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Oral history interview with Gisela Tillmann and Gerd Gotthold

Oral History | Accession Number: 1992.A.0124.18 | RG Number: RG-50.028.0018

Gisela Tillmann and Gerd Gotthold, born on November 24, 1923 in Herne, Germany and June 19, 1931 in Buchom, Germany, discuss their parents’ conversion to become Jehovah’s Witnesses in 1926; their religious upbringing; their parents’ Lutheran upbringings and how the Lutheran Church’s involvement in World War I changed their religious views; the mass unemployment in Germany after World War I; their parents becoming very involved in the church; their father’s job as a coal miner and then unemployment from 1927- 1938; their parents’ frequent and open political discussions with them after Hitler’s rise to power; their continued education as Jehovah’s Witnesses; the Gestapo’s arrest of many male Jehovah’s Witnesses, including their father, in spring 1936; their memories of visiting their father during his time in the Dortmund, Germany Steinwache prison; their father’s second arrest in February 1944 and his time in a local prison which was struck by Allied bombers; their mother’s first arrest in 1937 while pregnant and the Gestapo’s ransacking of their apartment in search of Bible literature; their mother’s imprisonment in Steinwache prison and being beaten so badly there that she had to get an abortion; their mother’s sentencing to one and a half years at the Anrath prison near Krefeld, Germany; their memories of their mother’s return from prison in 1939; their parents holding secret Bible study meetings; their mother’s second arrest and time in the same local prison as their father that was bombed; their parents’ time in a prison in Potsdam, Germany starting in August 1944; their father receiving a sentence to six years in a Ludwigsburg, Germany prison, where he remained until liberation, and their mother’s death sentence; their parents’ charges of undermining the Nazi Wehrmacht morale; their mother smuggling out notes to them detailing the accusations and charges; reflecting back on their Bible teachings; visiting their mother in prison before her execution; resurrection in the Bible; their experiences in school related to their religious beliefs; helping to publish and secretly deliver copies of the 1937 Jehovah’s Witnesses resolution against Hitler; how they survived on farms after their parents were imprisoned; how they relied on their religion during the Nazi rule; their father’s release from prison and return home in April 1945; their mother’s execution in December 1944 and the last letter they received from her; their reactions to receiving the letter; receiving an official notice from the Berlin penitentiary director of their mother’s execution; the complications of getting their mother’s personal items returned to the family; reuniting with their father after his liberation by French forces; moving back to Herne; Gisela’s marriage and raising her two children to be Jehovah’s Witnesses; and Gerd’s work as a coal miner and as a preacher around Germany. (Family photographs and descriptions follow the interview.)

Some video files begin with 10-60 seconds of color bars.
Gerd Gotthold
Gisela Tillmann
Robert Buckley
interview:  1991 July 20
1 videocassette (VHS) : sound, color ; 1/2 in..
Record last modified: 2023-11-16 07:59:24
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