About 154 Witnesses who were Austrian citizens perished in the Holocaust.
On May 19, 2017, Techelsberg, Austria held a ceremony to remember Jehovah’s Witnesses who were imprisoned in concentration camps during the Second World War. The event saw the unveiling of a memorial plaque acknowledging the 31 Jehovah’s Witnesses who were victims of Nazi ideology in Techelsberg.
According to the Austrian ministry for education and religion, the country had formally recognized the Jehovah's Witnesses movement as a religion in 2009. The group had campaigned for this status for about 30 years. About 20,000 Witnesses now enjoy their faith being formally recognized by a decision stemming from a ruling set by European Court of Human Rights.
When the Second World War broke out, Austria had about 550 Witnesses. Of them, 212 were dispatched to concentration camps as they were erroneously believed to be a threat to Nazi regime. Due to their a neutral stand towards war and politics. They refused to support the war efforts. Things became so bad that the Witnesses were forced to wear distinctive purple triangles on uniforms for their identification. About 154 Witnesses who were Austrian citizens perished in the Holocaust.
The memorial service started with 60 a cappella vocalists singing “Forward, You Witnesses!” The song was composed by Erich Frost, an inmate of Sachsenhausen concentration camp. After the song introduction Techelsberg Mayor Johann Koban, Professors Vinzenz Jobst and Peter Gstettner, and Peter Stocker, the grandson of Techelsberg victim Gregor Wohlfahrt, gave speeches to the 350 strong attendees. Dr. Peter Kaiser, the state governor, was also present, and gave a speech. The event was covered by a number of local newspapers and by two television stations.
Thanks to Austria recognizing Jehovah's Witnesses as a religion, the movement now has the power to raise funds and have its beliefs placed in school curricula. It can also establish hospitals and appoint military chaplains. Jehovah's Witnesses now counts as the fifth largest religion in Austria.
On September 25, 2012 the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the Austrian government discriminated against the Jehovah's Witnesses. It ordered the administration to pay about 13,000 euros or $16,600 to make up the legal costs of Witnesses. This stems from 2002, when the Austrian government refused the residency of two ministers linked with Jehovah's Witnesses who came to the country to do pastoral work amongst Tagalog speaking Witnesses present in Austria.
- JW.org -Town in Austria Honors 31 Jehovah’s Witnesses, Victims of Nazi Regime
- JW.org -Austria Ordered to Compensate Jehovah’s Witnesses for Discrimination
- JW.org –Forward, You Witnesses!