FEBRUARY 22, 2021
On January 27, 2021, the State Parliament of Baden-Württemberg, Germany, focused on Jehovah’s Witnesses during their annual commemoration of victims of the Nazi regime during World War II. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the ceremony was hosted online. More than 37,000 people from Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, and Switzerland viewed the event. The recording of the event was subsequently accessed approximately 78,000 times.
Muhterem Aras, the president of the Baden-Württemberg State Parliament, acknowledged that “the history of the persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses is quite well-documented, . . . but it is weakly anchored in the public consciousness.” She went on to explain that the Witnesses during that dark time of history are “a role model for us today in dealing with hatred, marginalization, and the danger of . . . violence.”
State Parliament President Aras highlighted the story of Anna Denz, a Witness from Lörrach, Baden-Württemberg. Her parents died in the concentration camps. Anna refused to give the “Heil Hitler” salute at school. She eventually fled to Switzerland with the help of fellow Witnesses. Later, Anna moved with her husband to the United States. “Anna Denz had the courage to resist,” State Parliament President Aras asserted. “She drew this strength from her faith.”
The historian Dr. Hans Hesse explained how Jehovah’s Witnesses were banned in Germany in 1933, just two months after the Nazis rose to power. Dr. Hesse explained to the viewers that our brothers “resisted the ban by distributing leaflets or continuing their preaching activity.”
The historian recounted the experience of Brother Gustaf Stange. While on trial as a conscientious objector, Brother Stange was asked by the prosecutors: “What would happen if everyone did as you do?” Our brother replied: “Then the war would be over immediately.”
The online event featured music from the Kingdom song “Forward, You Witnesses!” Brother Wolfram Slupina, who oversees the activities of the Public Information Desk at the Central Europe branch, explained that Brother Erich Frost, who was a professional musician, composed the original lyrics of this song while imprisoned in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp in 1942. In an interview several decades ago, Brother Frost explained that the purpose of the song was to encourage his fellow inmates, since “the harassment in the camp was unbearable.”
Mara and Finn Kemper, aged 13 and 15, who are also Jehovah’s Witnesses, interviewed Sister Simone Arnold Liebster, a survivor of Nazi persecution. Sister Liebster endured intense opposition as a child. Because of her refusal to conform, Nazi authorities sent her to a reform school. She related that she “felt great joy” when she successfully resisted efforts to break her integrity.
We are pleased that this ceremony gave a large audience a powerful witness about Jehovah, who proved to be a reliable Helper during a season of intense persecution.—Hebrews 13:6.