Mar 272005

The Rest of the Story

Living just south of Kennebunk Maine as I do, I often heard the story of how a mob, irrate over Jehovah’s Witnesses’ refusal to salute the flag, attacked and burned the Kingdom Hall there on June 9, 1940. As is the case with so many things, there is more to the story.

I always pretty much took the story at face value and had never thought of investigating the details behind the incident until I came across an item related to in on E-Bay.

The Kennebunk incident took place just days after the United States Supreme Court overturned lower court decisions and found against the Gobitis family whose children were expelled from their school in Pennsylvania for refusing to salute the flag. Here is some background on the Minersville School District v. Gobitis case and the only mentions of the Kennebunk incident in Watchtower publications.

On November 6, 1935, Lillian and William Gobitis, children of Walter Gobitis, one of Jehovah’s witnesses, refused to salute the flag and were expelled from the public school at Minersville, Pennsylvania. Their case, pressed in the federal courts, attracted nationwide attention, becoming the test case for the entire country. It was fought up to the Supreme Court at Washington. Seventy-year-old lawyer J. F. Rutherford, president of the Watch Tower Society, personally appeared before the United States Supreme Court and argued the case on behalf of Jehovah’s witnesses. – The Watchtower, 7/15/1955, p 428, “Part 14: Fight Carried into the Law Courts”

Despite “Judge” Rutherford’s best efforts, on June 3, 1940, the Supreme Court, in an 8-1 decision, found in favor of the Minersville School District. The Court later reversed itself on Flag Day, June 14, 1943, in the case of West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette. Quoting from former Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox, in his book “The Court and the Constitution” (1987), the Watchtower writes:

Professor Cox continues his account: “Persecution of the Witnesses increased. In some quarters, notably Texas, Witnesses were attacked by mobs for their refusal to salute the flag, and they were sometimes held as ‘Nazi agents.'” In Maine, one Kingdom Hall was burned. In one town in Illinois, the whole population “turned out to attack some sixty Witnesses.” – Awake! 6/8/1988, p. 23, “The Principal Victims of Religious Persecution”

Lillian Gobitis mentioned the Kennebunk incident in her story that was published in the Awake! magazine in 1993.

This decision unleashed an almost unimaginable wave of terror. Across the country, it was open season on Jehovah’s Witnesses. People thought they were doing their patriotic duty by attacking us. Within days the Kingdom Hall at Kennebunk, Maine, was torched. – Awake!, 7/22/1993, p 15, “The Courage to Put God First”

So far, it seems like a simple case of an angry mob torching a Kingdom Hall. But there is a bit more to it. This brings us to the item on E-Bay. From time to time I check there for Watchtower related items. One day I saw a photograph up for bid that pictured two men holding Watchtower magazines. The information on it indicated that the two men were Jehovah’s Witnesses who had been arrested for assault with intent to kill after allegedly firing shotguns into the mob that was gathered outside the Kennebunk Kingdom Hall on the night of June 9, 1940, the night that the Hall was torched. I successfully bid on the picture, which is shown below.

Carrol S. Madsen and Joseph Leathers in the Sanford, Maine jail after being arrested for assault with intent to kill.

Glued to the back of the picture is the original Associated Press release about these two men.

The Associated Press press release attached to the back of the photograph above.

The next year, the American Civil Liberties Union published “The Persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses”. In this work, the ACLU quotes from Mrs. Gertrude Bobb’s affidavit in which she describes the events leading up to the incident.

The Kennebunk Case

The shocking events at Kennebunk, Maine in the early summer of 1940 were preceded by a long campaign against Jehovah’s Witnesses, who maintained in the town a Kingdom Hall.

The culmination of the attack on the night of June 9 resulted in charges not against the assailants but against Jehovah’s Witnesses, who fired some shots from inside the Hall. Nobody was killed or wounded. One member of Jehovah’s Witnesses was convicted of assault with intent to kill and his conviction appealed to the Supreme Court. One man still remains to be tried. Four others were acquitted. Persons charged with burning Kingdom Hall were arrested and tried but all acquitted.

The following is from an affidavit of Mrs. Gertrude A. Bobb, a member of Jehovah’s Witnesses, whose husband was largely responsible for the conduct of Witness work. Mrs. Bobb’s affidavit recounts events after Jehovah’s Witnesses were forced out of a rented hall because of mob violence:

“One day during the last week of September, 1939, at approximately 5 p.m. I went with Edwin Bobb, my husband, and Richard Trask to the home of a deputy sheriff of York ‘County, to tell him of the plans of the French Catholics to break up our meeting, and to ask for police protection. I waited outside in the car while my husband and Richard Trask went inside. In a few minutes they came out and I saw the sheriff swinging his arms and heard him shouting ‘Don’t come here for protection and don’t go to any other deputy sheriffs because they are Legionnaires, too. You’ll get no protection from them.

“We held the meeting without police protection. Kingdom Hall was packed with hoodlums. While I was sitting there a rock crashed in and missed my head by about a foot.

“The following Sunday night we held another meeting and Bible study in the same hall. Albout 8:30, rocks and all kinds of fruit and garbage were thrown through the windows, breaking every window in the front. There were others in the alley crashing windows in the back. We were forced to leave the building. After we left, the hoodlums crashed the doors down and broke all the furniture. The mob downstairs was estimated at about 2,000, among whom there were a handful of Salvation Army men and women in uniform. . . .

“The night after Memorial Day, a mob attacked Kingdom Hall, crashing in the front, breaking the windows and even the walls. I jumped into the car and drove to the nearest telephone to call the state police. In the meantime the hoodlums had returned and two got out of a car with their arms full of beer bottles. As they stepped into the yard to throw them, a shot was fired from the building. The two men dropped the bottles and fled.

“The next day Pat McCab, a state policeman, told my husband that our lives were in danger. He said he was telling this to us because he was afraid the whole thing was getting beyond the point where the state police could control it. My husband told him we would stick it out and protect Kingdom Hall even if we were to be shot.

“On Friday night, a large car’ swung out from the road heading right for our front doors. When they were several feet from the doors, we switched the lights on. They quickly swerved out into the road again and drove around in circles in front of the hall. I went out to take their license number. At first they warned me to go back into the house but when I wouldn’t leave, they tried to run me over.

“The next night, June 7th, our service meeting had just been completed when a hail of rocks hit the building in the rear. But when we got back there, no one was in sight. We called for an officer in Kennebunk but we couldn’t get one. We heard that a mob was threatening to tar and feather us. So we wired the Governor and the Attorney-General of Maine, appealing to them for protection. The Governor was out of town and we received no answer from him or from the Attorney- General. We made preparations to protect our lives as well as Kingdom Hall.

“On Saturday about eight cars of hoodlums began circling the hall. A weird light was thrown across our back yard and the field alongside of the hall. We later discovered it came from the home of the brother of the man who got shot, Mr. MacDonald. These cars would come up almost to the front porch but they only stayed there a moment and then swerved out into the road again. This sort of thing kept up until 2:30 in the morning when a car pulled up in front of the Kingdom Hall and three men got out and started for the Hall. As soon as the rocks started to fly, I said ‘Lights !’ Then I heard gun-fire but I couldn’t tell how many guns were fired.

“A little later the state police came and reported that two men were hurt and in the hospital. They took our names and addresses and the guns, and left. About 4:30 we decided that the mob would be after us, so we started to get our car which was about a mile away. The state police picked us up, telling us we were under arrest. They also picked up two others who were just leaving the hall to go to a friend’s house.

“Later the police said that the women had been taken into custody for their protection but that the men were under arrest, one charged with assault and attempt to murder and the other with being an accessory. Mv husband and I were put in the same cell. A little later the father of one of the boys that was hurt came up to our cell and said, pointing at Eddie, ‘I’ve got you where I want you, you fat bastard. You got my boy and I’ll get you the minute you get out.” He turned to me and said “I’ll get you too. I’ll drag you through Biddeford and make you salute something.’

“The police later told us that the mob was very vicious and that our lives were not worth a nickel out in the streets. I later learned that six of Jehovah’s Witnesses had been arrested and charged with assault and attempt to murder.”- The Persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses, American Civil Liberties Union – January 1941, pp 16-19 – from

Gertrude Bobb’s account confirms the substance of the Associated Press release. On a personal note, I knew the Richard Trask that Mrs. Bobb mentions, first when he was in the Rochester N.H. congregation and later when he moved to the Kittery Maine congregation. I don’t remember ever talking with him about the Kennebunk incident.

After quoting Gertrude Bobb’s affidavit, the ACLU document went on to relate another interesting event in the history of JWs in Maine:

In another Maine village, North Windham, a member of Jehovah’s Witnesses has been convicted of murder resulting from an unprovoked assault by a garage man to whom he had tried to play phonograph records. The garage man threatened and struck the Witness with a tire iron and in a scuffle the Witness, Arthur F. Cox, pulled a gun and shot the garage man. He alleged self-defense. The case is on appeal to the Supreme Court. – The Persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses, American Civil Liberties Union – January 1941, pp 16-19 – from

Another old-timer that I knew was supposedly with Cox when this happened. I’ve heard a couple versions of what happened to Cox after this. If anyone has any more information on Arthur Cox and this incident, please let me know.

Feb 022005

After recounting incidents of persecution in Ethiopia, the 1/1/95
issue of The Watchtower, page 6, para 8, said:

“Satan has failed to crack the integrity of such loyal brothers and sisters by direct frontal attack. So, what other crafty devices does he employ? Revelation 12:12 says of these last days: “Woe for the earth and for the sea, because the Devil has come down to you, having great anger, knowing he has a short period of time.” Having failed to annihilate God’s loyal people by persecutions, in his anger he attempts to massacre entire populations, no doubt with a view to destroying Jehovah’s people along with the rest. Thus so-called ethnic cleansing has been carried out in parts of the former Yugoslavia, and genocides have been attempted in Liberia, Burundi, and Rwanda.”

According to the 1995 Yearbook: “Among the possible half million Rwandans who lost their lives were hundreds of Jehovah’s Witnesses.”

So what they’re saying is that in order to put a few hundred (about 300 is what I read in a branch report several years ago) witnesses out of the picture, Satan took out about 500,000 Rwandans. I always thought that Satan had better aim than that. If he’s that inept, maybe we don’t have as much to worry about from him as we thought. :)

But seriously, folks …

This paragraph shows a great deal of arrogance. The Watchtower Society would have us believe that all world events revolve around it. Every significant world event is tied the “the outworking of Jehovahs purpose.” (Is “outworking” a word that anyone other than the Watchtower uses?) And because the Watchtower is the visible part of Jehovah’s universal organization that he uses to accomplish His will here on the earth, it is the focus of these world events. If you try to say anything to the effect that perhaps these things happened due to causes that may have nothing to do with the Watchtower, you get funny looks from the “faithful.” (Been there, Done that)

Some of the rank and file take this type of statement and apply it individually. When this occurs, they begin to believe that every bad thing that happens to every JW in the organization is as a result of supernatural Satanic forces trying to keep them from spreading the “good news.” Nothing ever happens by chance, no JW is ever just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Every automotive difficulty, every illness, every financial upset is a result of persecution from Satan, especially if it happens the mo nth you sign up to auxillary pioneer. In some extreme cases, witnesses have blamed marital problems on satanic persecution. When I was and elder, I heard the following line of reasoning from some brothers and sisters whose mates had left them. “My husband (or wife) left me. It must be Satan trying to get me to slow down in my preaching.” (Hmmm, it couldn’t have anything to do with the fact that you spend so much time preaching that you never spend any time with your mate, and when you do spend time with them you treat them like dirt, could it?)

This becomes a very convenient device for shifting responsibility.

Joe Publisher can reason: “The flat tire I had on the way to the Kingdom Hall was persecution from Satan. It couldn’t be because I’ve been running these bald tires for the last couple of months. That cold that I got last time I tried to pioneer was persec ution too. I couldn’t be due to the fact that a good portion of the general population had a cold at the same time. My having too little (or too much) employment and consequently too little (or too much) money is Satan trying to divert me from the preachi ng work, not a result of the same economic forces that everybody else has to deal with.”

The governing body can reason: “All of this trouble we have with people leaving the organization and becoming apostates is as a result of Satan trying to destroy Jehovah’s earthly organization. It couldn’t be because we have changed doctrine so often that everyone’s totally confused. All this persecution we get is instigated by the clergy of Christendom which we know is controlled by Satan. It couldn’t be because we have publically labled that clergy as the ‘Man of Lawlessness.’ It couldn’t be because we say that they have been responsible for every war that has every occured. It couldn’t be because we try to imply that every minister and priest is in it only for the money and that after they get your money they’ll probably molest your sons and daughters. It couldn’t be because we show churches and temples and synagogues being blow to bits at Armageddon in our publications, just like we know they will be.”

Just for contrast:

Galatians 6: 3-5 (NWT): “For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he is deceiving his own mind. But let each one prove what his own work is, and then he will have cause for exultation in regard to himself alone, and not in comparison with the other person. For each one will carry his own load.”

If the WT is what is purports to be, it should stand out from other religions by its own merits, not as a result of tearing everyone else down.

Romans 14:4 (NWT): “Who are you to judge the house servant of another? To his own master he stand for falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for Jehovah can make him stand.”

Finally …

“Can there be false religion? It is not a form of religious persecution for anyone to say and to show that another religion is false. It is not religious persecution for an informed person to expose publicly a certain religion as being false, thus allowing persons to see the difference between false religion and true religion. But in order to make the exposure and show the wrong religions to be false, the true worshiper will have to use an authoritative means of judgment, a rule of measurement that cannot be proved faulty. To make a public exposure of false religion is certainly of more value than exposing a news report as being untrue; it is a public service instead of a religious persecution and it has to do with the eternal life and happiness of the public. Still it leaves the public free to choose. – The Watchtower, 11/15/63, page 688

Dec 262004

This page is still under construction, but I figured I’d put it up here while I’m working on it. There’s a bunch of notes and a timeline. If you have any information that you think would add to this or any comments, please feel free to contact me.

Time Line

September 1, 1931 – The Watchtower reaffirms its long held position that Zionism and the return of the Jews to Palestine is in fulfillment of Bible prophecy.

“God promised to restore Palestine to the Jews. The rebuilding of Palestine is now beginning and is well under way. This is being done clearly in fulfillment of prophecy uttered as promises from Jehovah. this alone should command not only the respectful attention but the profoundest interest of every one who believes that Jehovah is God. It was the great Jehovah, speaking through men who had faith in him, that foretold what we now see transpiring concerning Palestine. The privilege of living on earth at the time of the fulfillment of these prophecies cannot be overestimated. At once the Jew comes into prominence, and the history of the Jewish people becomes more thrilling than any fiction every written.” – The Watchtower, 9/1/1931, 270-271

May 15, 1932 – The Watchtower reverses its position on Zionism

Restoration of genuine worship of the living God in 1919 did not mean gathering together throngs of native or natural “orthodox” Jews in a so-called “Holy Land” (Palestine) under the slogan of “Zionism.” (John 4:21-23) Indeed, such a long-expected and popularly heralded event the earnest students of the Bible came to understand by 1932 as being not Jehovah’s way but only the way of self-serving men subtly stirred into action for creatures’ purposes and benefits. By the publication of Volume 2 of the book Vindication that year, Jehovah’s witnesses came to see that such a “back to Palestine” movement was by the spirit of Jehovah’s archfoe, Satan, who has deceived the entire inhabited earth. From the Scriptural viewpoint Jehovah’s anointed praisers, his singing watchmen “out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues,” were spiritual Jews, Israelites indeed, and were the ones restored to the holy place of Jehovah’s favor.” – The Watchtower, 5/15/55, p 296

January 30, 1933 – Hitler becomes Chancellor of Germany

April 4, 1933 – WTS offices in Magdeburg seized. – Awake!, 8/22/95, pp. 6-7

April 28, 1933 – Seizure order rescinded, property returned – Awake!, 8/22/95, pp. 6-7

June 25, 1933 – Convention in Berlin, Declaration of Facts adopted.

November 1, 1933, issue of The Watchtower “Fear Them Not.” – “It was prepared especially for the German Witnesses, exhorting them to take courage in the face of mounting pressure.” – Awake!, 8/22/95, pp 7-8

February 9, 1934 – J. F. Rutherford, president of the Watch Tower Society, sent a letter of protest to Hitler stating: “You may successfully resist any and all men, but you cannot successfully resist Jehovah God. . . . In the name of Jehovah God and His anointed King, Christ Jesus, I demand that you give order to all officials and servants of your government that Jehovah’s witnesses in Germany be permitted to peaceably assemble and without hindrance worship God.”

Rutherford set March 24, 1934, as the deadline. He said that if by that time relief did not come to the German Witnesses, the facts about the persecution would be published throughout Germany and the rest of the world. The Nazis answered Rutherford’s demand with stepped-up abuses, sending many of Jehovah’s Witnesses to the concentration camps that had recently been set up. Thus, they were among the first inmates of these camps. – Awake!, 8/22/95, pp 7-8

October 7, 1934 – all congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Germany assembled to hear a letter read that was being sent to the officials of the Hitler government. It said: “There is a direct conflict between your law and God’s law . . . Therefore this is to advise you that at any cost we will obey God’s commandments, will meet together for the study of His Word, and will worship and serve Him as He has commanded.”

On the same day, Jehovah’s Witnesses in 49 other countries met in special assembly and sent the following telegram to Hitler: “Your ill-treatment of Jehovah’s witnesses shocks all good people of earth and dishonors God’s name. Refrain from further persecuting Jehovah’s witnesses; otherwise God will destroy you and your national party.” – Awake! 8/22/95, pp 8

Nov 9, 1938 – Krystallnact


Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Divine Purpose, page 130 – After mentioning the June 1933 convention in Berlin, it says “There a prepared Declaration of Facts was presented to the 7,000 in attendance in protest against the Hitler government for their highhanded interference with the witness work of the Society, as was unanimously adopted.”

Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Divine Purpose pp 130-1 – “Seizing the Society’s property at Magdeburg was a flagrant violation of international property rights, because title was held by our American corporation. In a effort to regain control of the property, an appeal was made to the United States Department of State urging a protest against this highhanded action of the German government. As a result of the negotiations that ensued between the State Department of the United States and Germany, the German government entered an order for the release of all the Society’s property and turned it back into the possession of the brothers there.”


An Appeal for Understanding

Hitler became prime minister of Germany on January 30, 1933, and a couple of months later, on April 4, 1933, the Magdeburg branch office of Jehovah’s Witnesses was seized. However, the order was rescinded on April 28, 1933, and the property was returned. What would happen next?

In spite of the evident hostility of the Hitler regime, Jehovah’s Witnesses organized a convention in Berlin, Germany, on June 25, 1933. Some 7,000 persons assembled. The Witnesses publicly made their intentions clear: “Our organization is not political in any sense. We only insist on teaching the Word of Jehovah God to the people, and that without hindrance.

Thus Jehovah’s Witnesses made a good-faith effort to state their case. What were the consequences? – Awake! 8/22/1995, pp. 6-7


Not Anti-Semitic

Thank you for not hiding things that you regret having said. Although I would like to have read an apology for this statement, your this-was-the-context explanation was adequate. Please carry on with your fine work, knowing that your readers appreciate the depth and honesty of Awake! W. H., United States

The reader refers to statements in the “Declaration of Facts,” a resolution adopted in 1933 at a convention in Berlin, Germany. (See “Jehovah’s Witnesses – Courageous in the Face of Nazi Peril,” in the July 8, 1998, issue of “Awake!”) As the article noted, nothing said in the 1933 declaration was intended to express or condone hostility toward Jews, and we regret it if some statements give that impression today. If anyone back in the 1930’s interpreted the “Declaration of Facts” to mean that Jehovah’s Witnesses were anti-Semitic, this misimpression could easily have been corrected by observing the courageous and compassionate acts of individual Witnesses in behalf of Jews. Moreover, Watch Tower Society publications were among the first to expose and express outrage at the treatment of Jews in Europe. – ED
. – Awake!, 9/8/1999, p. 30 “From Our Readers”


*** g95 8/22 7-8 The Evils of Nazism Exposed ***

Witnesses’ Resolute Stand

Despite these initial attacks, Jehovah’s Witnesses stood their ground and publicly denounced the oppression and injustice. The November 1, 1933, issue of The Watchtower featured the article “Fear Them Not.” It was prepared especially for the German Witnesses, exhorting them to take courage in the face of mounting pressure.

On February 9, 1934, J. F. Rutherford, the president of the Watch Tower Society, sent a letter of protest to Hitler stating: “You may successfully resist any and all men, but you cannot successfully resist Jehovah God. . . . In the name of Jehovah God and His anointed King, Christ Jesus, I demand that you give order to all officials and servants of your government that Jehovah’s witnesses in Germany be permitted to peaceably assemble and without hindrance worship God.”

Rutherford set March 24, 1934, as the deadline. He said that if by that time relief did not come to the German Witnesses, the facts about the persecution would be published throughout Germany and the rest of the world. The Nazis answered Rutherford’s demand with stepped-up abuses, sending many of Jehovah’s Witnesses to the concentration camps that had recently been set up. Thus, they were among the first inmates of these camps.

*** g95 8/22 8-9 The Evils of Nazism Exposed ***

Witnesses Expose Nazi Atrocities

As Jehovah’s Witnesses had promised, they began exposing the atrocities occurring in Germany. Witnesses around the globe repeatedly registered protests with the Hitler government.

On October 7, 1934, all congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Germany assembled to hear a letter read that was being sent to the officials of the Hitler government. It said: “There is a direct conflict between your law and God’s law . . . Therefore this is to advise you that at any cost we will obey God’s commandments, will meet together for the study of His Word, and will worship and serve Him as He has commanded.”

On the same day, Jehovah’s Witnesses in 49 other countries met in special assembly and sent the following telegram to Hitler: “Your ill-treatment of Jehovah’s witnesses shocks all good people of earth and dishonors God’s name. Refrain from further persecuting Jehovah’s witnesses; otherwise God will destroy you and your national party.”

The Nazis responded almost immediately by stepping up their persecution. Hitler himself screamed: “This brood will be exterminated in Germany!” But as opposition intensified, the determination of the Witnesses stiffened correspondingly.

*** yb74 pp. 138-139 Part 2 – Germany ***

The effect that the letters, and especially the telegrams, had upon Hitler can be seen by a report written by Karl R. Wittig, attested by a notary public in Frankfurt (Main) on November 13, 1947:

“DECLARATION—On October 7, 1934, having been previously summoned, I visited Dr. Wilhelm Frick, at that time Minister of the Interior of the Reich and Prussia, in his home office of the Reich, located in Berlin, 6 am Köenigsplatz, since I was a plenipotentiary of General Ludendorff. I was to accept communications, contents of which were an attempt to persuade General Ludendorff to discontinuance of his objection to the Nazi regime. During my discussion with Dr. Frick, Hitler suddenly appeared and began taking part in the conversation. When our discussion obligatorily dealt with the action against the International Bible Students Association [Jehovah’s witnesses] in Germany up until now, Dr. Frick showed Hitler a number of telegrams protesting against the Third Reich’s persecution of the Bible Students, saying: ‘If the Bible Students do not immediately get in line we will act against them using the strongest means.’ After which Hitler jumped to his feet and with clenched fists hysterically screamed: ‘This brood will be exterminated in Germany!’ Four years after this discussion I was able, by my own observations, to convince myself, during my seven years in protective custody in the hell of the Nazis’ concentration camps at Sachsenhausen, Flossenbürg and Mauthausen—I was in prison until released by the Allies—that Hitler’s outburst of anger was not just an idle threat. No other group of prisoners of the named concentration camps was exposed to the sadism of the SS soldiery in such a fashion as the Bible Students were. It was a sadism marked by an unending chain of physical and mental tortures, the likes of which no language in the world can express.”

Dec 262004
In the “Declaration of Facts”, which was dated June 25, 1933, the Watchtower Society tried to distance themselves from the Jews and to curry favor and establish common cause with Hitler.
“It is falsely charged by our enemies that we have received financial support for our work from the Jews. Nothing is farther from the truth. Up to this hour there never has been the slightest bit of money contributed to our work by Jews.”

Okay, so they had not received funding from the Jews. They made their statement. That should have been sufficient. But the “Declaration” continues:
“We are the faithful followers of Christ Jesus and believe upon Him as the Savior of the world, whereas the Jews entirely reject Jesus Christ and emphatically deny that he is the Savior of the world sent of God for man’s good. This of itself should be sufficient proof to show that we receive no support from Jews and that therefore the charges against us are maliciously false and could proceed only from Satan, our great enemy.”

Was that really necessary? If that weren’t sufficient, the next paragraph goes even further:
“The greatest and most oppressive empire on earth is the Anglo-American empire. By that is meant the British Empire, of which the United States of America forms a part. It has been the commercial Jews of the British-American empire that have built up and carried on Big Business as a means of exploiting and oppressing the peoples of many nations. This fact particularly applies to the cities of London and New York, the stronghold of Big Business. This fact is so manifest in America that there is a proverb concerning the city of New York which says: ‘The Jews own it, the Irish Catholics rule it, and the Americans pay the bills.’ We have no fight with any of these persons mentioned, but, as the witnesses for Jehovah and in obedience to his commandment set forth in the Scriptures, we are compelled to call attention to the truth concerning the same in order that the people may be enlightened concerning God and his purpose.”

It seems to me that the previous statements regarding the Jews are there in order to establish common cause with Hitler. Later in the “Declaration”, the Watchtower Society goes even further to do that:
“The people of Germany have suffered great misery since 1914 and have been the victims of much injustice practiced upon them by others. The nationalists have declared themselves against all such unrighteousness and announced that ‘Our relationship to God is high and holy’. Since our organization fully endorses these righteous principles and is engaged solely in carrying forth the work of enlightening the people concerning the Word of Jehovah God, Satan by subtilty [sic] endeavors to set the government against our work and destroy it because we magnify the importance of knowing and serving God. Instead of our organization’s being a menace to the peace and safety of the government, it is the one organization standing for the peace and safety of this land.

In the letter to Hitler that accompanied the “Declaration”, the WTS continues this theme:
“The Brooklyn administration of the Watch Tower Society is and in the past has been outstandingly friendly to Germany. For this reason, the president of the Society and seven members of its Board of Directors in the United States were sentenced to 80 years imprisonment because the president refused to use two magazines published by him in the United States for war propaganda against Germany. These two magazines, ‘The Watch Tower’ and ‘Bible Student’ [The Bible Students Monthly] were the only magazines in the United States which refused [to publish] war propaganda against Germany and were, for this reason, outlawed and suppressed in the United States during the war.”

Here, the Watchtower Society resorts to an out and out lie in order to cozy up to Hitler. Rutherford and the rest of the board of Directors were not imprisoned for refusing to use their magazines for propaganda against Hitler. I have never seen any mention of this outside this letter. If anyone has evidence to the contrary, I would love to see it. The letter continues:
“In a similar manner, the administration of our Society not only refused to participate in the horror propaganda against Germany, but it took a position against it. This is emphasized by the attached Declaration which refers to the fact that the circles which led [in promoting] horror propaganda in the United States (commercialistic Jews and Catholics) are also the most eager persecutors of our Society’s work and its administration. These and other statements in our Declaration are meant to serve as a rejection of the slanderous claim that the Bible Students are supported by Jews.”

How did the Watchtower take a position against anti-German propaganda? Again, the Watchtower is obviously trying to establish common cause with Hitler.

Some Jehovah’s Witnesses have expressed doubts as to the accuracy or even the existence of the Watchtower Society’s letter to Hitler. However they can rea a section about the letter as well as a partial quote from the letter in their own copy of the 1974 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses, page 111 –
The conventioners returned home tired and many were disappointed. They took 2,100,000 copies of the “declaration” home with them, however, and made fast work of distributing them and sending them to numerous persons in positions of responsibility. The copy sent to Hitler was accompanied by a letter that, in part, read:

“The Brooklyn presidency of the Watch Tower Society is and always has been exceedingly friendly to Germany. In 1918 the president of the Society and seven members of the Board of Directors in America were sentenced to 80 years’ imprisonment for the reason that the president refused to let two magazines in America, which he edited, be used in war propaganda against Germany.”

So obviously the letter existed and the quote that I posted is accurate. What is inaccurate is what Rutherford told Hitler about the length of and reason for their prison sentence.

First of all, the length of their sentences – from the book “Jehovah’s Witnesses – Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom” (Proclaimers) – page 69
On June 21, 1918, J. F. Rutherford and several of his close associates were sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment, having been falsely convicted of conspiracy.

and again on page 211:
Shortly after this, members of the Society’s administrative staff were arrested, and on June 21, 1918, they were sentenced to 20-year prison terms.

On page 652, the Proclaimer’s book offers a more complete explanation of their sentences:
Regardless of all of this, on June 20, 1918, the jury returned a verdict finding each of the defendants guilty on each count of the indictment. The next day, seven of them were sentenced to four terms of 20 years each, to be served concurrently. On July 10, the eighth was sentenced to four concurrent terms of 10 years.

So evidently in an effort to make their sentences look as bad as possible to Hitler, they mentioned 80 years without mentioning that they were, in fact, four twenty year concurrent sentences.

Now, regarding the reason they were convicted and sentenced, the Proclaimer’s book, on pages 650 and 651 says the following:
The previous day, in Brooklyn, New York, two indictments had been filed against Brother Rutherford and his associates. If the desired results did not come from one case, the other indictment could have been pursued. The first indictment, which laid charges against the greater number of individuals, included four counts: Two charged them with conspiring to violate the Espionage Act of June 15, 1917; and two counts charged them with attempting to carry out their illegal plans or actually doing so. It was alleged that they were conspiring to cause insubordination and refusal of duty in the armed forces of the United States and that they were conspiring to obstruct the recruiting and enlisting of men for such service when the nation was at war, also that they had attempted to do or had actually done both of these things. The indictment made particular mention of publication and distribution of the book The Finished Mystery. The second indictment construed the sending of a check to Europe (which was to be used in the work of Bible education in Germany) to be inimical to the interests of the United States. When the defendants were taken to court, it was the first indictment, the one with four counts, that was pursued.

Yet another indictment of C. J. Woodworth and J. F. Rutherford under the Espionage Act was at that time pending in Scranton, Pennsylvania. But, according to a letter from John Lord O’Brian dated May 20, 1918, members of the Department of Justice feared that U.S. District Judge Witmer, before whom the case would be tried, would not agree with their use of the Espionage Act to suppress the activity of men who, because of sincere religious convictions, said things that others might construe as antiwar propaganda.

So there is nothing there, or in any other history of the Watchtower Society that I could find, about them being asked and then refusing to allow the Watchtower Society’s magazines to be used for anti-German propaganda. So, in a further effort to curry favor with Hitler, Rutherford lied about why he and his fellow board members were convicted and imprisoned in 1918.

Jan 212004

The Watchtower Society’s  application for funds from Swiss Bank Litigation


In re Holocaust Victim Assets Litigation:
Master Document No. CV -96-4849
Consolidates with CV-96-S161 and : CV-96-461

This Document Relates to All Actions :

Holocaust Victim Assets Litigation (Swiss Bank Litigation)
Proposed Plan of Allocation for
Jehovah’s Witness Victims and Targets of Nazi Persecution

December 7, 1999

COMES NOW, the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, (hereinafter Watch Tower), the corporate agency directing the administrative and religious work of Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide, by its attorney, Carolyn R. Wah, requesting an allocation of a portion of the settlement fund for Holocaust education and remembrance as well as just and equitable compensation as outlined below:

As the attached report entitled “Spiritual Resistance and Its Cost for a Christian Minority: A Documentary Report of Jehovah’s Witnesses Under Nazism, 1933-1945″ will show, the Nazi persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses, which spanned virtually the entire Nazi period, exacted a heavy physical, financial, and emotional toll on that small religious community in all Nazi- occupied lands. The report also evidences that the Witnesses’ individual and organized stance in opposition to the violent ideology of the regime was a decisive factor in the severity of the persecution, resulting in profound losses.

Although conclusive documentation may be lacking for the claims of individuals targeted as Jehovah’s Witnesses; there are three factors that argue for a favorable hearing for the individual applicants, even where the elusive “Swiss connection” may be weak:

(1) Since Jehovah’s Witnesses were among the earliest groups to be targeted for sentencing to concentration camps, they were often used in the actual construction of the camps. In some cases, the SS-run camps could, in themselves, be considered commercial enterprises that benefited from slave labor. Because the Witnesses had been in the camp system for long periods of time, they sometimes worked for the camp administration, but without due compensation, of course

(2) Witness literature often carried sharp criticism of flagrant human rights violations in Nazi Germany. This was true of Witness literature produced and distributed clandestinely within Nazi-occupied Europe, as well as Witness literature published internationally. The Gestapo was well aware of the critical and revealing content of the literature, and thus they expended extraordinary effort to expose and destroy the secret printing facilities. They confiscated printing equipment, burned stocks of literature whenever it was found, and hunted down and executed many of those involved with the underground work. Thus, the nonviolent resistance offered by the Witnesses increased the financial, material, and physical losses they sustained.

(3) The nonviolent, nonpolitical resistance of Jehovah’s Witnesses to Nazi policies is distinctive for its duration and consistency. It is not possible to quantify the losses suffered by families whose mothers or fathers were given lengthy sentences in camp or prison because of their faith. Beyond the lost wages, lost property, and lost years are the intangible costs suffered by all victims of Nazi terror. Unlike other victims, however, most Witnesses had a choice. Generally, they were targeted solely because of their religious convictions. Witnesses were offered the opportunity to avoid persecution simply by renouncing their beliefs. Therefore, by virtue of the length of the persecution and the nature of their resistance, we ask that the court grant special consideration to the applications of Witness survivors or their heirs, which will no doubt be few in number. Further, the court may allocate a portion of the settlement to be used for purposes of Holocaust education and remembrance. Combating intolerance and indifference is extremely important work. The Watch Tower and individual Jehovah’s Witnesses have expended hundreds of thousands of dollars to promote awareness of the Holocaust and its lessons. The Watch Tower and its affiliate branch offices have made educational and academic presentations, free of admission charge, in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Israel, and most countries of Eastern and Western Europe. More than 400 seminars and exhibitions have been held in


Germany alone, often in cooperation with concentration camp memorials, research institutions, and museums. Important research and archival work is being conducted in Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, Poland, Russia, Israel, and other places.

The few remaining Witness survivors have used their waning vitality to speak to young people, educators, and scholars about their experiences and those of their martyred fellow believers. If the court sees fit to allocate a portion of the settlement fund to the Watch Tower to continue this work of remembrance, we believe it would constitute fitting recognition of individual Witnesses who suffered and died while maintaining their faith and human values.

Some Witnesses died prematurely and left no heirs to make a claim to the Swiss Bank Settlement Fund. However, the legacy of spiritual resistance that they left behind is of great value in the education of future generations about the importance of standing up for the dignity and value of human life. Representing these individuals, the Watch Tower would be pleased to devote any allocated moneys solely to the interests of Holocaust education and the remembrance of the prisoners who bore the purple triangle, according as the court might stipulate.

Realizing that thousands of survivors and heirs will apply to the court to receive a portion of the Settlement Fund, Watch Tower is not in a position to recommend a certain percentage to be allotted for the purposes outlined above, nor are we able to suggest what portion of the Fund should be allotted to individual Witness survivors. Watch Tower acknowledges that no amount of money can fully compensate for the losses of any victims of Nazi persecution. However, if the funds provided by the Swiss Banks Settlement can symbolically or practically mitigate the human suffering of survivors or their families, or if it can advance the work of education and remembrance, the money will have been well spent. In this allocation process, we rely on the court’s equity and fairness.


WHERFORE, in light of this information, Watch Tower, respectfully request an award in harmony with the just and equitable principles outlined in the settlement order.

December 7,1999.
Respectfully submitted,
Carolyn R. Wah
Associate General Counsel
Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society
of Pennsylvania
100 Watchtower Drive
Patterson, NY 12563
Tel: (914) 306-0700
Fax: (914) 306-0709