Faded blue and offwhite vertically striped, hip length, cloth jacket with long sleeves and a pointed collar with a hook and eye closure. The underside of the collar is made from a darker striped cloth. The front opening has full length plackets on both sides with 5 gray metal buttons on the right and 5 finished buttonholes on the left. A large patch pocket made front different blue and offwhite striped cloth is sewn to the right hip. There is an added seam on both sides, an alteration for a better, probably closer fit. The interior neck band has an offwhite cloth hanging loop and the number 50 stamped in faded black ink below. The hems and seams are machine finished. Two patches are neatly hand sewn on the front left breast with white thread: an inverted purple triangle with the lower point covered by a rectangular stained white patch stenciled with prisoner number 13573. The cloth is stained and repaired.
overall: Height: 25.875 inches (65.723 cm) | Width: 15.875 inches (40.323 cm)
overall : cloth, metal, thread, ink
front, left breast, white patch, stenciled, black ink : 13573
interior, upper back, stamped, black ink : 50
Max E. Hollweg
Max Eugen Hollweg was born on December 7, 1910, in Remscheid, Germany, to Otto and Anna Biesel Hollweg, who were Jehovah’s Witnesses. Max was the sixteenth of nineteen children. Otto was a blacksmith. In 1918, the family moved to Marienfels. In 1921, Otto died unexpectedly and even the youngest children began working. After Max attended elementary school, he worked with a farmer, then as a stonemason. In 1930, Max was baptized as a Jehovah’s Witness. In 1931, Max went to Prague as a missionary and preacher. In about 1933, Max was arrested in Zlin and taken to Glatz. He was not able to return to Prague, so he returned to Marienfels.
In January 1933, Hitler came to power in Germany and soon the Nazi dictatorship was established. The regime actively persecuted Jehovah’s Witnesses, whose religious convictions led them to refuse to swear loyalty to a worldly government or serve in the armed forces. The Nazis regarded this refusal to pledge loyalty to the state, and their missionary activity, as subversive political acts. Max’s passport was taken away and he was placed under police surveillance. He attempted to illegally escape to Switzerland but was unsuccessful, so he returned home. He got a job but was fired after three weeks because he refused to say Heil Hitler. He was not allowed to receive unemployment benefits. Max eventually found a job as a gardener while secretly continuing his work for the Jehovah’s Witnesses. On September 1, 1936, Max was arrested and imprisoned in the county court because of his illegal activity with the Jehovah’s Witnesses. He was released due to insufficient evidence on September 8. His house was searched by the police every three months. In June 1937, Max sent an open letter to officials in Koblenz, denouncing the persecution by the Nazi regime.
On July 7, 1938, Max was arrested by the Gestapo for illegally distributing Jehovah’s Witnesses materials and sent to the police prison in Frankfurt. Every eight days, he was interrogated by the Gestapo for lists of Jehovah’s Witnesses. They acted like they were going to shoot him if he did not give names. On September 23, he was transferred to Buchenwald concentration camp on a bus with professional criminals. He was assigned prisoner number 4354 and placed in the political department. He was beaten for being a Jehovah’s Witness and lost several teeth. Max was put in a punishment commando and issued a uniform with a purple triangle patch. After two weeks, he was beaten again. He hauled building materials. In the fall, his hands and feet were frozen, but he received no treatment. He then got a lung infection with a high fever and was not treated because of his religion. He was carried back and forth from work by his fellow Jehovah’s Witnesses. He eventually got medicine after hiding his identity to get treatment. After he recovered, he worked in the heating department with 31 other asocials and criminals. The prisoners threw their cigarette butts on the ground and were punished by being forced to stand for hours. They were later given the day off but when a German saw them doing nothing, they were punished. On July 17, 1939, Max needed hernia surgery on his intestines. The German doctors performed the surgery without anesthesia while he was held down by four men. After nine days, he was forced to split wood and reopened his wound. Max, along with other Jehovah’s Witnesses who were missing legs, had to stand at attention in the heat for over four hours while the other prisoners were allowed to stand in the shade. His intestines hung out of his wound to his knee.
On May 25, 1940, Max was transferred to Wewelsburg labor camp, a subcamp of Sachenhausen concentration camp. He was assigned prisoner number 89. Max’s skills as a mason and brick layer were important because the prisoners worked on the construction of Himmler’s castle near Paderborn. Max had a childhood friend, a countess, who worked for the SS and helped him protect his fellow Jehovah’s Witnesses. Max and his friend intercepted and destroyed orders for punishment. On September 1, 1941, the camp became autonomous and the name was changed to Niederhagen. In April 1943, Niederhagen was dissolved. Many prisoners were sent to larger concentration camps, but Max and a group of about 40 Jehovah’s Witnesses remained in Wewelsburg on a work detail. Max’s prisoner number was changed to 13573. The inmates were forced to build a small camp surrounded by an electric barbed wire fence. The electrician was a Jehovah’s Witness and made the fence turn off whenever the gate was open. The prisoners could move around freely when the fence was off. When part of the industrial premises caught on fire, the prisoners took a typewriter. They used the typewriter to make stencils for a duplicating machine built with smuggled parts. They printed the Watchtower, Jehovah’s Witnesses literature, in the dormitory and smuggled the materials through the electric fence. On April 2, 1945, Max was liberated in Wewelsburg by American forces. The prisoners were supposed to be taken to the forest and killed by the SS, but the Americans attacked Wewelsburg and Max and the other prisoners hid in the castle until the fighting was over.
Max initially remained in Wewelsburg because he was too sick to leave. He then went to Bueren, where he worked in the Department of Health. He later married Tilda, a Jehovah’s Witness. The couple had two sons. In 1951, they settled in Schlangen, Germany, where Max became a medical practitioner. Max was in his late nineties when he passed away between 2004 and 2008.