Today I went to the German labor camp Sachsenhausen, less than an hour outside of Berlin. Many times moved, at times disgusted, always sad, there were a couple of things today that struck a nerve.
Before entering the gates, our guide talked about the liberation, when the Red Army rolled in. Countries hurried to come collect their countrymen; sending buses and trains to bring their people home. After all, this camp was full of everyone from Norwegians, to French resistance fighters, to Dutch POWs. Probably the biggest population at the time were Soviet prisoners of war. Stalin didn’t rush to get his men; he considered them cowardly allowing themselves to be taken prisoner instead of dying bravely for the cause. Does that remind of you of anyone? Trump has said almost the same thing about John McCain, who was captured during the Vietnam war and held prisoner.
When we reached the “special prisoners” prison, we learned that some famous men had been housed there, including Georg Elser, the man who tried in vain to assassinate Hitler with a bomb. People leave gifts and flowers in the outline of his barack to this day. Another famous prisoner there is someone you’ve probably never heard of, but is remembered for something he once said.
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
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 for me.
Martin Niemoller was a prominent Protestant pastor who was jailed the last 7 years of WWII because he spoke out against Hitler and the Nazi rule. Again, his saying reminded me of the dangerous situation in our country today, where some people are okay with what Donald Trump says because they’re not Mexican, Muslim, or a woman. He’s not targeting them. Yet.