Martin Niemöller


That inconceivably pointed elimination from Planet Earth of 12,000,000 souls, including 6,000,000 people of the Hebrew Faith; the sexually non-conformists; the Roma (Gypsies); the physically and mentally other-abled; as well as those who otherwise did not fit n socially or politically – this did not take place in the Roman Coliseum, nor in the Dark Ages, nor during the Crusades. These horrors took place when I was in junior high and high school. At the same time, my own country was allowing selective, individual horrors of a similar nature to be perpetrated against my own people, a people marginalized within a society that hypocritically posed as a protector of human equality. 


At the time I was learning to read and write, Germany’s Weimar Republic was under political and economic siege. Bit by deceptively strategic bit, the government was weaseled away from the people by a man who had learned how to combine his hypnotic oratorical skills with the inexplicable hatreds that had overtaken his whole being. This particularly potent alchemy was first transmitted to a small cadre, then to an army, then to a whole people. It mattered not whether you personally were affected by the alchemy, you were required to perform as though you had (Note present U.S. Congress). Thus it was that this alchemy came close to overtaking the whole planet.


In elementary school, in Philadelphia, we started the day by saying the Pledge of Allegiance (Prior to, “Under God”) The right hand was placed over the heart, then the right arm was thrust out stiffly in the direction of the flag. When the newsreels from Germany became more ominous, in the Pledge, the right hand no longer left the heart!


Ultimately, the rhetoric of hate, supplemented by jack-booted enforcement, brought about compliance-or-else within that captured nation. Laws were promulgated, covering every facet of the nation’s life -- under the personal control of this one man! (USA take note) All institutions, education medicine, law, religion, etc., had to conform to the demonic dictates of this singular power. Those who resisted were dealt with harshly. Many times, death was kinder than the alternative.


Amidst all this madness, there lived Martin Niemöller (approximately my father’s age). He was the pastor of a Protestant church. Martin had served in the German army during WWI. Like many Germans, he was resentful of the draconian, post-war reparations imposed upon Germany by its allied enemies. Those reparations caused longtime negative effects upon the economy. This brought on challenges by opposing political groups. The winner, of course, was our flamboyant orator of the venomous alchemy.


Martin Niemöller held many of the same beliefs as the Leader. He went so far as to edit Christian doctrine to accommodate some of those beliefs. He supported the Leader at first, thinking the country needed his bold oratory and unconventional deportment in order to resolve some of the stickier problems. (Sound familiar?) Martin Niemöller was convinced of that, until the new order imposed by the Leader began to clamp its clammy claws onto to church. This was a bridge too far for Martin and his cohorts, so he made a personal pitch directly to the Leader. As a result of his resistance, Martin Niemöller ultimately found himself in the Dachau concentration camp, where he spent the war years. Somehow or other, he managed to survive until the end of the war, and on into the Ronald Reagan era.


Martin Niemöller became an international activist, promoting justice for the human condition. He never quite forgave himself for the anti-Semitism that came so naturally for him in the Germany of that time. For him, it was a continuous, “Mea Culpa.” In many of his post-war speeches, Martin Niemöller has become noted for describing his experience under one-man rule through a phrase that has been repeated many times. The order and content changed according to his mood and the audience. Basically, the thoughtful phrase is this:


“First 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 for me.


Here, in the 21st century, within easy sensibility-shot of all that horror, my country has elected a leader with the same alchemy as the Leader indicated above. He is releasing the same, sublimated animus against my people and others that was displayed in our country when I was starting school. He has the same disregard for well-established authority and systems as the Leader indicated above.


When I was a kid, the advent and total intent of the above Leader of toxic alchemy was so bizarre that it remained outside the capacity of normal consciousness to predict.  I am still here. Are we still that historically tone deaf?


*****  *****  *****

I stood alone; I would not see
That world of which I would not be.
Quiet I’d remain;
Thus, escape the pain.
So I thought, ‘til they came for me.





Curtis W. Long

Curtis W. Long

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