Paula (Paulina) Wölfle

Paula Wölfle was born on 22 February 1901 in Lódz.1WTA Selters i.T., Wölfle, Paulina, biography.


Paula Wölfle op ongeveer 39-jarige leeftijd, kamppas van concentratiekamp St.-Lambrecht
Paula Wölfle aged about 39, Ravensbrück prisoner identification card. (Historical Archives Watchtower Society Selters in Taunus, Germany)

Paula belonged to the German speaking ethnic group and was brought up as an evangelist. She had five older brothers and sisters. She had a special bond with her sister Alma, who was blind. Her mother had been widowed and cared for her family single-handed. At the age of 15, Paula decided to dedicate her life to God: she asked to be allowed to enter a (religious) nursing home. This institution with all its rules, felt like a prison. After a year of the evangelical religious education, Paula took the opportunity of  returning to her family farm. Her mother had a broken arm and needed Paula’s help.

Disappointed in her Protestant upbringing, she chose to be involved with the Baptists’ religious teaching in 1917, but that did not satisfy her ‘religious hunger’. In 1924 she met Bible Students, most of whom had come from abroad to preach in Poland. Paula attended public lectures held in German and Polish by this religious group. In 1925 Paula became an active member of the International Bible Students Association. She spread the religious ideas on so-called home visits, using the leaflet ‘Ecclesiastics Indicted’. Paula also supported the preaching work using the portable gramophone with recorded talks and songs. All her efforts were geared to developing her own character, which had to be brought to perfection.

‘The years passed thus until WWII broke out in 1939. Before the war, we had already heard that our brothers in Germany were being persecuted because of the truth.’2WTA Selters i.T., Wölfle, Paulina, biography. Paula viewed the Nazi religious persecution as a trial of her own religious beliefs. Her problems arose immediately upon occupation of Poland by the Nazi regime. Paula, who up until then had worked in a factory, refused to give the German salute. This resulted in her being accused within the company of promoting Bible Students propaganda, and she was fired. In October 1940 she was arrested when the Gestapo found Watchtower literature in her house during a search. After two months’ imprisonment, Paula was transferred to Ravensbrück in December 1940.

She was registered there under number 5249 and assigned to block 12.3WTA Selters i.T., Doc. 12/40 (2), prison document Nr. 255, Wölfle, Paula, FKL Ravensbrück. She was the first Bible Student from Poland in Ravensbrück. Paula was zealous in spreading her faith’s teachings in the women’s concentration camp, just as all newly arrived female Jehovah’s Witnesses, who brought the current ‘Watchtower ideas’ with them. Moreover, they kept a Bible hidden, which a Witness who worked as a stoker had found underneath a pile of books and newspapers. The Bible should have been burned, but the courageous Jehovah’s Witness saved it for the communal Bible study. The Bible Students tried to convince other prisoners of the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses during their free time, when they were allowed to walk around on the parade grounds. Paula did this as well.

Paula was evidently assigned work outside the camp, as she had a permit to pass through the gates.

As one of the 24 Bible Students, she was transferred to St. Lambrecht in May 1943. She wrote the following about this ‘SS labour camp’:

‘Sometimes there too we had the opportunity of speaking about the truth to people; although we had to be very careful that the female guard did not notice. We had enough food there to keep us from starvation, but then we [had to] spend long hours doing very heavy work. We had a Bible and could strengthen ourselves daily by God’s Word. A few persons there studied with us almost daily, and we sang songs. […] We were grateful to Jehovah and joyful about the privilege he gave us.’4WTA Selters i.T., Wölfle, Paulina, biography.

Paula Wölfle, vermoedelijk na de bevrijding
Paula Wölfle, presumably after liberation. (Historical Archives Watchtower Society Selters in Taunus, Germany)

After her liberation from the concentration camp in May 1945, Paula Wölfle tried to spread the teachings of the Bible Students on her journey back to Poland. She used her time in the several assembly camps for Displaced Persons to ‘give a witness’.

In September 1945 she finally arrived in her birthplace Lódz, which in the meantime had acquired a sad reputation. Her mother had died in 1942, and Paula’s blind sister, Alma, had since then been looked after by friends. Paula did her best to provide for herself and Alma. Due to her bad health caused by the living conditions in the concentration camps, she was only fit to do ‘physically light work’. In addition, she decided to join the ranks of the so-called pioneers in order to spread the religious teachings.

In 1950 Jehovah’s Witnesses were once again banned in Poland and Paula was arrested. She was held in custody for nine months; her health deteriorated visibly. After being released, Paula’s physical condition was so bad that she had to give up the preaching work.

The last few lines of her biography summarise her life attitude by which she was able to endure persecution: ‘Truly thankful to Jehovah, I can look back on the past few years and even now I can use my time in his service knowing that Jehovah will help me to endure and be faithful to the end.’5WTA Selters i.T., Wölfle, Paulina, biography.

Chapter 6 – Trauma from the Past →