Martin Niemöller

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

Friedrich Gustav Emil Martin Niemöller (14 January 18926 March 1984) was a Protestant pastor and social activist.

Sourced

  • Als die Nazis die Kommunisten holten,
    habe ich geschwiegen;
    ich war ja kein Kommunist.

    Als sie die Sozialdemokraten einsperrten,
    habe ich geschwiegen;
    ich war ja kein Sozialdemokrat.

    Als sie die Gewerkschafter holten,
    habe ich nicht protestiert;
    ich war ja kein Gewerkschafter.

    Als sie mich holten,
    gab es keinen mehr, der protestierte.
    • 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.
      • "First they came..." - The origins of this poem first have been traced to a speech given by Niemöller on January 6, 1946, to the representatives of the Confessing Church in Frankfurt. According to research by Harold Marcuse, the original groups mentioned in the speech were Communists, the incurably sick, Jews, and people in occupied countries. Since then, the contents have often been altered produce numerous variants. Niemöller himself came up with different versions, depending on the year. The most famous and well known alterations are perhaps those beginning "First they came for the Jews" of which this is one of the more commonly encountered:
      • First they came for the Jews
        and I did not speak out
        because I was not a Jew.
        Then they came for the Communists
        and I did not speak out
        because I was not a Communist.
        Then they came for the trade unionists
        and I did not speak out
        because I was not a trade unionist.
        Then they came for me
        and there was no one left
        to speak out for me.
    • Another variant extends the comparisons to incude Catholics and Protestants:
      • In Germany they first came for the Communists,
        and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.
        Then they came for the Jews,
        and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.
        Then they came for the trade unionists,
        and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.
        Then they came for the Catholics,
        and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant.
        Then they came for me -
        and by that time no one was left to speak up.

Other translations and variants:

  • In Germany, they came first for the Communists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist;
    And then they came for the trade unionists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist;
    And then they came for the Jews, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew;
    And then . . . they came for me . . . And by that time there was no one left to speak up.
    • Niemöller incicated that this was the version he preferred, in a 1971 interview.
  • When the Nazis arrested the Communists,
    I said nothing; after all, I was not a Communist.
    When they locked up the Social Democrats,
    I said nothing; after all, I was not a Social Democrat.
    When they arrested the trade unionists,
    I said nothing; after all, I was not a trade unionist.
    When they arrested me, there was no longer anyone who could protest.
  • First the Nazis came…
    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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