Katharina Thaller

"I need my nights for my sleep - not for the BDM "

Katharina Thaller was born in Wutschein (near Klagenfurt) in 1921. Her father had returned from the war as an invalid, and could no longer find work. Her mother had to take care of six children. Katharina Thaller contracted polio when she was two years old, and for the rest of her life had a weak left hand. After primary school, she learned sewing for a year, and took care of her parents’ household afterwards. At the age of sixteen, she left the Catholic church and started to be interested in the Jehovah’s Witnesses, along with her parents and two of her siblings. The rest of the family remained Catholic. After the National Socialist takeover, some of their neighbours started to put pressure on the family, and denounce them. The father did not let his youngest son attend Hitler Youth, and Katharina Thaller refused to join the Bund Deutscher Mädchen (BDM, league of German girls). In April 1943, she was baptized as a Jehovah’s witness. In May 1943, she and her father were finally arrested by the Gestapo. After ten days in prison, Katharina Thaller was deported to Ravensbrück concentration camp.

"In the village, there were only five houses, and everybody knew each other, and there was a baroness, a German, and she was a Hitlerite. And often she tried to send me somewhere with a maidservant, and she was supposed to talk me into it: „Join the BDM (Union of German Girls), too, join the BDM, too!“ And I said: „No, I need my nights for my sleep - not for the BDM!“

"There was peace all over, but Hitler upset it all. The neighbour came, and in the morning he already had a swastika on his wall. We could only marvel, before they had been such socialists, and now there is that swastika on the wall (…) You just didn't know what to think. It was as if the devil had got into everybody, so everyone thought at once they had to shout Heil Hitler so he could live. We didn't, and still lived."

"Well and then, I just brushed out my father's coat, and the Gestapo guy asked: „Do you belong with that bible studying nonsense, too?“ And I: „Yes, I believe in Jehovah God“ And then he told me: „Get changed, you will come along!“

Jehovah’s Witnesses under National Socialism

The members of the International Bible Research Association (Jehovah’s Witnesses since 1931) believe that Christians may only obey the secular government insofar as it does not contradict God’s law or their own biblically schooled conscience. Thus they particularly refuse military service and work in the weapons industry. As early as 1933, the movement was banned by the National Socialist regime "for the protection of the defense force of the German people". Catholic Austro-fascism also prohibited Jehovah’s Witnesses in 1935. Jehovah’s Witnesses refused the Hitler salute, as well as service in the Hitler Youth or any other National Socialist organization. When the Second World War started, whole families were taken off to concentration camps.