We all know the famous quote from Martin Niemöller:
First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a communist.
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.
It’s a great quote of course, one that invites us all to slip right into the role of the narrator, to imagine ourselves in Niemöller’s place. To make us think about how we ought to speak out early. But of course, Niemöller didn’t, not until it was too late, and neither did so many others, ever.
One question that’s been on my mind a lot though lately; the ones who come for people, what if they never came for you?
Or anyone like you?
What if the wrong people never made it out of those camps, not in enough numbers to get anyone’s attention?
What if there was no foreign power interesting in stopping them? At least none capable of it! No enemy troops to escort you and your neighbors through the killing grounds? To make you handle the nameless bodies? Or tell you what was done in your name? To make you see it or smell it.
What if those people, the ones who come, never bit off more than they could chew? What if they never gave you a reason to rethink your silence?
What if you were never the one who needed someone to speak out?
What sort of stories might you tell then?