1926: Shao Piaoping, journalist 1899: Not J.M. Olberman, spared by Oregon’s governor

1940: Wilhelm Kusserow, Jehovah’s Witness

April 27th, 2013 Meaghan

(Thanks to Meaghan Good of the Charley Project for the guest post. -ed.)

On this date in 1940, 25-year-old Wilhelm Kusserow was executed by firing squad at Münster Prison in Germany.

A Jehovah’s Witness, he interpreted God’s command “thou shalt not kill” literally and refused to serve in the German army — a big no-no in Hitler’s Third Reich.

Kusserow had actually been born Lutheran, but his parents became Jehovah’s Witnesses after World War I and raised their eleven children in the faith. Jehovah’s Witnesses, in addition to not serving in the army, also refused to Heil Hitler, since the tenets of their religion required them to make obeisance only to Jehovah.

They were persecuted by the Nazis from the beginning of Hitler’s regime, and by 1935 the religion was banned altogether. The Kusserows, and many others, continued to practice their faith in secret.

During the Nazi era, some 10,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses did time in prisons and concentration camps (where they were required to wear a purple triangle), Wilhelm’s parents and siblings among them. 2,500 to 5,000 died.

The children in Jehovah’s Witness families were taken from their parents and sent to orphanages, foster families or reform schools.

(French Witness Simone Arnold Liebster would write a memoir about the years she spent in institutions as a child because she and her parents refused to renounce their beliefs.)

At Wilhelm Kusserow’s trial, the judge and the prosecutor were apparently reluctant to condemn this young man. They pleaded with him to back down, promising to spare his life if he did so, but Wilhelm refused. Some things were more important to him than life itself.

In his final letter to his family he wrote,

Dear parents, brothers, and sisters:

All of you know how much you mean to me, and I am repeatedly reminded of this every time I look at our family photo. How harmonious things always were at home. Nevertheless, above all we must love God, as our Leader Jesus Christ commanded. If we stand up for him, he will reward us.

Hitler later decided the firing squad was too honorable a death for Jehovah’s Witnesses and ordered that they be decapitated instead. Wilhelm’s younger brother Wolfgang, who had also refused to serve in the army, was executed in this manner in 1942.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Disfavored Minorities,Execution,Germany,God,Guest Writers,Guillotine,History,Other Voices,Shot,Wartime Executions

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6 thoughts on “1940: Wilhelm Kusserow, Jehovah’s Witness”

  1. John baker says:

    it breaks my heart to read this,how awful that such innocent people could be treated so badly. I really appreciate the stand those faithful brothers chose,proving their love for a loving god Jehovah.Often people forget that it was an angry mob that killed Gods firstborn son,for what he believed in,the truth.

  2. Edwin Cash says:

    The stand taken by Jehovah’s Witnesses in WW2 is not widely known. The faith that empowered young men such as Wilhelm and Wolfgang to stand up for their beliefs against the full might and machinations of the Nazi state deserves our respect and lasting admiration. By their unwavering stand they demonstrated more courage than a full army division and symbolically defeated that state and its diabolical aims.

  3. Diana Gates says:

    Im trying to find my family that was in Germany. Christina Wilhem left Germany to Prussia. The only Wilhelm I find is Wihelm Kusserow. Any connection to Christina Wilhem. I have family bible and her name but the family name disappears. Let me know if there is. Its a far stretch but I keep seeing Wilhelm and its only with this family when I search . Thanks. Diana

  4. ms. wilson says:

    Meaghen is right. By the end of WW 2, that is what we were known as in Germany so that is we called ourselves. It would be the same thing, because historically some died as Bibelforscher and their fellow Bibelforscher, who died a few years later, after 1935, were still the same group of people, just now called Jehovas Zeugen (Jehovah’s Witnesses). Another Holocaust sufferer, who survived the war, recently died at 102

  5. Meaghan says:

    That is an interesting piece of trivia; however, if I called them “Bible Students” no one would have the foggiest idea what I was talking about.

  6. Regie says:

    A moving tribute but the Jw were not known as such until1931.
    Up to then they had been known as ‘Bible Students’.

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