The holocaust was the mass murder of European Jews by the Nazis during World War II. Adolf Hitler planned to wipe out the entire population of the Jews as part of his plan for world domination. The Nazis killed approximately 6 million Jewish men, women and children by the end of the war in 1945. Many members of other ethnic groups were also killed.
In 1933 Adolf Hitler began his 12-year dictatorship of Germany. With little or no delay, repressive measures were taken against groups that did not submit to Nazism. The government imposed many laws and restrictions that deprived many their rights and possessions. On November 9, 1938, known as Kristallnacht, the Nazi Party killed dozens of Jews and sent nearly 30,000 others to concentration camps.(1) They destroyed over 200 synagogues and about 7,500 Jewish-owned businesses.
The Concentration Camps
Concentration camps, were set up by the Nazi regime as part of the “Final Solution” of systematically torturing and killing not only Jews but political prisoners, homosexuals and other “undesirables” by means such as gassing, execution style killing and medical experiments. Auschwitz was the most notorious of the concentration camps, for claimed the lives of over two million Jews from all over Europe during the course of WWII. Bergen-Belsen, did not fit the mold of most concentration camps, as death came not from gassing or mass executions, rather from starvation, malnutrition and the rampant diseases that hit the camp in the final stages of the war.
The camps held three types of prisoners. The politicals were the Communist, Social Democrats, and Jehovah s Witnesses. The second group were the asocials , primarily habitual criminals and sex offenders. The last group were members of inferior races , the Jews and the Gypsies. Prisoners of the camps were given distinctive insignia for identification purposes. All prisoners were prescribed markings on their clothes to indicate their category. These were a serial number and a colored triangle pointing down, sewn on the left shirt breast and the right trouser leg. Red denoted politicals; green, criminals; purple, Jehovah s Witnesses; black, vagrants; pink, homosexuals. The classification for the Jews was yellow. It was sewn on point-up, so that if a Jew were placed in another category, the two triangles would form a six-pointed Star of David. (2)
The Purple Triangle
Jesus said: Because you are no part of the world, . . . on this account the world hates you. This has applied to Jehovah s Witnesses not just in Nazi Germany but all around the world because they have stood by Christ s principles and teachings. In Germany,
Conditions in Nazi camps were generally harsh for all inmates, many of whom died from hunger, disease, exhaustion, exposure to the cold and brutal treatment. Witnesses were uniquely sustained in the camps by their faith, loyalty to their God Jehovah and by their support they gave to each other. Individual Witnesses astounded their guards with their refusal to conform to military-type routines like roll call or to roll bandages for soldiers at the front. At the same time, Witnesses were considered unusually trustworthy because they refused to escape from camps or physically resist their guards. For this reason, Witnesses were often used as domestic servants by Nazi camp officers and guards
The children of Jehovah’s Witnesses also suffered. In classrooms, teachers ridiculed children who refused to give the “Heil, Hitler!” salute or sing patriotic songs. Classmates shunned and beat up young Witnesses. Principals expelled them from schools. Families were broken up as authorities took children away from their parents and sent them to reform schools, orphanages, or private homes, to be brought up as Nazis.
An outstanding example in this respect is the Kusserow family from Bad Lippspringe in Germany. Franz and Hilda had a large family of 11 children, 6 boys and 5 girls. Under the Nazi regime, 12 members of the family of 13 were sentenced to a total of 65 years in prisons and concentration camps. In 1940, at the age of 25, Wilhelm was shot as a conscientious objector. Two years later his brother Wolfgang, age 20, was beheaded in Brandenburg penitentiary for the same reason. In his last words to his family, Wolfgang exhibited courage and confidence. He sought to comfort and encourage his family to remain faithful. In 1946, at the age of 28, brother Karl-Heinz died of tuberculosis after being brought back sick from Dachau. The parents and the daughters all served time in prisons and concentration camps. Imprisonment had strengthened their faith and they morally defeated the Nazis. (3)
Of all the groups in captivity, only Jehovah s Witnesses were given what was considered a lifeline for freedom. They could secure their release by signing a declaration that denounced their faith. Of the thousands that were in prison, only a few had succumbed to the pressure. Many remained integrity keepers until their release or death.
Despite rebellion and martyrdom by some of other religions, most church leaders had bowed the knee to the Nazi. Hitler a confirmed Catholic, was never excommunicated from the church. The church was silent while millions of Jews and others died. Among the many organized Christian religions in Germany, it was only Jehovah s Witnesses who refused to compromise their faith at all to Hitler and the Nazis. Among the millions who perished in the holocaust, there were about 10,000 Witnesses that were imprisoned in concentration camps during the Nazi period. An estimated 2,500 to 5,000 died there. Yet, those who survived still proclaimed that there is a purpose to all of this there is a God.
In reading the experiences of Jehovah s Witnesses during this time, has strengthen my resolve to keep my faith and integrity as one of Jehovah s Witnesses.
The Pink Triangle
In 1934, a special Gestapo division on homosexuals was set up. One of its first acts was to order the police “pink lists” from all over Germany. The police had been compiling these lists of suspected homosexual men since 1900. On September 1, 1935, a harsher, amended version of Paragraph 175 of the Criminal Code, originally framed in 1871, went into effect.
Under the revised Paragraph 175 and the creation of Special Office II S, the number of prosecutions increased sharply, peaking in the years 1937-1939. Half of all convictions for homosexual activity under the Nazi regime occurred during these years. The police stepped up raids on homosexual meeting places, seized address books of arrested men to find additional suspects, and created networks of informers to compile lists of names and make arrests.
The vast majority of homosexual victims were males; lesbians were not subjected to systematic persecution. While lesbian bars were closed, few women are believed to have been arrested. Paragraph 175 did not mention female homosexuality. See attached text of Paragraph 175. (4)
The uniforms of those sentenced as homosexuals bore, various identifying marks, including a large black dot and a large “175″ drawn on the back of the jacket. Later a pink triangular patch appeared. Many survivors have testified that men with pink triangles were often treated particularly severely by guards and inmates alike because of widespread biases against homosexuals. As was true with other prisoner categories, some homosexuals were also victims of cruel medical experiments, including castration.
After the war, homosexual concentration camp prisoners were not acknowledged as victims of Nazi persecution, and reparations were refused. Under the Allied Military Government of Germany, some homosexuals were forced to serve out their terms of imprisonment, regardless of the time spent in concentration camps. The 1935 version of Paragraph 175 remained in effect in the West Germany until 1969, so that well after liberation, homosexuals continued to fear arrest and incarceration.
Note the life experience of Friedrich-Paul von Groszheim. He was arrested for the first time in 1937. Then in 1938 von Groszheim was again arrested, tortured, and given the choice between castration and concentration camp. He submitted to the operation and survived, but only told his story in 1992.
Von Groszheim was never acknowledged as a victim of the Nazi regime, due to on-going persecution of homosexuals in Germany. It took nearly half a century before he broke his silence. Recently he explained why he began to speak out: “I’m living proof that Hitler didn’t win. I’m aware of that every day. If I don’t tell my story, who will know the truth?” (5)
The Yellow Triangle
Undoubtedly, the Jews suffered the most at the hands of the Nazis. Every single one of the millions of targeted Jews was to be murdered. Eliminating the Jews became the central commitment of Hitler s regime. Women and children were not spared from the atrocities .
Ravensbrueck was the largest concentration camp for women in all of the German Reich, in which over 100,000 women from over 20 countries were imprisoned, and where 5-6,000 women died in the gas chambers.
People did what was necessary to survive in the concentration camps. For the women, their feminine identity served a dual purpose. It was used as a tool for oppression on the part of the SS men and as a tool for survival on the part of the women. When they first arrived into the camps, the women that were selected for work detail underwent a systematic procedure of shearing and hair-cutting. Shearing also served as a means of degrading and humiliation for the women. The Nazi s wanted to break the women s spirit and to infuse fear into the group by using the shame of not having hair, coupled with the pain of parading being around naked. (6)
Rape prevailed in the lives of many women. Sexual abuse, another means by which the Nazi’s attempted to degrade women, was especially brutal, as it often had the effect of shaming a woman to a point where her identity became unrecognizable. The SS men justified these rapes by saying that raping Jewish women did not violate the taboo of marrying them, and therefore was an acceptable action.
In some camps, organized brothels were established. Women were from their mid-teens to early thirties were tried out as prostitutes. Prostitution became another way that a woman could, on the basis of her sex and gender, promote her survival. It was a way to get extra food for oneself, one’s child, one’s husband, and one’s friends, perhaps enabling them to survive for one extra day.
The SS used aspects such as women’s hair, rape and prostitution as a way to control, degrade and humiliate the female prisoners. However, by clinging what was left of their femininity that remained to them, some of which overlapped with the aspects the SS used to control them, many women survived.
Without a doubt, the holocaust was one of the most tragic events of our time. The overall magnitude of destruction can never be realized. One man fueled by anger and hate nearly exterminated an entire nation. Such hatred is still carried forward to this day with active white supremacy groups, the Klu Klux Klan, ethnic cleansing and the like.
We had all at one point in time prayed the prayer found at Matthew 6:9, 10 Our Father in the heaven, let our name be sanctified. Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon the earth . The banishing of hatred requires the creation of a society in which people who learn to love by helping one another, a society where people forget all the animosity caused by prejudice, nationalism, racism, and tribalism. At 2 Peter 3:13, the Bible describes a new heavens, this heavenly government will guarantee a world free from injustice. It will rule over a new earth, or new society of people who will have been educated to love one another. God himself will have called a halt to the hatred. It will truly be a time to love.
175. A male who commits lewd and lascivious acts with another male or permits himself to be so abused for lewd and lascivious acts, shall be punished by imprisonment. In a case of a participant /under 21 years of age at the time of the commission of the act, the court may, in especially slight cases, refrain from punishment.
175a. Confinement in a penitentiary not to exceed ten years and, under extenuating circumstances, imprisonment for not less than three months shall be imposed:
1. Upon a male who, with force or with threat of imminent danger to life and limb, compels another male to commit lewd and lascivious acts with him or compels the other party to submit to abuse for lewd and lascivious acts;
2. Upon a male who, by abuse of a relationship of dependence upon him, in consequence of service, employment, or subordination, induces another male to commit lewd and lascivious acts with him or to submit to being abused for such, acts;
3. Upon a male who being Over 21 years of age induces another male under 21 years of age to commit lewd and lascivious acts with him or to submit to being abused for such acts;
4. Upon a male who professionally engages in lewd and lascivious acts with other men, or submits to such abuse by other men, or offers himself for lewd and lascivious acts with other men.