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Martin Niemoller (1892 – 1984)


Protestant pastor and social activist.
Martin Niemoller
Our people are trying to break the bond set by God. That is human conceit rising against God. In this connection we must warn the Führer, that the adoration frequently bestowed on him is only due to God. Some years ago the Führer objected to having his picture placed on Protestant altars. Today his thoughts are used as a basis not only for political decisions but also for morality and law. He himself is surrounded with the dignity of a priest and even of an intermediary between God and man... We ask that liberty be given to our people to go their way in the future under the sign of the Cross of Christ, in order that our grandsons may not curse their elders on the ground that their elders left them a state on earth that closed to them the Kingdom of God.
Niemoller quotes
In Erlangen, for instance, in January 1946 he spoke of meeting a German Jew who had lost everything--parents, brothers, and sisters too. 'I could not help myself', said Niemöller, 'I had to tell him, "Dear brother, fellow man, Jew, before you say anything, I say to you: I acknowledge my guilt and beg you to forgive me and my people for this sin."' Niemöller's stance was by no means entirely welcome to the 1,200 students to whom he was preaching. They shouted and jeered as he preached that Germany must accept responsibility for the five or six million murdered Jews. Students in Marburg and Göttingen similarly heckled him. But Niemöller insisted that "We must openly declare that we are not innocent of the Nazi murders, of the murder of German communists, Poles, Jews, and the people in German-occupied countries. No doubt others made mistakes too, but the wave of crime started here and here it reached its highest peak. The guilt exists, there is no doubt about that — even if there were no other guilt than that of the six million clay urns containing the ashes of incinerated Jews from all over Europe. And this guilt lies heavily upon the German people and the German name, even upon Christendom. For in our world and in our name have these things been done.
Niemoller
The Reverend Martin Niemoeller had personally welcomed the coming to power of the Nazis in 1933. In that year his autobiography, From U-boat to Pulpit, had been published. The story of how this submarine commander in the First World War had become a prominent Protestant pastor was singled out for special praise in the Nazi press and became a best seller. To Pastor Niemoeller, as to many a Protestant clergyman, the fourteen years of the Republic had been, as he said, "years of darkness" and at the close of his autobiography he added a note of satisfaction that the Nazi revolution had finally triumphed and that it had brought about the "national revival" for which he himself had fought so long — for a time in the free corps, from which so many Nazi leaders had come.
He was soon to experience a terrible disillusionment. ... By the beginning of 1934, the disillusioned Pastor Niemoeller had become the guiding spirit of the minority resistance in both the "Confessional Church" and the Pastor's Emergency League.




Niemoller Martin quotes
When the Nazis arrested the Communists,
I said nothing; after all, I was not a Communist.
When they locked up the Social Democrats,
I said nothing; after all, I was not a Social Democrat.
When they arrested the trade unionists,
I said nothing; after all, I was not a trade unionist.
When they arrested me, there was no longer anyone who could protest.
Niemoller Martin
One thing is clear, the president of North Vietnam is not a fanatic. He is a very strong and determined man, but capable of listening, something that is very rare in a person of his position.
Martin Niemoller quotes
Niemöller had once again delivered a rebellious sermon in Dahlem; at the same time transcripts of his tapped telephone conversations were presented to Hitler. In a bellow, Hitler ordered Niemöller to be put in a concentration camp and, since he had proven himself to be incorrigible, kept there for life.
Martin Niemoller
I have never concealed the fact and said it before the court in 1938 that I came from an anti-Semitic past and tradition... I ask only that you look at my life historically and take it as history. I believe that from 1933 I truly represented the Lutheran-Christian outlook on the Jewish question — as I revealed before the court — but that I returned home after eight years' imprisonment as a completely different person.
Niemoller Martin quotes
You suppose that Christianity is oppressed in Germany and that there is a rule by force and secret trial. Though this is not the case, the German State cannot be expected to tolerate incessant attacks, open or veiled, by ministers of the Christian faith upon its very foundations. There are recalcitrant pastors who seem to be unaware of the fact that they would have been shot, hanged or burned long ago if it had not been for the gigantic and successful struggle of Adolf Hitler to safeguard civilization in this country against the horrors of Communism. Therefore by attacking National Socialism, they are striking at themselves.
Niemoller
We had been frightened of atomic weapons since 1945. In those days I became convinced — and remain convinced now — that, after Hitler, Truman was the greatest murderer in the world.
Niemoller Martin
Als die Nazis die Kommunisten holten,
habe ich geschwiegen;
ich war ja kein Kommunist.

Als sie die Sozialdemokraten einsperrten,
habe ich geschwiegen;
ich war ja kein Sozialdemokrat.

Als sie die Gewerkschafter holten,
habe ich nicht protestiert;
ich war ja kein Gewerkschafter.

Als sie die Juden holten,
habe ich geschwiegen;
ich war ja kein Jude.

Als sie mich holten,
gab es keinen mehr, der protestierte.
Martin Niemoller
For politicians truth and falsehood are unimportant. So I never could become a politician — not even a church politician.




Martin Niemoller quotes
I began my political responsibility as an ultra-conservative. I wanted the Kaiser to come back; and now I am a revolutionary. I really mean that. If I live to be a hundred I shall maybe be an anarchist, for an anarchist wants to do without all government.
Martin Niemoller
The renunciation of war as expressed in the Japanese Constitution has given a first ray of hope to a world in darkness and despair, and men today cling to this hope passionately. Can we really do something about it or are we to stand aside as idle onlookers, unable to contribute for better or for worse?
Niemoller quotes
We have no more thought of using our own powers to escape the arm of authorities than had the Apostles of old. No more are we ready to keep silent at man's behest when God commands us to speak. For it is, and must remain, the case that we must obey God rather than man.
Niemoller Martin
When the Nazis came for the communists,
I did not speak out;
As I was not a communist.
Niemoller Martin quotes
No honest man or woman in Germany feels responsible for these things. Good Germans took Nazism as a new religion. These people are shocked by the revelations which have shown that Nazism was not idealism, but a means to the performance of criminal acts...
In war a German feels bound to join the ranks without question. Three of my sons were called up. I could not hold back. I wrote from the concentration camp to Admiral Raeder, C. in C. of the Navy, asking to be allowed to return to the submarine service or to do any other service in the Navy. I heard nothing for several months, and then a reply came, not from Raeder but from Keitel, head of the Wehrmacht. He thanked me, but regretted I could not be employed on active service.
Martin Niemoller
In Germany, they came first for the Communists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist;
And then they came for the trade unionists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist;
And then they came for the Jews, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew;
And then . . . they came for me . . . And by that time there was no one left to speak up.
Martin Niemoller quotes
The oppression is growing, and anyone who has had to submit to the Tempter's machine-gun fire during this last week thinks differently from what he did even three weeks ago.
Martin Niemoller
I am now convinced that the Reformation of the church will come from the east. In the west there is no spiritual life. (I'm speaking of the Protestant church and not the Roman Catholic church.) We have civilisation and we try to keep up culture, but we have no spiritual life. The east has a spiritual life. They know that colour influences the spirit more than black lines. In Russia there is still the notion that art is nearer religion than thinking in lines and logic. All abstract rationalising needs to be filled out with sensual thinking and feelings. In Russia there is still a strong impression of colour.
Niemoller Martin
First the Nazis came…
First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out —
because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out —
because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out —
because I was not a trade unionist;
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 out for me.


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