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Fondat 2009 • ISSN 2065 - 4200 Anul 12 → 2020

Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Neutrality and the Transformation of Political Regimes in the Former Czechoslovakia

Revista Luceafărul: Anul XII, Nr. 1 (133), Ianuarie 2020
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Editor: Agata, Botoșani, str. 1 Decembrie nr. 25
ISSN: 2065 – 4200 (ediţia online)
ISSN: 2067 – 2144 (formatul tipărit)
Director: Ion ISTRATE

Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Neutrality and the Transformation of Political Regimes in the Former Czechoslovakia

Primit pentru publicare: 24 Ian. 2019
Autor: Tudor PETCU
Publicat: 24 Ian. 2019
© Tudor Petcu, © Revista Luceafărul
Editor: Ion ISTRATE


Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Neutrality and the Transformation of Political Regimes in the Former Czechoslovakia

 Social Conventions and the Political Atmosphere as Causes of the Intolerance of a Minority, but Active, Religious Organization between 1923 and 1989
Zdeněk Bauer

Milestones of Religious History in the Czech Republic and Slovakia

The first Bible Students (known as Jehovah’s Witnesses after 1931) appeared in Czech lands at the turn of the 20th century. In the summer of 1891, Charles Taze Russell, first president of the Bible Students’ legal entity the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, visited Prague during his sightseeing tour of European cities. As early as 1907, Bible Students from nearby Dresden, Germany, began distributing religious literature regularly in the north of Bohemia. Regular religious gatherings were held in Most, Northern Czechia, beginning in 1916; they continue to this day.

The activity of this religious group in Slovakia developed quite independently of activities in Czechia. Emigrants who had left the region to work in America formed the first congregation of Slovak Bible Students while living in the United States. Responding to a call by the Watch Tower Society president to help spread their faith, two of these emigrants returned to Slovakia in 1912.

The First World War, which ended in 1918, resulted in a complete change to Europe’s political landscape. Among those changes was the collapse of Austria-Hungary. Taking parts of that empire’s former domain, the Czechs and Slovaks formed Czechoslovakia.

Bible Students in the new republic took up the evangelizing work that was typical of the group worldwide. In 1923, they established a literature depot in Most, North Bohemia. At the same time, they notified the Republic’s Ministry of the Interior of the official inception of the religious group in the country.

Especially during the years 1922–1934, German nationals who were full-time evangelizers did much work in Bohemia and Moravia. The vast majority of new Bible Students also began spreading their faith. Branching out from the areas bordering Germany, the Bible Students began distributing their literature throughout the country’s interior during the second half of the 1920’s.

To accommodate this increase, the small literature depot in Most was moved to Brno (Brünn), Moravia, in the center of the Republic. There on December 1, 1926, the Bible Students established a branch of the Internationale Bibelforscher-Vereinigung (IBV), their legal agency in Germany. At the same time, the first Bible House, a home for volunteers working in branch offices, began to operate in Brno.

In 1927 and 1928, respectively, the group established and registered the International Society of Bible Students’ Czechoslovakia branch, with its headquarters in Brno. But its official activities were limited to the regions of Moravia and Czech Silesia. In 1931, to stabilize its legal status, the International Bible Students Association (IBSA), Czechoslovakia branch, was officially established in Prague and approved by the government for activities throughout the Republic. This branch of the IBSA, Jehovah’s Witnesses’ legal entity in Great Britain, completely replaced the corporation established in Brno.

That year, a literature distribution and living facility in Košice, East Slovakia, became the center of the evangelizing work in the region of Slovakia. Branch offices of the Prague corporation were established in Brno and Košice. These three offices were responsible for the religious activities of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Czechoslovakia. Because of difficulties in neighboring Germany, the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society branch was also moved from Magdeburg to Prague in the summer of 1933.[1]

During the interwar period, Jehovah’s Witnesses in Czechoslovakia had to deal with various difficulties. Of course, there was no comparison with conditions in Nazi Germany. In general, official restrictions, arrests, and court processes did not go beyond the legislative framework of a democratic state. Moreover, this period afforded Czechoslovak authorities the opportunity to reevaluate outdated social and legal norms that the new republic had adopted from the former Austro-Hungarian monarchy in 1918.

The real deterioration of conditions came at the end of the 1930’s when the Nazis and Fascists took over the territory of the Republic. The Prague Watchtower office cautiously ended its official activity in March 1939, shortly after the Nazi occupation expanded from the Sudetenland across Bohemia and Moravia. Three months later, Jehovah’s Witnesses’ corporations in Czechoslovakia officially ceased their activities. The former corporations and Jehovah’s Witnesses’ religious activities were explicitly outlawed by occupation authorities in March 1941.

Many of Jehovah’s Witnesses, regardless of age and gender, experienced various difficulties at work or school. A significant number found themselves in prisons or concentration camps because they refused involvement in politics and military service. Some died. Most of them, however, did not abandon their faith. They remained politically neutral, attended religious meetings in secret, and continued to preach the Gospel.[2]

After the Second World War, Jehovah’s Witnesses in Czechoslovakia quickly resumed their activity. As early as September 1945, they began to publish The Watchtower in Czech again. The premises for a new Bible House was purchased in Suchdol, near Prague, using voluntary contributions. In 1947, Nathan H. Knorr, then president of the Watch Tower Society, visited the country.

However, the restored post-war republic held some distrust of Western democracies. Part of the political establishment sympathized with the communist Soviet Union. Thus, the government, in name a democratic republic, in practice supported a number of political, economic, and social prohibitions.

In February 1948, the Communist Party won a decisive political victory and took power in Czechoslovakia. From that summer on, Jehovah’s Witnesses encountered obstacles to their evangelizing activities. In November, the State Security (StB – repressive state police) invaded the Bible House and imprisoned its workers. A formal ban was issued retroactively in April 1949, making the Witnesses’ religious activities illegal.

The repressive Communist authorities lived under the illusion that they had wiped out the leadership of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the spring of 1949 and assumed that the rest of the Witnesses gradually would weaken in their faith. Therefore, in the summer of 1951, an unpleasant disappointment came when a large number of Jehovah’s Witnesses refused to add their signatures to a nationwide “vote on concluding a peace pact between the Great Powers.”

The real purpose of this so-called voluntary, but in fact obligatory, plebiscite was to demonstrate the unity of the democratic masses and to uncover hidden “enemies of the regime.” The vast majority of the Republic’s population subscribed to it and signed under pressure:
“I agree with the call of the World Peace Council to conclude a peace pact between the five superpowers: the Soviet Union, the United States, the People’s Republic of China, the United Kingdom, and France. I demand that the imperialist armament of West Germany be stopped immediately and that the Great Powers together resolve the German issue. I condemn the treacherous reaction that incites a war against one’s own country and in association with the enemies of the Republic, with the SS men, strives for a New Munich, for the division and destruction of the Republic.”

However, a large number of Jehovah’s Witnesses refused to engage in this contrived action. Their refusal to take part eventually came to the attention of the highest party and State authorities.[3]

When the StB organized a massive, nationwide raid against Jehovah’s Witnesses the following year (1952), they explicitly justified the action by accusing Witnesses of maintaining a spy network in the country,[4] producing and distributing flawed literature that threatened the country’s defenses, refusing to support global peace, and refusing to perform military duties.

The accusers intended to organize show trials with the main organizers of the religion. This attempt eventually failed because Witness prisoners, despite intense torture, in the vast majority of cases refused to memorize fictional statements. In the end, the hearings had to be held secretly, and the public learned about them through ideological reports in the daily press.

At the same time, Jehovah’s Witnesses were fulfilling labor camp sentences in uranium mines around Jáchymov. In the vicinity of the mines, a system of convict camps was built to accommodate prisoners, who, as modern-day slaves, had to work in deep mines under inhumane conditions. And they faced an ongoing fight to maintain their political neutrality.[5]

The uranium ore deposits, the only ones in the world to be mined immediately after the Iron Curtain went up, were controlled by Soviet authorities through Czech national enterprises. All extracted uranium ore was transported to the Soviet Union, where it was used to produce nuclear weapons. When Jehovah’s Witness prisoners discovered that all the ore went for military purposes, they did not want to continue mining it since it would have violated their neutral stand.

Individuals whose conscience did not initially prevent them from uranium mining were soon convinced by the brutality with which the camp’s security guards tried to force their co-workers to work in the underground mines. Miners who refused to work were sentenced to stand outside for three or more days in their threadbare prison garments. Occasionally the camp security guards even doused them with cold water.

In some camps the guards made the punishment even harsher by making objectors stand on a roof where a strong, cold wind blew. Why did none of the Witnesses escape? The security guards tied them down or nailed their shoes to the roof so that they could not move.[6]

Most victims eventually developed frostbite and fainted into the snow, whereupon some of the other prisoners took them to the infirmary. Many had to undergo medical treatment; and when they returned to the camp, the camp chief assigned them to a team of workers above ground in the kitchen, the workshop, or in maintenance. However, whenever a new Witness came to the camp, he had to suffer the same frigid torture.

Most of these documented cases took place in the winter months from 1951–1952 and 1952–1953, when the outdoor temperatures in the Jáchymov area reached −20°Celsius (−4°F). These Witnesses could have left the site at any time if they became involved in uranium mining again. But they did not want to participate in the Soviet arms program, so they stood in snow drifts. None of the Witnesses could be persuaded to work in the uranium mines.

This cruel punishment was supposed to make such an impression that none of the other prisoners would disobey. Political prisoners did not experience the same intense treatment as the conscientious objectors imprisoned alongside them. But dozens of them, later in their memoirs, recalled with great respect, the moral determination and firm faith of Jehovah’s Witnesses; and although they did not share their beliefs, they had only words of recognition and respect for them.[7]

While under ban, the Witnesses held religious meetings in private homes, produced samizdat (clandestine) literature, and carried on their evangelism secretly. Religious and other civil liberties were restored in Czechoslovakia at the end of 1989.

An international convention with the theme Lovers of Freedom took place at Prague’s Strahov Stadium in 1991. About 30,000 of Jehovah’s Witnesses from Czechoslovakia joined with 45,000 of their fellow believers who came for the program from other parts of the world.

Czechoslovakia separated into two sovereign nations in 1993. It proved difficult for Jehovah’s Witnesses to obtain official registration as a religion. But they gained legal status in both the Czech Republic and Slovakia later that year.[8]

In total, 26,735 preachers were active in both countries in 2018. A combined total of 47,009 attended the Memorial of Christ’s death, an annual commemoration attended by many from the general public.[9]

Reasons for Persecution

Jehovah’s Witnesses are not the first religious minority in the history of Czechia[10] and Slovakia to have experienced conflict with State authorities because of their political neutrality and tenacious evangelism. Other significant cases include the widespread persecution of Waldensians in Southern Bohemia during the 14th century. These followers of the French merchant Vaudès, or Waldo, (c. 1140-1205 C.E.) despite all prohibitions, continued to evangelize and spread illegal translations of Biblical books. Thus, the Catholic Church’s Inquisition and the profane authority were provoked against the Waldensians.[11]

At the beginning of the 15th century, University of Prague rector, Jan Hus (c. 1370–1415), found himself in conflict with established customs. Under the influence of books by Englishman John Wycliffe, the priest and religious reformer began to say that according to the Bible, any Christian has the right to preach without the need for Church approval.

Hus’ dispute with the Catholic Church and the monarchy began to deepen rapidly on other issues, and he was forced to leave Prague. In the countryside, he preached in the fields and on the outskirts of the villages, following the pattern of Christ, and continued to speak out against the corruption of the Church. Finally, he was called before the Council of Constance; the council declared him a heretic and he was burned at the stake.[12]

In the mid-15th century, the Unity of the Brethren (Latin: Unitas Fratrum) was based on similar ideological foundations. The impetus for the group’s formation was the work of the lay Czech religious thinker, Petr Chelčický (c. 1390-c. 1460), who preached the separation of true Christians from the world, as well as non-participation in wars, and exposed non-Biblical doctrines sown among the nation’s churches.

In spite of the unprecedented religious tolerance that gradually began to characterize the Czech Republic during the 16th century, the Unity of the Brethren’s ideology remained heretical in the eyes of the rulers. The group’s brilliant Czech translation of the Scriptures, the Kralice Bible (1579–1593), done with reference to the original languages, is essentially an illegal work.  The more consistent part of the Unity – the so-called Minor Party (Malá stránka) – steadily keeping the original Chelčický postulates, was completely dispersed in the mid-16th century.[13]

At that time, Anabaptists, or Baptists, settled in the south of Moravia, where they were also called Hutterites or Habans. Just as the Waldensians before them, this religious group fled persecution in German-speaking countries. Evangelism was practically abandoned there.

They lived in closed communities, flourishing economically through agriculture, viniculture, and interest in their pottery technique, faience or majolica. The resulting economic clout brought the nobility’s tolerance of their pacifism. However, with the onset of the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648), they were expelled from the country.[14]

A new wave of religious movements took shape during the 19th century, along with the abandonment of earlier social customs. Successors to Protestant churches, banned as a result of the Thirty Years’ War, became active. At the same time, missionaries brought Baptist, Adventist, and other minority religions to Czechia and Slovakia.

Many of them engaged in disputes with local authorities over the distribution of literature. Individual adherents clashed with school authorities over the religious upbringing of their children. Several men, professing a version of Anabaptist, or Baptist, doctrine, began to refuse military service.

However, during the first two to three decades of the 20th century, the evangelizing activities of virtually all these groups came to an end. For the majority of members of these churches, political neutrality was also completely foreign. And in regions where State authorities were more independent of the mainstream churches, these religious movements came to be accepted and tolerated. Thus, the vast majority of these once marginalized groups were transformed into more or less mainstream denominations.

Conversely, the more that traditional, large churches participated in State power and co-created the State’s ideology, the more non-conformist individuals were persecuted as “heretics,” “quacks,” “outcasts,” and in modern times, branded as “sectarians.”[15]

The First Republic and the Interwar Period (1918–1938)

The legal system of the First Republic followed the previous legislation of Austria-Hungary. Obsolete laws were freely amended. But growing political extremism across Europe complicated the effort to abandon authoritarian state paradigms.

For example, censorship was never completely abolished. Legislators agreed on the text of a new press law 15 years after the establishment of the Republic. But when it was finally approved, they immediately imposed other legal restrictions on it. From 1918 to 1933, non-commercial distribution of religious literature was tolerated to an extent. However, such activity only became fully legal in 1933.

The Constitution guaranteed freedom in the religious sphere, but the overall atmosphere was particularly anti-Catholic, especially in Bohemia. In form and spirit, the First Republic was secular. Finally, non-denominational believers had equal status with persons registered in the Church.

Tomáš Masaryk (1850–1937)—statesman, sociologist, philosopher, and first president of Czechoslovakia—searched for suitable spiritual alternatives. Even the Watch Tower Society in 1934 requested his help in behalf of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Thereafter, police actions against them actually ceased for a time.

The Witnesses carried out their evangelizing work with difficulty for most of the interwar period. Although the right to carry on their public ministry, one of the fundamental, altruistic missions of Jehovah’s Witnesses, was theoretically guaranteed by the Constitution, the practice of such an article of faith ran into a restriction on religious pamphleteering during the first 15 years of Czechoslovakia’s existence. Given that the ethnic German Witnesses from Czechia (citizens of Czechoslovakia) and German citizens devoted themselves to the distribution of religious literature, the Witnesses were soon accused of other illegalities by Czech authorities.

Because of tensions between the Czechoslovak State and the minority population of ethnic Germans, authorities reacted with irritation to the high representation of Germans among the local Witnesses. As a result, especially from 1927 to 1934, several hundred Witness missionaries from Germany were accused of damaging the Czech labor market, their non-profit literature distribution wrongly classified as peddling. They were also pointedly and falsely charged with espionage for Germany.

The press aggravated the hostile atmosphere by publishing stinging articles. Witnesses were increasingly branded in daily newspapers as Prussian agents, a bane to the Czech language, communists, conspirators with the Jews, and a threat to the State. In the first half of the 1920’s, verbal and even physical attacks by radically distinct members of established churches could be attributed to the anti-German sentiment. Other forms of attacks on Jehovah’s Witnesses reflected increasing social frustration, latent xenophobia, and conservative fears of something seemingly strange and new.

The nascent democratic system of interwar Czechoslovakia guaranteed the accused the right to settle disputes in court, and some Witnesses availed themselves of that right. Certain benevolences of the First Republic were used several times to seek President Masaryk’s assistance in connection with Jehovah’s Witnesses.

After 1933, representatives of Jehovah’s Witnesses also asserted their right to print corrections in the press to counter false information published by various opponents.

Although the interwar police and judicial problems of evangelizers were unpleasant, they were non-ideological. Rather, issues arose out of security concerns about the high concentration of German nationals within the Witness community and the Witnesses’ refusal to perform military service. Although Jehovah’s Witnesses continually demonstrated a cooperative attitude toward the State as well as the overall political system, and the censors of the Ministry of the Interior found nothing objectionable in their publications, the First Republic still saw the Witnesses as a potential risk to its interests.

In its overall framework, the State respected democratic principles. However, specific procedures in individual cases revealed that the Czechoslovak government had not yet managed to rid itself of some elements of authoritarianism.[16]

The rejection of military service was not a clear-cut matter for Jehovah’s Witnesses before 1939. During the First World War, most of them were clear that they did not want to transgress the Biblical law, “you must not murder.” However, beyond this conscientious position, variations existed among Witnesses.—Exodus 20:13

Some joined non-combat military units. Others were forced to enlist, but, refusing to carry a weapon or don a uniform, suffered severe punishment. Many others went to the front and, once on the battlefield, would shoot into the air or look for more sophisticated ways to avoid shedding blood.

In the interwar period, the conscience of some Witnesses did not prevent them from fulfilling alternative military service by carrying out various economic activities within the army. At the same time, however, the number of those who absolutely refused military service grew.

In October 1924, Bible Student Martin Boor refused to train with a rifle with the 39th Infantry Slovak Regiment in the Petrzalka. He also refused to clean his weapon and later refused to take the prescribed oath, for which he was sentenced to two years in a high-security prison. His is generally considered the first recorded case of a Czechoslovak Bible Student refusing to engage in war.

Shortly thereafter, similar cases began to surface. Witness representatives assured the authorities that the goal of Jehovah’s Witnesses is to inform the population about the Bible, not to undermine the State and stir up insurrection. Fellow Witnesses provided moral support for these conscientious objectors as doctrinal clarity and religious cohesion gradually developed.

The general nationwide mobilization in 1938 became a touchstone for Witnesses in Czechoslovakia. According to official records, most Witnesses refused to join military units or take up military equipment and arms.

During the difficult years of the Nazi occupation and the subsequent Communist dictatorship, the Witnesses composed a unified religious group for which political neutrality and refusal of military service were fundamental stands.[17]

Tense Nationalism and Nazism (1938–1945)

Any manifestations of pacifism by German nationals were regarded by the Nazis as a national betrayal. From the end of 1938, this hostile attitude impacted Jehovah’s Witnesses in the occupied territories of Czechoslovakia—the Sudetenland,[18] the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, and the Těšín Region.

The only conscientious objectors who at that time constituted a cohesive group, according to researchers, were Jehovah’s Witnesses, who refused to support war, military service, and general militarism because of their conscience and religious beliefs. Their children refused to join the collective youth organizations, Deutsche Jungvolk or Hitlerjugend, men refused to join the army, and Witnesses imprisoned in concentration camps refused to participate in the production of military equipment and arms.

Jehovah’s Witnesses’ convictions were manifested by their political neutrality, the rejection of the Heil Hitler greeting (meaning ‘salvation comes from Hitler’), and their publications about God’s Kingdom. These all stood counter to the very core of Hitler’s ideology, the “millennial Aryan empire.” So these Witnesses were among the first groups that the Nazis targeted.

The first Czech area where Jehovah’s Witnesses experienced more serious difficulties was the northwestern borderland of the country, the Sudetenland, inhabited since the 13th century by German ethnic groups. At the turn of the 20th century, the local population, under the influence of nationalistic local authorities, began to lean toward separatism and independence from Czech lands. During the interwar period, these tendencies became more pronounced due to poor integration into the newly constituted republic and the global economic depression.

The Sudetendeutsche Partei (Sudeten German Party or SdP) gradually increased its polarizing rhetoric until it definitively subordinated itself to the Nazi Party line in 1937. Accused of anti-German sentiment, Jehovah’s Witnesses in neighboring Nazi Germany had been persecuted for political neutrality and refusal of military service since 1933.

Tensions toward Witnesses gradually escalated on the Czech side of the border region, as illustrated in a case from Žďár near Chabařovice in northern Bohemia. In May 1938, a local SdP member named Wagner disrupted a lecture during a legal and well-advertised religious gathering, claiming that it ‘hurt the feelings of all the good Germans.’ When the organizers refused to end the meeting, Wagner went to the mayor and, with his help, shut down the power supply to the entire village. The restoration of electrical power took place only after the intervention of a policeman, who, at the same time, accused both men of oppression and abuse of office.

In September 1938, an anti-Czech uprising broke out in the borderland, initiated by SdP supporters who organized a series of demonstrations and provocations. Guerrilla warfare ensued for two weeks. The Sudeten Crisis eventually culminated on September 29 with the signing of the Munich Agreement, and the next day Germany annexed the region.

As writer Max von der Grün describes in his autobiographical novel, Two Letters to Pospischiel, people deemed anti-fascists and “unreliable Germans” were arrested almost immediately after being named in lists prepared across the entire region. These included Jehovah’s Witnesses.[19]

On March 15, 1939, German forces occupied all of Bohemia and Moravia. Hitler designated a new political state called the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, which had its own president and puppet government. An official ban on Jehovah’s Witnesses was declared on July 7, 1939. The Gestapo continually tried to apprehend and imprison organizers of the illegal evangelizing work and religious meetings, eventually succeeding.

Protectorate administration officials demanded peace and order from the Czech population. However, Czech nationals were not required to participate in military operations, so the problem of Czech Witnesses refusing military service generally did not arise during the war.

The exception was the case of a group of Czech Jehovah’s Witnesses in the territory of the Protectorate who were tried in 1944 by the German People’s Tribunal; the Witnesses were accused of “weakening military power.” The question of whether the preaching from the Bible among the Czech population could fragment the military power of the German nation was not resolved in this case, even from the perspective of a German military court. The people in question were saved from the death penalty; however, they were imprisoned and sentenced to serve in concentration camps instead.[20]

Czech and Polish Witnesses from Těšín, on the Czech-Polish border in the region of Silesia, faced a unique situation. In 1920, an international dispute over this territory was settled by the division of Těšín and the adjacent areas into Polish and Czech parts. In October 1938, the Poles exploited the Sudeten Crisis to annex the Czech part of Těšín. After the German invasion of Poland in 1939, Těšín fell under the direct control of Nazi Germany as part of Silesia.

Jehovah’s Witnesses’ activities in Silesia encountered not only prohibitions and regulations based on the general principles of Nazism, but also provisions specific to the region’s unique geopolitical situation. Těšín’s population was declared capable of Germanization. This unusual display of Nazi “generosity” was employed to control the area’s advanced metallurgy and heavy industry.

The Nazis pressured skilled workers to pledge loyalty to the Germans’ self-proclaimed Third Reich, or empire. Official participation in the Deutsche Volksliste (DVL or German National Charter) would play an important role in this effort. By enrolling in the Volkslist, the citizen committed himself to absolute obedience to the Nazi administration.

The vast majority of the local population accepted the Volkslist, under pressure. However, local Jehovah’s Witnesses refused to enroll. Consequently, they lacked valid identity documents and, as citizens, existed outside proper official records. In situations where they had to present themselves officially, they were subject to arrest and very cruel treatment at the Gestapo office. Some young male Witnesses were enrolled automatically in the Volkslist by non-Witness fathers. Such young men were then subject to military duty. Refusal meant cruel beatings by the Gestapo and imprisonment in a concentration camp.[21]

Therefore, besides the prohibitions previously issued in Germany, the Polish organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses was also formally dissolved by a special decree of the Katowice Gestapo ten months after the occupation of the Polish territory on July 4, 1940.The situation was different in Slovakia, where an independent, cleric-fascist Slovak State was established at the beginning of 1939. The leaders worked openly with Nazi Germany. Jehovah’s Witnesses, therefore, had to be very careful. They continued their activities secretly, but they were perpetually threatened with arrest and persecution.

Jehovah’s Witness children refused the greeting in the schools, od Na stráž (‘on guard,’ a Slovak alternative to the Nazi Heil Hitler), although teachers beat them and tried to force them to comply. A number of local Witness males were arrested and assigned to military labor units. But because they refused to perform engineering work, such as digging trenches and building cannon launch sites, and also refused to take a military oath, they were physically mistreated and some were executed.

The Third Republic and the Postwar (1945–1948)

After the liberation of Czechoslovakia, Jehovah’s Witnesses renewed their public activities quite quickly and reconstituted their prewar corporations without incident. In the years to follow, authorities officially documented the Witnesses’ determination to resist Nazi occupiers. And in at least two Czech post-war retribution courts evidence that Gestapo agents mistreated Jehovah’s Witnesses.

The Witnesses’ problems of the interwar period did not recur after the war. But authorities raised new concerns about widespread evangelizing, especially in the north of Moravia and Slovakia. Several intelligence departments monitored the actions of the group and investigated Jehovah’s Witnesses as a purported danger to national security.

But in the main, the security authorities’ attention once again turned to the Witnesses’ refusal of military service. According to reports, there were only seven cases of Jehovah’s Witnesses and conscientious objection in the Republic during the year 1947; at least four of them were prosecuted. Moreover, in contrast to the interwar period, Jehovah’s Witnesses were refusing any service in the military altogether, including non-military activities performed under military supervision.[22]

Communist Czechoslovakia (1948–1989)

Like the Nazis, totalitarian Communist power sought to destroy all independent elements of civil society as quickly as possible. Some associations were incorporated into structures controlled by the totalitarian state; others had to cease their activities. The Communists used a similar approach in their relationship with minority religious groups.

For example, before the war, Baptists and Adventists functioned only as civil corporations. But under the Communist regime, they received the status of State-approved churches if they accepted the supervision of State authorities and adapted to new conditions. In the case of Jehovah’s Witnesses, this option was out of the question. Representatives of the religion refused to abandon the basic articles of their faith: public evangelizing, distributing religious literature, political neutrality, and association with the group’s headquarters in the “imperialist” United States.[23]

Despite the ban rendering it illegal, Jehovah’s Witnesses’ evangelism did not stop. Young Witnesses took the lead in the group’s religious activities, filling vacancies left by arrests made in the early days of the Communist regime.

But without access to mature and experienced Witnesses having sound judgment, occasional problems arose with individuals holding idiosyncratic views. Daily life in the totalitarian Czechoslovak society of the 1950’s was so politicized that without seasoned overseers to offer insight some Witnesses began to worry about violations of neutrality, even in matters not directly related to politics. Lacking consistent organization with clear structure and clearly defined principles, certain Witnesses pursued a misguided piety, scrupulously looking for political-religious connections even where there was no basis for suspicion. Some, for instance, refused to join Jednotné Zemědělské Družstvo (JZD, an agricultural cooperative) or Revoluční Odborové Hnutí (ROH, a central trade union).

Thus, through its repressive interventions, the totalitarian State fostered artificial conditions that proved to be fertile ground for unnecessary confusion, lack of restraint  and problems that could have been avoided under a liberal policy toward religions. Instead of communicating with representatives of the religion and tolerating the minority but peaceful group, the State increasingly complicated matters by its disproportionate and unreasonable restrictions.

The new generation of Witness organizers faced a fresh wave of arrests and trials from 1954 to 1955. Trials at that time were not in civil courts, but military courts, under whose authority civilians did not fall. But the repressive State authorities overlooked one important factor—every one of Jehovah’s Witnesses acts out of his own religious conviction, and his relationship with God is personal. The evangelizing work is basically decentralized so that, even if the StB were to have arrested all those organizing the religious activity, individual evangelism would not have stopped.

A little relief from persecution came during the 1960’s, in part because the international political situation had calmed down, but also because counterintelligence had begun to realize the necessity of communicating with Witness representatives. Witnesses were no longer condemned to many years of punishment for alleged espionage and anti-State conspiracy. Still, their religious activities continued to be criminalized, and they were defamed by false propaganda. For allegations of unauthorized religious activity (production and distribution of prohibited literature), they were punished with prison terms ranging from months to a few years.

Strict punishments, however, continued to be levied on objectors to military service. After serving their sentence, the objectors were again drafted, condemned, and so on. Their families suffered significant economic consequences, some barely subsisting. The psychological impact on the families of imprisoned men—on their wives and children—cannot be overlooked either.

Another facet to this persecution was the post-prison experience. Upon the prisoners’ return to civilian life, their criminal record made it hard to find work. They were often repeatedly blackmailed to cooperate with the StB, facing new threats of prison time and the expulsion of their children from school. All this took place in a socialist state that boasted of being the fairest system in the world with none of its people suffering under the Communist Party—the government providing a life full of promise to all people.

In the 1970’s, parallel with the worldwide growth of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the number of Witnesses in Czechoslovakia started to rise significantly. Despite the ban on their work, the local underground organization built a network of secret and high-performance mimeograph machines, and later, offset printers. Both periodical and non-periodical publications were printed at huge cost.

Alarmed at what the Witnesses could accomplish, the StB rated the small group at the highest possible level of social danger. However, the regime no longer had many tools to fight the underground religion. Counterintelligence wanted to avoid the excesses that occurred on its side in the first half of the 1950s, when harsh repression led to the creation of unnecessary religious excesses. Therefore, they focused on monitoring and investigating individual cases and, above all, spreading disunity among ordinary Witnesses.

When the Communist regime began granting civil liberties as a result of increasing liberalization at the end of the 1980’s, the StB’s main concern was to ensure that the newly granted freedoms did not impede the religious activities of Jehovah’s Witnesses.[24]

The Status of Research to Date

Research on the history and persecution of religious minorities requires some impartiality. Some authors may be confronted with their own preconceptions; others tend to minimize stories of the victimsespecially when it comes to the history of repression.

  • Detlef Garbe has produced an extensive and factual analysis of the history of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Germany. [25]Thanks to his work, it is possible to understand better the activities of the Witnesses in Czechoslovakia before 1945. Later works have built on Garbe’s research.
  • Several Czech authors have focused on the phenomenon of objectors to military service.[26]
  • The extensive body of publications by the Watch Tower Society has also been described in detail.[27]
  • Ivan A. Petranský of Ústav Pamäti Národa (the Slovak National Memory Institute) precisely mapped out the bans and court proceedings organized against Jehovah’s Witnesses between 1945 and 1956.[28]
  • The most comprehensive work devoted to the activities of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the territory of Czechoslovakia is the four-volume work, Print and Colportage of Bibles and the Bible Students’ Religious Literature. Contribution to the History of Publishing and Distribution Activities of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia from 1891 to 1989 during the Development of Press and Civil Liberties, made available to interested researchers in 2008 as a preprint. Wolfram Slupina also draws on this work in his recent contribution to the anthology series Jehovas Zeugen in Europa.[29]
  • The living conditions of Slovak Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Serbian camp Bor are documented in detail by Tamás Csapody in his book Bortól Szombathelyig.[30]
  • The suffering of Jehovah’s Witnesses in uranium mines in the Jáchymov region is analyzed in detail in the book Jáchymov Camps – Hell where it was frozen.[31]

Memoir Literature

For privately published memoirs, we can look to that of Max Hollweg, who briefly relates his interwar religious activity in Prague.[32] A rich selection of personal histories is available in the multilingual Watchtower Online Library.[33]

Pragmatism Versus Consistent Fulfillment of Christ’s Law and the Meaningfulness of Suffering

The ideological clash of pragmatism and consistent Christian neutrality is well reflected in several newspaper commentaries and correspondences authored by leading Czech writer Karel Čapek (1890–1938). For much of his life, the respected writer was a great supporter and promoter of skepticism and pragmatism. According to Čapek, meaningful solutions do not require ideology because they prove their usefulness in a specific way and have a practical function in people’s daily lives. Čapek said that there is no point in looking for any “higher truth.”

Dazzled by the seeming postwar peace of the early 1920’s, he began to criticize objectors to military service for their impractical approach, asserting that their stand did not benefit anyone and that they were false martyrs. But over the years, Čapek’s staunch position began to change. This was the result of growing political tensions as well as the influence of a correspondence led by a judicial advocate of interwar opponents of military service, Brno-based lawyer JUDr. Heinrich Groag. Through it, Čapek learned of the specific fates of several objectors and began to consider matters in a broader context.

In the face of growing social intolerance, he began to defend the need for a higher moral truth. The protagonist main character of Čapek’s 1937 play, Bílá nemoc (The White Disease) is surprisingly a pacifist physician through whom the writer unexpectedly defends moral principles against pragmatism. Čapek explores a similar motif in the evocative 1938 drama Matka (The Mother), depicting a pragmatist whose sons are gradually dying and who has no solution to the desperate situation. Through the protagonist, Čapek himself admits in a desperate conclusion that he only wanted to “incite their conscience”—his audience’s inner moral voice.[34]

But can an individual rely on his conscience alone, or does he need to calibrate it with a higher truth? To that question, Jehovah’s Witnesses would reply by quoting Biblical letters penned by the apostle Paul. For example, the letter to the Romans describes people who “have zeal for God, but not according to accurate knowledge” because they do not know God’s righteousness and seek to establish their own. To do the right thing, according to the Bible, a Christian has to continually correct his own ideas with the help of a standard, the commandments of Christ.—Romans 10:2, 3; 2 Corinthians 10:5; Hebrews 9:14

It is precisely this inner calibration that has allowed many of Jehovah’s Witnesses—otherwise a completely ordinary and imperfect people—to endure multiple social injustices, great mental suffering, and inhuman physical torture. Often, police states and totalitarian regimes have undertaken incomprehensible efforts to stop the numerically marginalized group of Jehovah’s Witnesses. A commentator on Radio Free Europe responded to the persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Czechoslovakia in 1953 by saying, “how weak and feeble the Communist state must have been when its rulers were afraid of these little sectarians!”

The paradoxes of the imprisonment of these Christians are also mentioned by Rudolf Vrba, famous for escaping from the Auschwitz extermination camp and writing the notorious Report.[35] Vrba says: “Jehovah’s Witnesses were interestingly the only ones who passed these terrible tests. . . . The moral strength of those people, who are mocked today, is immense and I respect them.[36]

The greater part of society will probably never agree with Jehovah’s Witnesses’ views. However, all the evidence to date suggests that the discretion of government agencies and meaningful communication with representatives of this religion can support long-term and mutually beneficial coexistence. On the other hand, ostracism and repression of this peaceful minority not only lead nowhere, but also raise questions about the moral integrity of a given political regime.[37]

Image Attachments

01       Eduard Löwe of Meziboří near Ústí nad Labem refused to join the German army as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. In 1943, he was sentenced to death by the supreme Nazi German military court of the Reichskriegsgericht (RKG). Löwe was then executed. Source: “Vojáku Vladimíre . . .”

02       Ludvík Kuczera from Střítež near Ostrava was transported to Auschwitz concentration camp in December 1943 for refusing service in the Wehrmacht. He later died in the camp. Source: “Vojáku Vladimíre . . .”

03       The vast majority of the population of Czechoslovakia supported the nationwide peace vote in 1951. A newspaper of that time states in the caption of the printed photo: “Also the professors and theologians of the Cyril and Methodius Faculty of Theology confirmed their firm determination to defend world peace by their pledges and signing the ballot.” Source: Jáchymovské táborypeklo, ve kterém mrzlo

04       The nationwide peace vote in 1951.—The front side of the ballot paper. Source: Jáchymovské táborypeklo, ve kterém mrzlo

05, 06 Uranium ore miners who were conscientious objectors were punished by standing or walking for several days in the cold, with temperatures plummeting as low as −20°Celsius (−4°F). Source: Jáchymovské táborypeklo, ve kterém mrzlo

[1] Tisk a kolportáž Biblí a náboženských tiskovin Badatelů Bible. Příspěvek k historii vydavatelské a distribuční činnosti Svědků Jehovových na území Čech, Moravy a Slezska v letech 1891–1989 ve vývoji tiskových a občanských svobod [Print and Colportage of Bibles and the Bible Students’ Religious Literature. Contribution to the History of Publishing and Distribution Activities of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia from 1891 to 1989 during the Development of Press and Civil Liberties], by Zdeněk Bauer, 2008, (Preprint, NZB, Prague, Czech Republic), “Díl I. Formování konfese a rozmach evangelizačních aktivit (1891–1938) [Part I. Formation of Denomination and Expansion of Evangelizing Activities (1891–1938)].”

[2] Tisk a kolportáž Biblí a náboženských tiskovin Badatelů Bible. Příspěvek k historii vydavatelské a distribuční činnosti Svědků Jehovových na území Čech, Moravy a Slezska v letech 1891–1989 ve vývoji tiskových a občanských svobod [Print and Colportage of Bibles and the Bible Students’ Religious Literature. Contribution to the History of Publishing and Distribution Activities of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia from 1891 to 1989 during the Development of Press and Civil Liberties], by Zdeněk Bauer, 2008, “Díl II. Svědkové Jehovovi v období nacismu (1939–1945) [Part II. Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Nazi Period (1939–1945)].”

[3]Jáchymovské tábory – peklo, ve kterém mrzlo. Trestanecké tábory na Jáchymovsku a exemplární pranýřovací tresty pro odpírače těžby uranové rudy [Jáchymov CampsHell where it was freezing. The Prison Camps in the Jáchymov Area and Exemplary Pillory Punishments for Objectors to the Uranium Ore Mining], by Zdeněk Bauer, 2019, (NZB, Prague, Czech Republic), chapter 9.

[4] In this regard, the authorities pointed to communication with foreigners in general and the compilation and sending of regular reports on domestic evangelizing activities specifically.

[5] Jáchymov was known by its German name of Sankt Joachimsthal or Joachimsthal until 1945. It is situated at an altitude of 733 m above sea level in the eponymous St. Joachim Valley of the Ore Mountains, close to the Czech border with Germany.

[6] Jáchymovské tábory – peklo, ve kterém mrzlo. Trestanecké tábory na Jáchymovsku a exemplární pranýřovací tresty pro odpírače těžby uranové rudy [Jáchymov CampsHell where it was freezing. The Prison Camps in the Jáchymov Area and Exemplary Pillory Punishments for Objectors to the Uranium Ore Mining], chapter 9.

[7] Later, after the severest repression had passed and it was confirmed that the Soviet Union had began to use uranium ore for peaceful purposes, Jehovah’s Witnesses changed their original position and began to participate in the mining again. As in the case of paying taxes, they concluded that it is not their responsibility to distinguish the government’s various uses for the rock they had mined.

[8] Tisk a kolportáž Biblí a náboženských tiskovin Badatelů Bible. Příspěvek k historii vydavatelské a distribuční činnosti Svědků Jehovových na území Čech, Moravy a Slezska v letech 1891–1989 ve vývoji tiskových a občanských svobod [Print and Colportage of Bibles and the Bible Students’ Religious Literature. Contribution to the History of Publishing and Distribution Activities of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia from 1891 to 1989 during the Development of Press and Civil Liberties], “Díl III. Sledování, zákaz a potírání kolportážních aktivit Svědků Jehovových komunistickými orgány (1945–1989) [Part III. Tracking, prohibiting and combating the collapse of Jehovah’s Witnesses by Communist authorities (1945–1989)].”

[9]jw.org, “2018 Service Year Report of Jehovah’s Witnesses Worldwide,” electronic ref., (https://www.jw.org/en/library/books/2018-service-year-report/2018-country-territory/).

[10] The term Czechia in the text indicates the geographical area of the country made up in the west and central part by Czech (formerly known by the German term Böhmen, Latin Bohemia), in the east Moravia, and in the northeast a small fragment called Upper Silesia. The area is identical to the borders of the present-day Czech Republic. The Czech Republic and Slovakia were part of one, state system from 1918 to 1939 and from 1945 to 1992. Since January 1, 1993, they have operated as two separate states.

[11] Česká Kanada, Slavonice, a Slavonicko [Czech Canada, Slavonice, and Slavonice Area], by Zdeněk Bauer, 2016, (NZB, Prague, Czech Republic), pp. 61–69.

[12] Medieval Heresy. Popular Movements from the Gregorian Reform to the Reformation, by Malcolm Lambert, 1994, (Blackwell, Oxford, England).

[13] See Říčan, Rudolf: Dějiny Jednoty bratrské. [History of the Unity of Brethren.] Kalich, Prague 1957.

[14] Nové Studie o Novokřtěncích [New Study of Anabaptists], by Strážnice Etnos, 2018; Česká Kanada, Slavonice, a Slavonicko [Czech Canada, Slavonice, and Slavonice Area], by Zdeněk Bauer, 2016, (NZB, Prague, Czech Republic), pp. 180–182.

[15] Tisk a kolportáž Biblí a náboženských tiskovin Badatelů Bible. Příspěvek k historii vydavatelské a distribuční činnosti Svědků Jehovových na území Čech, Moravy a Slezska v letech 1891–1989 ve vývoji tiskových a občanských svobod [Print and Colportage of Bibles and the Bible Students’ Religious Literature. Contribution to the History of Publishing and Distribution Activities of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia from 1891 to 1989 during the Development of Press and Civil Liberties], “Díl I. Formování konfese a rozmach evangelizačních aktivit (1891–1938) [Part I. Formation of Denomination and Expansion of Evangelizing Activities (1891–1938)]”; Jáchymovské tábory – peklo, ve kterém mrzlo. Trestanecké tábory na Jáchymovsku a exemplární pranýřovací tresty pro odpírače těžby uranové rudy [Jáchymov CampsHell where it was freezing. The Prison Camps in the Jáchymov Area and Exemplary Pillory Punishments for Objectors to the Uranium Ore Mining], chapter 9.

[16] Tisk a kolportáž Biblí a náboženských tiskovin Badatelů Bible. Příspěvek k historii vydavatelské a distribuční činnosti Svědků Jehovových na území Čech, Moravy a Slezska v letech 1891–1989 ve vývoji tiskových a občanských svobod [Print and Colportage of Bibles and the Bible Students’ Religious Literature. Contribution to the History of Publishing and Distribution Activities of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia from 1891 to 1989 during the Development of Press and Civil Liberties], “Díl I. Formování konfese a rozmach evangelizačních aktivit (1891–1938) [Part I. Formation of Denomination and Expansion of Evangelizing Activities (1891–1938)].”

[17] A nepozdvihne meč . . . Odpírání vojenské služby v Československu 1948–1989 [And Shall Not Lift Up Sword . . . Refusing Military Service in Czechoslovakia 1948–1989], Petr Blažek, ed., 2007, (Academia, Prague, Czech Republic); “Paralely a odlišnosti důvodů uváděných při odpírání vojenské služby a reakce různých politických režimů v prostoru bývalého Československa [The Parallels and Differences Among Reasons Declared While Refusing Military Service and Reaction of Various Regimes in the Area of the Former Czechoslovakia],” by Zdeněk Bauer, pp. 17–54.

[18] Borderlands of the west, northwest, north and northeast, north Moravia and part of Czech Silesia, marked by the German separatists from the beginning of the 20th century as a prominent German area.

[19] Dva dopisy Pospischielovi, Druhé vydání [Two Letters to Pospischiel, Second Czech edition], by Max von der Grün, 2015 (NZB, Prague, Czech Republic); “Román a skutečnost (Doslov) [Novel and Reality (Epilogue)],” by Zdeněk Bauer, pp. 194–269.

[20] A nepozdvihne meč . . . Odpírání vojenské služby v Československu 1948–1989 [And Shall Not Lift Up Sword . . . Refusing Military Service in Czechoslovakia 1948–1989]; “Paralely a odlišnosti důvodů uváděných při odpírání vojenské služby a reakce různých politických režimů v prostoru bývalého Československa [The Parallels and Differences Among Reasons Declared While Refusing Military Service and Reaction of Various Regimes in the Area of the Former Czechoslovakia],” p. 40.

[21] Poválečná justice a národní podoby antisemitismu [Post-War Justice and the National Character of Anti-Semitism], Mečislav Borák, editor, 2002, Ústav pro soudobé dějiny Akademie věd ČR a Slezský ústav Slezského zemského muzea, Praha a Opava [Institute of Contemporary History, Czech Academy of Sciences, Prague and Silesian Institute, Silesian Regional Museum, Opava, Czech Republic]; “Antisemitsky laděné útoky namířené proti Svědkům Jehovovým a mimořádný lidový soud s Karl Eichlerem [Anti-Semitically Tuned Attacks Directed Against Jehovah’s Witnesess and the Extraordinary People’s Court (EPC) with Karl Eichler],” by Zdeněk Bauer, pp. 204–222.

[22] Tisk a kolportáž Biblí a náboženských tiskovin Badatelů Bible. Příspěvek k historii vydavatelské a distribuční činnosti Svědků Jehovových na území Čech, Moravy a Slezska v letech 1891–1989 ve vývoji tiskových a občanských svobod [Print and Colportage of Bibles and the Bible Students’ Religious Literature. Contribution to the History of Publishing and Distribution Activities of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia from 1891 to 1989 during the Development of Press and Civil Liberties], “Díl III. Sledování, zákaz a potírání kolportážních aktivit Svědků Jehovových komunistickými orgány (1945–1989) [Part III. Tracking, prohibiting and combating the collapse of Jehovah’s Witnesses by Communist authorities (1945–1989)].”

[23] Ibid.

[24] Tisk a kolportáž Biblí a náboženských tiskovin Badatelů Bible. Příspěvek k historii vydavatelské a distribuční činnosti Svědků Jehovových na území Čech, Moravy a Slezska v letech 1891–1989 ve vývoji tiskových a občanských svobod [Print and Colportage of Bibles and the Bible Students’ Religious Literature. Contribution to the History of Publishing and Distribution Activities of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia from 1891 to 1989 during the Development of Press and Civil], “Díl III. Sledování, zákaz a potírání kolportážních aktivit Svědků Jehovových komunistickými orgány (1945–1989) [Part III. Tracking, prohibiting and combating the collapse of Jehovah’s Witnesses by Communist authorities (1945–1989)].”

[25] Zwischen Widerstand und Martyrium, by Detlef Garbe, 1997, (Oldenbourg, München), “Die Zeugen Jehovas im Dritten Reich.”

[26] A nepozdvihne meč . . . Odpírání vojenské služby v Československu 1948–1989 [And Shall Not Lift Up Sword . . . Refusing Military Service in Czechoslovakia 1948–1989]; “’Vojáku Vladimíre . . . ’ Karel Čapek; Jindřich Groag a odpírači vojenské služby z důvodu svědomí [“Soldier Vladimir . . . ” Karel Capek, Heinrich Groag and conscientious objectors],” by Zdeněk Bauer.

[27] Bibliografický soupis české literatury Watch Tower Society. Příručka pro knihovníky, sběratele a badatele [Bibliographic List of Czech Literature Watch Tower Society. A Guide for Librarians, Collectors and Researchers], by Zdeněk Bauer, 2017, (NZB, Prague, Czech Republic).

[28] Pamäť národa [Nation’s Memory Magazine], 2014, č. 1, s., “Vlna perzekúcií Jehovových svedkov v Československu v rokoch 1954–1956 [The wave of persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Czechoslovakia during 1954–1956],” by Ivan Albert Petranský, pp. 30–45, electronic ref., (www.upn.gov.sk/publikacie_web/pamat-naroda/pamat-naroda-01-2014.pdf); Pamäť národa [Nation’s Memory Magazine], 2012, č. 3, s.; “Činnosť Jehovových svedkov a ich perzekúcie v Československu 1948–1953. [Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Activities and Their Persecution in Czechoslovakia 1948–1953],” by Ivan Albert Petranský, pp. 33–49, electronic ref., (www.upn.gov.sk/publikacie_web/pamat-naroda/pamat-naroda-03-2012.pdf); Pamäť národa [Nation’s Memory Magazine], 2010, č. 2, s., “Jehovovi svedkovia v Československu 1945–1949 [Jehovah’s Witnesses in Czechoslovakia 1945–1949],” by Ivan Albert Petranský, pp. 4–22, electronic ref., (http://www.upn.gov.sk/publikacie_web/pamat-naroda/pamat-naroda-02-2010.pdf.

[29] Jehovas Zeugen in Europa. Geschichte und Gegenwart. Band 3. Gerhard Besier/Katarzyna Stokłosa (Hgg.), by Wolfram Slupina, 2018, (Lit Verlag, Berlin, Germany), “Jehovas Zeugen im Gebiet der Ehemaligen Tschechoslowakei,” pp. 703–803.

[30] Bortól Szombathelyig Tanulmányok a bori munkaszolgálatról és a bori munkaszolgálatosok részleges névlistája [From Bor to Szombathely. Studies of Bor and a Partial Name List of the Bor Labour Servicemen], Tamás Csapody, (Zrínyi Kiadó, Budapest, Hungary, 2014), electronic ref., (http://mek.oszk.hu/16900/16957/pdf).

[31] Jáchymovské tábory – peklo, ve kterém mrzlo. Trestanecké tábory na Jáchymovsku a exemplární pranýřovací tresty pro odpírače těžby uranové rudy [Jáchymov CampsHell where it was freezing. The Prison Camps in the Jáchymov Area and Exemplary Pillory Punishments for Objectors to the Uranium Ore Mining], by Zdeněk Bauer, 2019, (NZB, Prague, Czech Republic).

[32]Es ist unmöglich von dem zu schweigen, was ich erlebt habe. Zivilcourage im Dritten Reich/3, by Max Hollweg, 2000, (Auflage, Mindt, Bielefeld), pp. 53–74.

[33]Awake!, December 22, 2002, “Faith Under Trial in Slovakia,” by Ján Bali, electronic ref., (https://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/102002926#h=1:0-49:51).

[34] “’Vojáku Vladimíre . . .’ Karel Čapek, Jindřich Groag a odpírači vojenské služby z důvodu svědomí [“Soldier Vladimir . . .” Karel Capek, Heinrich Groag and conscientious objectors],” pp. 107–110.

[35] The Vrba–Wetzler Report of the Auschwitz and Birkenau German extermination camps is the testimony of two escaped prisoners from April 25, 1944. They were the first to provide the Western powers with comprehensive information about the mass extermination of Auschwitz prisoners. The report is considered one of the most important documents of the 20th century and has provided its authors with exceptional prestige.

[36] Jáchymovské tábory – peklo, ve kterém mrzlo. Trestanecké tábory na Jáchymovsku a exemplární pranýřovací tresty pro odpírače těžby uranové rudy [Jáchymov CampsHell where it was freezing. The Prison Camps in the Jáchymov Area and Exemplary Pillory Punishments for Objectors to the Uranium Ore Mining], by Zdeněk Bauer, 2019, (NZB, Prague, Czech Republic), chapter 9.

[37] Compare for example Judging Jehovah’s Witnesses. Religious Persecution and the Dawn of the Rights Revolution, by Shawn Peters, 2000, (University Press of Kansas, Lawrence).



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