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Analyze and Interpret the following source and explain the ideological perspective reflected in the source. Discuss the principles of nationalism and explain any keys terms or concepts used in the source.
"THEY CAME FIRST for the Communists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.
THEN THEY CAME for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.
THEN THEY CAME for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.
THEN THEY CAME for me
and by that time no one was left to speak up."
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Niemoller's poem expresses the reality of life without a sense of communal advocacy. Initially supporting Hitler in his belief of national unity, Niemoller quickly distanced himself from the Nazi party when it became evident what was being done to many groups. His poem is a famous example of a world without speech, without advocacy, and without a sense of public interest. One implication of nationalism present is that collective identity cannot be accomplished unless there is a sense of speaking out in the name of others and ensuring that all parties with vested interests are represented. The repetition of "I didn't speak out" is of vital importance to this end.
The text you cite has been attributed to Pastor Martin Niemoller (1892–1984). Neimoller was a German minister who at first supported Hitler's rise to power. Later, when Hitler declared that the state had greater authority than the churches, Neimoller rebelled and became the leader of German clergymen who opposed Hitler. In 1937, he was arrested and sent to a concentration camp.
Neimoller is expressing the idea that it is not acceptable to remain silent when other people are being persecuted. His reasoning is very simple: eventually, you will be the one who is persecuted, and then who will speak up for you?
Niemoller mentions three groups who were persecuted by the Nazis before they persecuted him:
c) trade unionists.
Part of Nazi ideology was opposition to Communism. Under Communism, the government owns the "means of production," meaning all important industries and businesses. The Nazis, by contrast, believed in the importance of private ownership of the means of production. Under Nazi rule, many proponents of Communism were persecuted, imprisoned, or killed.
The Nazi persecution of Jews is well known and need not be explained again here.
"Trade unionists" are workers who have organized themselves into unions to protect their rights and to negotiate for better salaries and working conditions. Although not all trade unionists are communists, the union movement is often seen as being tinged with communism. Thus, the Nazi persecution of trade unionists goes together with their persecution of Communists.
I do not know that there is a name for the ideology expressed in this famous quote from Martin Niemoller. The quote is expressing his sadness at his failure to stand up for other victims of the Nazi oppression.
The Nazi Party, of course, was one of the most famous ultra-nationalist groups in history. They were convinced of the superiority of the German people to all other types of people. Because they were convinced, they felt it was their right to conquer other, lesser people.
Outside of the connection to the Nazis, there is not much about nationalism in this quote. The part about not sticking up for Jews might be nationalist because it shows a person caring about his "own people" more than others. But trade unionists and communists are not nationalities and so not caring about them does not fall under nationalism.
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