Oral History

Franz Wohlfahrt describes the trial and sentencing of his father

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.


Yes, the first thing was that they called my father for registration in 1939 already, before the Polish war started. And, uh, at that commission, they said, uh, it was visible that my father was a invalid, partly from the First World War. He suffered severely arthritis. He lost all his teeth right in that time. And then they said, uh, he should be left alone and sent back, because he had enough from the First World War. But then there was some question put to him by some of the German officers. And he said that it would be also against his conscience as one of Jehovah's Witnesses to have anything to do with war. And despite that he was not eligible for war service, they kept him there. He was transferred in, uh, military jail. And there, uh, he had to wait about, uh, three months, uh, [to] be transferred from the Vienna army jail to Berlin. And there he was put before the war court, the Reichskriegsgericht, and there, he was sentenced with about 28 other Witnesses to death.


  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
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