Advanced Search

Learn About The Holocaust

Special Collections

My Saved Research




Skip to main content


Object | Accession Number: 1989.314.5

Search this record's additional resources, such as finding aids, documents, or transcripts.

No results match this search term.
Check spelling and try again.

results are loading

0 results found for “keyward


    Brief Narrative
    Old and New Testament Bible found by liberating troops at Sachsenhausen concentration camp in 1945. They discovered it on the body of a prisoner, Johann Stossier, a Jehovah's Witness, who died in Sachsenhausen shortly before the camp was liberated. The troops returned the Bible to his family. It is inscribed by his sister and her husband, who survived the war. After the annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany in 1938, Jehovah's Witness literature was forbidden. The Watchtower Society, the administrative arm for the Jehovah Witnesses, had been banned in Germany since 1935. The religion was not banned but members were arrested for their refusal to be drafted or participate in any military work. Members in Austria knew that they would be persecuted for their refusal to accept the authority of any temporal power and many were arrested and executed or imprisoned because of their beliefs.
    Die Bibel
    found:  1945 April
    found: Sachsenhausen (Concentration camp); Oranienburg (Germany)
    publication: Leipzig (Germany)
    received: Austria
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Franz and Maria Wohlfahrt, in memory of Gregor Wohlfahrt, father, and Gregor Wohlfahrt, brother, and the Wohlfahrt and Stossier families
    Subject: Franz Wohlfahrt
    Publisher: Poeschal & Trepte
    Franz Wohlfahrt was born on January 18, 1920, to Gregor and Barbara (Betty) Struk Wohlfahrt in Velden (Velden am Wörthersee), Austria. Gregor, born in 1896 in Velden, served in the Austrian Army during World War I (1914-1918). Gregor married Barbara after the war. They had a small farm and he did road construction. Gregor was traumatized by his battlefield experience, which caused a crisis of faith. In the 1920s, it led him to reject his Catholic faith and become a Jehovah’s Witness. He converted his family to the faith. In 1928, he began preaching publicly, trying to convert others. Franz had attended a Catholic school but in 1934, he began to assist his father with his missionary work. Nazi Germany banned the Watchtower Society, the Jehovah’s Witnesses administrative organization, and persecuted members. Witnesses did not obey any authority but God, refused to join the Nazi Party, and were dedicated pacifists. The Nazi regime regarded such attitudes as a threat to the state and German policies were very influential in neighboring Austria. Gregor was jailed briefly for preaching without a license and for peddling religious literature in 1936. Around this time, Franz finished school and was apprenticed for four years to a master house painter.

    In March 1938, Austria was annexed by Nazi Germany, a merger met with great enthusiasm by most of the Austrian population. Members of the Jehovah’s Witness were aware that they were subject to arrest and harassment for their refusal to pledge allegiance, or accept the authority of any temporal power, such as Hitler, the Nazi party, and the German government. The religion was not banned, but members were arrested for their refusal to be drafted or to do any military work. They were conscientious objectors, opposed to war on behalf of a temporal authority. In 1938, Franz was reported for refusing to return a salute or say Heil Hitler. He was called in for interrogation by the Germans, and threatened with deportation to Dachau concentration camp. The master painter to whom he was apprenticed, a Nazi sympathizer, was able to get him released.
    In August 1939, Franz was baptized as a Jehovah’s Witness. Later that year, his father was told to report for military service, but was declared unfit for health reasons. However, he declared his opposition to the war and was sent to Vienna. He then was declared an enemy of the state and transferred to Berlin for trial. He was sentenced to death by beheading on December 7, 1939, with 28 other Jehovah’s Witnesses.
    In March 1940, Franz was told to report for work service at the Arbeitsdienst Camp in Burgenland. He worked on building roads at first, but then it turned into a military training camp. Franz refused to be inducted into the Germany army. He was repeatedly interrogated and thrown into a dungeon with little food and water for weeks as they attempted to change his mind, but he refused to recant and insisted he would not support the Nazi Party or renounce his faith. He was then imprisoned in Graz and charged with demoralizing conduct. He had a trial and was represented by a state lawyer, but was found guilty and sentenced to 5 years hard labor. Under the terms of a recent law, war objectors such as Franz were to be sent to concentration or work camps until the war was over, and then they would serve their prison sentences. Franz was sent to a prison for serious and violent offenders, Graz Karlau. He was kept in solitary and nearly starved. Then he was given a job making paper bags in his cell. He was interviewed about his beliefs by a German professor who gave Franz newspapers about his case that described him as a dangerous person who must be isolated from society and forced to give up his beliefs.
    In February 1941, Franz was transferred to Strafgefangenenlager Rodgau-Dieburg with a group of political prisoners. He continued to be threatened with the consequences of not giving up his faith; one doctor told him he would be sent to the chimneys. He made steel wire fences in a factory and then dug trenches and uprooted trees in a swamp. He got gangrene and was told his legs would be cut off, but the work commandment intervened and got him proper treatment. In 1943, a new commander was assigned to the camp. He found out that Franz was a skilled painter and changed his work assignment to his villa. The caFranz was the eldest of 3 brothers and 2 sisters: Gregor, Christian, Willibald, Eda, and Anna. in Velden in VEldenmp commandant saved Franz from certain execution at least three times by helping him avoid interrogations when he was called for military duty. As the war continued, the need for soldiers and military workers intensified and if Franz had directly refused to serve at this time, he would have been executed. In 1944-1945, leaflets were dropped in the camp by US planes warning the Germans not to harm the prisoners. On another air campaign, the planes flew low enough to shoot the guards in the watchtowers. The commander surrendered the camp to American troops in March 1945. Franz testified on behalf of the commander after his release, and the commander was released by the Americans after 3 days.
    Franz returned home to Austria. He learned that the four youngest siblings had been taken away from his mother in 1943 and sent to a correction center to keep them from becoming Jehovah’s Witnesses: two sisters were placed in a convent; two brothers were sent to a camp where they were starved and often beaten by SS trainers. Willibald, 17, was shot and killed while on a forced work detail digging trenches; Christian was taken to the Russian border and shot, but he recovered. Gregor, age 21, had been called to military duty with the Luftwaffe. He stayed faithful to his religious beliefs, objected to military service, and was sentenced to death and beheaded on March 14, 1942. Few members of their Jehovah’s Witness congregation survived the war; over a dozen were executed.

    In October 1945, Franz married Maria Stossier, a fellow Jehovah’s Witness whom he had known before the war. They had four children. In 1951, the family immigrated to Toronto, Canada because they felt that most Austrians could not let go of the old beliefs and prejudices. Franz continued to work as a painter. Franz, 89, passed away on December 12, 2009.

    Physical Details

    Physical Description
    Book ; 242 pages ; 12 cm. ; 4.750 x 2.750 x .875 in.
    Gilt lettering Die Bibel, front cover and spine; Title page: Verzeichnis aller Bücher des Alten und Neuen Testament , includes Table of Contents
    Inscriptions and some underlining in text.
    Black cloth coated cover with faded red page edges; attached gold ribbon bookmark; stained with some repairs.
    overall : paper, ink
    flyleaf, hand printed, blue ball point pen: DONATION TO / HOLOCAUST / MEMORIAL MUSEUM / BY MARIA & / FRANZ WOHLFAHRT / POERSCHACH - AUSTRIA
    on page near end, pencil : 2. Ka [?] CCR 7.40 Rm / 4. Briefe / 3. Heringe / .68 - 8.90 - / 2.98 [equation; text faint and hard to read]

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    No restrictions on access
    Conditions on Use
    No restrictions on use

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The Bible was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 1989 by Franz and Maria Wohlfahrt, the sister and brother-in-law of Johann Stossier.
    Funding Note
    The cataloging of this artifact has been supported by a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
    Record last modified:
    2022-07-28 21:57:09
    This page:

    Download & Licensing

    In-Person Research

    Contact Us