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.
Every time I read these words from the famous Martin Niemöller, my blood boils a little. I interpret it as something personal. From my perspective as a Jew, born in 1993, and a grandson of a Holocaust survivor, this text leads me to think about the horrors of Nazi Germany. I imagine that socialists and trade unionists can also feel a personal connection, relating it to their own historical moments.
However, I have always sensed in this text a complaint against history, against the society of the past, distant and alien, as if it were a lament directed at those who remained silent at that time.
It is natural to wonder whether the people of the 1930s and 1940s did not raise their voices against the horrors happening in Europe to millions of people because they were unaware or because it seemed so distant that they did not see the need to get involved in a problem that appeared not to affect them. And I’m not only talking about Jews but also about Roma people, communists, political prisoners, homosexuals, people of African descent, basically anyone who did not fit the description of the Aryan race. Why speak up, then? Why raise one’s voice?
I have no evidence, but I have no doubts either that many people knew what was happening but chose to bury their heads in the sand because they believed the consequences would not touch their doors, and the suffering would be experienced in the homes of others. I also believe that even if some people had knowledge of the situation, they could not fathom the extent and wickedness of the situation in Europe in those years. At that time, there were no technologies and communication tools like audio, video, and photography that we have today.
And suddenly, reality hits me in October 2023. They came for the Jews again. It began with a devastating attack in Israel carried out by the terrorist group Hamas, in which 1,400 civilians were brutally killed, raped, and burned alive, over 240 civilians remain kidnapped, and more than 7,000 rockets were launched at Israeli cities. It continued with rallies calling for the death of Jews, acts of vandalism against Jewish properties, and several Jews in different parts of the world who have been injured or killed.
Some minorities have started to speak out in support of Israel, the Jewish people, and the kidnapped. However, there are still many who, unfortunately, have not raised their voices or tried to silence those who do. This time, unlike the wise words of Martin Niemöller, some of the silencers are Jews.
The history of our people is not new. If you have ever felt the same indignation as I do when thinking about those who could have said or done something in the 1930s and 1940s, I urge you to reconsider the idea of remaining silent.
They came for the Jews, and I did speak out.
“If not you, then who? If not now, when?”