“Nobody Left To Speak for Me”
Vol: 42 Issue: 26 Saturday, March 26, 2005
“First they 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 Catholics, and I didn t speak up, because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time there was no one left to speak up for me.” – Rev. Martin Niem ller, Germany, 1945
Martin Niem ller was a German pastor who famously penned those words after his release from the Dachau concentration camp at the close of World War Two.
A former U-Boat commander in World War One, Martin Neimoller became a pastor in Dahlem, a fashionable suburb of Berlin after the war.
Initially, Niem ller was a supporter of Adolf Hitler — he even served as a poster boy for the Nazis in the early years by virtue of his military service.
Years later, as a protest against interference in church affairs by the National Socialists (Nazi Party), Niem ller founded the Pastors’ Emergency League. The group, among its other activities, helped combat rising discrimination against Christians of Jewish background.
For his efforts, Niem ller was eventually rounded up by personal order of the Fuhrer and sent to Saschenhausen and eventually Dachau. Hitler condemned Neimoller to spend the rest of his life in the Nazi concentration camp system as an inmate.
Niem ller s quote instantly became famous and has been adopted and rewritten so many times to fit so many occasions since that it is actually impossible to find exactly what he really DID say.
The ‘definitive’ quote, if there is one, would be the one entered into the Congressional Record in October, 1968, in which Neimoller is quoted saying;
“When Hitler attacked the Jews I was not a Jew, therefore I was not concerned. And when Hitler attacked the Catholics, I was not a Catholic, and therefore, I was not concerned. And when Hitler attacked the unions and the industrialists, I was not a member of the unions and I was not concerned. Then Hitler attacked me and the Protestant church — and there was nobody left to be concerned.”
No matter what version is quoted, Niem ller quote is remembered in some form because of its political truth, particularly in the intervening years since the Second World War.
A twenty-first century rendition of Niem ller’s poem would read; “First they came for the unborn, and I was unconcerned because I had already been born.” “Then they came for the deformed and defective and I was unconcerned because I was normal.”
Then they came for the elderly and infirm and I was unconcerned because I was young and healthy.
Then they came for Terri Schiavo, because she was disabled and helpless. I was unconcerned because I was awake and aware . . . .”
“And so it goes until they come for me.”
Niem ller’s poem is a word picture that describes incrementalism — the process of gradually introducing concepts until they become like ‘white noise’ — it is there and it is annoying, at fi”rst, but eventually, one becomes so used to it that it eventually fades into the background.
I recall living in Los Angeles in the mid-1990’s for a time while I was working on a project with Hal Lindsey. We lived on Venice Blvd, an LA ‘surface street’ that was six lanes wide. Inside our apartment, we had to crank the TV nearly to the max in order to make out what was being said.
After a while, we didn’t even notice the din — we got used to shouting at each other, like everybody else did. One weekend, we went to the mountains to visit a friend. There was something about the visit that seemed odd — it wasn’t until after we got back to the city that we realized what it was — it was too quiet.
That is how ‘incrementalism’ works. The Bible says that in the last days, ‘perilous times will come’ — in incremental waves.
Paul says it begins when men become ‘lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, unthankful, unholy’ — moving along in incremental waves until society eventually becomes ‘without natural affection’, a society of ‘trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good’, etc.
The Terri Schiavo case is an object lesson in ‘perilous times’. One can find every element of Paul’s litany of social ills exemplified in process whereby she was condemned to a slow, painful death by starvation.
For Terri Schiavo, the times could not be MORE perilous. She is being put to death because she is inconvenient to her husband’s ten-year long common-law marriage and an awkward reminder to their children that Daddy is really married to somebody else.
The court system, proving itself ‘without natural affection’ ordered her to be starved to death — with, according to the polls, the approval of a majority of America. Our natural affection for the disabled and infirm comes in a close second to our own self-love.
Ask anybody who agrees that Terri Schiavo should be put to death, and they will all give the same reason for their approval. “If it was me, I wouldn’t want to live like that.” In this view, it isn’t about Terri, it is about me.
Those who object to the court’s rulings are the object of national ridicule, ‘right to lifers’ who object ‘on religious grounds’.
Whatever your beliefs, ABC s Jake Tapper commented on Friday, Terri Schiavo and her family deserved better than the way Congress worked this week.
On Monday s CBS Evening News, reporter Elizabeth Kaledin argued that this is exactly the kind of scenario doctors are worried about. It s sad enough that this case had to play out in the courts, but to get politics involved now, I think they would say, is just bad medicine.
None of the broadcast network stories showed even one dissenting expert that objected to the extermination of Terri Schiavo. And those who DO object, on the grounds that life is sacred and only God has the right to take it, are despised by the Left as members of the ‘Religious Right’ — a phrase that guarantees they won’t be taken seriously, no matter how logical their arguments might be.
The Left argues that all they are doing by starving Terri Schiavo is to ‘allow her’ to go and ‘be with God’ — evidently a most compelling argument to those who don’t believe in Him anyway.
The Bible says that during the reign of antichrist, those who refuse to worship him and put their faith in Jesus will share in Terri’s fate — the government will facilitate the wish of Christians to see Jesus by hastening their departure from this earth.
It always sounded a bit like science fiction to me — I couldn’t imagine it ever being possible again after Hitler. But that was then. This is now.
“Then they came for me, and by that time there was no one left to speak up. . . “