Gerhard Besier / Renate-Maria Besier: Jehovah’s Witnesses/Wachtturm-Gesellschaft: A "Pre-Modern" Religious Association in a "Modern" Society? Expert Opinion, in: The New Inquisitors, by Gerhard Besier / Erwin K. Scheuch (editors), Editions La Colombe Christoph Lenhartz, Bergisch Gladbach, Germany, 2003, pages 278-9.


[page 278]

"A third front against Jehovah’s Witnesses meanwhile has become history. The GDR [German Democratic Republic, East Germany] considered the WTS [Watchtower Society] as an organization bought by big capitalists and directed by the State Department of the United States. It was claimed the WTS had courted the National Socialists’ favor–with anti-Semitic tendencies–and had changed its course only in the second half of the year 1938. The WTS was accused of working as an underground movement in the former GDR and in other Eastern-bloc states, mounting an ‘anti-Communist smear campaign’ in order to destroy the ‘developed Socialist human association.’ In the GDR, Jehovah’s Witnesses were subject to examination by the secret service [Ministerium für Staatssicherheit, Stasi] and had to suffer accordingly. Their attitude under the ‘Third Reich’ is not only discussed in recent publications, which count Jehovah’s Witnesses ‘among the forgotten victims,’ but also in earlier critical discussions of history. No matter how one sees this history, there is no reason for a pejorative judgment by mainstream churches and associated scientists. The frequently repeated accusation of ‘having curried favor with’ the [page 279] Nazi regime in connection with the Jehovah’s Witnesses Convention in Berlin on June 25, 1933, also cannot be upheld. The petition and the accompanying letter to the Reich Chancellor repeatedly express the apolitical character of Jehovah’s Witnesses, their request to freely practice their religion, and their assurance that they do not want to present a danger or even a menace to ‘the peace and safety of the state.’ Finally, there is the ongoing discussion about the unclear formulation, saying that ‘the very high ideals held and promulgated by the present national government’ were in line with the ideals of Jehovah’s Witnesses. At the same time, it was explained that Jehovah God will see to it ‘that these high ideals in due time will be attained by all persons who love righteousness and obey the most High,’ thus clearly narrowing the unspecified ideals and goals. If such adapted declarations and tributes[69] of a religious association are to be considered as ‘currying favor,’ then there is no adequate linguistic term left in this system of categories to characterize the statements made by German-Christian (DC, [Deutsche Christen]) bishops and theologians. Above all, the symptoms of weakness that Jehovah’s Witnesses showed at the beginning of the Third Reich must be seen in relation to their determined resistance during the following years. During this time, DC church authorities urged their priests and pastors to act as informers for the Gestapo ‘in order "to put a stop to the activities" of Jehovah’s Witnesses.’ At the beginning of the "Third Reich," the Apologetic Center, a department of the Inner Mission’s Central Committee, put background material on ‘sects’ at the disposal of the Gestapo and the Reich Ministry of Interior Affairs and Propaganda. Members of the Apologetic Center and the Supreme ecclesiastical council of the Protestant church declared that they would welcome a ban on Jehovah’s Witnesses during the meeting in the Berlin office of the secret state police and the Ministry of Culture in late-May and early-June 1933. It was a tradition for state and church to cooperate in the field of ‘fighting sects.’ […]"

Footnote, no. 69: "Compare for example the attempt to conformity on June 25, 1933, polemizing against 'the commercial Jews of the British-American empire' and 'business Jews.' The polemic cannot necessarily be attributed to racist motives. Zionist Max Nordau took a stand against 'commercial Jews' already in 1897. (Compare Der Bund, Bern, 8/31 and 9/1/1997.)"

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