First They Came...
Part of a series on Poetry. [View Related Entries]
PROTIP: Press 'i' to view the image gallery, 'v' to view the video gallery, or 'r' to view a random entry.
"First They Came…" is a poem by Martin Niemoller written as a critique of German intellectuals during the Nazi occupation of Germany in the 1930s that remained silent during the Nazi purging of groups they found undesirable. The poem has grown into a snowclone online and has been used more frequently during the rise of President Donald Trump.
While the exact date the poem was first published is unclear, the earliest times Niemoller used variations of the text are traced back to 1946. The version of the text that appears in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum reads:
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.
The poem became extremely well known in Jewish circles as a part of Holocaust education. Its popularity led it to be referenced online as a snowclone where the structure of Niemoller's poem remains intact but the objects are changed. For example, one of the earlier online parodies was written by DemocraticUnderground forum poster BehindTheAegis during the 2004 presidential election between George W. Bush and John Kerry (shown below).
A Your eCards was created in August of 2012. On June 3rd, 2012, a parody version was uploaded to Fanfiction.net (shown below).
The poem continued to be referenced in news headlines in reference to how rights were being infringed upon. In 2014, OneNewsNetwork referenced the poem in a headline about union workers for McDonald's (shown below, left). On July 27th, 2015, Daily KOS referenced it in a headline about racism (shown below, right).
The political rise of Donald Trump, particularly his exclusionary policies with regards to Muslims, Mexicans, etc. brought the poem back into the public eye as variations began being used in protest to his policies. On June 29th, 2016, Quartz wrote an article with a poem imagining Trump's America. On January 29th, 2017, the poem was used in reference to both his defunding of National Parks and anti-Islam immigration executive order. The former was a Reddit post to /r/politicalhumor that gained 443 points (shown below, left). To the latter point, articles were published by The Atlantic and on Martin O'Malley's personal Medium to use the phrase. The Atlantic's article offered the history of the poem, as it had been a major rallying cry during protests against Trump's Muslim Ban (shown below, right).
 Wikipedia – First They Came…_…
 The Atlantic – ‘First They Came’: The Poem of the Protests
 Nancy Friedman – “First they came”: Evolution of a meme
 Fanfiction.net – First They Came
 Reddit – First They Came for Scientists
 Medium – Letters from Boston: First they came for the Muslims, and we said, “not in America, you don’t.”
 OneNewsNetwork – Warning on union push: First they came for McDonald's
 Daily KOS – The others First they came for the blacks…
 Quartz – The famous poem by an anti-Nazi pastor, rewritten for Donald Trump’s America
Bill-Stan, Gaijin Supreme
Jun 01, 2017 at 02:06PM EDT
Jun 01, 2017 at 06:53PM EDT
+ Add a Comment
Add a Comment