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Hermine Schmidt, Last Known Witness Survivor of Nazi Concentration Camps, Dies at 98

Hermine prior to being sent to the Stutthof concentration camp

On March 31, 2024, Sister Hermine Schmidt passed away at the age of 98. She was the last remaining one of Jehovah’s Witnesses known to have suffered in a Nazi concentration camp for her faith.

Hermine was born on November 13, 1925, in the city of Gdańsk, which is now part of Poland. Her parents, Oskar and Frieda Koschmieder, were Jehovah’s Witnesses. They instilled a firm conviction and strong faith in their daughter. In 1939, Nazi troops occupied Gdańsk, beginning a period of intense persecution for Jehovah’s Witnesses. During this time, Hermine dedicated her life to Jehovah and was baptized on May 2, 1942, at the age of 16.

The following year, in June 1943, the Nazis arrested and detained 17-year-old Hermine. She was arrested again in April 1944, and this time she was sent to the Stutthof concentration camp. Thinking back on that horrific time, Hermine once said: “It is not easy to come to terms with what happened. We were humiliated and deeply hurt. The Gestapo left no stone unturned in their attempts to break me. I was not born a hero. I was just a normal girl. But there was no doubt in my mind about what I had to do. This was about my loyalty and my determination to act according to my conscience. When you act according to your conscience, you are rewarded with peace—peace with yourself and peace with your God.”

Horst and Hermine in March 1995

A year later, in April 1945, the Russian army advanced toward the Stutthof camp. The German SS guards forced many of the prisoners onto barges and abandoned them at sea rather than allow them to be liberated by the Russian army. Hermine and 370 others were rescued when their barge was towed to the Danish island of Møn in May 1945. Soon after, Hermine was reunited with her parents.

In 1947, Hermine married Horst Schmidt. Horst had refused to serve in the military and had also served as a courier of Bible literature while the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses was under ban. He was tried, sentenced to death, and imprisoned in the Brandenburg-Görden penitentiary. The prison was liberated on April 27, 1945, shortly before his scheduled execution. Horst and Hermine were married for nearly 63 years until he passed away in 2010.

The Schmidts spent many years speaking publicly about their experiences. In an interview conducted in 1998, Hermine reflected on her life of integrity: “This has not been an easy path to walk, but it is the most beautiful. I would not leave it for anything.”

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