A new exhibit called “Wedontdothat” remembering the thousands of Jehovah’s Witnesses who were persecuted by the Nazis opened last week at Israel’s Center for Humanistic Education of the Ghetto Fighters.
Jehovah’s Witnesses are Christians who were murdered during the Holocaust because they refused to cooperate with the Nazis and renounce their faith despite extreme pressure. They were known then as Bibelforscher (German for Bible students). They were rounded up and taken to camps as early as 1933.
“The regime considered breaking the Witnesses’ religious convictions a greater victory than killing them or placing them in camps,” the local Jehovah’s Witnesses spokesperson Trey Upshur explained in a release. “Thus, the Nazis tried to tempt the Witnesses with the opportunity to avoid execution and be released from the camp if they signed an Erklärung pledging to renounce their faith, report other Witnesses to the police, fully submit to the Nazi government and defend the ‘Fatherland’ with weapons in hand.”
The exhibit’s name, “Wedontdothat” is named for a young Witness, Joachim Alfermann, who resisted Nazi pressure and was imprisoned. Despite immense pressure that ranged from beatings and detention in a concentration camp, the story goes, Alfermann insisted, “We don’t do that” and stood up for his faith.
Museum manager Yigal Cohen called the Witnesses “an important point of light in the darkness that enveloped the world on all sides back then” during the exhibit’s opening on March 7, according to a release.
“Alongside the Jews who were murdered for various reasons were millions of other people, just because they belonged to a group that was defined by the Nazis as not deserving to live,” said the exhibition’s curator Yaara Galor. “Each such group has its own unique story, and its tragedy deserves to be remembered in a broad mosaic of memory that has an equal place for all victims of Nazism.”
Jehovah’s Witnesses are politically neutral, according to a representative of the Witnesses in Israel, David Simozrag. There are around 8.6 million worldwide, including 2,000 in Israel.
The exhibit will remain open until March of next year.