The Watchtower and Hitler

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.