Spitfire List Web site and blog of anti-fascist researcher and radio personality Dave Emory.

News & Supplemental  

Pastor Martin Niemoller: A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

COMMENT: In a post about the rela­tion­ship between the lit­er­ary cul­tur­al elite, the so-called pro­gres­sive ele­ment of the polit­i­cal sec­tor and the CIA, we not­ed that many of the lumi­nar­ies of that milieu were inex­tri­ca­bly linked to the CIA.

The per­ver­sion of the his­tor­i­cal record to por­tray wolves as sheep is not a new phe­nom­e­non. In the run-up to the occu­pa­tion of Ger­many after World War II, a num­ber of “ersatz sheep” were seen as pos­si­bil­i­ties to main­tain the Nazi sta­tus quo with­in Ger­man pow­er struc­ture, while appear­ing to be a change of regime.

In the event, that was accom­plished.

One of the poten­tial “ersatz sheep” dis­cussed as a pos­si­ble fig­ure­head to main­tain Nazi influ­ence in Ger­man pow­er struc­ture, has enjoyed a post­war rep­u­ta­tion as some­thing of an anti-Nazi icon: Pas­tor Mar­tin Niemoller.

Although many are unaware the speak­er’s iden­ti­ty, the rue­ful reflec­tions of Niemoller that “. . . When they came for the Jews, I did not protest, for I was not a Jew. . . .” etc. are well known.

Less well known is that Niemoller was an ear­ly, enthu­si­as­tic Nazi and, before that, part of the Black Reich­swehr–under­ground mil­i­tary units that sub­vert­ed the Weimar Repub­lic and paved the way for Hitler’s rise to pow­er with a wave of assas­si­na­tions. (The Black Reich­swehr is cov­ered in, among oth­er pro­grams, AFA #10.)

Niemoller’s even­tu­al oppo­si­tion to Hitler was a result of the Fuehrer’s attempts at over-manip­u­lat­ing the Protes­tant denom­i­na­tions, not an over­all ide­o­log­i­cal schism.

A dec­o­rat­ed U‑boat com­man­der dur­ing World War I, Niemoller vol­un­teered for duty as a sub­mariner after Hitler’s inva­sion of Poland! (Niemoller was an offi­cer on board the sub­ma­rine that laid the mine that sand H.M.S. Bri­tan­nic, the sis­ter ship of the Titan­ic.) 

We should note that the Third Reich had long laid plans for going under­ground and re-emerg­ing at an oppor­tune time, as author Curt Riess notes in The Nazis Go Under­ground. They skill­ful­ly gave anti-Nazi cre­den­tials to those who were to be used for post­war ser­vice.

The Thyssens, for exam­ple, were seen by author Riess as a pos­si­ble touch­stone for Nazi resur­gence, in the event of a defeat of the Reich’s armies. (The Thyssens, of course, were busi­ness part­ners of the Bush fam­i­ly and key ele­ments of the post­war Bor­mann cap­i­tal net­work.)

We very much hope that the more ded­i­cat­ed listeners/readers will take advan­tage of the anti-fas­cist books avail­able for down­load on this web­site. The per­spec­tive avail­able will enable users to bridge the gap between the past and the present, as Har­ry Beck­hough, author and for­mer code­break­er at Bletch­ley Park has done so hero­ical­ly for us.

EXCERPT: . . . . This man [Pas­tor Mar­tin Niemoller] presents a much more com­pli­cat­ed prob­lem than Bumke. For, unlike the judge, in the past he has def­i­nite­ly come out against the Nazis. The world remem­bers it. He protest­ed vio­lent­ly against Hitler’s inter­fer­ence in Church mat­ters. He tried to pro­tect non-Aryan priests of the Protes­tant Church when they were in dan­ger of being removed from their pul­pits. He orga­nized strong Chris­t­ian resis­tance all over Ger­many to Hitler’s attempt to give the Protes­tant Church a leader in the per­son of the for­mer army chap­lain, Lud­wig Mueller, one of the most prob­lem­at­i­cal fig­ures of the Third Reich. He wrote and deliv­ered ser­mons in his lit­tle church in an ele­gant sub­urb of Berlin which caused every­body to fear that he might be arrest­ed any Sun­day. He was final­ly arrest­ed and, though the court acquit­ted him of all the trumped-up charges that were made against him, he was put in a con­cen­tra­tion camp— where he still is as far as any­one knows.

This is one side of the pic­ture. But there is anoth­er one. Mar­tin Niemoeller comes from one of the most reac­tionary fam­i­lies in Ger­many. A for­mer navy offi­cer, he was one of a group of the most Pan-Ger­man­is­tic men in the navy. Dur­ing World War I he became a suc­cess­ful and famous U‑boat com­man­der. The rev­o­lu­tion made him a bit­ter man. He was against every­thing it rep­re­sent­ed, for every­thing the old Ger­man Empire had rep­re­sent­ed. He became promi­nent among the young men who formed ille­gal mil­i­tary units.

He enlist­ed as a mem­ber of the Black Reich­swehr. Today it is con­ve­nient­ly for­got­ten by those who spon­sor him that he was one of the first mem­bers of the Nazi par­ty and that for many years he was an admir­ing fol­low­er of Adolf Hitler. Not a word did he have to say against the Führer and all the hor­rors he per­pe­trat­ed, up to 1933. It was only then that he disagreed—with remark­able courage it must be admit­ted. He decid­ed to leave the par­ty, thus depriv­ing him­self of great advan­tages which every old mem­ber was cer­tain of, and expose him­self to great dan­ger. Yes, he had courage. He was prob­a­bly the only Nazi who left the par­ty in the year 1933.

But as far as his quar­rels with Hitler go, they do not include the whole Nazi phi­los­o­phy. Niemoeller object­ed only to cer­tain fea­tures, cer­tain events, cer­tain per­son­al­i­ties. If Hitler had left reli­gion alone, Niemoeller would nev­er have fought him. If instead of try­ing to make his friend Pas­tor Mueller head of the Church, Hitler had cho­sen a bet­ter church­man, or if he had left the choice to the church­men them­selves, Mar­tin Niemoeller would have been delight­ed. He said so him­self.

How lim­it­ed Niemoeller’s diver­gences with Hitler are became obvi­ous at the begin­ning of the war, in Sep­tem­ber 1939. The pas­tor had by then been in prison for many years. He had repeat­ed­ly declined offers of free­dom under the con­di­tion that he give up preach­ing. It was his con­stant con­tention that he must tell the world what he thought of Hitler. But now, when Hitler began his war against the world, this no longer seemed impor­tant. It seemed more impor­tant to help Hitler win the war. The mar­tyr to his faith volunteered—as a sub­ma­rine com­man­der. Which means that he has hard­ly changed since 1914.

If Niemoeller were to become the head of the Ger­man gov­ern­ment, he cer­tain­ly would do away with all those fea­tures of the Hitler regime which he has so vio­lent­ly and coura­geous­ly protest­ed against. But he would not take the ini­tia­tive in doing away with any of the fea­tures of that regime against which he has not protest­ed, and with which he is in com­plete accord.

Niemoeller was a Nazi from the very begin­ning and he will always remain a Nazi. He has nev­er fought against the polit­i­cal phi­los­o­phy of Nazism as such, which means that if he attained pow­er the ille­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tives of this phi­los­o­phy will pos­sess in him a good and pow­er­ful friend. . . .

The Nazis Go Under­ground by Curt Riess; Dou­ble­day, Doran & Co. [HC]; 1944; LCCN: 44007162; pp. 182–183.


One comment for “Pastor Martin Niemoller: A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing”

  1. Gee, that was a total dis­ap­point­ment to learn of his true nature. I have been quot­ing him for years about how when the Naz­i’s came I did not stand up for nobody blablabla, and then when they final­ly came for me no one was left. You just nev­er know about peo­ple until the truth of their intent comes to light. Thank you once again for your great works of rais­ing the polit­i­cal con­scious­ness.

    Posted by ella seneres | June 10, 2012, 9:13 am

Post a comment