Guilt and conscience

“First They Came For The Jews” – poem by Martin Niemöller


 Engraving of the poem presented at the New England Holocaust Memorial in Boston, Massachusetts.

First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.

Then 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 me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.

Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) was a prominent Protestant pastor who emerged as an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps.

The quotation stems from Niemöller’s lectures during the early postwar period. Different versions of the quotation exist. These can be attributed to the fact that Niemöller spoke extemporaneously and in a number of settings. Much controversy surrounds the content of the poem as it has been printed in varying forms, referring to diverse groups such as Catholics, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jews, Trade Unionists, or Communists depending upon the version. Nonetheless his point was that Germans—in particular, he believed, the leaders of the Protestant churches—had been complicit through their silence in the Nazi imprisonment, persecution, and murder of millions of people. (Read more here.)

“Niyi Osudare” (Not My Business) – African poem


Osundare

They picked Akanni up one morning
Beat him soft like clay
And stuffed him down the belly
Of a waiting jeep.

What business of mine is it
So long they don’t take the yam
From my savouring mouth?

They came one night
Booted the whole house awake
And dragged Danladi out,
Then off to a lengthy absence.

What business of mine is it
So long they don’t take the yam
From my savouring mouth?

Chinwe went to work one day
Only to find her job was gone:
No query, no warning, no probe –
Just one neat sack for a stainless record.

What business of mine is it
So long they don’t take the yam
From my savouring mouth?

And then one evening
As I sat down to eat my yam
A knock on the door froze my hungry hand.

The jeep was waiting on my bewildered lawn
Waiting, waiting in its usual silence.

Osundare believes that there is no choice for the African poet but to be political. He has accused and protested against generations of corrupt Nigerian leaders and this poem following is a testament to his bluntness. He doesn’t hide his statement behind humour or wit. He conjures the intended feeling with the straightest words. Not My Business was written in accusation of the murderous dictatorship of Gen. Sanni Abacha from 1993 to 1998. (Source)

Read Niemöller’s poem rewritten for Donald Trump’s America.

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Read more about Niemoller’s famous quotation.

(2009) – ALDE Civil Liberties campaign

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Tracking the Texts

Use your A3 Theme Tracking Crucible and Handmaid sheets to record which characters and events the authors use to explore key ideas.  This should help you identify key similarities and differences between the text.

THINK DEEPLY

We want to reach the point where we feel confident to interpret the text ourselves.  We ought to be able to identify what we think the text (and the author?) suggests about the nature of a character or an idea:

Which characters or events in the texts present the following ideas? The Crucible The Handmaid’s Tale
Dystopia vs Utopia    
Slavery and Servitude    
Theocracy and Social Hierarchy    
Love and Connection    
Authority and Control    
Freedom and Oppression    
Community vs the Individual    
Religious faith and theocracy    
Self-interest and self-sacrifice    
Courage and resistance    
Sex and Sexuality    
Identity and Reputation    
Language and Learning    
Fear and Hatred    
Morality and Conscience