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Jehovah's Witnesses
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Jehovah's Witnesses
Striped prison jacket with an inverted purple triangle badge worn by a Jehovah's Witness at the Dachau concentration camp.

Groups such as the Jews, Roma ("Gypsies") and Blacks suffered at the hands of the Nazis because of the way they were born. Others suffered because of their political and religious beliefs. Jehovah's Witnesses were targeted by the Nazis because they refused to give up their religious beliefs and activities. Many chose death over renouncing their faith.

In the early 1930's, before the Nazis came to power, Nazi party members would break up their meetings and beat up the participants in the meetings. Though only 20,000 Jehovah Witnesses lived in Germany at this time, they did not escape the watchful eyes of the Nazis.

In July 1933, the Nazis decided to shut down all Jehovah Witness activities. When members of this religious group continued to meet and go on with their activities anyway, they were arrested and sent to prisons and concentration camps. Others lost their jobs and were denied unemployment, social welfare, and pension benefits.

Banned

In July 1933, the Nazis decided to shut down all Jehovah Witness activities. When members of this religious group continued to meet and go on with their activities anyway, they were arrested and sent to prisons and concentration camps. Others lost their jobs and were denied unemployment, social welfare, and pension benefits.

The Jehovah's Witness faith was banned by law in April 1935. But members refused to join the military services for religious reasons or perform war-related work. Jehovah's Witnesses had the opportunity to escape persecution and personal harm by renouncing their religious beliefs. So unlike Jews, Roma and Black people they did have a choice. But very few renounced their faith. By 1939, about 6,000 Witnesses were in prisons and concentration camps. Some were tortured to force them to turn their backs on their beliefs.

Purple triangle

The children of Jehovah Witness were ridiculed in school by their teachers and fellow students because they refused to give the "Heil Hitler" salute or sing patriotic songs. They were bullied by their classmates and expelled from schools. The German authorities also took children away from their parents and sent them to reform schools and orphanages, or to private homes to be brought up as Nazis.

Jehovah's Witnesses were required to wear a purple triangle in the concentration camps. About 10,000 Witnesses were imprisoned in concentration camps during the Nazi period. Between 2,500 to 5,000 were killed.

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Photo credit: USHMM, courtesy of Matthaeus Pibal.
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Today: 18 October 2017
Then: 14 October 1944

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