United State Holocaust Memorial Museum
Today in 1935, Nazi Germany dissolves Watchtower Society because Jehovah’s Witnesses refuse to swear allegiance to state.
New Twitter account: Jayne Persian @JWsHistoryBlog
My parents became Jehovah’s Witnesses when I was 7. I was baptised at 14, and left at 23. After disassociating myself, and struggling to make sense of my place in the world, I found Ray Franz’s book ‘Crisis of Conscience’ and M. James Penton’s history ‘Apocalypse Delayed: The Story of Jehovah’s Witnesses’. My history honours thesis on the banning of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Australia during the Second World War not only stretched me academically, but also became a way to work through questions I had regarding the theology and practices of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
There is not much academic work on Jehovah’s Witnesses. What there is often relies far too heavily on the literature and propaganda of the Witnesses themselves (particularly with regard to their role as ‘victims’ under the Nazi regime). And yet, they are an expanding group with a theologically-defined world view, millenarians with a strong belief that the end of the world is near, as well as being politically neutral, and visible as door-to-door preachers. They are inherently interesting.
‘A National Nuisance’: The Banning of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Australia in 1941
In 1941, during the Second World War, the Menzies government banned Jehovah’s
Witnesses, giving them the distinction of being the only Christian religious body to be
banned in Australia during the twentieth century.
The Banning of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Australia in 1941
This paper sets out a brief history of Jehovah’s Witnesses and discusses the particular theology of the Witnesses which contributed to their banning.
Generally, scholars agree that Jehovah’s Witnesses have
been variously complicit in persecution they have received worldwide, and this paper
examines specifically the Witnesses’ mixture of naivety and arrogance in Australia prior
to the Second World War. It then briefly describes the circumstances surrounding the ban
and Witness reactions to the ban, including an appeal to the High Court which resulted in
the ban being overturned. This paper, which is based on a study of one religion’s fight for
survival in a western democracy, sheds light on the particular worldview of Jehovah’s
Witnesses and adds to our knowledge of this small sect, both generally and in a
specifically Australian historical context.