First they came for the Communists and I did not speak out – because I was not a communist.
Then they came for the Social Democrats and I did not speak out – because I was not a Social Democrat.
Then they came for the unionists and I did not speak out – because I was a not a 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.
Pastor Martin Niemöller first said these words in 1946 and repeated them in his talks about his experiences in Germany during the National Socialist period. He was a political prisoner in Dachau and Sachsenhausen concentration camps for almost eight years, from 1937-1945. Initially Niemöller was not against Hitler’s ideas, but this changed. In 1934, Niemöller began to publicly speak out against the Nazis. In 1937 he was seized by the Gestapo in Berlin and imprisoned in Sachsenhausen; then later transferred to Dachau. Niemöller was held in solitary confinement, reserved for prisoners the Nazis considered to be most threatening. At the end of April, 1945 Niemöller was liberated by American troops in Dachau. After the war, he was very active in the peace movement until his death in 1984.
Several versions of this quote exist. I use this one because it was in Dachau’s first museum catalog and the one I shared with each group I worked with.
- Official site for the Martin Niemöller Foundation (in German) with biographical information and details about this quote.
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