Sunday, August 23, 2009

Yearbook Experiences - Persecution in Poland -pt 1

*the following experiences are prime examples of how even religious communities with normal church-going citizens, can turn into angry mobs when they are misinformed and roused to action, by respected authority figures who abuse their position. The first story is pretty amusing, but the second one is very upsetting (just to warn you)

(photo & experience of Franciszek Puchała on pgs 182-185 of the 1994 Yearbook)

Theologians Try to Discredit Bible Students
...Brother Winiarz, a wealthy but self-sacrificing man, bought a house in Kraków to use as a meeting place. In 1922 that house served as the site of a debate between three brothers and three Catholic theologians. The previous year Franciszek Puchała had returned from America and privately published a leaflet containing a list of 13 church doctrines. He offered 10,000 Polish marks to anyone for each doctrine that the person could prove to be based on the Holy Scriptures. Included were immortality of the human soul, hellfire, purgatory, sacrifice of the Mass, celibacy of the clergy, confession to priests, use of the rosary, and so forth. “It was like poking a stick into an anthill,” Brother Puchała later wrote. The clergy, speaking through Catholic papers, demanded a public renunciation of the leaflet. Otherwise, they declared, they would prosecute Franciszek Puchała for slandering the church. Not to be intimidated, he called for a public discussion. After consulting the Roman Curia, the clergy agreed to a discussion, but only behind closed doors, ‘because of the sacred nature of the things involved,’ as they put it. Brother Puchała agreed. So sure were the clergy that they would win that they arranged to have present a lawyer who was to launch legal action against the brothers as soon as they were defeated. Arrogantly the church newspaper declared: “We will see who is right—the centuries-old Roman Catholic Church or this pitiful handful of misled creatures who are incapable of even correctly reading the Holy Scriptures.”
The well-known Jesuit theologian Jan Rostworowski led the Catholic delegation, accompanied by two other priests. The Bible Students were represented by Franciszek Puchała and two other brothers. Stenographers, as well as several persons to serve as witnesses, were also present. The Jesuits came equipped with two large suitcases full of books. The brothers had only their Bibles and Greek and Hebrew dictionaries. The clergymen asked that point 13 on the leaflet (immortality of the soul) be considered first. After two hours or so, the theologians excused themselves, saying they had no more time, and left. Although never publicly conceding defeat, they did confess in a newspaper article: “We must admit that the Bible Students . . . are not totally ignorant.” The entire discussion was published in a booklet entitled Bitwa na niebie (The Battle in the Heavens), which had an initial circulation of 10,000 copies and was reprinted a number of times. The traditionally religious community of Kraków along with the surrounding area was forced to sit up and take notice.

The clergy, of course, never forgave Brother Puchała for publicly undermining the authority of the Roman Catholic Church. They tried everything possible to make his life difficult. A policeman was sent to take notes at meetings held in his home, and he was later hauled into court several times. More than once hired killers threatened his life, but Jehovah protected him.
During a sermon in the village of Wawrzeńczyce, a priest incited the people to attack Brother Puchała with wooden clubs when he came to give a discourse. A group of overly zealous women were anxious to do the priest’s bidding. They lay in wait for Brother Puchała from early morning until late afternoon. When he arrived, he addressed them calmly, saying: “The one among you without sin should strike me with her club first.” Eventually the women withdrew. Upon returning home, however, they were struck by their husbands with the very clubs they had taken to use on Brother Puchała. Why? Because the husbands were upset at having been forced to wait so long for dinner!

1946 - After the War

(Postwar convention, held in September 1946, at Katowice - with 5,300 in attendance / photo on pg 215 of the 1994 Yearbook)

(15-year old Henryka Żur, martyred 3 years after this photo because she would not make the Catholic sign of the cross)

(the following experiences on pgs 217 & 218)
In 1946, reports began reaching the branch office telling of vicious acts of brutality against Jehovah’s Witnesses in various parts of the country. Particularly ruthless in their opposition were the guerrilla squads of the Narodowe Siły Zbrojne (National Armed Forces). Their activity was directed not only against the Communist government but also, as a result of the influence of the Roman Catholic clergy, against Jehovah’s Witnesses. What they demanded was remarkably similar to what Satan wanted from Jesus Christ. Satan urged: ‘Do just one act of worship to me.’ (Matthew 4:9, 10) These Catholic guerrilla squads demanded: ‘Do just one act of worship to show you are a Catholic.’
On March 1, for example, 15-year-old Henryka Żur from near Chełm accompanied a brother from her congregation to visit interested persons in a neighboring village. It was to be her last return visit. Both publishers fell into the hands of members of the Narodowe Siły Zbrojne who were staying overnight in the village. The brother was severely beaten but escaped with his life. The sister was horribly tortured for many hours. “Think inside whatever you want to,” suggested one of her tormentors, “just make the Catholic sign of the cross. Otherwise a bullet awaits you!” Finally, her integrity unbroken, the young sister was dragged into a nearby forest and shot.
Less than three weeks later, on the evening of March 18, a mob of 30 people raided Jan Ziemcow’s home in eastern Poland. At first they tried to force the family to go to the local Catholic priest for confession and to obtain a certificate from him verifying that they had done so. When Bible truths were presented, the mob went mad. They mercilessly struck Brother Ziemcow with clubs and repeatedly ordered him to kiss a cross. In their efforts to force him to renounce the Bible and return to the Catholic Church, they beat him into unconsciousness. Then, after reviving him with cold water, they literally beat him to death. After committing this murder, they calmly sat down and ate supper before beating the rest of the family into unconsciousness.
On June 12 another murder occurred. Aleksander Kulesza, from the Podlasie area, had gone to care for Brother Kadziela and his family, who had been attacked the previous night. A terrifying sight awaited him. He found it difficult even to recognize the victims! After administering help, Brother Kulesza and his family returned home, little knowing that they had already been singled out as the next victims. That evening a gang surrounded their house and, egged on by the local parish priest, mistreated the family for six hours. So determined was the mob to force Brother Kulesza into returning to the Catholic Church that they beat him to death. His son Jerzy, though severely beaten on that occasion, entered the full-time ministry two years later and continues in that service to this day.

In 1947 a review of acts perpetrated against Jehovah’s Witnesses in Poland to try to convert them to Catholicism revealed that 4,000 persons had been mistreated—60 of them murdered. The Narodowe Siły Zbrojne had launched some 800 attacks against Jehovah’s Witnesses in their homes. Of these modern-day Witnesses of Jehovah, it can truthfully be said, even as of Jehovah’s ancient witnesses: “The world was not worthy of them.”—Hebrews 11:38.