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Josef Schoen

Tsikov, Czechoslovakia

Josef was born to German Catholic parents. They lived in a Moravian village near the city of Sternberk in a German-inhabited region known as the Sudetenland. At that time Czechoslovakia was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Upon graduation from a textile school, Josef supervised 600 employees at a silk factory in Moravska Trebova.

1933-39: After serving in the Czechoslovak army, I became a Jehovah's Witness in Prague, and refused to have anything more to do with the military, following the Witnesses' strict adherence to the commandment "Thou shalt not kill." In 1938 I was briefly arrested for refusing call-up in the Czechoslovak army. When the Germans took Prague in 1939, I managed to ship out the Witnesses office's printing machines and set them up again in Holland.

1940-44: I worked in Vienna for the Jehovah's Witness underground. My job was dangerous--supplying literature to our congregations in Austria. The Gestapo promptly arrested me. The court sentenced me to 10 years imprisonment, but first I was sent to do slave labor in a series of camps in the swamps of northwest Germany. Near the end of the war I again refused military service and was force-marched to various prisons and camps in southern Germany. Hundreds of prisoners died.

Josef was liberated by U.S. troops in May 1945 after surviving a forced march to the Dachau concentration camp. He subsequently emigrated to Canada.

 

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