Robert and his family were Jehovah's Witnesses. The Nazis regarded Jehovah's Witnesses as enemies of the state for their refusal to take an oath of loyalty to Adolf Hitler, or to serve in the German army. Robert's family continued its religious activities despite Nazi persecution. Shortly before Robert's birth, his mother was imprisoned briefly for distributing religious materials. Robert's hip was injured during delivery, leaving him physically disabled. When Robert was five years, he was ordered to report for a physical in Schlierheim. His mother overheard staff comments about putting Robert "to sleep." Fearing they intended to kill him, Robert's mother grabbed him and ran from the clinic. Nazi physicians had begun systematic killing of those they deemed physically and mentally disabled in the fall of 1939.
In those days, yes, they were carried on meetings, but as a youngster I did not realize that these were meetings. Of course, it was nice that, once my father came home, once in a while, he took us then on Sunday out for bicycle tours. Little did I know that these were prearranged meetings where we met other Witnesses in the woods and it was like a picnic. So, they, uh, had something to eat and also something to read. And brothers were stationed further apart, and if someone would come they would whistle a song and the literature would disappear under the covers, under the, where they were sitting. And so they were having a picnic and once the people were gone again they continued having their Watchtower. And those meetings, as time went on, became smaller, and smaller, and smaller.