Room for Well-Considered Protest

Poem attributed to Lutheran pastor Martin Niemoller (1892-1984)

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn't a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

Niemoller suffered in Sachsenhausen and Dachau Camps for his overt opposition to the Nazification of parts of the German Lutheran Church by the Third Reich.

When the Allied overthrow was apparent and the camp was being emptied, it became quite clear that certain intellectuals were being taken by car into the hills for execution. They knew too much and could express the outrage to the rest of the world.

Another prisoner in Martin's car indicated that he had secreted a pistol and was prepared to shoot the driver and commandeer the vehicle. Martin shook his head. 'The man had family. The war was almost over. Not the time to add murder to the record.' And so a life was spared.

Briefly thereafter, their little convoy was stopped by a large group of retreating German soldiers. Niemoller had an opportunity to express their predicament to the commanding officer, pleading for intervention. The officer declined and the troops left.

Not long thereafter, they returned and insisted upon taking over custody of the prisoners. They arranged a release and rescue with the advancing Allies.

Blessed are the peacemakers.


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