Illuminations

First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist…

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist…

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew..

Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me…

1976 interview in which Niemöller referred to a 1974 discussion with the general bishop of the Lutheran Church of Slovakia. The 84-year-old Niemöller recalled in 1976:

There were no minutes or copy of what I said, and it may be that I formulated it differently. But the idea was anyhow: The communists, we still let that happen calmly; and the trade unions, we also let that happen; and we even let the Social Democrats happen. All of that was not our affair. The Church did not concern itself with politics at all at that time, and it shouldn’t have anything do with them either. In the Confessing Church we didn’t want to represent any political resistance per se, but we wanted to determine for the Church that that was not right, and that it should not become right in the Church, that’s why already in ’33, when we created the minister emergency federation (Pfarrernotbund), we put as the 4th point in the founding charter: If an offensive is made against ministers and they are simply ousted as ministers, because they are of Jewish lineage (Judenstämmlinge) or something like that, then we can only say as a Church: No. And that was then the 4th point in the obligation, and that was probably the first anti-antisemitic pronouncement coming from the Protestant Church.

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