Born Koestenberg-Velden, Austria
January 18, 1920

The eldest of six children born to Catholic parents, Franz was raised in a village in the part of Austria known as Carinthia. His father was a farmer and quarryman. Disillusioned with Catholicism, his parents became Jehovah’s Witnesses during Franz’s childhood and raised their children in their new faith. As a teenager, Franz was interested in painting and skiing.

1933-39: I was apprenticed to be a house painter and decorator. After Nazi Germany annexed Austria in 1938, like other Jehovah’s Witnesses I refused to swear an oath to Hitler or to give the Hitler salute. Neighbors reported me to the police, but my boss protected me from arrest by saying that my work was needed. When the war began in September 1939 my father was arrested for opposing military service. He was executed in December.

1940-44: Following my twentieth birthday, I refused to be inducted into the German army. In front of hundreds of recruits and officers I refused to salute the Nazi flag. I was arrested on March 14, 1940, and imprisoned. Later that year, I was sent to a penal camp in Germany. A new commander felt sorry for me; three times he saved me from execution between 1943 and 1945. He was impressed that I was willing to die rather than to break God’s command to love our neighbor and not kill.

Franz remained in Camp Rollwald Rodgau 2 until March 24, 1945. He was liberated by U.S. forces and returned to his home in Austria.

I Stand Firm

A poem by Franz Wohlfhart–imprisoned in Nazi camps from
1939-1945. Written when he thought that he would be executed
like his father and his brother.

In my faith, I will always stand firm,
Though this world may taunt and cry;
In my hope, I will always stand firm,
For a beautiful, better time.
In my love, I will always stand firm,
Though this world repays with hate;
Devoted, I will always stand firm,
Though this world disloyal stays.
From God’s Word, flows the might of the strong,
And the weak ones it powerful makes;
In God’s grace I will always stand firm–
On my own I could never remain.
With my life, I will even stand firm,
And as I my last breath confer,
You should with the dying gasp hear:
I stand firm, I stand firm, I stand firm.