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Sara Niemoeller addresses students

Widow of Holocaust survivor shares her experiences

By Molly Boes
On October 19, 2011

"Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak

out for me" was written by Pastor Martin Niemoeller, a concentration camp survivor who has been called Hitler's only private prisoner. On Oct. 4, Martin's widow, Sara Niemoeller, shared her personal history and experience with an audience of Xavier students and faculty as part of the October "Touching History" series, put on by the Center for Interfaith Community Engagement. Niemoeller was born in Potsdam, Germany and moved to Berlin when she was six years old. When she was eight years old, Martin Niemoeller became the Pastor of her local church. After being a U-boat commander in World War I, Martin Niemoeller decided to become a pastor after his father

told him that it was the "freest profession you can have."

As Niemoeller's father was against the Nazi movement,

her family became close with Martin and his relatives. As time progressed, Martin also started acting out against the Nazi movement. "He became an outspoken enemy of the Nazis from his pulpit," Niemoeller said. One day, in 1937, Martin came face-to-face with Hitler who addressed

him directly. After this address, Martin rebuked. Martin was then arrested. He had a regular court trial with over 60 charges, including treason. Although Martin was acquitted,

he was kidnapped by Nazis and sent to a concentration camp. When Hitler saw that the global uprise against Martin's imprisonment, he realized that Martin could prove to be a valuable prisoner and did not kill him. In May of 1945, Martin was liberated by the U.S. army. After his release, Martin traveled the world and talked about the German guilt, which many Germans did not wish to discuss. Sara arranged to meet Martin when he was visiting Brooklyn, N.Y., where she was living. "That was the beginning of a beautiful friendship," Niemoeller said.

Niemoeller and Martin married in 1971 and moved to Germany, where they had family, but Martin died in 1984 at the age of 92. Niemoeller currently lives in Pennsylvania and gives speeches providing first-hand accounts of

her and her husband's lives.


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