From the hate crimes in suburban America to genocide in Rwanda and Bosnia, news events tell us that the lessons of the Holocaust remain all too relevant in our day. As an educator, parent, or concerned citizen, you may wonder about the human capacity to resist evil. And you may wish for more positive examples to use in educating a future generation.
On Wednesday, April 28, 1999 at 7:00 p.m., in Winifred Moore Auditorium, a remarkable program at Webster University will describe what one Holocaust historian called "a tiny island of unflagging resistance existing in the bosom of a terrorized nation."
The program will relate the historical aspects of the resistance of Jehovah's Witnesses, a religious community brutally persecuted by Hitler. For educators, this special event will provide valuable teaching aids for explaining the role of these "other victims" of Nazism. For all, it will provide a powerful example of ordinary people who followed their conscience in the face of tyranny.
This special program, which is co-sponsored by the Department of Behavioral and Social Sciences and the College of Arts and Sciences at Webster University will feature presentations by two Holocaust scholars and interviews with two survivors, Rudolf Graichen and Guenther Gafel. The two-and-a-half-hour program includes an acclaimed video documentary, recommended by the Association of Holocaust Organizations, as well as a historical exhibit.
Admission is free. As seating is limited, advance registration is required.
For more information call (314) 968 - 6970
Directions to Webster University and the Winifred Moore Auditorium.
"Holocaust scholars are well aware of the danger of showing only the horrors of this era. If we ignore the stories of the resisters, we send the unspoken message that nothing could have been done, that the history could not have been different. The story of Jehovah's Witnesses shows that the Holocaust didn't have to happen. Humanity does have the capacity to stand up and speak out for what is right." Film Producer James Pellechia
Guenther Gafel's parents became Jehovah's Witnesses in about 1934. Guenther was born in 1935, one of ten children. His father Ludwig Gafel was arrested in 1936 for being a Witness and spent the next nine years in four Nazi camps. Six of the children were taken from school because they would not heil Hitler. They were placed with Nazi families, where they were forced to do hard labor. The family was reunited after the war. However, Ludwig was arrested in 1950 by the East German Police. He was sent to Potsdam prison, where he later died.
Rudolf Graichen was born in 1925 in Germany. In 1937, the Gestapo arrested all the male members of the local congregation. His father was sentenced to five years in prison. As a 12-year-old in school, Rudolf withstood intense pressure to join the Hitler Youth. In 1938, along with his sister, Rudolf was taken from school by the police to a reform school. Later they were sent to live with a Nazi family. In 1943, 18-year-old Rudolf Graichen was briefly reunited with his mother after a four-year separation. She sat next to him on a bench in a German courtroom where they both were sentenced to Nazi prisons. Graichen would never see his mother again as she died in Ravensbrück concentration camp shortly before the war ended. He was sentenced to four years in prison, more than a year of which was spent in solitary confinement in Stollberg.
On April 28, 1999, Graichen, now a resident of Brady, Texas, and Gafel, now a resident Morrisville, Vermont, will tell their stories. Stories which include years spent in Nazi reform schools, foster care and prison for refusing to renounce their religious faith and refusing to support Hitler's regime.
Jolene Chu, researcher and archivist at the Watch Tower Society, specializes in the history of Jehovah's Witnesses during the Nazi era. She coordinates Holocaust education programs, teacher and student seminars, and research projects.
Dr. Linda M. Woolf, Associate Professor of Psychology at Webster University, regularly writes, presents, and teaches courses related to the Holocaust, genocide studies, and peace psychology.
"Jehovah's Witnesses Stand Firm During The Nazi Assault" In this unique video documentary, Holocaust historians from North America and Europe, and Witness survivors join together to relate a story of courage and triummph. Recommended by the Association of Holocaust Organizations.
There is no charge for admission to the event or for the handout materials. Seating is limited. For more information, call (314) 968-6970.