Hermann Schmidt was born on July 14, 1898 exactly three months to the day before his wife Frieda was born. Together they had a small business in Schriebendorf, a small town near Brieg, in Silesia, Germany. Today it is called Miedzylesie-zamek and is located in southwest Poland, near the Czech border. The Schmidt Family was well-respected and liked. The couple with their two children could often be found tending their market garden with greenhouses and cold-frame installations.
In 1929 Frieda Schmidt was baptized and in 1930 Hermann became a baptized “Bibelforscher” (Bible Student), as Jehovah’s Witnesses were then formally known worldwide. Soon after the National Socialists assumed power in Germany, Jehovah’s Witnesses were banned and all related activities declared illegal. The study of the Bible and all other religious material was only possible in secret.
The underground activities of Frieda and Hermann became self-sacrificing to say the least. In 1935 Hermann was arrested and sentenced to 20 days in jail and a fine. This was nothing compared to the immediate boycotting of his business. One night a message painted in tar with large letters appeared on their front gate: “Schmidt is a traitor to this country and a public enemy. Buying merchandise from him is punishable by law”.
Following Hermann’s first arrest came his second. In 1936 while he and Frieda were zealously participating in the distribution of a resolution that publicly exposed the cruel treatment of Jehovah’s Witnesses by the Hitler regime, he was again arrested and incarcerated. This time he was sentenced to two years at the Ols Prison in Silesia. After his release he was quickly convicted again and sentenced to three more years in the penitentiary in Celle. He served his three years of hard labor only to be presented with a statement to sign declaring he renounced his faith as a Jehovah’s Witness. Because of his loyalty, he refused to sign it. He was now sent to the Moorlager Esterwegen-Papenburg Concentration Camp. Here staying alive was not easy. He managed at times to survive by eating portions of rabbit food that barely lessened the gripping pangs of hunger.
During the years of his internment, Frieda and the children were hard put to continue their business and feed themselves. Shortly after WWII was in full swing, she too was arrested and given two years imprisonment. Following her release in 1943, she was transferred to the Ravensbrück Concentration Camp where she met other female Jehovah’s Witnesses. This group of women was now sent to Prutting in Rosenheim, Bavaria. They were used at Himmler’s large estate to do the cooking for the Nazis. It seemed that the Nazis would not and could not trust others for this work for fear of being poisoned. Here Frieda was imprisoned until the war was over. It was not long before the family was once again united and returned home.
After the new alignment of borders was established, the Schmidts found themselves in East Germany. Yes! Here the Communist East German government also outlawed the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ religion! In February 1953, Hermann Schmidt was summarily dismissed as a senior employee in the city Garden and Landscaping department. He was arrested for alleged warmongering, incitement to boycott, endangering peace and spreading degrading rumors. On February 2, 1953, the Circuit Court in Chemnitz sentenced him to ten years of hard labor. He was sent to Waldheim and then to Torgau. After spending four years there, his health began to deteriorate and he obtained an early release.
After recuperating, Hermann escaped East Germany and with his family came to Emmendingen. They finally settled in Waldkirchen, in the Black Forest. His children were also very active as Jehovah’s Witnesses in East Germany and escaped to the West as well. Hermann Schmidt was imprisoned for a total of twelve years under two dictatorships.