Childhood, Youth, Navy Officer

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Martin Niemöller grew up in a parsonage. His parents, Heinrich and Paula Niemöller, raised him to be nationalistic, loyal to the Kaiser and Protestant. Religiously, he was chiefly shaped by his father. Bible pictures of the life of Christ had made a deep impression on him in early childhood.

He wanted to be a navy officer from the time he was five. In 1910, he graduated from high school as the best in his class and pursued a career as an officer in the German Imperial Navy. He was convinced that a good Christian must also be a good citizen and soldier.

He became a first lieutenant in 1913 and was assigned to the submarine fleet in 1915. A superior attested that, while he was the least respectful, he was also the best. He was given command of his own submarine in 1918.

His time in the navy had lastingly shaped Martin Niemöller and even his later conduct in leadership positions in the church. He still looked back on his experiences as a submarine officer and commander with unbroken enthusiasm decades afterward.

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  • © Bildarchiv Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Bild-Nr. 30017355