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Imprisoned for Their Faith: Jehovah’s Witnesses in Auschwitz


There has been no previous study devoted solely to the Jehovah’s Witnesses in the literature on Auschwitz Concentration Camp. This was partly due to the scarcity of extant documentation on their imprisonment, and the rarity of memoirs or accounts. Additionally, the small number of prisoners in category IBV (Internationale Bibelforscher-Vereinigung—International Association of Holy Scripture Researchers—the rubric used to register Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Nazi camps) meant that they were treated as anonymous members of one more category among the thousands of individuals who made up the prisoner population.

This book is the first attempt at a thorough study of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Auschwitz. Although gaps in the records make it impossible to specify exactly how many Witnesses the Nazis held in Auschwitz, this study concludes, on the basis of painstaking investigations, that the number ranged from several dozen to well over a hundred prisoners at various times, and that a total of at least 387 witnesses were incarcerated in Auschwitz during the almost five years the camp functioned.

This book includes a list of the names of nearly 230 male and female Witnesses imprisoned in Auschwitz, based on documents in the Museum archives, questionnaires and accounts submitted by former prisoners, and information obtained from prisoners’ families.

There are also photographs of 130 Witnesses imprisoned in Auschwitz under category IBV. Appendices, which make up almost half the book, contain accounts and memoirs by Witnesses who were imprisoned in Auschwitz, as well as documents and photographs from family and museum archives.

The book was published by the Museum in December, 2003. The author, Teresa Wontor-Cichy, is a historian on the staff of the Historical Research Department at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum.

Teresa Wontor-Cichy
Więzieni za wiarę. Świadkowie Jehowy w KL Auschwitz [Imprisoned for Their Faith: Jehovah’s Witnesses in Auschwitz]
Editor: Jadwiga Pinderska-Lech
Państwowe Muzeum Auschwitz-Birkenau, 2003
158 pp., tables, documents, photographs, indices.

Jehovah’s Witnesses

The Jehovah’s Witnesses are a Christian denomination known from 1870 to 1931 as Holy Scripture Researchers. Charles T. Russel (1852-1916) founded the first legal corporation representing Holy Scripture Researchers (The Zion Watchtower Treact Society, known since 1955 as the Pennsylvania Watchtower Bible and Tract Society) in 1881. The International Association of Holy Scripture Researchers was registered in London in 1914. After the death of the founder, some adherents withdrew from cooperation with the existing corporations while continuing to call themselves Holy Scripture Researchers. In Poland, these included the Association of Holy Scripture Researchers, The Assembly of Free Holy Scripture Researchers, The Union of Bible Researchers, The Holy See in Jesus Christ, and the Epiphany Lay Mission Movement.

The name Jehovah’s Witnesses was adopted in 1931 to define members of the denominations gathered around the Watchtower Association. In Nazi Germany, the authorities retained the name Intemationale Bibelforscher-Vereinigung (IBV - International Association of Holy Scripture Researchers), since the denomination was registered under that name as a corporation representing the Witnesses. This is why the Jehovah’s Witnesses are referred to in both the official German records of the era, and colloquially, as “Researchers.”

The Jehovah’s Witnesses acknowledge the authority of the Bible alone, and study it at their assemblies, which are open. Their numerous publications aid in this study. The entire organizational aspect of the Jehovah’s Witness community is subordinated to preaching, the most important of their tasks.

At present, there are more than 6,000,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses, in 90,000 assemblies, around the world.

Source: [Nowa encyklopedia powszechna PWN, Warsaw, 1995, vol. l, p. 321],

A new publication by the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum
A new publication...