Between 1933 and 1945, Nazi Germany and its allies established more than 44,000 camps and other incarceration sites (including ghettos). The perpetrators used these locations for a range of purposes, including forced labor, detention of people deemed to be "enemies of the state," and mass murder. Millions of people suffered and died or were killed. Among these sites was the Sachsenhausen camp and its subcamps.
Between 1933 and 1945, Nazi Germany and its allies established more than 44,000 camps and other incarceration sites (including ghettos). The perpetrators used these locations for a range of purposes, including forced labor, detention of people deemed to be "enemies of the state," and mass murder. Millions of people suffered and died or were killed. Among these sites was the Flossenbürg camp and its subcamps.
Musician Erich Frost was a devout Jehovah's Witness active in the religious resistance to Hitler's authority. Frost was caught smuggling pamphlets from Switzerland to Germany and was deported to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp near Berlin. There, he composed this song in 1942. Frost survived the war and died in 1987. This translation is taken from the Jehovah's Witness Songbook.
Simone Arnold Liebster, who sings the English version of the song, was born in 1930 in Mulhouse, French Alsace. After the incorporation of Alsace into the German Reich during World War II, Liebster's family suffered increasing harrassment from the Nazis for following the Jehovah's Witness faith. Eventually both her father (Adolphe Arnold) and mother were arrested and sent to concentration and detention camps while she was placed in a correctional institution for "nonconformist" youth. Liebster has published an autobiography, Facing the Lion: Memoirs of a Young Girl in Nazi Europe.
The camp system was extensive. It included concentration camps, labor camps, prisoner-of-war camps, transit camps, and killing centers.
A key part of Nazi ideology was to define the enemy and those who posed a threat to the so-called “Aryan” race. Nazi propaganda was essential in promoting the myth of the “national community” and identifying who should be excluded. Jews were considered the main enemy.
Between 1933 and 1945, Nazi Germany and its allies established more than 44,000 camps and other incarceration sites (including ghettos). The perpetrators used these locations for a range of purposes, including forced labor, detention of people deemed to be "enemies of the state," and mass murder. Millions of people suffered and died or were killed. Among these sites was Dachau, the longest operating camp.
The Nazis demanded that Germans accept the premises of the Nazi worldview and live their lives accordingly. They tolerated no criticism, dissent, or nonconformity. Hitler's political opponents were the first victims of systematic Nazi persecution.
Max was one of three children born to a Jewish family living in a small town in the Hessian part of Germany. His father was originally from Poland. After eight years of public education, Max completed three years of business school and learned to become a window decorator. In 1929 he found work in Viernheim, a village near Mannheim.
1933-39: Max worked for a clothing store where he was in charge of window dressing. Except for the weekends when there were Nazi marches, life was quiet in Viernheim. Right after Germany attacked Poland in September 1939, some friends picked Max up for an outing in Pforzheim-Baden. The next thing he knew, a Gestapo agent arrested him because I was Jewish. He was placed in the local prison and his property was confiscated.
1940-44: After four months Max was released from prison and sent to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. There, by chance, he was reunited with his ailing father. When he died in April 1940, the Nazis let Max take his body to the crematorium. Between 1941 and 1943 he was interned in the Neuengamme concentration camp. Then he was deported to Auschwitz, where he helped build the Buna synthetic rubber factory operated by I.G. Farben. In January 1945 Max was force-marched to Gleiwitz and then transported to Buchenwald.
During the war Max became a Jehovah's Witness. Liberated by the U.S. Army in 1945, he settled in Aix-les-Bains, France, where he founded a Jehovah's Witness congregation.
Hilda was born in a territory ruled by Germany until 1919. A teacher and a painter, she married Franz Kusserow and moved to western Germany before World War I. There, she gave birth to 11 children and became a Jehovah's Witness. After 1931 the Kusserow home in the small town of Bad Lippspringe was the headquarters of a Jehovah's Witness congregation.
1933-39: The Nazis repeatedly searched Hilda's home because her family remained openly steadfast in their devotion to Jehovah. Hilda continued doing missionary work even though it was banned. In 1936 she was arrested and imprisoned for six weeks. When she was released she continued hosting Bible study meetings in her home, even after her husband was imprisoned. In 1939 the police took away her three youngest children to be "reeducated" in foster homes.
1940-44: Two of Hilda's sons were executed for refusing induction into the German army. Her husband returned home on August 16, 1940. Because they kept hosting Bible studies, Hilda and her husband were arrested along with their daughters Hildegard and Magdalena in April 1941. Hilda served a two-year term. When released she was told that she could go home if she signed a statement renouncing her faith. Hilda refused and was deported to the Ravensbrueck concentration camp, where she was reunited with two of her daughters who'd already been there a year.
Johanna was born in Vienna when it was still the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Her Christian family experienced the disruption resulting from the empire's collapse, as well as the instability of the Austrian republic. The depression of 1929 hit Vienna especially hard. In 1931 Johanna became a Jehovah's Witness.
1933-39: Johanna traveled constantly in and out of Austria distributing our Jehovah's Witness literature. In March 1938 Germany annexed Austria and her family was subjected to Nazi law; their religion was banned. In 1939 the Gestapo arrested Johanna at home at 6 a.m.; the court sentenced her to six years imprisonment. She was sent to a women's penitentiary in Aichach, located in Upper Bavaria in Germany.
1940-44: Johanna spent all six years of the war in Aichach, working every day from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m. sewing and knitting civilian clothes. She refused to do any work for the army. She was denied the right to have a Bible, but the authorities changed their mind when she argued that if other Germans had the right to go to church then she, too, had the right to own a Bible so that she could worship as well. Johanna trusted in Jehovah and he gave her the strength to withstand the hardships of the war.
Johanna was liberated in Aichach in May 1945 by U.S. forces and returned to her home in Austria. She subsequently settled in Braunau, a town in northern Austria.
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