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Jehovah's Witnesses and the Third Reich: Sectarian Politics Under Persecution

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Since the end of World War II, leaders of the Jehovah's Witness movement in both Germany and elsewhere have steadfastly argued that Witnesses were united in their opposition to Nazism and did not collude with the Third Reich. Documents have been uncovered, however, that prove otherwise. Using materials from Witness archives, the U.S. State Department, Nazi files, and other Since the end of World War II, leaders of the Jehovah's Witness movement in both Germany and elsewhere have steadfastly argued that Witnesses were united in their opposition to Nazism and did not collude with the Third Reich. Documents have been uncovered, however, that prove otherwise. Using materials from Witness archives, the U.S. State Department, Nazi files, and other sources, M. James Penton demonstrates that while many ordinary German Witnesses were brave in their opposition to Nazism, their leaders were quite prepared to support the Hitler government. Penton begins his study with a close reading of the "Declaration of Facts" released by the Witnesses at a Berlin convention in June 1933. Witness leaders have called the document a protest against Nazi persecution, however closer examination shows it contained bitter attacks on Great Britain and the United States - jointly referred to as "the greatest and most oppressive empire on earth" - the League of Nations, big business, and above all, Jews, who are referred to as "the representatives of Satan the Devil." It was later, in 1933 - when the Nazis would not accept Witness blandishments- that leader J.F. Rutherford called on Witnesses to seek martyrdom by carrying on a campaign of passive resistance. Many ultimately died in prisons and concentration camps, and postwar Witness leaders have attempted to use this fact to assert that Jehovah's Witnesses stood consistently against Nazism. Drawing on his own Witness background and years of research on Witness history, Penton separates fact from fiction during this dark period.


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Since the end of World War II, leaders of the Jehovah's Witness movement in both Germany and elsewhere have steadfastly argued that Witnesses were united in their opposition to Nazism and did not collude with the Third Reich. Documents have been uncovered, however, that prove otherwise. Using materials from Witness archives, the U.S. State Department, Nazi files, and other Since the end of World War II, leaders of the Jehovah's Witness movement in both Germany and elsewhere have steadfastly argued that Witnesses were united in their opposition to Nazism and did not collude with the Third Reich. Documents have been uncovered, however, that prove otherwise. Using materials from Witness archives, the U.S. State Department, Nazi files, and other sources, M. James Penton demonstrates that while many ordinary German Witnesses were brave in their opposition to Nazism, their leaders were quite prepared to support the Hitler government. Penton begins his study with a close reading of the "Declaration of Facts" released by the Witnesses at a Berlin convention in June 1933. Witness leaders have called the document a protest against Nazi persecution, however closer examination shows it contained bitter attacks on Great Britain and the United States - jointly referred to as "the greatest and most oppressive empire on earth" - the League of Nations, big business, and above all, Jews, who are referred to as "the representatives of Satan the Devil." It was later, in 1933 - when the Nazis would not accept Witness blandishments- that leader J.F. Rutherford called on Witnesses to seek martyrdom by carrying on a campaign of passive resistance. Many ultimately died in prisons and concentration camps, and postwar Witness leaders have attempted to use this fact to assert that Jehovah's Witnesses stood consistently against Nazism. Drawing on his own Witness background and years of research on Witness history, Penton separates fact from fiction during this dark period.

44 review for Jehovah's Witnesses and the Third Reich: Sectarian Politics Under Persecution

  1. 5 out of 5

    Dumitru

    I was surprised to see the author trying to re-establish the historical facts in the readers mind. Sometimes this is simply achieved by doubting the intentions of the sources provided. Just like one of the references from the very cover says it's a rewriting of history. It disappointed me with the way it tries to interpret historical facts, however no wonder after I find out the author is a former Jehovah's Witness just like the person who wrote the foreword. The author keeps making short biased I was surprised to see the author trying to re-establish the historical facts in the readers mind. Sometimes this is simply achieved by doubting the intentions of the sources provided. Just like one of the references from the very cover says it's a rewriting of history. It disappointed me with the way it tries to interpret historical facts, however no wonder after I find out the author is a former Jehovah's Witness just like the person who wrote the foreword. The author keeps making short biased conclusions on whatever topic is brought up, with no counter-proof whatsoever knowing German - some of the cited text is not grammatically correct, partly wrongly misspelled (cannot judge though the authenticity by this statement) a truly scholarly work could be Hans Hesse who still spends a lot of his time in the german archives to uncover new facts and other unknown JW victims that suffered from the NSDAP regime https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/4... or simply compare to the great work of https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1... another good source for more research: http://www.jwhistory.net/english/publ...

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jessica DuPont

    I came across this book in my research on the influence of Darwinism on the holocaust (considerable) and on Hitler (also considerable). This is by far the most complete and authoritative work on the Jehovah's Witnesses and the holocaust in English. It is not only well documented (the author has worked on this book for well over a decade) but balanced. It points out both the Witnesses' remarkable record during this time as well as their human flaws. Penton includes photocopies of many important d I came across this book in my research on the influence of Darwinism on the holocaust (considerable) and on Hitler (also considerable). This is by far the most complete and authoritative work on the Jehovah's Witnesses and the holocaust in English. It is not only well documented (the author has worked on this book for well over a decade) but balanced. It points out both the Witnesses' remarkable record during this time as well as their human flaws. Penton includes photocopies of many important documents plus an English translation. Although 412 pages, this book is easy reading and the type one does not want to put down. An important conclusion is, the vast majority of Christians (and even the religious sects such as the Mormons) willingly and often enthusiastically submitted to the demands of the Third Reich (page 360). Only the Witnesses resisted and, as a result, along with the Jews and Gypsies, the Witnesses were ruthlessly persecuted by the Nazis. This book is required reading to fully understand the holocaust and why it occurred.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Abigail "Abby-Rose" Margarida Sparrow

    Disgusting lies! If a book like this was written about any other group who suffered under Hitler in Germany, it would be banned and called out for its disrespect and filth. And the author sneakily trying to say they aren't claiming Individual witnesses supported Hitler, only the leaders, does not make it any better. This is filthy proganda. The witnesses as a religion, and as a collective people, did not support Hitler. Do you even know what Hitler did to them, do you???? He had many of them behe Disgusting lies! If a book like this was written about any other group who suffered under Hitler in Germany, it would be banned and called out for its disrespect and filth. And the author sneakily trying to say they aren't claiming Individual witnesses supported Hitler, only the leaders, does not make it any better. This is filthy proganda. The witnesses as a religion, and as a collective people, did not support Hitler. Do you even know what Hitler did to them, do you???? He had many of them beheaded! Those that were not often got put into the camps. And those running the society at the time were NOT okay with that, they never would support such things! Never! These are a people who didn't want persons not of their faith harmed, how much more so would they have waited to protect those who follow their religion. This is bogus.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Darnell Jenkins

    Absolutely horrendous the depths JW leaders will go just to maintain a printing and publishing empire on the backs of German JWs! Shame on these people. Penton is a scholar and his writing is second to none. Very educated and this is rare for someone from a JW background. I come from the same background and still find it hard to motivate myself to continue my education. Good on him for doing so. Excellent book.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Anne Bertrand

    A telling expose about the true story about Jehovah's Witnesses in the Third Reich. These people in the camps were betrayed by their leaders (or rather leader - Rutherford). How such a vile and anti-semetic man could influence so many German brothers and sisters in the religion of my childhood is shocking. Penton as usual takes a professorial take on it. Well researched and edited.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Michael S.

    Interesting take on an often-forgotten section of JW history. Well written and scholarly.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Karnan Karnan

  8. 5 out of 5

    Petra Gallegos

  9. 4 out of 5

    Denise

  10. 4 out of 5

    Harris Young

  11. 4 out of 5

    J.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Colleen McKendrick

  13. 4 out of 5

    Beninu Andersen

  14. 4 out of 5

    Anders Lundergaard

  15. 5 out of 5

    Rosie Rechet

  16. 5 out of 5

    Astrid Lundström

  17. 5 out of 5

    jwanswers

  18. 4 out of 5

    Shawn

  19. 5 out of 5

    Lance

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jacinto Bowks

  21. 5 out of 5

    Joseph Halstom

  22. 5 out of 5

    Derek Walsh

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    Chase Branson

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    Louis

  25. 5 out of 5

    Diane

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    Christine Danhausen

  27. 5 out of 5

    Brooklyn Park

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    Bella Austin

  29. 4 out of 5

    subterraneanhomesickalien

  30. 4 out of 5

    Carol Brannigan

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    Elke Erickson

  32. 5 out of 5

    Brooke

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    Matt

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    Itzam Caan

  35. 5 out of 5

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    Kyler

  37. 5 out of 5

    NotListeningItsABook

  38. 4 out of 5

    Nfatic Fnatic

  39. 4 out of 5

    Linda

  40. 5 out of 5

    P DE BECKER

  41. 5 out of 5

    Madison Sedlar

  42. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl Merrill

  43. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

  44. 5 out of 5

    Jsndnd

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