Otto Reinhold Siegel was born on 25 November 1922, the son of Rudolf Siegel, a truck driver, and Gertrud Siegel, née Zimmermann, in Groß-Schönau near Zittau in Saxony. He moved to Berlin in 1941, a 19 year-old, unmarried farm worker. He found a place to live at Hardenberg Strasse 16 in Charlottenburg.
Originally a Protestant, he evidently gravitated towards the Jehovah’s Witnesses community, which was forced to use its former name, “Bible Students”, under the Nazi dictatorship. Though non-political, the Jehovah’s Witnesses were regarded as enemies of the state by the Nazis because they were resolute conscientious objectors. Many of them were held in concentration camps, condemned by military courts, and often executed. They formed the largest single religious group of conscientious objectors.
Two sources point to the fact that Otto Siegel was persecuted and eventually killed for being a conscientious objector. He was conscripted to “Jäger Ersatz Battalion B” in Taus near Pilsen. This infantry unit was transferred on 1 June 1943 to “Jäger Ersatz Regiment 1” stationed in Arys, East Prussia. Around this time, proceedings against him were initiated, as the criminal list no. III 122/43 of the court of Division 461 in Allenstein shows. However, this document does not note the grounds for the proceedings.
In Allenstein, Otto Reinhold made the acquaintance of Karl Gremmelspacher, a soldier and Jehovah’s Witness from Mulhouse, Alsace. He too refused to fight and was imprisoned. Gremmelspacher was transferred to the military prison in Torgau to be court-martialled. Here, he wrote to his mother: “Torgau, 12 June 1944, My dear ones in the Lord, I am writing you a few more lines to show you that I am still fine, which I hope is also true of you. Dear Mother, did you get my last letter? You asked me if I knew this brother. Yes, in fact I know him quite well. His name is Otto Siegel. We spent a long time together. Here is his address: Otto Siegel, Allenstein prison, East Prussia, Friedrich Gross Barracks. […]”
It is not clear from the letter why Gremmelspacher’s mother asked about Siegel. It is also uncertain whether Otto Siegel’s description as a “brother” signified that he was a Jehovah’s Witness. But his mention in the letter suggests that he was linked in some way with the community. The date of Siegel’s trial at the Division Court in Allenstein can no longer be ascertained. It is known, however, that it ended with a death sentence. Otto Siegel was executed at 2.59 pm on 5 June 1944 in Königsberg prison by beheading.