Could the Holocaust Happen Again?


ON January 26-28, 2000, heads of State and representatives of 48 governments from around the world gathered in the capital of Sweden for the Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust. Some statements from the rostrum revealed a fear that world leaders harbor of a revival of Nazism. Israel’s former Prime Minister Ehud Barak said: “This conference sends forth a universal message: Never again to tolerate, anywhere on the face of the earth, a regime of evil and murder and discrimination among human beings on the basis of their religion, race or color.”

Not Just a Jewish Concern

Many people around the world relate the term “Holocaust” only to Jews. However, others were victims as well. At a well publicized Jewish Holocaust remembrance ceremony held at the Great Synagogue of Stockholm during the forum, Sweden’s prime minister suggested that a pledge be made that all archives around the world be opened up to enlighten the public on the Holocaust. “Let us know,” he said, “about the genocide of the Roma [Gypsies], the mass murder of disabled persons and the persecution and murder of homosexuals, dissidents and Jehovah’s Witnesses.”

The Swedish government has produced a book on the Holocaust entitled Tell Ye Your Children, which has been distributed throughout the country free of charge to all households with children. This publication notes that Jehovah’s Witnesses “refused to swear an oath of allegiance to Hitler and Nazi Germany. Such resistance is exceptional because merely signing a document declaring their allegiance would have ended  their persecution—yet few chose this option.”

The Holocaust and Jehovah’s Witnesses

In 1933, there were about 25,000 of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Germany. Thousands of them were among the first people to be thrown into Nazi camps and prisons. They declared their neutrality as Christians toward all kinds of political and military activity. They did not heil Hitler. They refused to accept the Nazi racist ideology and to share in Hitler’s war machine. About 2,000 died, more than 250 of them by execution.

Furthermore, Witness prisoners helped fellow prisoners to endure, including Jews and others. They did so by instilling Bible-based hope in them and by sharing whatever they had with sick and weak ones, often offering some of their last piece of bread. During the early years of Nazi persecution, they also smuggled out information about the existence of concentration camps and about what was going on in them. Since then, in their globally circulated magazines, The Watchtower and Awake!, they have published numerous articles dealing with Nazi atrocities as well as survivors’ life stories.

Fear of a revival of Nazism was evident among the delegates at the Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust. Professor Yehuda Bauer, director of the International Center for Holocaust Studies at the Institute of Contemporary Jewry, Israel, expressed it this way: “Because it happened once, it can happen again, not in the same form, not necessarily to the same people, not by the same people, but to anyone by anyone. It was unprecedented, but now the precedent is there.”

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The purple triangle identified Jehovah’s Witnesses in the camps

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1. Julius Engelhardt, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, was executed by the Nazis at Brandenburg on August 14, 1944

2. Three of Jehovah’s Witnesses head home after being liberated from Sachsenhausen, 1945

3. Elsa Abt, a Witness who was separated from her little daughter and imprisoned for nearly three years

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Nordrhein-Westfälisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Düsseldorf

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Witness survivors tell their stories on these videos