Martin Niemöller: "First they came for the Socialists..."
Learn about the origins and legacy of Pastor Martin Niemöller's famous postwar words, “First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out…”

After World War II, Niemöller openly spoke about his own early complicity in Nazism and his eventual change of heart. His powerful words about guilt and responsibility still resonate today.

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.

—Martin Niemöller

Any regime that wants to stay in power needs to know this secret to hegemony:

the desire to cleanse society of the enemy is what compels compliance.

Every tyranny in history has depended on recruits to its own ranks from within the culture. They believe the lie knowing full well that it is a lie. The lie allows them to participate in the purge. They become the willing executioners. It’s been true throughout history, regardless of the particular and shifting desiderata of the despotism of the moment.

The historian Will Durant wrote:

“There is always, in any society, a minority whose instincts rejoice in the permission to persecute; it is a release from civilization.”

He’s right. It’s the Joker. It’s the Red Guard. It’s the malcontents looking for some meaning to their miserable lives, and they think they have found it in the persecution of others. Government benefits from this, and unleashes the lust for the imposition of pain. The sadistic impulse spreads and spreads, threatening civilization itself.

Dissent in general is dangerous. The intensification of “cancel culture” in the midst is not accidental. It is all part of the blood lust that is unleashed in a world consumed by hyper politicization and the generalized rejection of the liberal spirit.

Tyranny Prevention Project

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