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WHO WILL SPEAK OUT?


Martin Niemoller was a decorated U-boat captain in the First World War but subsequently became a minister of religion and a relatively high profile opponent of the Nazis as they increasingly gained firm hold of the reins to power in Germany.



Niemoeller was active as a leader in a so-called Pastors' Emergency League and in a Synod that denounced the abuses of the dictatorship in the famous "Six Articles of Barmen." Such activities finally led to his arrest on 1 July 1937. When the subsequent court appearance was followed by his release with only a modest 'slap on the wrist' Hitler personally ordered his incarceration with the result that Niemoeller remained in concentration camp, including long periods of solitary confinement, until the end of the war.


Niemoller occasionally traveled internationally after the war and delivered many speeches and sermons in which he confessed of his own blindness and inaction in earlier years when the Nazi regime rounded up the communists, socialists, trade unionists, and, finally, the Jews.


In this regard he framed a now famous quotation that is often presented in a corrupted form. Niemoller himself however lived through the events associated with the Nazi seizure of absolute power and knew which groups had been persecuted by the Nazis and also knew the order in which those groups had come particularly under persecution.


• 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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