“The Führer’s Personal Prisoner”

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Martin Niemöller was held in pretrial detention as of July of 1937. He was charged with denigrating state measures and leading Nazi politicians, inciting contravention of state laws and publishing writings that disturbed the public peace.

He was sentenced to a light prison term and fine in March of 1938. The prison sentence was considered to have been served by his pretrial detention. The sentence was tantamount to an acquittal. Nevertheless, he was taken away to Sachsenhausen concentration camp as the “Führer’s personal prisoner”.

Solitary confinement caused him to fall into a deep depression. After the war had broken out, he futilely enlisted in the navy. At times, he considered converting to Catholicism. He was unable to come into contact with fellow prisoners until 1941 when he was transferred Dachau concentration camp.

In April of 1945, he was transported together with 150 other “special prisoners” to South Tyrol where he was saved from execution in the last second and finally liberated by the Americans. Niemöller primarily owed his survival of eight years of imprisonment to the constant attention from abroad where he was regarded as the symbol of resistance against Hitler.

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  • KWZ, public domain

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