University of Minnesota
Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies


Johannes Steyer

About the Artist

Johannes SteyerA Jehovah's Witness survivor's introspection opens a window into the Nazi darkness. As prisoner #1795, Johannes Steyer shares 27 freeze-frame visions that contrast ten years of Nazi terror with individual religious determination and hope.

Born on September 28, 1908, in Röhrsdorf, near Chemnitz, Steyer went to work right out of elementary school straightening needles on knitting machines (Nadelrichter für Strickmaschinen). After his retirement, Steyer pursued painting as a hobby. Using aquarelles, he created a vivid record of his Nazi-era experiences. In the 1970s, he completed the chronological Buchenwald Series from his memories, printed pictures and personal photographs of the former camp.

The artist chose to use bright colors, perhaps reflecting the hope and optimistic yearning that infused his Christian faith. Steyer left his watercolor autobiography to the Wachtturm-Gesellschaft History Archive in Selters/Taunus, Germany. He died at the age of 90 on March 1, 1998.


The Buchenwald Series


Jehovah's Witnesses in Germany