Niemöller and the Federal Republic of Germany

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Hardly another Protestant pastor changed his convictions after the war’s end as radically as Martin Niemöller. The enthusiastic navy officer became a pacifist. The progeny of an anti-Semitic tradition turned into an opponent of every form of racism. At the end of his life, the monarchist loyal to the Kaiser saw himself as a revolutionary.

The intransigence with which he held his views remained unchanged however. He disapproved of the founding of the Federal Republic of Germany since he felt it sealed the division of Germany. He accused the new West German state of the shabbiest materialism. He spoke out vehemently against rearmament and the stationing of nuclear weapons. He participated in the first Easter March in England in 1958 and became active in the German peace movement.

He visited Communist countries repeatedly on his numerous trips abroad during the Cold War. His behavior was always polarizing and earned him many foes among politicians, theologians and the populace. He himself always considered himself guided by the question: What would Jesus say to this? Shortly before his death at the age of 92 on March 6, 1984 in Wiesbaden, he remarked that whoever answers this question for himself and is guided by it is not agreeable to anyone.

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  • © Institut für Stadtgeschichte Frankfurt/Main, Best. Zeitbilder, S7Z1964, Signatur 43