"Be on YOUR guard against men; for they will deliver YOU up to local courts, and they will scourge YOU in their synagogues. Why, YOU will be haled before governors and kings for my sake, for a witness to them and the nations." (Matthew 10:17, 18)
But despite all the hardship these brothers & sisters had to endure, what they went through wasn't in vain. Like Jesus said, it serves as 'a witness' by clearing our reputation from all the slander and misrepresentation that's been heaped upon us and our beliefs, since it provides a clear written testimony recorded by our own enemies! Which helps to "shut the mouths" of opposers, as mentioned at (Titus 1:10) "For there are many unruly men, profitless talkers, and deceivers of the mind,...It is necessary to shut the mouths of these."
Report Issued On Witnesses
Dr. Pasquale Andriani, the General Superintendent of Police at Avezzano (Abruzzi), carried out an inquiry in accordance with the dispositions set forth in the previously mentioned circular. On January 12, 1940, he sent his report to the Public Prosecutor of the Special Tribunal for the Protection of the State. He also sent a copy to the chief of police. The subject of his report was, “The Religious Sect of ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses.’” Here are a few of the salient points:
“In a circular issued last August, the Ministry for Home Affairs gave instructions regarding the identification of members of those sects extending their activities to the political field. These sects should therefore be considered and dealt with in the same way as political movements of a subversive nature. . .
“The sect [of Jehovah’s Witnesses] is particularly dangerous from a political point of view. . . .
“In short, it can be said that [from the booklet, Warning] Il Duce is likened to the giant Goliath and that ‘the hateful monstrosity of today is the Totalitarian Regime under an absolute and arbitrary dictator’ and supported by the Church of Rome, ‘the great harlot.’ After having subjugated the Italian people, this Regime has embarked upon the conquest of Ethiopia ‘at the cost of so many human lives.’ . . .
“However, the most serious aspect of the question arises from their respect for the Christian precept ‘thou shalt not kill,’ and their conviction that on no account should they take up arms against their fellowman.
“They feel, therefore, that they should be exempt from any kind of military service. Their young people refuse to do preliminary training and if they are imprisoned for this stand, they again refuse to participate at the end of their sentence.”
The Investigators Are Unmasked
The authorities were moving against us in no uncertain way. But why? Who was really behind the campaign of arrests? When speaking of the closing down of the Milan office, the above-mentioned report explicitly stated: “After only a few months the office was closed by the Milan police because of the anti-Fascist tone of the books distributed and the reaction of the Catholic clergy.”
The report goes on to mention the activity of the 26 Witnesses arrested as those chiefly responsible for this religious movement in Italy.
The fact that the clergy were mainly responsible for stirring up trouble with the Fascist authorities is further shown by the false accusations contained in an article published in the Catholic journal Fides of February 1939. This article, written by an anonymous “priest and guardian of souls,” stated:
“Rutherford [the second president of the Watch Tower Society] . . . undermines the basic principles sustaining the nations and peoples. . . The Jehovah’s Witness movement is an expression of atheistic Communism and an open attack on State security.”
The Fascist authorities could hardly ignore these accusations from the highly respected clergy. Jehovah’s Witnesses were therefore persecuted and accused of ‘overthrowing kingdoms and governments’ and working to establish an ‘atheistic Communist Utopia.’
(isn't that unbelievable? Jehovah's Witnesses would end up spending even more time in Communist Soviet prisons and Siberian exile than they had originally spent in Nazi concentration camps, due to the fact that we are AGAINST communism, and quite obviously we aren't atheists. lol)
The Work Is Completely Banned
After receipt of this report, the Ministry for Home Affairs sent out another circular, the last of its kind, in which Jehovah’s Witnesses were clearly identified and banned. It was circular No. 441/02977 of March 13, 1940, referring to “The religious sect of ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses’ or ‘Bible Students’ and other religious sects whose principles are contrary to our institutions.” It stated:
“After the distribution of the ministerial circular No. 441/027713 of August 22, 1939, closer investigation has been made into those religious sects that are separate and distinct from the known ‘Pentecostal’ sect and whose doctrines are contrary to our State system.
“From such investigation, it has been possible to ascertain that the ‘Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society - International Bible Students’ Association - Brooklyn New York-U.S.A.’ . . . is an independent evangelical sect, commonly known as ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses’ or ‘Bible Students.’ A consideration of the statements made by many of its [members] on arrest, and an examination of the printed matter found in their possession, has enabled us clearly to delineate the characteristics of the sect. . . .
“The only law recognized by ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses’ is the law of God; however, they do admit the observance of civil law where this is not in conflict with divine law. . . .
“‘Jehovah’s Witnesses’ proclaim that both ‘Il Duce’ and Fascism originate from the Devil and that, after a period of short-lived victory, these phenomena must unfailingly meet their downfall as foretold in the book of Revelation. . . .
“No efforts should be spared, therefore, to repress the slightest manifestations of this sect’s activity. Since it is sustained by printed matter edited by the ‘Watch Tower,’ you are authorized to take vigorous measures so that such literature be confiscated at every opportunity or intercepted should it be sent through the mail.”*
The passages cited from the three circulars have been taken from the book Provvedimenti ostativi dell’autorità di polizia e garanzie costituzionali per il libero esercizio dei culti ammessi (Repressive Measures Taken by Police Authorities and the Freedom to Practice Certain Cults as Guaranteed by the Constitution), by Giorgio Peyrot and published by Giuffrè.
The Fascist Special Tribunal came into being after an attempt to kill Mussolini at Bologna in October 1926. It was one of the many measures taken to nip anti-Fascist dissent in the bud. Officially known as “The Special Tribunal for the Protection of the State,” it remained in operation from 1927 to 1943, during which period it pronounced over 5,000 verdicts, including 42 death sentences (31 of which were carried out). Its headquarters were at the Palace of Justice in Rome.
On April 19, 1940, in the austere courtroom of the Palace of Justice, the judges were seated at their imposing semicircular bench under the presidency of the widely feared Tringali Casanova. The accused persons were sitting in a row on one side of the court under the surveillance of a number of carabinieri (officers). There were four women and 22 men, the latter in handcuffs. It was a repeat performance of what happened to true Christians in the days of ancient Rome.
Sister Pizzato relates: “The trial was nothing but a farce. It was over and done with in a single day and the sentences had evidently been decided upon in advance...
“The court had assigned our defense to a number of lawyers from the Rome forum. I must say they made out a good case for the defense and spoke on our behalf with such warmth that the president, with evident sarcasm, asked one of them if by any chance he had been converted to the Jehovah’s Witness religion!”
The seven defending lawyers did their best, but the brothers were inevitably found guilty. One of the lawyers had the courage to call the 26 Witnesses, “the flower of the Italian nation.” Another asked: “If the Fascist regime is as strong as it claims, why is it afraid of these people?” Yet another said: “This trial reminds me of another one held 19 centuries ago when Pilate posed the question, ‘What is truth?’” He then made a gesture in the direction of the brothers and said: “These people here are telling us the truth and yet you want to send them to prison; these good people should be highly respected for their faith.” Another lawyer declared: “Although there are 26 of them, they speak as one man because they all have the same Teacher.”—John 18:33-38.
Before the Tribunal, the brothers were courageous and strong, even though some of them had been threatened under questioning and feared they might be given the death sentence. Brother Guerino D’Angelo recalls:
“Only one of our group of 26 let himself be overwhelmed by the fear of man and compromised. He signed a declaration of submission to the Fascist State, which was read out by one of the judges. Nonetheless, he was sentenced just the same. Turning to the brothers, the judge commented: ‘This man is no good to us or to you.’ Afterward, this person left the truth and was one of the very few who did not keep integrity.”
These brothers were condemned to a total of 186 years and 10 months’ imprisonment. The individual sentences ranged from two to 11 years. The ruling of this Tribunal was final and there was no possibility of appeal. The brothers sentenced remained in prison until the Fascist regime fell. They were released, with some exceptions, after August 1943.
The volume entitled Aula IV—Tutti i processi del Tribunale Speciale fascista (Court Room IV—All the Trials of the Fascist Special Tribunal) mentions verdict No. 50 of April 19, 1940, relative to the 26 Jehovah’s Witnesses, commenting as follows:
“A religious movement that originated in the U.S.A. began to spread in Italy. Its followers, called ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses,’ underwent constant persecution from the Fascists. Nevertheless, they continued to proclaim their aversion to the war, refusing to take up arms against their fellowman and considering the Fascist regime a ‘Satanic emanation.’ The greatest wave of arrests took place in the autumn of 1939. (Formation of an association contrary to the national interest; membership of the same; propaganda; insulting the ‘duce’ and the pope.)”
Some idea of the accusations brought against the brothers can be had from the document issued to Sister Pizzato by the Procura del Re (public prosecutor’s office) of Vicenza. She had been sentenced on five counts: “Five years’ imprisonment for associating with a view to political conspiracy; one year’s imprisonment for offending the dignity and prestige of the ‘Duce’ of Fascism, Head of the Government; two years’ imprisonment for offending the Supreme Pontiff; one year’s imprisonment for offending the dignity of the Head of a Foreign State [Hitler] and two years’ imprisonment for offending the prestige of the King and Emperor.”
Since 13 of the 26 accused Witnesses were from the Abruzzi region, the book Abruzzo, un profilo storico (A Historic Outline of the Abruzzi Region), by Raffaele Colapietra (published by Rocco Carabba), declares: “[In the Abruzzi region] no single political party, not even the Communists, can boast a group so numerous and so hard hit as these meek harmless peasants from the coastal area.”