16 / 04 / 2018Marina Amaral

Faces of Auschwitz | Deliana Rademakers

DELIANA RADEMAKERS, born in 1923, was a Jehovah’s Witness, arrested while performing house-to-house ministry. After her initial incarceration in the occupied Netherlands, she was deported to Auschwitz via the Ravensbrück concentration camp. Deliana was registered on 20 November 1942 as prisoner 25563.

In a final letter to her family, she shared her hope for freedom ‘before Psalm 18:5 [The ropes of the Grave surrounded me; The snares of death confronted me] could be fulfilled’ Within Deliana’s religious tradition, the capitalization of the word ‘Grave’ implies that she was referring to Hell, rather than her final resting place. Deliana’s letter continued, with greetings to the mother, her family, and the congregation of her Kingdom Hall, saying, “go bravely onwards without fear, Jehovah is with us, what can (mere) people do to us?” 

According to her death certificate, Deliana died in Auschwitz on 10 December 1942.

Farewell letter of Deliana Rademakers (1923 -1942). Collection of the Watch Tower Bible and Track Society of Emmen.
Farewell letter of Deliana Rademakers (1923 -1942). Collection of the Watch Tower Bible and Track Society of Emmen.

Jehovah’s Witnesses were persecuted by the Nazi regime.

The Nazi ideology was a complete contradiction between their morality and everyday practices. Even rendering homage to Hitler with the greeting “Heil Hitler!” was an affront to their faith. Jehovah’s Witnesses refused to participate in military training or serve in the army. This refusal was punishable by imprisonment, or even death. They also refused categorically to perform any work that, as they saw it, contributed directly to the war effort — as it is known, many German factories were mobilized for armaments production. As a result, many Witnesses, including women, were arrested and sent to concentration camps.

During the occupation, 20 Dutch Jehovah’s Witnesses were deported to Auschwitz.

The incomplete nature of the documentation and the various ways that prisoners were categorized makes it impossible to determine the exact number of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Auschwitz. However, it can be stated that at least 387 Witnesses passed through (or died at) the camp within a period of 5 years. This includes at least 138 people classified in the IBV category (Internationale Bibelforscher – Vereinigung [International Association of Bible Researchers]) and marked with a purple triangle—in other words, they were sent to Auschwitz because of their faith. At least 249 others were included in other prisoner categories, most often that of political prisoners; for them, their faith was an indirect cause of their imprisonment.

The records indicate that at least 152 Witnesses (men and women) who were imprisoned in Auschwitz died—132 in Auschwitz, and the other 20 in camps they were transferred to, or during evacuation or immediately after liberation. This means that at least 32% of those deported to Auschwitz died there.

It is estimated that over 3 thousand prisoners classified in category IBV were held in the concentration camps. More than 2 thousand of them came from Germany. The others were deported from The Netherlands (200 to 250 people), Austria (200), and Poland (100), along with some from Belgium, France, Czechoslovakia, and the USSR.

Contributors: Auschwitz Memorial and Museum; Seamus Bellamy;
Please do not reproduce the photos without proper attribution and context.