Martin Niemöller

Martin Niemöller was born in Lippstadt on January 14, 1892 and grew up in a parsonage. In 1910, he started a career as an officer in the German Imperial Navy. He fought in World War I as a Navy officer, last of all as a submarine commander. In 1919, he began pursuing a degree in agriculture at first but then switched to theology. He married Else Bremer that same year. He became the director of the Westphalian Inner Mission in Münster in 1923 and a pastor in Berlin-Dahlem in 1931. He was a co-founder, leading member and uncompromising champion of the Confessing Church from 1933 onward. In 1937, he was arrested for defaming the state and disturbing public peace. Hitler had him sent off to Sachsenhausen concentration campin 1938 as his personal prisoner. In 1941, he was transferred to Dachau concentration camp. During his imprisonment there, Niemöller was held in high esteem abroad and viewed as the quintessential iconic figure of the resistance against Hitler. In 1945, he was freed shortly before he was to be shot by an SS unit in South Tirol. After the war’s end, he was the Director of the Church Foreign Office of the Evangelical Church in Germany from 1945 to 1956 and the President of the Evangelical Church in Hesse and Nassau from 1947 to 1964. He additionally held numerous ecumenical offices. Niemöller sharply criticized the founding of the Federal Republic of Germany and the German government’s policy of rearmament under Konrad Adenauer. The former submarine commander turned into a radical pacifist and an opponent of nuclear armament. He participated in the first Easter March in England in 1958 and became an active member of the German peace movement. Niemöller died on March 6, 1984 in Wiesbaden.

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