Josef Schoen

Josef Schoen

Born: October 12, 1910

Tsikov, Czechoslovakia

Josef was born to German Catholic parents. They lived in a Moravian village near the city of Sternberk in a German-inhabited region known as the Sudetenland. At that time Czechoslovakia was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Upon graduation from a textile school, Josef supervised 600 employees at a silk factory in Moravska Trebova.

1933-39: After serving in the Czechoslovak army, Josef became a Jehovah's Witness in Prague, and refused to have anything more to do with the military, following the Witnesses' strict adherence to the commandment "Thou shalt not kill." In 1938 he was briefly arrested for refusing call-up in the Czechoslovak army. When the Germans took Prague in 1939, he managed to ship out the Witnesses office's printing machines and set them up again in Holland.

1940-44: Josef worked in Vienna for the Jehovah's Witness underground. His job was dangerous--supplying literature to their congregations in Austria. The Gestapo promptly arrested him. The court sentenced him to 10 years imprisonment, but first he was sent to do slave labor in a series of camps in the swamps of northwest Germany. Near the end of the war he again refused military service and was force-marched to various prisons and camps in southern Germany. Hundreds of prisoners died.

Josef was liberated by U.S. troops in May 1945 after surviving a forced march to the Dachau concentration camp. He subsequently immigrated to Canada.

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