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Survivors Answer Classroom Questions: Anna Denz

During the 2009 school year tenth-grade students from Northrop High School in Fort Wayne, Indiana asked Anna Denz Turpin the following question regarding her personal experiences during the Holocaust.

Question : How did you and your family keep your faith? When your friends and loved ones were dying, was it hard at times to keep your faith and stay strong and brave?

Anna Denz

was born in 1923 in Lörrach, Germany, near the Swiss border. Anna’s father, Oskar, worked in a weaving mill and her mother, Anna Maria, was a factory worker until illness forced her to stop working. In 1931 Oskar and Anna Maria resigned from the evangelical church and became Jehovah’s Witnesses. Anna, an only child, was very close to her parents. Every morning her mother read to her from the Bible and the family often went hiking in the woods of the Black Forest.

Jehovah’s Witnesses were banned two months after the Nazis took power in Germany. Because Anna refused to give the “Heil Hitler” greeting she was treated as an outcast and beaten by her schoolmates while the teacher looked away.  Anna was the only girl out of a class of 45 pupils who did not join the League of German Girls.

For two years the Denz family were active in dangerous underground resistance efforts to smuggle Bible literature from Switzerland into Germany. They also smuggled reports of Nazi atrocities into Switzerland.

On February 2, 1938, border guards discovered the hidden literature and arrested Oskar and Anna Maria. Anna never saw her parents again. She was interrogated for four hours by the Gestapo, but gave away no names. With the help of the Witness underground, Anna escaped to Switzerland and survived the war.

While in prison Oskar and Anna Maria refused to sign the Declaration renouncing their faith. After finishing their sentences in April 1940, Oskar was sent to Dachau and Anna Maria to Ravensbrück. After refusing to do work for the military, Anna Maria was beaten and died in January 1942. Oskar was transferred from Dachau to Mauthausen where he died in July 1942 after being used for medical experiments.

Anna lives in Kentucky with her husband.