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I am often asked " What is the correct sequence and groups in the quotation? As a short summary of my assessment of the origin of the quotation and its original version, I offer this Jan. I know that he varied his anecdote about his November Dachau visit subtly at different venues. I have no idea whether he first made this statement in English or German. As noted on this web site, I still have not been able to find any published version very close to the pithy, poetic formulation, although I have checked quite a few sources for the years And then they attacked the Church, and he was a Churchman, and he did something--but then it was too late.

The rendition of the quotation in the Congressional Record the first published version I know of [after I wrote that I found one prior to and a couple more in the late s] is certainly a paraphrase, with the various groups chosen by the paraphraser. And when Hitler attacked the unions and the industrialists [sic! Then, Hitler attacked me and the Protestant church--and there was nobody left to be concerned. Omitting the Communists and placing Jews first probably also shows the paraphraser's personal bias and conception of historical events. The usual English rendition of the quotation uses "came for.

German theologian and Protestant Lutheran pastor, founder of the anti-Nazi Bekennende Kirche Confessing Church in , and a president of the World Council of Churches from to A seminal incident in his moral outlook, as he related in many public speeches later in his life, occurred when he commanded his submarine crew not to rescue the sailors of a boat he torpedoed, but let them drown instead.

Cohn , and this exchange with Harry Reynolds. As a German nationalist he initially supported Hitler, but as the Nazis began to interfere in church affairs, he moved into opposition. In he was arrested because of his outspoken sermons, and sent to Sachsenhausen concentration camp.

In he was moved to Dachau, where he stayed until the end of the war. After the war, he helped to rebuild the reputation of the German Protestant Church, and was one of its leading officials until well into the s. In his reputation was challenged because he devoted substantial energy to protecting Nazi war criminals from the death penalty, and because of some pro-German things he had said in his own defense while on trial by the Nazis in However, during the s and s he refused to join in the dominant anticommunist sentiment in the West, which earned him the respect of the left again.

His uncompromising stance allowed him to remain a figurehead of the German peace movement into the s.

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He died in This early statement implies that he may have thought first of the Communists, then the disabled, then Jews, and finally countries conquered by Germany. However, it is also likely that he modified what he said for different audiences, perhaps including other groups, or changing the order depending on his goals.

In I was a free man. Because all communists who weren't already under lock and key because of their crimes, were now sitting behind the barbed wire of the newly established concentration camps. And I refused this service. As I obtain these materials, I add my comments, analysis and links to my longer discussions. Dachau Sermons , translated by Robert H. N47 D3]. According to a short announcement in the New York Times on Aug. Detailed analysis of the relevant passage , added May 31, No exact date is given for this sermon. I have a photocopy of the original, and it contains nothing close to the quotation.

However, in light of the discussion whether MN included the Catholics Littell, Zerner, see below , one passage indicates he thought primarily of persecuted minorities Catholics were no minority in Germany , regardless of the variant of belief in Christ they professed.

Wir rufen Deutschland zu Gott: Eine Rede. Reden Darmstadt : Stimme-Verlag, Denazifizierung angerichtet! Es war die grosse Gelegenheit zur Selbstrechtfertigung fuer die Verfolgten von gestern. Aber zugleich war es auch die fluchbeladene Saat neuen Hasses. Und nun fuehlen sich die einstigen Verfolger wider als die Verflogten, rechtfertigen sich selber und trachten danach, ihren einstigen Opfern die Schuld zuzuschieben.

Und doch sind sie beide--Verfolger und Verfolgte von gestern, Verfolgte und Verfolger von heute--elende Menschen, denen nur einer helfen kann, wenn wir uns mit unserer Schuld zu seiner Gnade fluechten und ihn als den Heiland bekennen. Starts with the Schuldbekenntnis, talks about the Bekennende Kirche as a "geschlossene Gesellschaft," bible quotes, but not the quotation we want.

Mostly an abstract discussion of biblical passages, about West German rearmament and the "18 million German Menschen behind the iron curtain," and 9 million Heimatvertriebene in West Germany--they need our solidarity. Nothing close to the quotation.

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Not here, either, but he does imply that Protestants should stick up for those people being defamed as communist p. Ach Gott vom Himmel sieh darein.

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See my detailed description and discussion, with excerpts. Rede, gehalten auf Einladung der ev. Studentengemeinde am Januar zu St. N microfilm: Oct. Not und Aufgabe der Kirche in Deutschland. That Wikiquote page also mentions that the quotation is sometimes esp. Still, a poem Brecht published in , Liturgie vom Hauch [Liturgy of Breath] , has a similar theme: an old woman dies of hunger because the military ate all of her bread, then a doctor certifies her death and she is buried, ensuring her silence.

A single man comes and protests, then a policeman clubs him to death. Then 3 bearded men come and protest until they are shot. Then many men come to speak with the military, which answers with machine guns. Finally a red bear allegory of Russian communism? Giessen : W.

Schmitz, He also sometimes but not always mentioned Jehovah's Witnesses. Instead, Kadel asserts, this quotation was probably first made during the Cold War of the s, and did not include any reference to Jews. He bases this claim on his view that the purpose was to point to the failure of organised groups to co-operate together in resisting evil.

Hence the inclusion of the Communists, Socialists and the Trades Unions, but also the omission of the Jews who were in no position to mobilize resistance. He believes the quotation stems from the time of Niemoller's active opposition to Adenauer's anti-Communist and pro-armament policies, i. He therefore disputes Franklin Littell's long-held view that this quotation was first and frequently used during Niemoller's visits to the United States in Littell recalls conversations with the staff member of Church World Service at the time, Marlene Maerten, affirming this earlier date.

Kadel dismisses this as the "somewhat equivocal report of an eyewitness many years after the fact which should not be regarded as entirely authoritative". Littell, he avers, only put his view in writing in i. But Kadel himself blatantly claims as his authoritative source a letter from Niemoller's daughter written in ! To be sure Kadel is right in saying that such famous and evocative quotations take on a life of their own, and get adapted and adopted for different purposes. But the fact that they have not yet found written documentation from the s does not prove Littell and Zerner's view incorrect.

As a librarian, Kadel should know that just because a book is not on the shelf does not mean it doesn't exist. Furthermore I find Zerner's explanation of the saying's origins more convincing, i. This also explains the omission of the Catholics whom Niemoller always believed had compromised any possible resistance by signing the Concordat.

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It is all the more curious to find the Catholics included on posters and cards being sold at the U. Holocaust Memorial Museum! Niemoller emerged from seven years of concentration camp deeply impressed by the sufferings of those oppressed by the Nazis, and hence it was only to be expected that he should mention them in his immediate post-war speeches. Even though he had earlier held traditional anti-Judaic prejudices, his experiences in prison opened his eyes to the enormity of the Nazi antisemitic persecution, as clearly proved by the Kristallnacht, the news of which shocked even the inmates of Sachsenhausen.

In my view, identification with the victims, and regret at the indifference of the bystanders, rather than the need to organise political resistance in the s, was the main purpose of this quotation. JSC [John Conway]". After the war, active in international church affairs, he made preaching trips across the United States.

At that time he brought the message of concern for others, often driving the point home with a confession of his own blindness when the Nazi regime rounded up the communists, socialists, trade unionists, and, finally, the Jews. The quotation is now famous, but often in corrupted form. It begins, "First they came for the Jews An educational video on skinheads and other racist extremists, produced by Jansen Associates, jumbles the sequence of Niemoeller's warning and adds "then they came for the Roman Catholics, and I didn't protest The latter corruption of the text was never seen by Niemoller: he died before homosexual exhibitionism [note by hm: I apologize for Prof.

But when we asked him years ago about the addition of the Roman Catholics, he said, "I never said it. They can take care of themselves. When asked about the re-arranged order, "First they came for the Jews There is a more than pedantic point to insisting that the Niemoeller quotation be truthfully used, if at all. Through the texts corrupted to promote special interests, literally millions of school children and also adults are being taught lies about the Holocaust.

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The damage is not as serious, perhaps, as the steady infiltration of "Holocaust revision" i. But it does help to create an atmosphere of playing fast and loose with the facts through intellectually dishonest and self-serving manipulation of the text. Niemoeller knew the sequence of Nazi assault, because he was there.

Any average student of the third Reich should be able to give the record accurately; it is a shocking display of professional incompetence when materials that are supposed to be vetted by specialists can be issued that are simply contrary to the record.

Even if a corrupt text appears in print, whether published by an ignoramus or a special pleasure, the literate reader should catch the mistake. As Martin Niemoeller gave the message, it was true to the facts. The true historical sequence, which Niemoeller of course followed, was communists, socialists, trade unionists, and Jews. The assault on the Jews was the culmination of the Nazi dictatorship's ruthless elimination of targeted communities and individuals.

Martin Niemoeller's message, in its true form, carries a powerful moral impact. Telling the story and drawing the lessons of the SHOAH are weakened, not strengthened, when carelessness or self-indulgence permits a corrupted text to be widely disseminated.


The true sequence, which culminates the Nazi genocide of the Jews, is both literally and morally stronger than the corrupt forms that are becoming now widespread:. 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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