Thursday, August 27, 2009

Court Cases & Polish Brothers Released From Jail

The following court-case experiences are also in the 1994 Yearbook, along with the conclusion of what happened to the Polish brothers who were jailed, and the problems Witness children faced in school...

(photo & experience of Jan Śmieszko on pgs 193 & 194)

Attacks and Counterattacks
The Roman Catholic clergy resorted with increasing frequency to slander against Jehovah’s servants, especially in the press. They also demanded that the people turn in any literature received from the Bible Students so that it could be publicly burned. An instance of this that received much publicity took place in Chojnice. The public prosecutor’s office there charged Brother Śmieszko, a local pioneer, with blasphemy by means of printed material. The trial, in 1933, was attended by a large crowd. A Catholic priest named Janke was called to testify. He had a Ph.D. and was a teacher of religion in the local high school. Brother Scheider represented the Society. Immortality of the soul, eternal torment, and purgatory were among the subjects discussed. Afterward, Mr. Janke, acknowledging defeat, approached Brother Scheider, shook his hand, and said that never again would he allow himself to get involved in such a case.
The Kraków newspaper Ilustrowany Kurier Codzienny (Illustrated Daily Courier) joined in the attack upon the Witnesses, falsely accusing them of being covert Communists who sang Bolshevik songs, were trained in the Soviet Union, and received payment from there. In this instance, the brothers took the newspaper’s responsible ones to court, and the editor was punished.
Mieczysław Skrudlik, a Jesuit, personally published booklets that slandered the Witnesses. But when he was taken to court, he claimed that he was ill. Three times he asked that the case be postponed. In the meantime, he moved several times and could no longer be located.
Attacks by the clergy were not all verbal, however. They and their henchmen also resorted to violence, repeatedly so. When the Witnesses engaged in their house-to-house ministry, opposers attacked them. The opposers used fists, feet, sticks, and stones, destroying Bible literature and leaving the Witnesses bloody or unconscious on the ground. Witnesses traveling to distant territories to preach were intercepted, beaten, and ducked in water; their bicycles and motorcycles were smashed; their literature was confiscated and destroyed.
A longtime pioneer, Bolesław Zawadzki, wrote in his memoirs that when a meeting was being held at his parents’ home in Kielce, a mob of 2,000 angry, shouting people surrounded the house and hurled stones. Wheelbarrows were used to bring up fresh supplies. Not until long after midnight did the “game” end. The stones that had come through the roof filled six carts when gathered up! In an attempt to ward off this wave of persecution, the brothers sometimes succeeded in having the actual perpetrators punished. Less often they were able to bring to justice the real instigators, the clergy.

(photo & experience of Jan W. Rynkiewicz on pgs 237-239)

In 1972, opposers thought they had found a new weapon. An officer in the security service had for many years collected slanderous material against the Witnesses. He was now using it to write a thesis in pursuit of his Doctor of Arts degree. Entitled “The Contents and Form of Propaganda Used by the Sect of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Polish People’s Republic,” it was designed to serve later as a manual for legal officials in their fight against the Witnesses.
Before the degree could be conferred, however, the thesis had to be defended in a public discussion. This was usually just a formality. But as soon as the brothers found out when and where this was to occur, they made it a matter of prayer. Despite having little time to prepare, they decided to use this as an opportunity to defend Jehovah’s name and his people.
Thus, on May 31, 1972, when Henryk Skibiński presented his venomous thesis at the University in Toruń, Jehovah’s Witnesses were in the audience. Skibiński claimed that Jehovah’s Witnesses were hostile to the State and its allies, were spies of an unfriendly superpower, and were enemies, among other things, of science, blood transfusions, and evolution. But he did feel obliged to mention that they were known to be conscientious and honest citizens. The professor who would confer the degree as well as the reviewers then spoke. Afterward, those in attendance were asked to express themselves.
Brother Jan Waldemar Rynkiewicz from Bydgoszcz seized the opportunity to speak at length, thoroughly refuting the charge that Jehovah’s Witnesses were hostile to the State and were spies. He pointed out inconsistencies in Mr. Skibiński’s thesis and the partiality in his argumentation. (He had, for example, entirely omitted the fact that the courts had abandoned the accusation of espionage and had vindicated many of the Witnesses.) Furthermore, Brother Rynkiewicz drew special attention to the contribution made by the Witnesses to nonblood surgery—another point that Mr. Skibiński had omitted. The examining board accepted the documents that Brother Rynkiewicz submitted. Brothers Zygmunt Sawicki and Józef Rajchel, who were also in the audience, then courageously presented the Bible’s view of Christian involvement in politics and worldly conflicts. All in attendance listened with rapt attention. During his attempted refutation, Mr. Skibiński lost his temper, and the chairman was forced to cut him off. The Doctor of Arts degree was not conferred, much to the chagrin of Skibiński’s relatives and friends, who were left standing with flowers in their hands but with no one to congratulate.
Thus, exactly 50 years after the Witnesses had had a famous discussion with Jesuits in Kraków, another group of Witnesses had also fought a victorious battle—this time with an equally desperate, atheistic adversary. From that time on, the authorities were somewhat less enthusiastic about trying to justify their persecution of the Witnesses. Also, the way in which officials dealt with Jehovah’s Witnesses began to change

(the conclusion of yesterday's 'part 2' post - on pgs 228-231)
...With loving concern for all the congregations, two district servants who had managed to avoid detention, along with several other experienced brothers, began making plans to supply the brotherhood with spiritual food. They devised a communications system that proved effective for almost 40 years. Circuit overseers were appointed to carry on the work formerly done by those imprisoned, and by the end of 1952, despite constant harassment, the number preaching to others about God’s Kingdom had increased to 19,991!
This was not what the security forces had expected. Their plan had been to rid Poland of Jehovah’s Witnesses within two years. Angered by their failure, they plotted what they viewed as a final, knockout blow. A new wave of arrests ensued. Four members of the Country Committee, as well as other zealous brothers and sisters, were seized. Plans were made for holding a show trial in Łódź. During the months before the trial, one of the brothers died, several suffered nervous breakdowns, and another, Zygfryd Adach, was released because of a serious illness he contracted while in prison. After more than two years of preparation, a five-day trial began on March 10, 1955. The result was the handing down of the severest verdicts since the Warsaw trial. Three members of the Country Committee, Jan Lorek, Tadeusz Chodara, and Władysław Szklarzewicz, were sentenced to 12 years in prison each.
Did that frighten other Witnesses into silence?

Youths Demonstrate Faith and Courage
Even young Witnesses attending school held firm to their faith. True, at school they were bombarded with atheistic ideas. Those who resisted were mocked. Political matters were often included in the curriculum, and attendance at marches or demonstrations was compulsory. Some schools introduced military classes. Those who conscientiously objected to participation were usually expelled. But instead of becoming disheartened, many of these young Witnesses went into the pioneer service, thereby making a major contribution to the spread of the Kingdom message. In 1954, with due caution, a number of special meetings lasting several days were held with the pioneers. They were given information from some of the talks delivered in New York during the 1953 international New World Society Assembly. What a source of spiritual refreshment! How strengthening to be reminded in this way that they were part of the loving worldwide brotherhood of Jehovah’s people!
And what were the brothers in prison doing?

Prisons—A Field for Evangelizing
Władysław Przybysz, imprisoned for the first time from 1952 to 1956 and released the fourth time in 1969, recalls: “A prison sentence was accepted as being a work assignment in territory not accessible to others.” As a result of the preaching done behind prison bars, many prisoners heard about Jehovah and his marvelous purposes. The imprisoned brothers also organized small groups and arranged to hold short meetings daily. Even behind prison bars, “the number of the disciples kept multiplying.”—Acts 6:7. Thanks to the exemplary behavior of the Witnesses, there was also a gradual change in the attitude of some of the prison personnel. Romuald Stawski remembers that in one prison the menu was changed so that the Witnesses were no longer tested by being given food containing blood. One day two large food containers were brought into the cell, one full of blood sausage, the other containing vegetable soup. “This [soup] is just for the Witnesses,” the guard stressed.

Prison Doors Swing Open
However, by 1956 the official attitude toward Jehovah’s Witnesses began to change. In the spring a district overseer from Kraków was released from prison and was told that the authorities were ready to negotiate with the Witnesses. The matter was given consideration, and an official delegation of three brothers was chosen to approach the Office for Religious Affairs.
The three brothers emphasized that they were interested only in getting information, that the only ones authorized to negotiate were the Society’s imprisoned directors. But the Office for Religious Affairs manifested no willingness to deal with convicts. A second meeting also ended without apparent results when the three brothers stressed that as far as the Witnesses were concerned, the imprisoned directors were innocent. Soon, however, many brothers and sisters, some imprisoned since 1950, were being released. Included were three members of the board of directors and the members of the Country Committee who had been sentenced later. Finally, in August 1956, Wilhelm Scheider was also freed. What had happened?
More was involved than political changes. The two brothers mentioned earlier who had given false testimony retracted it, and on this basis the charges against the directors were formally dropped. But there was more to it. Officials could see that Jehovah’s Witnesses were growing in numbers, and at a rapid rate. Within three years the number of Kingdom publishers had reached 37,411, an increase of 87 percent! Later, in 1972, a well-informed agent of the security service acknowledged: “We see that making announcements about the court trials of Jehovah’s Witnesses and about their propaganda has not weakened the organization but has had just the opposite effect.” Loyalty to Jehovah had won the day!