‘First they came….’ is a poem written in post war Germany by Martin Niemoller, about the cowardice of German intellectuals in the face of Naziism and their purposed and systematic purges of all who opposed them – and in the wake of all the sandals surrounding election 2016 and the threat to religious freedom and potential loss of rights in our nation today, Niemoller’s words stand as a strong reminder that dissent is important, while non-socialists still have freedom under the 1st amendment to do so. Niemoller’s poem hauntingly lamented:
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; and 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.”
In our day there are many ways to speak out to our leaders about encroachments to religious freedom and other important human rights issues. The contact information for both federal and state level senators and congress people are available on line. In contacting leaders, we have the option of writing letters, sending faxes, leaving voice messages, sending texts, or arranging for appointments at local offices or the offices of leaders either in Washington D.C. or in Sacramento (for those loving in California – which is the state I write from). Carpe Diem! Fortes Fortuna Adiuvat!
Martin Niemoller (1892-1984) was a Lutheran pastor in Germany during World War 2. He was arrested by the Nazis 79 years ago in July 1937 for alleged pulpit abuse – a fact which shocked many in Germany and especially the Confessing Christians, who assumed the Nazis would avoid attacking a man of Niemoller’s stature. He was tried seven months later, fined and released, but his release made Hitler so angry that he had him arrested again. Niemoller spent the rest of the war first in Sachsenhausen and then in Dachau concentration camps. He wrote and delivered this sometime after the surrender of Germany.