When Hitler attacked the Jews ... I was not a Jew, therefore, I was not concerned. And when Hitler attacked the Catholics, I was not a Catholic, and therefore, I was not concerned. And when Hitler attacked the unions and the industrialists, I was not a member of the unions and I was not concerned. Then, Hitler attacked me and the Protestant church—and there was nobody left to be concerned.
Martin Niemller (1892–1984), German Protestant pastor, theologian. attributed in Congressional Record, vol. 114, p. 31636 (Oct. 14, 1968).
The words have never been authenticated. Though Niem"ller had earlier supported the Nazi régime, he became an outspoken opponent of the Nazis and was incarcerated in Sachsenhausen and Dachau concentration camps 1937-1945. A submarine commander in World War I, he volunteered (unsuccessfully) to serve again in the German navy in 1941, despite his opposition to Hitler—later arguing that he had a duty to "give unto Caesar what is Caesar's." In 1945, Niem"ller signed a "Declaration of Guilt" on behalf of the German churches for not opposing Hitler more forcefully.