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"First They Came" by Martin Niemoller

”First They Came” was written by Martin Niemoller after World War II. Originally part of a speech, many variations of the poem have circulated since the 1950s. Niemoller wrote these words after he spent seven years in Nazi concentration camps for opposing the Nazi control over churches, and realized the immense mistreatment that Jewish people endured.

These resources for the Holocaust may or may not be appropriate for some groups of students. Please use your best judgment when selecting materials for your students. For more information about teaching the Holocaust, see our History of the Holocaust lesson plans.

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Student Activities for First They Came

Essential Questions for "First They Came"

  1. What is this poem about?
  2. What are the themes of this poem?
  3. How does this poem make you feel?
  4. What are some ways the poem resonates today?

Martin Niemoller

Martin Niemoller was born in Germany in 1892. He was a cadet in the Navy during World War I, and after being discharged, he went to school to become a Lutheran pastor. Niemoller was a supporter of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party at first. However, when he realized that they were putting pressure on the churches, tapping his phone lines, and keeping a close eye on the Pastors Emergency League (which he helped create), he realized that they were a dictatorship that could not be trusted. Due to opposition of the Nazi’s state control of the churches, he was imprisoned and spent seven years in concentration camps. After the war, Niemoller spoke out openly and publicly about his guilt and the horrors of the Holocaust. He felt deep regret about not doing more to help the victims of the Nazis. He died in March of 1984, at the age of 92.

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