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GERMANY: Jehovah’s Witnesses claim archives from a military museum

Anti-war Jehovah’s Witnesses claim property of archives from a military museum

The anti-war movement of Jehovah’s Witnesses sues a German military Museum about property rights on archives of Kusserow family, one of their Holocaust victims

By Willy Fautré, director of Human Rights Without Frontiers

 

The European Times (26.01.2022) – https://bit.ly/3G5IT87 – As reported by The New York Times on 25 January, Jehovah’s Witnesses in Germany are seeking to obtain the extensive archives of the Kusserow family, decimated by the Nazis during WW II, which are currently held by the Bundeswehr Military History Museum in Dresden, Germany. Jehovah’s Witnesses in Germany claim to be the legal heir to the archive.

 

Noteworthy is that Jehovah’s Witnesses have always been against war and military solutions in conflictual situations between two or several countries. In conformity with their religious beliefs, they have always refused to carry out military service everywhere around the world. Thousands of them in South Korea, Greece, France and many other countries have spent many years in prison because of their anti-war religious beliefs and in Nazi Germany a number of their objectors were even executed. ‘Irony of history’, a military museum is now in possession of the decimated Kusserow family and beyond the legal property issue, German Jehovah’s Witnesses feel offended by what they call a gross moral injustice. For years, they have only been able to see the Kusserow family archive in a military building exhibiting all sorts of weapons used to kill and destroy.

The 13 members of the Kusserow family were harshly persecuted by the Nazi regime because of their religious identity. Two of the boys, Wilhelm and Wolfgang, were executed for not supporting the Nazi military effort.

Their youngest and only living sibling, Paul-Gerhard Kusserow, asserted: “My brothers died for refusing to participate in military service. I don’t find it proper that this inheritance is stored in a military museum.” Therefore, primarily to address this moral wrong, Jehovah’s Witnesses in Germany are seeking to obtain the Kusserow archive from the museum.

Additionally, Jehovah’s Witnesses say they have documentation to prove that Annemarie Kusserow, the eldest sibling, bequeathed Jehovah’s Witnesses in Germany the archive that she meticulously compiled. The archive consists of over 1,000 items that include photographs, drawings, pre-execution farewell letters, death penalty pronouncements, and classified Gestapo  reports.

Annemarie died in 2005. Subsequently, the Witnesses discovered the Bundeswehr Military History Museum had obtained the archive. According to the museum, they bought it in good faith from a Kusserow family member—who was no longer affiliated with Jehovah’s Witnesses and has since died.

For nearly seven years, Jehovah’s Witnesses in Germany have been unable to reach a peaceful settlement with the museum and have taken a legal action to acquire.

If successful, the Witnesses plan to display the Kusserow archive in their museum at the Central Europe office in Selters, Germany. It will then be accessible to any visitor free of charge.

 

History of the Persecution of the Kusserow Family

  • Wilhelm Kusserow was one of the first conscientious objectors executed by Nazis during World War II. He was killed by firing squad
  • Wolfgang Kusserow, a younger brother of Wilhelm, was beheaded two years later
  • Franz Kusserow, the father, was imprisoned three times. Annemarie and Waltraud, two of the daughters, were imprisoned
  • The mother, Hilda Kusserow, as well as two of her daughters, Hildegard and Magdalena, were imprisoned and subsequently sent to Ravensbrück concentration camp
  • Karl-Heinz Kusserow, one of the sons, was sent to the Sachsenhausen and Dachau concentration camps
  • During the 12 years of the Nazi regime, members of the Kusserow family were sentenced to a total of 47 years and 9 months in prisons or concentration camps
  • The three youngest children were abducted and sent to Nazi training schools, forbidden to contact their family. Subsequently, they were placed under the care of families who supported the National Socialist party.

 

Photo : Bundeswehr Military History Museum in Dresden, Germany. Credit: Trip Advisor

Further reading about FORB in Germany on HRWF website





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ARMENIA: Nagorno-Karabakh War: Putin destabilising Pashinyan’s regime

By Willy Fautre (Human Rights Without Frontiers)

 

The European Times (17.11.2020) – https://bit.ly/2H7PrdQ – On 9 November 2020, an armistice agreement was signed between Baku and Yerevan under the aegis of Moscow after over six weeks of fighting.

 

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s Armenia suffered a crushing defeat and lost territories that have been under its control for about 30 years. President Ilham Alijev’s Azerbaijan regained about one half of the territories seized by Armenian forces in the early 1990’s that Azerbaijan had been trying to reclaim for decades on the basis of several UN resolutions. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey asserted its ambitions to be recognised as a regional power in the Caucasus and President Vladimir Putin’s Russia imposed a unilateral peacekeeping operation under its sole authority.

 

By stopping the war, Putin is freezing – again – the conflict between the two former Soviet republics and increasing his military presence on the ground. The deployment of peace troops in Nagorno-Karabakh and the Lachin corridor strengthens Russia’s dominant position in the Caucasus, side-lining and making obsolete the OSCE Minsk Group co-chaired by France, Russia, and the US since its inception in 1992.

 

Another important opportunity for Putin to expand Russia’s reach in the region might still be to come: the toppling of Pashinyan by the same people who elected him two years ago. In the aftermath of the armistice, thousands of Armenians have expressed feeling humiliated and betrayed by their Prime Minister. They said Pashinyan did not have the right to sign such an agreement without consulting the people. They took to the streets to protest the secured territorial advances for Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh, storming the parliament building and demanding Pashinyan’s resignation. However, he refuses to step down.

 

Pashinyan was the leader of the 2018 Armenian revolution that overthrew the corrupt and dictatorial regime of Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan. On 8 May 2018, Pashinyan managed to obtain enough votes from the Parliament to become the Prime Minister himself.

 

For years, Putin has sold arms to both Azerbaijan and Armenia. He had good relations with former PM Sargsyan and so he was greatly concerned at the emergence of a people’s revolution calling for a democratic regime. Rebellions and quests for democracy and human rights in Russia’s neighbourhood are always perceived as an existential threat to Putin’s own rule because revolutions can be contagious.

 

The question is if Putin could have intervened more energetically at an earlier stage of the conflict to put an end to it or if he waited on purpose until the inevitable capitulation of Armenia to successfully push his pawns forward. Now that Pashinyan’s rule is contested, a regime change that side-lines the influence of the West in Yerevan and aligns more with Moscow might be the next episode in the post-conflict period.

 

The successful political and diplomatic operation led by Putin provides him with significant leverage to manipulate and pressure all parties in the region for a long time to come, pending a definitive solution which seems unlikely.

Photo: The European Times.





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Religious liberty endangered by French draft law against “separatism”

By Newsdesk

 

The European Times (02.11.2020) – https://bit.ly/3exzdap – France has a serious problem with radical Islam, but the draft law against “separatism” announced by President Macron may create more problems than it claims to solve. This is the conclusion of a “White Paper” co-authored or endorsed by well-known scholars of new religious movements Massimo Introvigne, an Italian sociologist and managing director of CESNUR (Center for Studies on New Religions) and Bernadette Rigal-Cellard, from the University of Bordeaux, French lecturer in law Frédéric-Jérôme Pansier, human rights activists Willy Fautré, of Brussels-based Human Rights Without Frontiers, and Alessandro Amicarelli, human rights attorney in London and chairperson of the European Federation for Freedom of Belief (FOB).

 

“Eradicating the social roots of terrorism is a laudable purpose“, say the members of the task force who is launching the White Paper, “and some provisions of the draft law make sense, but there are also serious problems.”

 

The White Paper can be downloaded as a FREE pdf at the website of CESNUR.ORG or hrwf.eu.

 

First, the law is being proposed and publicized by some politicians and media with disturbing accents implying that only an “Islam des Lumières,” an Enlightenment-style Islam, is accepted in France, where all conservative Muslims, i.e, the majority of Muslims in France and Europe, are suspected of extremism if not terrorism. “This“, the report says, “risks to fuel extremism rather than containing it.”

 

Second, the total ban on homeschooling punishes thousands of French parents who are not Muslim, and in most cases do not even decide to educate their children at home for religious reasons. Several sociological studies have concluded that homeschooling is a legitimate form of education and may give good results. “Islamic ultra-fundamentalism“, the authors state, “appears in homeschooling in a tiny minority of cases, and may be controlled or eliminated through adequate controls rather than by banning the practice altogether.”

 

Third, there is a speedy procedure for dissolving religious organizations deemed to operate against “human dignity” or use not only physical but also “psychological pressures.” This, the White Paper says, is standard jargon used against the so-called “cults” and in fact some French politicians have already announced that the law will be used to “dissolve hundreds of cults” (called in France sectes).

 

Rather than relying on the pseudo-scientific notions of “brainwashing” or “psychological control,” the White Paper suggests, the law should focus on the “criminal religious movements” (a label several scholars prefer to the elusive “cults” or sectes) that use physical violence or commit common crimes. And, the report adds, the defense of “human dignity” may not lead to violate the corporate freedom of religious bodies, for example when they decide whom to admit or to expel, or suggests that their current members do not associate with those who have been expelled. The White Paper quotes several court decisions stating that excommunication and “ostracism” are part of religious liberty, as religions have the right to take decisions about their own organizations.

 

Fourth, the reference to places of worship unduly used to spread “hostility to the laws of the Republic” should not mean that sermons should not be free to criticize laws they regard as unjust. Religion has always had the prophetic function of criticizing laws deemed as unfair, which is different from inciting to violence.

 

“We understand“, the authors explain, “that France has its own tradition and history of laïcité, and our purpose is not to suggest that France should adopt the American model of religious liberty, or the Italian model of cooperation between religion and the state. On the contrary, our aim is to find ways to address, within rather than outside the French legal tradition, legitimate concerns about radicalization and terrorism, without infringing on the rights of religious minorities or breaching France’s international human rights obligations.”

 

 

Read A White Paper on “Separatism”, Religion & “Cults”: Religious Liberty Issues.

Further reading:

EN: FORB Roundtable (Brussels-EU) Letter to French President Macron concerning the announcements on the “Law on separatism”

FR: FORB Roundtable (Brussels-EU) Lettre au président français Macron concernant les annonces sur « la loi sur le séparatisme »





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From Afghanistan to France: Islamism attacks schools and kills teachers

By Willy Fautré, Human Rights Without Frontiers

 

The European Times (26.10.2020) – https://bit.ly/34rXBqn – On 17 October, a teacher at a middle school in a town northwest of Paris was beheaded on the street outside of his school. He was assassinated for facilitating a discussion with his students about caricatures of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad during his civic education class, which is in conformity with the National Education curriculum. Police shot his killer to death sometime later that same day. French President Emmanuel Macron denounced the killing an “Islamist terrorist attack”, as it appears that the killer was carrying out a sort of fatwa launched against this teacher on social media.

 

On Saturday 24 October, a suicide bomber attacked the Kawsar-e Danish centre in Kabul. The death toll was estimated at 24 and the number of wounded at 54, According to officials, many of the victims were teenage students between 15 and 26 years old.

 

In 2019, UNICEF declared that “attacks on schools in Afghanistan tripled between 2017 and 2018, surging from 68 to 192”. The UN agency added that “an estimated 3.7 million children between the ages of 7 and 17 – nearly half of all school-aged children in the country – are out of school in Afghanistan”, with 60% of them being girls. Schools and girls’ education are clearly priority targets on the agenda of Islamist terrorists.

 

Teachers are increasingly vulnerable to death, injuries and abduction, not only in Afghanistan but also in other Muslim majority countries torn by conflicts with Islamist extremist groups.

 

Afghanistan, France and others: different countries, same battle

 

School education is targeted, including in democratic countries, by extremist Islamist ideology regardless of whether it is done in non-violent or violent ways.

 

Their objective in democracies is to intimidate teachers so that they self-censure and keep silent about numerous points of their political ideology and governance, including: extra-judicial killing, homophobia, gender-based segregation and discrimination, an inferior status of women and non-Muslim people, discrimination, and so on.

 

Their objective concerning educational programmes is to obstruct their implementation on a number of issues such as: teaching about the holocaust and anti-Semitism, the theory of evolution, the study of the human body, swimming lessons, and the like.

 

Their objective is to reach Muslim school children with their extremist Islamist teachings through various channels and mould them into active opponents to points of the curriculum that they disagree with.

 

Finally, the ‘ideologisation’ and takeover by the Muslim Brotherhood of associations addressing anti-Muslim sentiments and hate speech in democratic countries is an essential component of this strategy.

 

Islamism is a political ideology, not a new Muslim movement

 

Islamism is a political ideology and must be treated as such. Radical Islamists are not teaching an alternative theology, like the Tabligh Jamaat followers or the Sufis. They aspire to take power in Muslim-majority countries where populations are peacefully practicing and teaching Sunni, Shia and other forms of Islam. In other countries, they try to undermine and manipulate their political, educational and cultural institutions, their societal weaknesses, vulnerable groups within their societies and their generous freedoms. Their objective is to divide and fracture societies with the intent of inciting community-based violence. Chaos is the fertile ground on which they can prosper.

 

The battle against Islamism in France and other democratic countries must not be against Islam as a religion or against Muslims as their co-religionists in Muslim majority countries are the main victims of this ideology. An increasing number of Muslim leaders and institutions oppose Islamism in France individually and collectively, such as the Conference of the Imams in France and the Union of the Mosques in France. The French state must provide them with full assistance and must combat Islamism as a political movement on every battlefield with the appropriate weapons and partners.


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