The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, Digital Edition > My Day
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt


NEW YORK, Monday—I was surprised to see the other day that Pastor Martin Niemoeller was being considered by some of our American officials to head the first post-war German government, and I was glad to see, under a later date, the report that the United States Army authorities had cancelled a speech by the same Rev. Niemoeller, which one of the Protestant chaplains had asked him to make.

Pastor Niemoeller won great fame because of his opposition to the rise of the Nazis. A movie was made about him and he was heralded in this country as a hero for his resistance. We saw him portrayed as an example of what a Protestant minister of great courage could endure for the cause of freedom. He spent eight years in a concentration camp until he was liberated by the Allied forces.

After being freed, however, he made a statement which must have shocked many people in this country. In part, he said: "The German people like to be governed, not to mingle in politics. The greatest shortcoming of the Weimar Republic was that it never could impose authority on the German people, which longed for such authority."

* * *

That statement sounds almost like a speech from Mr. Hitler. Later, also, Pastor Niemoeller admitted that from his concentration camp he had offered his services "in any capacity to the German Navy when the war began." He did not claim any political opposition to the Nazis. He said that as a churchman he was not interested in politics, but that he was unable to accept any authority which claimed the right to override that of the church. Pastor Niemoeller sounds to me like a gentleman who believes in the German doctrine of the superiority of race.

It is easy to understand devotion to one's country when attacked from without, but Niemoeller's expressed ideas make him unfit to establish any kind of government which would train the German people in democracy. The object of the Allies' occupation of Germany is to eradicate Naziism and the beliefs which the Nazis held, and to make it impossible for them to build a new generation ready to go to war.

* * *

One can understand the difficulties faced by our military authorities in finding Germans suited to take office in the country, but I should think they would hesitate to accept Niemoeller.

I have heard people who interviewed Niemoeller in an American camp, immediately after his liberation, say something like this: "Niemoeller is a trouble maker of the first order. He claimed our camp was worse than a concentration camp, and told us that we should not dare write: 'Niemoeller is liberated.' He is a dangerous pan-German, preaching adherence to God and His greatness in forgiving, looking down at us Americans as if he wanted to say: 'why don't you people forget what has been, as our Lord tends to forgive, and let's live together under a new Heaven, on a new earth with nothing but love and understanding."'

What a millenium that would be for the guilty Germans!

E. R.


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About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, August 7, 1945

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007

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Transcription created from a photocopy of a UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.