One must be more obedient to God than humans!

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The National Socialists increasingly regarded Martin Niemöller as an enemy of the state. In January of 1934, he dared to contradict Hitler at a reception of ecclesiastical representatives, telling him to his face that the church could not allow its responsibility for the German people to be taken from it. In his sermons in 1935, he opposed against every form of persecution, of Jews, too. He believed that if the state commands an evil deed, Christians must obey God more than humans.

He was one of the signatories of the Provisional Church Government’s memorandum to Hitler of 1936, the most courageous protest of all of any governing church body under the Nazi regime. Together with other Confessing Church pastors, he initiated events during the Olympic Games protesting the Protestant church’s situation. He made ecumenical contacts abroad and, starting in the spring of 1937, read the names of detained members of the Confessing Church aloud at worship services.

Following the Papal encyclical “Mit brennender Sorge” critical of the regime, he declared his solidarity with persecuted Catholics. In the summer of 1937, he read aloud a statement against the church elections ordered by the state and was outraged at Gestapo informants at a communion service.

He preached in Berlin-Dahlem for the last time on June 27, 1937. He denounced the wave of arrests that had recently befallen the Confessing Church and proclaimed that the church would not keep from saying what God had commanded at the order of humans: For it remains and will remain so as long as the world exists: “One must obey God more than humans!” Shortly afterward, he was arrested by the Gestapo.

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