“Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” – George Santayana (1863-1952)
MARTIN NIEMOLLER (1892-1984)
A well known and respected Lutheran minister who made the choice to speak out against the foe, Adolf Hitler. He would spend the final seven years of Nazi dictatorship in a concentration camp for having the courage of his convictions. For finally speaking out
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out –
Because I was not a Socialist .
And then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out –
Because I was not a Trade Unionist
And then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out –
Because I was not a Jew
Then they came for me – and there was no one
Left to speak for me.”
In the early days of the Nazi regime, this Lutheran minister supported Hitler. Later, he was to oppose the regime and imprisoned for seven years.
He frequently lectured in the Post War years extemporaneously and this how there came to be varying versions of the above poem.
Much controversy has surrounded the poem due to the long list of diverse groups in the many versions. His viewpoint was that Germans – in particular, he believed, the leaders of the Protestant churches, had been complicit through their silence in the Nazi imprisonment, persecution and murder of millions of people.
During a West German television interview in 1963 Niemoller finally spoke about himself. He acknowledged his own earlier antisemitism. He made a statement of regret for the burden he would carry for the rest of his life. Regardless, he was one of the earliest Germans to speak publicly about the broader complicity in the Holocaust and for what happened to the Jews.
In his book, Of Guilt and Hope (English Translation) published in 1946, He wrote: “Thus, whenever I chance to meet a Jew known to me before, then, as a Christian, I cannot but tell him: ‘Dear Friend, I stand in front of you, but we can not get together, for there is guilt between us. I have sinned and my people has sinned against thy people and against thyself.”
Life, we are all in this together. If we choose to remain silent, yes, it is a choice, we are complicit.
Acceptance, Love and Peace,