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Unveiling of a memorial stone for the imprisoned Jehovah’s Witnesses in the former Buchenwald concentration camp

Rikola-Gunnar Lüttgenau, deputy director of the memorial, and Max Liebster, former prisoner, unveil the memorial stone honoring Jehovah’s Witnesses on May 9, 2002.

Memorial stone in honor of Jehovah’s Witnesses who were incarcerated in Buchenwald from 1937 to 1945.

Memorial stone honoring other conscientious objectors.

View of the memorial stones on the barracks field. (All camp barracks were demolished in the early 1950s). In the background: building of the effects, clothing and equipment room.

Jehovah’s Witnesses Memorial Stone
in Buchenwald

WEIMAR/SELTERS – On May 9, 2002, a memorial stone will be unveiled on the barracks field of the former Buchenwald concentration camp, commemorating the suffering of the members of the Christian religious community Jehovah’s Witnesses who were persecuted under the Nazi regime. Between 1937 and 1945, Witnesses (Bible Students) were subject to slave labour, starvation, and mistreatment, from which many died.

As early as 1933, this small Christian group (approx. 25,000 people) began a period of ruthless oppression, since they refused to give the Hitler salute and distributed millions of magazines and tracts with an inimitable missionary zeal.

As a result of the resistance, the Gestapo later formed special units to smash the underground activities of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Almost 650 were arrested in Buchenwald alone. Newly arriving Jehovah’s Witnesses were immediately taken to the notorious “punishment company” where they had to do the heaviest and dirtiest work. The SS kept Jehovah’s Witnesses “isolated” in special barracks inside the camp behind barbed wire and banned them from writing. Later, they were only allowed to write 25 words to their loved ones once a month.

With a signature, which was tantamount to renouncing their faith, they themselves could have brought about their immediate liberation – only a few signed the “declaration of commitment”. The reason for their steadfastness can be found in the Bible verse: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men.” (Acts 5:29) On May 9, this steadfastness of “Jehovah’s Witnesses who were persecuted for religious reasons and suffered or died here” (memorial text) is remembered.

At 1 p.m. there will also be a press conference at which contemporary witness Simone Arnold-Liebster (71) from France will comment on the martyrdom of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Nazi regime and her new book “Alone in front of the lion”. She was torn from her parents as a “Bible student child” and banished to a Nazi home. Her husband, Max Liebster (87), a Jewish witness, will report on his own experiences of the “Hell of Buchenwald” in an eyewitness interview starting at 2 p.m.