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Paul Chrupalla * 1899

Große Bergstraße 219 -223 (Altona, Altona-Altstadt)

KZ Sachsenhausen 10 Jahre Haft

further stumbling stones in Große Bergstraße 219 -223:
Maria A. Chrupalla

Maria Chrupalla, born 29 May 1897, Ravensbrück Concentration Camp, murdered 6 Feb. 1942 in Bernburg
Paul Chrupalla, born 26 Nov. 1899, nearly 10 years in prison, survived

Jehovah’s Witnesses, the name given to themselves by a group who broke away from the International Bible Student movement in 1931, was the first religious congregation banned by the Nazis in 1933. The Nazis saw the group as a "trailblazer for Jewish bolshevism,” and their avowal of the equality of all races was attacked as "foreign control” from the US. Jehovah’s Witnesses strongly opposed the Nazi regime. They refused to give the Nazi salute, as, according to their belief, it is inappropriate to render homage to a human being. They did not join Nazi organizations, did not allow their children to join the Hitler Youth, and refused to serve in the military, citing the Biblical commandment not to kill.
After the organization was banned, Witnesses continued to meet underground. The group’s solidarity and strong beliefs led them to participate in many resistance activities, for which the Gestapo and the justice system persecuted them severely. The persecution increased after the outbreak of the war. Between 1933 and 1945, more than 1300 female and 3000 male Jehovah’s Witnesses were imprisoned in concentration camps. There they were identified with a purple triangle sewn on the sleeve of their prison uniforms.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses in Altona had also gone underground. On 11 January 1935, six members of the International Bible Students Association were arrested at a Bible meeting, which, like all assemblies or worship services, was disguised as a "social get-together.” Maria and Paul Chrupalla were among those arrested. When the police searched their apartment, they found a coded calendar of meetings. The couple were evidently in charge of organizing the worship services in Altona, which took place in secret in the homes of various members.

Both Maria and Paul Chrupalla refused to divulge the names of other members of their congregation during the police interrogation. "I will not incriminate my brothers and sisters, because I could not answer to my God for doing so,” declared Paul Chrupulla. The Gestapo suspected him of distributing Watchtower publications that had been smuggled into the country from Switzerland by a courier network. He admitted to having distributed publications in Altona and Stade. The Gestapo considered the couple to be the main organizers of the Jehovah’s Witnesses congregation in Altona, and Paul Chrupalla to be the leader of the group.

Maria and Paul Chrupalla had married in 1932. They lived at Große Bergstraße 224, Building 3. Paul Chrupalla was a metalworker, but was unemployed at the time of his arrest. Maria Chrupalla was a housewife. Both had been associated with Jehovah’s Witnesses since the early 1920s. Paul was baptized in 1926, Maria in 1930.

Maria Chrupalla was taken into "protective custody” for her activities and sent to the Moringen Women’s Concentration Camp. A "conduct report” from 14 June 1935, which was written by the director of the camp on the occasion of a parole hearing, gives an indication of her situation and behavior while in Ravensbrück: "Chrupalla has been in the concentration camp since 11 January 1935. She is a member of the International Bible Students Association and is particularly fanatic. I was forced to isolate her a short time ago, as she had attempted to propagandize her ideas among other inmates. She also refuses to give the mandatory Nazi salute. Otherwise, her conduct is good and she performs the work assigned to her well. She told me that even if she had to remain in a concentration camp for the rest of her life, she would never give up her ideas.”

Maria Chrupalla was released from the Ravensbrück Concentration Camp after nine months, without having signed the "declaration of intent” to recant her beliefs. Her husband, who had been sent to the notorious Emsland Camp in Esterwegen in February 1935, was released in October. They were both called to appear before a special court, which sentenced them on 14 November 1935 to a further month in prison.

Both of them continued to be active in their congregation after they were released. Paul Chrupalla acted as pastor for a group, and Maria aided him and later took over the leadership of the group. She also collected donations for an emergency fund for persecuted members of the faith. The couple was again arrested in mid-1936. Paul Chrupalla remained in prison until January 1937. Maria Chrupalla was released. She acted as a courier and distributed leaflets in a Jehovah’s Witnesses leafleting campaign on 12 December 1936 against the restrictions on freedom of religion. She was again taken into "protective custody” from 15 December 1936 to 22 March 1937. In the meantime Paul Chrupalla had found work in a shipyard.

In June 1937, the couple took part in the congregation’s Germany-wide leafleting campaign, which publicized their persecution in an open letter. The Gestapo commenced mass arrests. The couple was again arrested and sentenced to prison terms: Paul Chrupalla to two years and nine months, his wife to two years and six months. Maria Chrupalla declared before the Hamburg District Court that she would only recognize the law of the land as long as it was in accord with the law of the Bible. Maria Chrupalla was arrested a total of five times between 1935 and 1937. She was transferred from the Fuhlsbüttel Concentration Camp to the Ravensbrück Women’s Concentration Camp north of Berlin.

Paul Chrupalla’s last place of internment was the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp near Oranienburg. In February 1942, he was informed that his wife had died at Ravensbrück. He later learned that she and twelve other Jehovah’s Witnesses had been sent to the Bernburg Mental Institution. Maria Chrupalla was murdered there on 6 February 1942. Paul Chrupalla survived the nearly ten years of imprisonment in prisons and concentration camps.

Translator(s): Amy Lee

Translation kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg

© Birgit Gewehr

Quellen: Hans Hesse, Jürgen Harder, "... und wenn ich lebenslang in einem KZ bleiben müsste...". Die Zeuginnen Jehovas in den Frauenkonzentrationslagern Moringen, Lichtenburg und Ravensbrück, Essen 2001, S. 295–303; Elke Imberger, Widerstand "von unten". Widerstand und Dissens aus den Reihen der Arbeiterbewegung und der Zeugen Jehovas in Lübeck und Schleswig-Holstein 1933–1945, hg. von der Gesellschaft für Schleswig-Holsteinische Geschichte, Bd. 98, Neumünster 1991, S. 286; Jehovas Zeugen, Selters/Taunus 2007; AB Altona 1937; Auskünfte von Jörn Puttkammer, Vertreter der NS-Opfergruppe der Zeugen Jehovas, und vom Geschichtsarchiv der Wachtturm-Gesellschaft.

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