Ed Darrell at (in?) Millard Fillmore's Bathtub reminds us of this famous poem by Martin Niemöller.
First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a communist; Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist; Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew; Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak out for me.
These are fair questions, and I agree that this poem is an important expression of both the guilt and the solidarity that Niemöller took on himself through his words and actions. While he was initially supportive of the Nazis, he quickly realized the danger that they represented to Germany. But even then, initially his concern was not for the Nazi victimization of the Jews, but for the integrity of the church, which was being taken over by Nazi ideologues. It was only late in the game that he, with many other members of the confessing church, came to realize the moral responsibility they bore for the well-being of the Jews, and their culpability for not speaking up on their behalf sooner.
Niemöller and his actions generate controversy — did he ever act forcefully enough? Did his actions atone for his earlier inactions? Could anything ever atone for not having seen through Hitler and opposing Naziism from the start? For those discussion reasons, I think it’s important to keep the poem attributed to Niemöller. The facts of his life, his times, and his creation of this poem, go beyond anything anyone could make up.
Tillich and Bonhoeffer are two theologians who deserve credit for opposing the Nazis early, and for the right reasons. Niemöller, with many other German Christians, came late, but at least got there. More's the pity for the many others who never got there at all.
EDIT: I'm playing around with typepad's new "blog it!" feature, which allows you to do posts without having to open up typepad. I'm still getting used to it, so I apologize for the glitches.