Pastor Martin Niemoeller's postwar statement, "First they came for the ..." is quoted ad nauseam by the kinds of people who watch Oprah. Niemoeller prior to 1945 however was no liberal. He was a national conservative who had been a member of the Freikorps and supported the 1920 Kapp Putsch. He was not diametrically opposed to the National-Socialist agenda.
Niemoeller had criticisms of the Jews. He considered them Christ-killers, and in a 1935 sermon he described the Jews as “a highly gifted people which produces idea after idea for the benefit of the world, but whatever it takes up changes into poison, and all that it ever reaps is contempt and hatred”
Niemoeller, however, evidently believed in the magic power of baptism to change one's disposition. After the mainline Lutheran Church defrocked its clergy of Jewish descent, the conservative non-racist Niemoeller started his own breakaway church that rejected the aryanization of clergy. Niemoeller had various conflicts with authorities after that. Beginning in 1938 he was held in "protective custody," first at Sachsenhausen. When war broke out in 1939 he sought to be released from detention to fight for Germany. In 1941 he was transferred to Dachau, where he was housed in a barracks with other clerical troublemakers and had access to books. He was kept there until U.S. troops arrived in 1945.
le Drame des Juifs européens (1964), he views Niemoeller as a man who exaggerated his differences with the Hitler government in order to escape hostile scrutiny after the war:
The most typical case of this kind of guilty conscience seems to me to be that of the German Pastor Martin Niemoeller.In short, he is a man who could have been at the defendants' bench at Nuremberg under the charge of "Crimes against peace," for having participated in the Nazi "Plot," which the indictment included, from 1920 until 1936. Such a conclusion is inescapable when one reads his own book, Vom U-Boot zur Kanzel, which came out in Germany in 1935, when Hitler had been in power for two years, and which was written on the theme "Damals versank mir eine Welt." It is the harshest of any indictment of Bolshevism that I have yet read. It is also a narrow and chauvinistic profession of faith in nationalism, and it shows the most complete adherence to the general policies of the N.S.D.A.P.To get pardoned for all that, Pastor Niemoeller, President of the Council of the German Protestant Church, in a speech which he gave on July 3, 1946, and which was published under the title Der Weg ins Freie (F.M. Hellbach, Stuttgart, 1946), testified that 238,756 persons had been exterminated at Dachau, although we know today that in reality there were only about 30,000 deaths there; he confirmed the existence of a gas chamber, and we know today there was not one there*; and since 1945, every time he has opened his mouth to speak, he has preached the unilateral responsibility of Germany, and the collective responsibility of the German people, in the war of 1939-1945. He is today at the head of a pacifist movement, and he defends without exception all of the contentions which are the basis of Soviet Russia's foreign policy. There is no doubt that if he had not conducted himself in the way that he has, he would have been one of the chief objects of the accusations that the Soviets incessantly make against the Germans.
Pastor Niemoeller, in short, has the same attitude as all of those people of the Parisian gentry, or of the world of arts and letters, who led a dolce vita in the company of the highest German personages of occupied Paris, rejoicing in the champagne of Hitler's victories, and who, as soon as the wind turned, gave their allegiance to the Communist Party and became the most severe denouncers of the collaborators, in postwar France, solely with an eye to escaping the defendants' bench.It was people like that who gave the prosecutors and the judges at Nuremberg their most striking evidence and who continue to enrich the archives of Rehovot (Israel) and of Warsaw with all those documents, as fanciful as they are new, which are discovered from time to time and which are published to the sound of trumpets in order to keep alive in the world those anti-German feelings on which the world policy of Bolshevism and Zionism depend.
* The shower room at Dachau is still displayed as a gas-chamber but there is a sign therein stating that it was never used, which of course contradicts the Allied propaganda of 1946.