and sisters in Wiesbaden, Germany, who unpacked the items were amazed at the quality and variety. “There can hardly be a clothing store in Germany that has such a selection,” wrote one Witness.
Relief shipments continued until August 1948. Overall, the Witnesses in Switzerland sent a total of 444 crates of relief goods, weighing 25 tons, to their brothers in Germany. As mentioned, the Witnesses in Switzerland were not the only ones involved in this relief work. But they were among the smallest of the groups involved. Switzerland had just 1,600 Witnesses at the time!
“Have Love Among Yourselves”
Jesus Christ stated: “By this all will know that you are my disciples—if you have love among yourselves.” (John 13:34, 35) Love impelled Jehovah’s people to give not just what they could spare but their very best. (2 Corinthians 8:1-4) A letter from Zurich mentioned that “quite a number of the brethren who have no provisions themselves, but who nevertheless want to help, have given [their] ration cards and money.”
Jehovah’s people in Germany recovered quickly from persecution and the ravages of war. One reason was the well-organized and generous help given them by their fellow believers who displayed genuine self-sacrificing love.
Witnesses at the branch office in Bern, Switzerland, sorting clothing donated for fellow believers in Germany
Crates of donated items being loaded onto a truck at the branch office in Bern
A truck full of crates labeled “Relief Program Jehovah’s Witnesses”
Crates of donated items being loaded onto a railway car for dispatch to Germany