Oral History

Franz Wohlfahrt describes imprisonment in Graz

Franz and his family were Jehovah's Witnesses. Germany annexed Austria in 1938. After World War II began, Franz's father was executed because, as a Witness, he opposed war. In 1940, Franz refused to participate in military training and would not salute the Nazi flag. He was imprisoned, interrogated by the Gestapo (German Secret State Police) in Graz, and sentenced to five years of hard labor in a camp in Germany. Franz was liberated by US forces in 1945.


I was taken then to a jail for investigation. And from there, I was transferred to the Gestapo in Graz--about 60 or 70 kilometers, kilometers--in the capital city of Styria. And there, I was threatened by the Gestapo men: "And then you're going to see what will happen, if you take a Fuehrerless stand!" And I was charged with demoralizing, you know, the spirit of the recruits, by making statements that I will never give an oath to Hitler [the Fuehrer], I will never fight for him, I will never wear the Nazi insignias, and that I rather be willing to die than to serve Hitler. And for that reason, I was put before a special court of three judges. And, uh, they also, uh, assigned a lawyer what supposed to defend me. But he said, "What shall I do if you don't give up? You know, it will be not much use." And then the judges based their judgment on my faith. And "We respect your stand," one of the judges said, "but because of the situation Germany is in, your statements before recruits is very damaging. And we must sentence you to five years' hard labor."


  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
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