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“But we think it proper to hear from you what your thoughts are, for truly as regards this sect it is known to us that everywhere it is spoken against.”—Acts 28:22


Ravensbrück and blutwurst

The following concerns a situation that occurred in the Nazi Ravensbrück Concentration Camp, which like the other camps was controlled by the Schutzstaffel or SS. Unlike the other camps, this one was for women prisoners. In 1942, 275 of them were Jehovah's Witnesses, also called Bible Students.ftn1 One of these was Gertrud Poetzinger. Significantly, her husband was "Martin Poetzinger, who later served as a member of the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses."ftn2 The "Block Senior" or overseer of the Witness barracks was Margaret Buber. She reports a situation when a minority, about 25 of them, refused to eat blood sausage, or blutwurst.ftn3 The following will address questions about this event, with page references to the book by Margaret Buber, Under Two Dictators.

  • Were the female Jehovah's Witnesses fully informed of the blood stance published in their literature (which appeared during 1927-1940)?

No. Margaret Buber reports that this insight into the scriptural use of blood was independently gleaned from personal Bible reading. (Page 236.)

  • Did they have a variety of food rations to choose from?

No. Margaret Buber reports specifically that "pod vegetables disappeared entirely, the fat in food became less and less, the weekly portion of fat stopped altogether, and jam was reduced to about a spoonful a week." She adds that the sugar was gone for them, and all they could scrounge was inferior fish paste and unpalatable vegetable salad. Thus, the blutwurst became a "superior item of food." (Page 236.)

  • Was any alternative food offered to them?

Margaret Buber reports that she offered them liver sausage, but that they rejected it to her frustration. (Page 236.) The reason for this additional rejection could be that they had sound suspicion that blood was still a likely ingredient. Thus, a moment's reflection on their likely suspicion on blood being an ingredient would have diffused her frustration.

  • Was it always about 25 out of the 275 who rejected the blutwurst?

No. Margaret Buber reports that the minority view grew in number, and she describes all 275 of them as a "peaceful Bible Student Block," which agitated the SS enough to relocate a hundred miscreants, called "Asocials," into their barracks. This may be an unlikely reprisal if it remained a minority. As they were all in the same physical condition and had peace and unity among themselves, it appears that the minority view won out. (Pages 236-7.)ftn4

  • Did Gertrud Poetzinger eat blutwurst?

If the answer is 'no,' that she was among the initial 25 abstainers, that would be fine and commendable. If the answer is 'yes,' that may be interesting on a historical level, but on a religious level, it would be less than relevant, due to repentance. The ones who did eat it did so initially out of ignorance of the controversy. Then after personal Bible reading made the insight known, it was variance of conscience under the hostile conditions Nazi concentration camps were notorious for that permitted others to continue eating it. Shortly thereafter, the view of rejecting it grew in number to the point where they were seen as a threat to the SS's control. Therefore, the ones who ate it initially must have repented!—Acts 17:30.

In conclusion, there are many examples of Jehovah's Witnesses being faithful to God's law on the proper use of blood, even under harsh and pressing circumstances.


1. Buber, Margaret. Under Two Dictators. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1949. 235-7. (Author's surname is also known as Buber-Neumann.) (back)

2. Jehovah's Witnesses: Proclaimers of God's Kingdom. Brooklyn: Watchtower Bible and Track Society of New York, 1993. 158. (back)

3. Under Two Dictators. supra note 1, 236. (back)

4. Krause-Schmitt, Ursula. "Resistance and Persecution of Female Jehovah's Witnesses." Persecution and Resistance of Jehovah's Witnesses During the Nazi Regime. Ed. Hans Hesse. Bremen: Berghahn Books, 2001. 200-1. (back)

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