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Letter to Hitler & Declaration of Facts

Watchtower criticises other religious groups for colluding with Hitler, whilst Jehovah's Witnesses were imprisoned for their refusal to compromise their standards. What is not admitted is that Rutherford initially praised Hitler for his stance against Jews and the Anglo/American empire.

One of the groups Hitler sent to the concentration camps were Jehovah's Witnesses, where they unjustly endured unspeakable atrocities and lose of life. The individual actions of many Witnesses was commendable and Watchtower holds up this part of their history in great esteem.

Jehovah's Witnesses were identified by a purple triangle, and the Memorial plaque at Sachsenhausen concentration camp.

What Watchtower does not discuss is the hypocritical actions of Rutherford in the lead up to these events. Early in 1933, the Watchtower office in Berlin was closed and Jehovah's Witnesses were banned in many German states, due to the refusal of Jehovah's Witnesses to swear loyalty to the government or to serve in its armed forces. This was further exacerbated by Watchtower criticism of religion and government.

In an attempt to appease Hitler into lifting the ban, Rutherford instigated a Declaration of Facts and sent a Letter to Hitler discussing Watchtower's support of the Nazi regime.

PDF copy of the Letter to Hitler in German
PDF copy of the Declaration of Facts in German

Current Watchtower references use selective quoting to provide a deceptive portrayal of these documents. Jehovah's Witnesses - Proclaimer's Of God's Kingdom mentions that Rutherford wrote a letter to Hitler under the context of "facing Nazi oppression", in which Watchtower is made to sound firmly against the Nazi regime.

"Therefore, on June 25, 1933, a declaration regarding their ministry and its objectives was adopted by Jehovah's Witnesses at an assembly in Berlin. Copies were sent to all the high government officials, and millions more were distributed to the public. Nevertheless, in July 1933 the courts refused to grant a hearing for relief. Early the following year, a personal letter regarding the situation was written by J. F. Rutherford to Adolf Hitler and delivered to him by special messenger. Then the entire worldwide brotherhood went into action.

On Sunday morning, October 7, 1934, at nine o'clock, every group of Witnesses in Germany assembled. They prayed for Jehovah's guidance and blessing. Then each group sent a letter to German government officials declaring their firm determination to keep on serving Jehovah." Jehovah's Witnesses - Proclaimer's Of God's Kingdom p.693

It is surprising to find the opposite is true, which can be identified when reading the content of Rutherford's 1933 letter to Hitler and the Declaration of Facts.

Letter to Hitler

Russell, Watchtower's founder, was a Zionist and sympathetic to Jews as part of modern day fulfilment of Bible prophecy.

"There are now in the world more than ten million Jews, about three-quarters of whom are in Russia, Poland, the Balkan States, and Turkey. If the movement toward Palestine should get the impulse that the Hirsch committee is able to give it, an imaginative person can conceive of the country's doubling or trebling its Jewish population before the close of our century, and of its having a larger Jewish population fifty years hence than it had in ancient times, when its census ran up to three millions. Should the restoration be accomplished, all hail to the New Jerusalem!" Watchtower 1892 Nov 1 p.329

Rutherford initially continued such support for Zionism.

"These promises which give assurance that Israeal will be regathered to Palestine and never again be plucked up could not refer to the regathering of the Jews from Babylon... The promise, time and again repeated, that the Lord would regather them and bless them in the land and keep them there and bless them for ever is conclusive proof that the promise must be fulfilled ... Behold, that time is now at hand!" Comfort for the Jews p.55

However, by the 1930's, Rutherford had changed his view on Zionism and Jews and become vehemently anti-Semitic.

"Be it known once and for all that those profiteering, conscienceless, selfish men who call themselves Jews, and who control the greater portion of the finances of the world and the business of the world, will never be the rulers in this new earth. God would not risk such selfish men with such an important position" The Golden Age 1927 Feb 23 p.343
"The Jews were evicted from Palestine and ‘their house left unto them desolate’ because they rejected Christ Jesus, the beloved and anointed King of Jehovah. To this day the Jews have not repented of this wrongful act committed by their forefathers. … In 1917 the Balfour Declaration, sponsored by the heathen governments of Satan's organization, came forth, recognized the Jews, and bestowed upon them great favors. ... The Jews have received more attention at their hands than they really deserved." Vindication - Book II (1932) pp.257-258

Rutherford also published a tirade of insults against other Churches and governments. The Catholic Church come under the greatest condemnation and bought this to the attention of the Nazi government, petitioning against Watchtower. In 1933, the Nazi government banned the Watchtower's German operations.

“In June of the so-called “Holy Year” of 1933 Adolf Hitler’s regime seized the Watch Tower Society’s property in Magdeburg and banned the activities of Jehovah’s people in Germany as regards meetings and literature distribution, though the property was returned that October.” Yearbook 1975 p.174

In an effort to overturn the ban, Rutherford sent a letter to Hitler, in which he praises Hitler for his anti-Anglo/American campaign and stance against the Jews.

Rutherford's Letter to Hitler German page 1   Rutherford's Letter to Hitler German page 2   Rutherford's Letter to Hitler German page 1

Click on the thumbnails for a high quality scan of each page of the German letter. Click Letter to Hitler for an English translation.

Following is part of an English translation of the Letter to Hitler.

"Dear Reichskanzler,

The Brooklyn headquarter of the Watchtower Society is pro German in an exemplary way and has been so for many years. For that reason, in 1918, the president of the Society and seven members of the board of directors were sentenced to 80 years in prison, because the president refused to use two of the magazines published in America under his direction for war propaganda against Germany. These two magazines, "The Watchtower" and "Bible Student" were the only magazines in America which refused to engage in anti-German propaganda and for that reason were prohibited and suppressed in America during the war.

In the very same manner, in course of the recent months the board of directors of our Society not only refused to engage in propaganda against Germany, but has even taken a position against it. The enclosed declaration underlines this fact and emphasizes that the people leading in such propaganda (Jewish businessmen and Catholics) also are the most rigorous persecutors of the work of our Society and its board of directors. This and other statements of the declaration are meant to repudiate the slanderous accusation, that Bible Researchers are supported by the Jews.

The conference of five thousand delegates also noted - as is expressed in the declaration - that the Bible Researchers of Germany are fighting for the very same high ethical goals and ideals which also the national government of the German Reich proclaimed respecting the relationship of humans to God, namely: honesty of the created being towards its creator.

The conference came to the conclusion that there are no contradictions when it comes to the relationship between the Bible Researchers of Germany to the national government of the German Reich. To the contrary, referring to the purely religious and unpolitical goals and efforts of the Bible Researchers, it can be said that these are in full agreement with the identical goals of the national government of the German Reich.


We are looking forward to your kind approval, which we hope to receive soon, and want to assure our highest respect to you, honorable Mr. Reichskanzler.

Yours faithfully,
Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society Magdeburg"

The letter mentions Hitler's "just principles," quoting from section 24 of Das Program der NSDAP, the Nazi's Platform of the National Socialist German Workers Party, which stated:

"We demand freedom of religion for all religious denominations within the state so long as they do not endanger its existence or oppose the moral senses of the Germanic race. The Party as such advocates the standpoint of a positive Christianity without binding itself confessionally to any one denomination. It combats the Jewish-materialistic spirit within and around us and is convinced that a lasting recovery of our nation can only succeed from within on the framework: "The good of the community before the good of the individual"." (Konrad Heiden, A History of National Socialism, 1935. Translated by Alfred A. Knopf, page 17)

Rutherford further compromised Watchtower principles but offering; "We want to continue to live up to the prohibition imposed upon us, ..." By this Rutherford meant Jehovah's Witnesses would stop preaching in Germany, provided the ban was lifted that would allow them to "meet for prayer and church service."

The Yearbook 1974 briefly refers to this Letter to Hitler, along with the Declaration of Facts.

"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."

Even though the declaration had been weakened and many brothers could not wholeheartedly agree to its adoption, yet the government was enraged and started a wave of persecution against those who had distributed it." Yearbook 1974 p.111
Rutherfond's Declaration and Letter to Hitler Yearbook 1974 page 110 111

Declaration of Facts

Rutherford and Knorr organized a District Convention in Berlin on 25th June, 1933 to release the "Declaration of Facts," printed as a 4 page pamplet, which outlined Watchtower's support of the German governments stance against Jews, the USA, Britain and France.

Click on the thumbnails to enlarge scans of the Declaration of Facts in German.

Click here for an English translation of the full Declaration of Facts in PDF format.

The convention hall was decked with swastikas and the program was opened with Song 64, a song from the Bible Student's songbook that had the some melody by Hayden as the German national anthem. Konrad Franke, Germany's Bethel branch overseer later stated his disturbance at seeing the scene for the convention and Rutherford's declaration.

"When we entered, we found the hall bedecked with swastika flags! But not only that: when the meeting started, it was begun with a song that we had not sung for years, especially not in Germany, because of the melody ... the melody of "Deutschland, Deutschland uber allies"!

Can you imagine how we felt? Many could not join in the singing. It was as though their throats were throttled. What kind of leaders did we have who brought us [into] such dangers - and the danger of faltering under these circumstances-instead of helping and supporting us, so that we could take a fearless stand [against Nazism]." Translation of Konrad Franke's speech from Jehovah's Witnesses and the Third Reich, Penton, p.25

The Declaration of Facts was reprinted in the Yearbook 1934. It went on in part to state:

"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. 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. The greatest and the 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.

The present government of Germany has declared emphatically against Big Business oppressors and in opposition to the wrongful religious influence in the political affairs of the nations. Such is exactly our position.

Instead of being against the principles advocated by the government of Germany, we stand squarely for such principles, and point out that Jehovah God through Christ Jesus will bring about the full realization of these principles and will give to the people peace and prosperity and the greatest desire of every honest heart.

A careful examination of our books and literature will disclose the fact that the very high ideals held and promulgated by the present national government are set forth in and endorsed and strongly emphasized in our publications and show that Jehovah God will see to it that these high ideals in due time will be attained by all persons who love righteousness.

Let us remind the government and the people of Germany, that it was the League of Nations compact that laid upon the shoulders of the German people the great unjust and unbearable burdens. That the League of Nations compact was not brought forth by the friends of Germany." Yearbook 1934 pp.134-138 (English Edition)

Click on the following thumbnails to enlarge scans of the English Yearbook 1934, pages 132-139.

In light of the contents of both the Letter to Hitler and Declaration of Facts, Watchtower's 2011 comment mocking other Churches is nothing short of hypocritical.

"Did Hitler receive letters of protest from church officials concerning the outrages perpetrated by the National Socialists, or Nazis? There were some, but such letters were few and far between. In the Moscow archives, however, Eberle found a file containing a number of letters sent to Hitler by Jehovah's Witnesses from different parts of Germany, protesting against the conduct of the Nazis." Watchtower 2011 Oct 1 p.14

Changed Tactics

Rutherford's Letter and Declaration were an effort to appease Hitler, but to no avail - too little, too late. With these efforts not achieving their aims, Rutherford started to antagonise Hitler. On 9th Feb 1934, Rutherford send a second letter to Hitler, this time threatening to publicise globally Germany's "unjust treatment."

"You may successfully resist any and all men, but you cannot successfully resist Jehovah God. ... 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 hinderance worship God....
If by the 24th day of March, 1934, there is no response to this earnest demand and nothing done by your government to grant the relief of the aforesaid Jehovah's Witnesses in Germany, then God's people in other countries will begin the publication throughout the nations of the earth of the facts concerning Germany's wrongful treatment of Christian people there; and having delivered the testimony, we will submit our case and leave it to Jehovah God by and through Christ Jesus to administer the punishment of the guilty ones in His own good way. Permit me to remind you that Jehovah warns that no one shall oppress His anointed." Proclaimers of God's Kingdom p.694

This was followed by cablegrams threatening the punishment of Jehovah.

“On October 7, 1934, the ... speaker announced that congregations of Jehovah’s witnesses world wide were meeting today in order to send cablegrams to Hitler, all at the same time, asking him to refrain from persecuting Jehovah’s witnesses in Germany.” After praying to Jehovah, each group sent the following cablegram: “Hitler Government, Berlin, Germany. 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.”” Yearbook 1975 p.174

Golden Age published cartoons mocking Hitler and the Nazis.

Golden Age 1936 July 15 p.651

Golden Age 1937 March 10 p.359

Golden Age 1937 March 10 p.366

Rutherford's latter aggression towards Hitler no doubt exacerbated the strong stance Hitler took against Jehovah's Witnesses, and they would have suffered less had Rutherford acted more reasonably and with concern for the safety of German Jehovah's Witnesses. The result was their sufferance of unspeakable atrocities in Nazi concentration camps, with an estimated 1,200 dying. Many individuals displayed tremendous courage and conviction, and it is tragic that this unnecessary suffering was a result of the words and actions of their leader, Judge Rutherford, housed safely from danger in America.

Watchtower Justification

An Awake! in 1995 makes it appear that Nazi opposition was because Witnesses did not support Nazi ideologies, concluding;

"The Nazis did not intend to tolerate any refusal to support their ideology." Awake! 1995 Aug 22 p.7

Yet, this was not the sentiment of the Declaration of Facts, which tried to portray sharing similar ideologies with the Nazis, such as when stating;

"The present government having declared adherence to the aforementioned high ideals, we are persuaded that the rulers do not desire to knowingly resist the progressive witness work to the name of Jehovah God and his kingdom which we are now carrying forward."

In 1943 the Swiss Watchtower Branch sent another Declaration of Facts requesting leniency for Witnesses. This dishonestly stated:

"We expressly state, that our association neither commands nor recommends, nor in any other way suggests, acting against military orders. Questions of that sort are dealt with neither by our congregations nor in the Society's published literature... We have at no time presumed and at no time shall do so, to view the performance of military duty, as laid down by your statutes, as an offence against the principles and aspirations of the association of Jehovah's Witnesses."

The information covered above is discussed in greater detail by M. James Penton in Jehovah's Witnesses, Anti-semitism and the Third Reich; The Watch Tower Society's Attempted Compromise with Nazism.

See also Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Third Reich (M. James Penton, Toronto: University of Toronto Press 2004).

A seeming response to Penton's article was provided by the Awake! in 1998. I leave it up to the reader to assess whether the Watchtower correctly presents the intention of the Rutherford and his documents to Hitler.

"Concerned about the rising tensions in Germany, Joseph F. Rutherford, then president of the Watch Tower Society, together with the Germany branch office manager, Paul Balzereit, decided to mount a campaign to inform Chancellor Hitler, government officials, and the public that Jehovah's Witnesses posed no threat to the German people and the State. Rutherford evidently believed that Hitler was unaware of the attacks against Jehovah's Witnesses or that he had been misinformed by religious elements regarding the Witnesses.

Therefore, the Magdeburg office arranged a convention to make use of the German citizens' right of petition. On short notice, Jehovah's Witnesses from all over Germany were invited to the Wilmersdorfer Tennishallen in Berlin on June 25, 1933. About 5,000 delegates were expected. Despite the hostile atmosphere, more than 7,000 courageously attended. The delegates adopted a resolution entitled "Declaration of Facts." This document protested the restrictions that had been put on the work of the Witnesses. It made a clear statement of their position and denied charges of seditious links with political causes of any sort. It stated:

"We are wrongfully charged before the ruling powers of this government. … We do respectfully ask the rulers of the nation and the people to give a fair and impartial consideration to the statement of facts here made."

"We have no fight with any persons or religious teachers, but we must call attention to the fact that it is generally those who claim to represent God and Christ Jesus who are in fact our persecutors and who misrepresent us before the governments."

Some now hold that the 1933 Berlin convention and the "Declaration of Facts" were attempts on the part of prominent Witnesses to show support for the Nazi government and its hatred of the Jews. But their assertions are not true. They are based on misinformation and on misinterpretation of the facts.

By means of the "Declaration," the Witnesses strongly denied accusations of financial involvement or political ties with Jews. Thus, the document stated:

"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."

Having mentioned money, the "Declaration" went on to denounce unfair practices of big business. It said: "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 statement clearly did not refer to the Jewish people in general, and it is regrettable if it has been misunderstood and has given cause for any offense.

The "Declaration" also reminded the government of its own promises. The Witnesses upheld certain high ideals, and these happened to be publicly espoused also by the German government. Among these were family values and religious freedom.

In this regard, the "Declaration" added: "A careful examination of our books and literature will disclose the fact that the very high ideals held and promulgated by the present national government are set forth in and endorsed and strongly emphasized in our publications, and show that Jehovah God will see to it that these high ideals in due time will be attained by all persons who love righteousness."

Thus, the Witnesses never expressed support for the Nazi Party. …"

Awake! 1998 Jul 8 pp.12-14

Holocaust Victim Assets Litigation Fund

The Holocaust Victim Assets Litigation (Swiss Banks) CV-96-4849 is a fund to compensate people suffering from the Holocaust. As stated at swissbankclaims.com/index.asp (3 Mar 2006);

"This is the official information website for the Holocaust Victim Assets Litigation against Swiss Banks and other Swiss Entities. You may have important rights under a proposed $1.25 billion (U.S.) Settlement of a class action lawsuit against private Swiss Banks and other Swiss Entities for their alleged conduct related to World War II and the Holocaust."

In a letter dated 7th December 1999, Watchtower applied for compensation, payable to a nonprofit corporation called Jehovah's Witness Holocaust-era Survivors Fund, Inc., which was incorporated 27th October 2000.

An Elder's Letter, dated February 1, 2001 referred to the Jehovah's Witness Holocaust-Era Survivors Fund Inc, explaining that the fund was being set up to assist gather money for Jehovah's Witnesses that were eligible for the payment.

Whilst this appears at face value to be commendable, Watchtower was also requesting money for itself.

www.swissbankclaims.com (as of 28th September 2009) contains the 1999 letter from Watchtower to the fund, or Click Here for a PDF copy of the Watchtower application letter. Included is a request to receive a portion of the funds on the following basis.

"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 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."

It is disturbing that Watchtower requested money that could have been distributed to living victims, for what would by nothing more than self promotion of their organisation.

It appears that Watchtower did not receive any money from the fund. A statement of distribution as of 31 December 2015 stated:

"Inadmissibility decisions were claims that the CRT determined to be ineligible to participate in the Deposited Assets Class process. Under the terms of the Settlement Agreement, only the accounts of "Victims or Targets of Nazi Persecution" were payable from the Settlement Fund (with the exception of Slave Labor Class II, which was open to all Nazi victims). The Settlement Agreement defines "Victims or Targets of Nazi Persecution" as those who were, or were perceived to be, Jewish, Romani, Jehovah's Witness, disabled, or homosexual. Neither the CRT nor the Court had the authority to address Deposited Assets Class claims asserted on behalf of account owners who were not “victims or targets” as defined under the Settlement Agreement." See swissbankclaims.com/Documents/Distribution%20Stats.pdf or Distribution Stats.

Individual Jehovah's witnesses did receive compensation, as part of the tens of thousands classified as "non-Jewish victims (Roma, Jehovah's Witness, disabled and homosexual)."

Further Reading

Wikipedia - Declaration of Facts

Written November 2010, latest update March 2024.

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