Jehovah’s Witnesses endured intense persecution under the Nazi regime between 1933 and 1945. Because they refused to serve in the military or give allegiance to the Nazi government, many were killed, imprisoned or sent to concentration camps.
Unlike the Jews and Roma people (Gypsies) who were persecuted and killed, Jehovah’s Witnesses had the opportunity to escape persecution and personal harm by renouncing their religious beliefs. The Nazi government gave detained Jehovah’s Witnesses the option to renounce their faith, submit to the state authority and support the German military and be released from prison or the camps by signing a document renouncing their religion.
(Quoted from Jehovah’s Witnesses–Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom (1993), Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, p. 661. Original)
In a book on Jehovah’s Witnesses under the Nazi regime, Hans Hesse commented, “Some five thousand Jehovah’s Witnesses were sent to concentration camps where they alone were ‘voluntary prisoners’, so termed because the moment they recanted their views, they could be freed. Some lost their lives in the camps, but few renounced their faith”