The 1933 Letter to the Fuhrer
January 31, 2019
See how Rabbi Tovia Singer, fierce in his defense of Judaism, says: “Remarkably, denominations that evangelical Christians regard as heretical, such as Mormonism or the Jehovah’s Witnesses, DO NOT have a strong history of anti-Semitism." (Caps mine. Incidentally, the post also attests to the excellence of the New World Translation)
So what does that say about exJWs who would try to frame it that their former associates are the worst of the lot? It agrees with scholars at the Holocaust Museum that the “mountain” they try to make of a 1933 Judge Rutherford letter is actually a “molehill.”
From an Independent Lens forum, dealing with criticism of the film Knocking, we read:
Q: Are there historical documents that prove Jehovah’s Witness leadership wrote anti-Semitic letters to Hitler trying to gain favor during the Nazi regime?
A: A letter and legal petition written by the Jehovah's Witness leadership to Hitler in 1933, just as Hitler first came to power, do exist. These were an attempt by Witnesses to inform the German government that they were apolitical and not a threat to the Nazi regime, which in its infancy in 1933 was not the killing machine it would soon become. The action of the Witnesses from 1934 onward was a complete reversal of the language in their 1933 appeal to Hitler. Rabbi Michael Berenbaum (former director of the Research Institute at the U.S. Holocaust Museum) speaks at length on the KNOCKING DVD about this issue. The conclusion by Berenbaum and other notable Holocaust scholars that the 1933 letters are inconsequential when compared to what the Witnesses did from 1934 onward, gave the producers of KNOCKING the confidence that the letters need not be mentioned in the film. But because they are an historical footnote, they are mentioned and discussed at length in the DVD extras. [italics mine]
The early language is not nothing, but the scholars deem it “inconsequential” in the overall scheme of things. What is that “early language”—essentially that of Joseph Rutherford, Watchtower director from 1919 – 1942, who wrote many books and penned all major communication? It is fair to say that there are some phrases anti-Semitic—certainly so by today’s standards. Don’t go back trying to pretty them up. They are what they are.
That said, they come not remotely close to the charge of “Christ killers” that the major churches have hurled at Jews throughout history, triggering many a pogrom. Doubtless that consideration contributes towards Rabbi Singer’s assessment of Jehovah’s Witnesses; it’s not NO history of anti-Semitism. It is not STRONG history of anti-Semitism—that is, it is comparatively little. As late as 2004, those fearing that Mel Gibson’s ‘The Passion’ would trigger a backlash against Jews, asked him whether he maintained that the Jews had killed Christ. “Well, it wasn’t the Scandinavians,” he replied. Plainly, the New Testament is ‘anti-Semitic’ by this standard. Every single gospel makes clear that the leaders of the Jews (not the common Jews themselves) delivered Christ up for execution. Every single gospel reveals that Pilate worked rather hard to free him, knowing full well that he was being set up by his religious enemies, before finally caving in the face of their determination. Don’t go carrying on about Rutherford’s ‘anti-Semitism’—the entire New Testament is ‘anti-Semitic!’ Anyone not glossing over this bit of history as though it never happened has, a least, a mild "history of anti-Semitism."
Rutherford’s statements are mild by the standards of the day, but he does accede to the common diatribe that ‘Jews and their money are taking over the world,’ posing a 'Jewish problem,' putting an unflattering spin on the astounding commercial success that some had and have attained. He doesn’t chide Hitler for not being nicer to them, or praise their undeniable contributions in scholarship. He even states in an early communique that the aims of the Bible Students and the aims of the new Nazi government were one and the same! What aims, one might reasonably ask? To benefit the citizens of the land—the professed aim of any government. Duh. There is hardly a smoking gun here. As soon as the Nazi regime tipped its hand to reveal the evil it would become, the tone completely changed, as the Holocaust Museum scholars recognize. That's how you get to be a scholar in the first place: for the ability to sort, evaluate, and prioritize facts that do not seamlessly dovetail. It is the moron (usually for the sake of pursuing an agenda) who allows a human failing to undermine an entire library of laurels.
On a post several years ago, I wrote:
“There are any number of serial gripers on the Internet who are alarmed at any favorable mention of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and who immediately attempt to negate such praise. Some of these characters strive with all their might to denigrate Jehovah’s Witnesses’ stand during the Holocaust. Of course, this is not easy to do, because the stand is among the most courageous actions of the past century. But they try. Generally, they feign applause for the astounding courage and faith of individual Witnesses, but then take shots at their organization, as though it were entirely separate. Yes, those Witnesses were amazing, they say. Too bad they were sold out by an oppressive, self-serving, uncaring Watchtower central machine.”
They were out in full force recently, when I dared to put another Twitter spin on their cherished narrative. Whoa! did I have a hard time swatting them off! What is wrong with these people, so blinded by hate? Did anyone say that the guy could do no wrong? No. If you only focus on personalities, there is nothing that cannot be trashed. Everyone today knows the "journalism of the hit piece," and there is no one without some vulnerabilities who cannot be made a target. Still, the people at the Museum without an ax to grind declare it inconsequential to the overall picture. Got that, you scoundrels? The Jews themselves say your characterization is nonsense, and they are people who know hate when they see it. I’d be surprised if they didn’t see it here.
Thwarted in this attempt to malign the one taking the lead back then, or perhaps emboldened by it, they then attack Rutherford’s “needless” provocation of Hitler, his “ordering” Witnesses in Axis lands into harm’s way by continued, even intensified, preaching in the face of Nazi atrocities. What Shangri-La are these people living in? It’s as though they imagine that one could just change the channel back then and watch something else! All you had to do was refuse military service to be sent to the camps. Just refusing a ‘Heil Hitler!’ was enough. The vast majority back then said to Hitler: “Well, if you say so. I mean, you’re the boss.” Jehovah’s Witnesses said “No!” And now these liars, blinded by their hatred of ‘authoritarian’ religion, furious that cannot instill in it an ‘Anything Goes’ spirit, would try to change history! It’s enough to make your blood boil!
I can see how Jews go livid when, the moment their backs are turned, slimy revisionists try to assert that the Holocaust never happened—taking advantage of fading collective memory. Or maybe the small-minded haters come along and frame it that the most important lesson to be taken away from the Holocaust is that some Jews sold out others to save their own skin! People know hate when they see it. They see it there, in desperate efforts to denigrate what is noble. They see it also in desperate efforts to denigrate the Witness’s record.
Refusing to give up the scent, one such revisionist lectures me: “To describe Rutherford’s message as a "molehill" [second paragraph] is just the kind of indifference that opens the doors for the kinds of atrocities that followed.” He’s joking! The man who led those who fell on the right side of history—90% were on the wrong side, and they were but individuals, as virtually NO complete groups were on the right side—is the head villain of the time?
“Rutherford’s words are there for posterity,” he cants. Let them stay there for posterity, you sanctimonious fool! Go back with your moralizing crew to collect all the bloopers of history and cluck at them all until your tongues fall out! Jehovah’s Witnesses are fully people, absolutely capable of picking up on the biases of the time. The fact remains that, under the leadership of this imperfect man—seeing that the choice was thrust upon all—they went through history on the only side of that electrified fence that would avail them of good conscience, with no blood on their hands afterwards, whether by acts of commission or omission. No, it will not be negated because Joe said some things insensitive about the ones that his people would presently stand up with. He also said this: “In Germany the common people are peace-loving, ... The Devil has put his representative Hitler in control, a man who is of unsound mind, cruel, malicious and ruthless . . . He cruelly persecutes the Jews because they were once Jehovah’s covenant people and bore the name of Jehovah, and because Christ Jesus was a Jew.” How anti-Semitic does that sound?
Witnesses were virtually the only collective group that DID NOT sell out the Jews. I have no doubt that the Jews would wish that Hitler and the mainline religious groups back then would have made a Jewish joke or two and left it at that. I assure you that they would not be rounding such ones up as war criminals, as they still are with the real criminals, 70 years later. It’s unbelievable the hatred that the present day opposers display!
PLUS, Jehovah’s Witnesses were the only group interred in the camps who were given opportunity to write their ticket out. All that was necessary was to renounce their faith and pledge cooperation with Hitler. Only a handful complied, a fact that almost a century later, I still find staggering. And to bring things full around to where this post began—with an appeal to Engardio’s film Knocking for the context of the day—let us note that the film features one Brother Kempler, a circuit overseer once an interned Jew. He entered the concentration camps as a Jew. He was liberated as a Jew. Afterwards, having observed Jehovah’s Witnesses in the camps, he became one. He testifies powerfully to Jewish sensibilities in the face of what is likely the greatest evil of all time.
From the book TrueTom vs the Apostates!
[edit: January 2020...
As to Hitler positioning himself in his pre-1933 days, the GreatCourses professor on American history refers to a “low-level anti-semitism” that was almost universal prior to WWII—and in many parts of the world, not so low-level—so that picking up on it would be no more controversial than breathing air. After the Holocaust, that low-level anti-semitism vanished overnight. so that it is easy to forget that it ever existed and read more into expressions of the day than is merited.
Did Rutherford suffer in his overall outlook of the world by reading mostly WT pubs? That is possible, in my view. He would be more widely read than most Witnesses, of course, but that’s not saying much. Even then, Witnesses were “insular”—a label most of them would reject but only because they are unsure of the implication of a word they don’t use themselves. Modify if to ‘no part of the world’ and they will embrace it happily. Isn’t that was insulation is—a means to separate something good from that which is damaging or corrosive?
One must understand the period to understand why people accepted certain things. They never are, however, by a generation that considers itself the wisest of all time. I have said before that when time travel is invented, historical revisionists will give a friendly wave to founding father American slave holders as they race back in time to haul the real villians—the Ancient Greek pedophlles that form the underpinning of Western civilization—back in leg-irons.