As many around the globe commemorate the 97 th International Holocaust Remembrance Day (also
known as World Holocaust Day or IHRD) today January 27, it is a time to reflect on the inhumane
treatment meted out to groups seen as opposed to the Nazi regime and the world’s response to
genocide since the end of World War 2. One of the groups targeted by the Nazi regime was Jehovah’s
Witnesses who were among the first to be sent to the Death Camp.
For many, the observance of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp which forms
the basis of the World Holocaust Day commemoration on January 27 is a sobering reminder of the
atrocities of which man is capable against his fellow man. To this end, World Holocaust Day has been
commemorating victims of the holocaust and promoting and preserving the educational and
historical significance of that sad aspect of world history.
During its nearly five years of operation, Auschwitz expanded to include a concentration camp, a
forced-labor camp, and an extermination camp, as well as over 40 subcamps. Here, the Nazi regime
executed some of the most agonizing human rights abuses against millions of Jews, as well as Poles,
Slavs, Romans and Sinti, homosexuals, and people with disabilities, among others. Some 400
Jehovah’s Witnesses of various nationalities, including Polish and German, were also among those
victimized at the infamous camp. Four gas chambers claimed as many as 6,000 prisoners’ lives daily.
A purple-triangle patch stitched near the prisoner number on the left side of uniforms identified the
Witnesses who were imprisoned, not for their national or ethnic identity, but for their religious
On Saturday, Jan. 27, 1945, the Soviet Union’s Red Army liberated some 7,000 prisoners from the
“The Witnesses’ moral principles and practices did not align with the Nazi ideology of racism, hate,
and extreme nationalism. Because of this, the activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses was targeted by the
Nazi Government, and they were banned throughout Germany as early as 1933,” said Joseph Fajuke,
a local spokesperson for Jehovah’s Witnesses. He adds: “How the Witnesses held on to their faith as
they faced the daily cruelties of Auschwitz is a little-known part of Nazi-era history. Anyone with a
strong conviction will find their story compelling.”
“On the scale of Auschwitz’s huge community, the Jehovah’s Witnesses constituted but a tiny,
inconspicuous little group,” said sociologist and Auschwitz survivor Anna Pawełczyńska.
“Nevertheless, the colour of their triangular badge stood out so clearly in the camp that the small
number does not reflect the actual strength of that group. This little group of prisoners was a solid
ideological force, and they won their battle against Nazism.”
Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum records indicate that Jehovah’s Witnesses were among the first
prisoners sent to the camp. Of the hundreds of Witnesses incarcerated at Auschwitz, at least 35 per
cent died there.
The museum’s website states: “Aside from brief mentions, the literature on the history of Auschwitz
Concentration Camp does not take account of the Jehovah’s Witnesses (referred to in the camp
records as Bible Students]) who were imprisoned because of their religious convictions. These
prisoners deserve closer attention because of the way they managed to hold on to their moral
principles under camp conditions.”
“They were persecuted solely on the basis of their religious convictions,” says, Olusegun Eroyemi,
National spokesperson for Jehovah’s Witnesses in Nigeria. “The Nazis offered them freedom if they
would renounce their Christian faith and support the regime. Yet, they had the courage to stick to
Christian values—loyalty to God and love for others.”
This year, as conferences and exhibitions related to the 79th anniversary of the Auschwitz liberation
take place around the world, Jehovah’s Witnesses have released a digital brochure titled: “Purple
Triangles – “Forgotten Victims” of the Nazi Regime”. The 32-page brochure is available for free
download on their official website, jw.org, and presents a selection of pictures and documents from a
travelling exhibition curated by the Witnesses to educate the public about their persecution during
The 50 three-dimensional panels as contained in the brochure were exhibited at several memorial
museums of former concentration camps and educational institutions throughout Europe.
About 600,000 visitors had viewed the exhibit by the end of 2002.
Additionally, the Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum, the first Holocaust Museum in the world, is
currently featuring an interactive exhibition that highlights the Witnesses’ courageous stand in the
face of Nazi Persecution.
The exhibition is titled “Wedontdothat,” inspired by the nickname given to Joachim Alfermann, one
of Jehovah’s Witnesses persecuted by the Nazis. It is presented in Arabic, English, and Hebrew and
will be on display until September 2024 at the museum’s Center for Humanistic Education in Western
To view the free and downloadable brochure, visit jw.org > Library > Books & Brochures > Purple
Triangles – “Forgotten Victims” of the Nazi Regime.
Published on www.brandfit.com.ng