(Houghton Mifflin,) $5.95 soft cover,
ALA Best Books for Young Adults, NCSS/CBC "Pick of the
In addition to Six Million Jews, the
Nazis deliberately murdered Five Million non-Jews for racial,
political or social reasons. Among those killed were Gypsies,
Jehovah's Witnesses, political opponents of the Nazis, the
handicapped, homosexuals, artists and writers, blacks, Slavic
peoples, dissenting clergy and resistance fighters.
Elisabeth's Family: Twelve Jehovah's Witnesses Faithful Unto Death
"Quick, Elisabeth," Annemarie shouted, "The Gestapo!" . . . . In Paderborn,
very few people besides the Gestapo had cars. . . .
Mercedes stopped, I scooped up the Watchtower pamphlets and put them
in my knapsack. Magdalena stuffed the books into hers. We ran
outside and hid the literature behind the bushes. . . . .
Jehovah's Witnesses. . . . Anyone found with literature from our
Watchtower Society could be arrested.
What a happy family we were
before Hitler. . . . The house sat on three acres of land. Father
organized our daily chores. One week the boys took care of the
chickens and ducks and lamb. That week, the girls worked in the
garden. . . .
But it wasn't all work. Before we went to school in
the morning, and in the evening, we sat around the table talking
about the Bible. . . . Mother had graduated from teachers' school,
and Father made time for her to teach us music and painting. The
house was filled with musical instruments . . . . What joyful music
we made as we played from the book Hymns to Jehovah's
My father sensed that some of the faithful would be
persecuted by Hitler. . . . . He quoted from Matthew and Revelations,
"Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer; . . . be thou
faithful unto death. . . ."
In 1936, . . . . When the Gestapo
knocked on our door, one of them waved a piece of paper in Father's
face and shouted, "Franz Kusserow, you must sign this document
promising never to have anything to do with the International Society
of Bible Students. If you don't you'll be sent to prison."
Father read aloud the first paragraph. "I have
recognized that the International Society of Bible Students spreads a
false doctrine and pursues goals entirely hostile to the state under
the cover of religious activity." Father shook his head. "This is
ridiculous. I can't sign. . . . "
The S.S. man turned to Mother.
"And you? If you don't your children will be without parents."
Mother removed her apron . . . . "No, I cannot sign. . . ."
After a few days, the Nazis released Mother from prison. They
kept Father. Mother couldn't understand why they released her,
because she still refused to sign the paper. . . . What a joyful
reunion we had when he was released a year later. All thirteen of us
took up our instruments, and the house resounded with hymns of
. . . . as the years passed, the situation in school
became more and more painful. Every day, the teacher reprimanded me
for not saluting the Nazi flag. . . . To salute a flag or a person
was the same as worshipping idols. . . . .
always watched me. "So, Elisabeth you do not want to join in praise
of our leader. Tell us why, Elisabeth."
"Acts 4:12 of the New
Testament says, 'There is no salvation in anyone else except Jesus
"Imagine, Elisabeth Kusserow believes in that
ridiculous New Testament."
The children laughed. . . . On
the way home from school, they pushed me and threw my books to the
Our troubles grew. . . . . In 1938, the Gestapo
arrested Father for the second time.
In the spring of 1939,
the principal came into my class. "Elisabeth, since you refuse to
salute our flag and say, 'Heil Hitler,' it is obvious that your
parents are neglecting your spiritual and moral development. I have taken it upon myself to obtain a court order to remove you and your
two younger brothers from your home. The three of you will be sent
to a place where you will get proper instruction?"
thirteen, the words made no sense to me. "Our parents raised us according to the
teachings of Jehovah God," I protested.
"Please, please, let me call my mother," I
begged. "She'll be frantic when we don't come home."
"Traitors are not to know what happens to their children. . . ."