Stanford University Home

Stanford News Archive

Stanford Report, April 5, 2000

Holocaust resistance to Nazis to be topic of April 12 program

A program on the little-known history of Jehovah's Witnesses in the Holocaust will be held at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 12, in Kresge Auditorium.

History Professor James Sheehan and psychology Professor Philip G. Zimbardo have teamed up with the Bay Area chapter of Stand Firm Education Group to sponsor the event, which will include interviews with three Holocaust survivors, a 28-minute documentary video and a panel discussion by scholars on the significance of the history of Jehovah's Witnesses in Nazi Germany.

The event is intended to provide Bay Area educators with information and materials they can use in their courses, said Ernie Garrett of Millbrae, a local member of the Stand Firm group. "This is not about religion but about helping young people stand up to hatred." Similar educational programs have been held at universities in several states, he said.

Sheehan said the Holocaust is "usually and quite reasonably and rightly studied as about the mass murder of Jews," but thousands of Jehovah's Witnesses suffered greatly too.

"Because they do not swear oaths or serve in the military, they are often in trouble with governments, including the American," Sheehan said. "But in Nazi Germany, they were in very serious trouble. These people were, in the classical definition of the term, martyrs, as they were given a choice of abandoning their beliefs or dying" in concentration camps.

Zimbardo was unavailable for comment, but Sheehan said his colleague in psychology was particularly interested in the Jehovah's Witnesses situation as an example of resistance in the face of extreme pressure. Zimbardo's research includes projects on understanding the perpetrators and survivors of evil. Although he will not attend, Zimbardo will videotape a presentation for the event. Other scholars who will discuss it are John K. Roth, chair of the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Claremont McKenna College, and John M. Steiner, senior resident scholar at the Holocaust Studies Center of Sonoma State University.

The event is free but advance registration is required by April 7 for a limited number of tickets still available. To register for tickets online, visit or call 697-1475. SR