Shoah isn't the only word that we have to remember when talking about the Nazi Holocaust at the heart of the 20th century, because the Jews weren't the only victims of Hitler's insane project. Political opponents, common criminals, homosexuals, Jehovah's witnesses and gypsies all shared with the Jews that tragic destiny of suffering and death.
Few, unfortunately, even though sixty years have passed since the opening of the Nazi extermination camp gates, know the word Porrajmos which in the Rom language means devouring and stands for the memory, full of pain and fear, of the persecution and extermination of the gypsies by the Third Reich.
Few , unfortunately, know that thousands of Jehovah's witnesses (a movement founded in 1870 in Pennsylvania) were exterminated in the camps in Poland.
The silence and indifference that still surrounds these facts make them a forgotten history, and, as a result, an offence against the memory of the victims.
The persecution of the Jehovah's witnesses and the Gypsies both fall within the search for the enemy within, within society, within the community, and while neither may have been a threat to the social fabric, it became a way to reinforce the bonds between the majority, at the expense of a weak and marginalisable minority, and through this a type of pact was formed defining citizenship on the basis of the inclusion of some and the exclusion of others.
The motivations for each persecution were different.
The Jehovah's witnesses were a religious minority, not necessarily politically opposed to the regime, but in practice, because the regime wished to impose, due to its totalitarian nature, in the area of individual rights, advocating its own secular metaphysical creed, adopting a ritual and culture not far from those of existent religions. The evangelical work that the Bible students followed in the cities where the movement was present, put them in fact, in competition with the efforts of Nazi Fascism to reach a consensus with its citizens. In addition to the accusation of proselytising (Crime against the security and integrity of the nation) there was also that of pacifism. The strong opposition voiced by the Bibelforscher[Editor's Note: Translation of Bible Students – as the movement was called in Germany during this period] against the war (for the first time men faced the firing squad as conscientious objectors) again put this community in direct opposition with the Nazi Regime. The refusal to accept the rituals and pagan liturgies of the Third Reich; the outward appearance of diversity in respect to the dominant spirit of the age, indeed shown with pride; the preservation of their own particular space where they could exercise not just the rules of the order but also an individuality stolen away from the dictates of the dominant ideology. The opposition to military service, and more generally the refusal to give in to any acts or gestures that tended towards the growing celebration of war. All these factors created a gulf between the regime and the Jehovah's Witnesses. Sealing their fate.
The issue of the refusal to bear arms was essential because it signalled the point of no return between the two subjects: a community and a state that was preparing itself for a war on many fronts, with a clearly imperial design, a political doctrine based on the 'will to power' that meant war, the co-opting of the entire society in a spasmodic effort towards realizing the objectives of a leadership determined on conquest, they couldn't tolerate a small part of the population escaping the orders in place, putting at risk the victory. The refusal to do military service, to salute, to obey the draft were not merely an administrative infraction but also an attack to the heart of the Nazi System. And in its own logic, and offence against the sacred right of the Aryan race, a warrior race by definition. 1