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Photo of Rudolf Graichen as a boy
Photo of Rudolf Graichen as a boy

At one program in commemoration of the Holocaust, one Jewish university professor who had studied and investigated the concentration camps and its effects it left behind on all prisoners in the camp, made this statement at the beginning of his talk saying: ‘All Jewish inmates in the camp were all prisoners without a choice. Jehovah’s Witnesses were the only prisoners in the camp with a choice, namely, to stay in there or to leave and go home again.’ Why did he come to that conclusion? During his investigation he had learned that only for Jehovah’s Witnesses the Nazis had made an arrangement for them to sign a certain document to renounce their faith in God and Jesus, and instead put their faith and trust in Hitler as the majority of the German people had done already. The very next day they could sit in a train to take them back home to their family again, or to choose not to sign that document to renounce their faith based on God’s Word and therefore continue to face the inhuman cruelty the Nazi SS guards used to break down their inner strength and conviction by making their life as miserable as they possibly could. Very few of Jehovah’s Witnesses signed that lousy paper to renounce what they had believed in and what was very dear to their own hearts.

We are all familiar with the saying: Let your conscience be your guide. How could we keep a good and clean conscience before ourselves, before our friends, before our own family, and especially before God after renouncing everything we had learned to be the right thing to do and join and promise to do everything that we had learned to be wrong? A well-educated conscience just cannot do that. One fellow once told me boldly and with a straight face, ‘Oh yes, I can do that.’ Well we should not forget that many people today have no conscience nor any scruples. No wonder they can do that. They can commit any horrible crime without any remorse, and the Nazis helped and trained especially young people to become like that, unscrupulous, without their conscience properly working. How did the Nazis achieve that, you might wonder? The tool they used, especially with regard to fooling young people, was propaganda. Yes, propaganda and more propaganda. Now you might wonder and ask, What is the difference between education and propaganda? Indeed it is a very big one. Education helps you learn how to reason and shows you how to think for yourself and come to conclusions based on facts you have studied and learned. But propaganda does not work like that. No, propaganda tells you what to think and tells you what to do.

Now why is that so important for all of us to understand? Because humans were created not like animals to live by instinct, but rather were created with a conscience and a free will. Therefore, all humans are also held responsible for whatever they do, be that now good or be that bad. To put this in simple words, every person will definitely reap what he has been sowing, good or bad. The Nazis did not believe that this would finally come true, but it did come true anyway. The day did arrive when they had to stand trial and answer for all the horrible crimes they had committed. They tried to excuse themselves by saying, ‘Oh no, we are innocent. We only obeyed orders.’ But the judges did not accept that lame excuse, but asked, ‘Don’t you have a conscience? No?’  Humans are not animals to behave like wild beasts. They are held responsible for whatever they do and they hanged the big Nazis anyway.

For me to survive the Holocaust and the Nazi propaganda I had to learn first one very important fact or truth myself. That was for me to see that there was already another kind of war going on right in Germany itself. That was a war over the mind of the people, to control the mind of everybody. Why did the Nazis want to do that? Well, we know that he who controls the mind of a person controls also all his actions, yes, his whole life. So it is easy to see that the big issue really was, Who is going to win that war over the mind of the people? Would I also collapse, cave in, and conform to Nazi propaganda just out of fear of reprisal? Somebody once said, ‘Do not let the world around you squeeze you into its mold.’

Therefore, the issue involved much much more than only to save one’s own neck or life by just simply signing a piece of paper to promise to renounce one’s faith in God and Jesus, and stay in line with the Nazis and the rest of the people in Germany. The crux or root of the issue was, To whom does one’s allegiance or loyalty really belong? Does it really belong to a cruel and unscrupulous human dictator and to his powerful political party? Or does it not rather rightly belong to Almighty God Jehovah, the creator of all things in heaven and earth? It is very sad to say that the majority of the German people failed completely and miserably in this important test of loyalty.

For me, however, I had made up my mind that the allegiance and loyalty to God and his Kingdom or rulership was non-negotiable. And how thankful I am now to God and my Christian parents who had taught me to stand up for what is right and not to cave in out of fear or intimidation. Yes, I honestly can say that my proper fear of God and my willing obedience to him has made me so different, and gave me the inner strength to survive with a good conscience the horrible nightmare of the Nazi Holocaust in Germany.

Here is just one brief afterthought for all the young students in your class:

In one high school in Oregon we had a program about the Holocaust. They had put up an interesting big banner which read: “Stand up for what you believe is right, even if that means that you stand all alone by yourself.” In my case it literally turned out like that.

But here is a word of caution. First of all we have to make sure of what is right and not just think or guess what might be right, (think on the many young and fooled Hitler boys) because just being stubborn does not bring us to a good end either, right? When you are young and inexperienced this can easily happen. So before you make up your mind what is right or what is not, talk first to some older persons. It never hurts to ask some questions and by listening you might learn something you did not know before, right?

It sure was my pleasure to have had the opportunity to answer your questions about a very difficult subject. Maybe not all will agree with what I had to say, but I hope it will touch the heart of at least some of you young ones and will help you to avoid certain pitfalls in your young life, to avoid feeling regrets the rest of your life. Somebody once said that having a bad conscience is like having a little pebble (stone) in your shoe while you have to keep on walking. You know the results. It sure can make life miserable. So why not avoid it in the first place. Agreed? Good, very good. I send you all my warm greetings and may God bless you all.

Photo of Rudolf Graichen
Photo of Rudolf Graichen