OCTOBER 21, 2016
SELTERS, Germany—Jehovah’s Witnesses were the focus of the 71st Anniversary of the Liberation of Brandenburg-Görden Prison held on April 24, 2016.
The event, sponsored by the Brandenburg Memorials Foundation (Stiftung Brandenburgische Gedenkstätten), was held on the grounds of the Brandenburg an der Havel Prison (pictured above), located approximately 90 kilometers (56 mi.) west of Berlin. Over 200 guests attended the ceremony. Daniela Trochowski, Secretary of State for Finance in Brandenburg, delivered a guest lecture. She explained: “Here Jehovah’s Witnesses were punished with death . . . because they refused to give the ‘Heil Hitler’ salute for religious reasons, because they would not participate in State events and organizations, and because they refused to perform military service.”
During the Nazi regime, then chancellor of Germany, Adolf Hitler, labeled Jehovah’s Witnesses as a ‘brood to be exterminated.’ Of the approximately 2,000 people killed at the Brandenburg-Görden Prison (as it was called under the Nazi regime) between 1940 and 1945, 127 were Witnesses, the largest number of any single group killed there.
As part of the April 24 commemoration program, Jochen Feßenbecker, a representative from the branch office of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Germany, interviewed Werner Speidel. Mr. Speidel recounted how his older brother Sigurd was one of the Witnesses executed at the Brandenburg-Görden Prison. On January 27, 1943, less than three months after being sentenced by court-martial, 19-year-old Sigurd was beheaded. During the interview, Mr. Feßenbecker read the farewell letter Sigurd penned just hours before he was executed. Mr. Speidel commented on his family’s reaction to Sigurd’s final words: “Reading this letter didn’t overwhelm us with fear. Instead, we were proud of Sigurd for keeping his faith and for facing death.”
International: David A. Semonian, Office of Public Information, 1-718-560-5000
Germany: Wolfram Slupina, 49-6483-41-3110