thumbnail of Voices of Europe; Pastor Martin Niemo_ller
Hide -
This transcript was received from a third party and/or generated by a computer. Its accuracy has not been verified. If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+.
Voices of Europe Milton Mayer American author and broadcaster lecturer and professor of social research from the University of Frankfurt has been traveling throughout many of the countries of Europe recording the voices of a great number of people on a wide variety of subjects. These are the voices of Europeans who are alive and sensitive to the tragedy and dilemma of the conditions that surround them. People who can speak directly and candidly of their own feelings and their own aspirations. Today in the Spartan in Germany Milton Mayer is interviewing Pastor Martin remember Dr. Lee Miller is perhaps Germany's most famous clergyman. President of the Evangelical Church of the German state of Hessen Nassau chairman of the church foreign affairs office since 1945. Formerly pastor of the Lutheran parish called olim in Berlin founder of the pastors emergency lead to resist Hitler and author of four books. He was in the first world war a U-boat commander against the allies in the second world war from one thousand thirty seven to nine hundred forty five. He was a political prisoner of Hitler's.
An inmate of the Nazi concentration camps in Germany. In this interview in the study of Dr. Neil Miller's home he tells what he has learned in his life and how he has changed. Here is Milton Mayer. Doctor name owner. I have a. Remarkably simple question to ask you. I'd like to know what you have learned in your life. And. What you have learned about kuat. That's quite a question. Professor I met my own. But I should try to do my best to answer this your question and I think you are not interested in what I have learnt technically in my own several positions and professions during this lifetime of 60
years now. But you are interested in what has left its marks in my life. During that time when a young man comes to his senses and comes to think about what life might be and what it might be good for. And so I should see the real first mark in my life. It has been only when I was about 26 years old and was as a submarine officer during the First World War. At that time I came to see that what records of conflict of duties is not just a thing happening in an old Greek drama or in a modern play but that it is part of our life and the most important part of our life as Walt
name is a question that we are not confronted it various Troy's between good and bad in most cases of our decision. But that is a question usually is this and that this is a real honest and difficult question to choose between the bad and the less bad. Or are the Gorton all the more Gord the better. I have come to see that in my own life happening early in 1917 just submarine under which I was. Navigator. Copied old. A French troop transport between Molokai and Crete on this occasion we looked through the periscope of
the ship had been sunk and saw hundreds and hundreds really 2000 people swimming on our own in the waters of the Mediterranean drowning and trying to escape from drowning screaming fighting for their lives. And this moment a French torpedo boat destroyer arrived at the scene and my com on the end of that time we were on our way back home said. Stand by the first Jew. Going to torpedo the destroyer. But this destroyer was just occupied by it in putting out life belts and ropes and other
things to save people from drowning and I tried to intervene with my commandant. I thought it would not be right and just to do this and sink the destroyer in here's your money day in work. You were not at that time docked anymore a pastor of the Christian church. Oh no I was a professional naval officer of the time else and my commandant told me you are taking things too easy as a conflict is by far greater You see these people will be saved and brought to Crete by as a destroyer to night and weekends as they will appear at the front of Salonika. And fight our boys there. I seen her. And now we had a debate with two of us. Ending in the result is that we didn't file our
last beetle but that we left the scene and went to down to our home hub and bought a last copy door. Back with us. I never had a good conscience about this because certainly hundreds of people have been saved from drowning and have been brought as soldiers to the front fighting against our bio's. As a come on them say it and yet it is the only as a as a possibly different possibility we should have had or we could have had would have been to sink her. And in this case I shouldn't have had a good conscience either and saw we had dress to make up our mind not to choose a right also wrong but less wrong or more wrong. And I think we chose the less wrong. And this was a point when I found out from my life that my boyish
idealism in which I had been brought up at school didn't hold and that instead of there was the Christian realism really for my life to be the only chance and possibility. You worry me a little there Dr. ne Miller. Because. This choice. Of the lesser evil. As we call it the lesser evil as it were and against the greater evil on the ground that there is really no absolute good to be chosen is by way of being also an excuse for becoming a very cynical human being. Which you have not become I'm not sure that. That you have followed this theory but let's let's proceeded a little further with yes.
I should just answer to Zeus dear friend there it is. To avoid cynicism after you have come to such a conclusion it's just knowing the Christian message that in the last two three we are dependent on forgiving grace of God which doesn't ease our response ability which doesn't ease our task but which really makes sparse Woolsey's tortures of conscience in a way that we hope for as a forgiveness of God and go on. And what do we do. What do we do about the injunction to let our answer be or nay nay. This is sounds a little bit at least superficially more like the boyish idealism
the certainty absoluteness than it does like the shall I say Careful nice cautiousness compromise of later life. The question always is whether you'd take the burden of your bad conscience of whether you are rid yourself of this burden. So a Christian can take the burden I think. And has to take the burden of the bad conscience knowing about the forgiving grace of God and said otherwise you have to become to become cynical about the whole thing and is to just say you can't choose a good thing you have to choose between the two things which are in the last run irrelevant. They are not irrelevant for you have your bad conscience which reminds you every time that you are responsible and remain responsible.
And this this incident or this development which occurred in your twenties had what effect on the rest of your life. I should see that this incident had the effect that I came to see for the first time that forgiveness of sin is not just only just topic was see already but something by which to live by which to act in which to trust. And I should see for the first time I felt from that moment onward that does exist in message means something for my life and really the fundament is a basis of a human life in this world which preserves you from becoming in your moment far as a
cynic becomes in the human in the last line. Now back to an e-mail or will you translate. Will you translate this. Evolution of yours as spiritual evolution of yours into the world of. Political social and religious action. Of the years that followed years I should say that from this moment on what I saw on my own responsibility for the human being was with which I have to deal in my life in a new. Absolute light that the rest sponsibility for the human being for as a Christian becomes something you're a vocable and something absolute. I'm interested now in the.
In your use of the term and of the theory of absolutism because I think some of our listeners might see a conflict between. Well the mere term absolute On the one hand and the doctrine of the choice of the lesser evil on the other. Yes. I should see. The rest sponsibility which we have to take in Iowa decision between the great ends Alysa evil. So responsibility is an absolute responsibility. It is of no more or less honest and of no less concern then zero responsibility intrudes in between good and bad. Now doctor any Mahler I remember among the many things I've heard about you before we first met
that your church in dollar in the Berlin suburb on dollar. Was a kind of quiet refuge for people. Who are against Naziism. Even before you yourself had taken an absolute position. Against Naziism to the extent that you were arrested and imprisoned. I'd like to move now to this point of your evolution with reference on the one hand to the absolute responsibility of the Christian and on the other hand to the necessary realistic worldly choice between the two evils. Yes there's a bridge between these two sides of your problem.
Really is that the love of God. Is from the other side. It was a view from the other side. The love of man. You can't love God without loving your neighbor. That's not the Two Great Commandments. It's all one great commandment to love God and to love your neighbor to yes to love God means your client that you can love as a real God the Father of Jesus. You can't love him without loving the man. I think that is at the bottom of the so-called doctrine of the two natures of Christ. Yes if if I may at this point without license display my air you Ed.. I am reminded I believe
of the injunction in St. John that. If you cannot love your brother whom you see how can you love can you love God just as I have quoted just this passage many many times in the last year. Yeah if you cannot love your brother home you see how can you love me. How can you love God whom you do not do not see. That's just yes and no you have asked me whole. My life has developed from there on I could see this was something which meant really a turn in my life. But that's not only done in my life. I think in getting older and older you have to learn something new and something additional to what you have learnt before. And I should point out though that a second great impression I have had in my life has been zero recognition which has come
very late much too late really to me that. This humanity of God. In Christ Jesus includes that way our violence is with ALD and the promise of the life that Zab buys away all settling disputes and conflicts by war but he Bishan off of force of violence really is just a self deception to which we succumb. Doctor name Miller in the course of the last few years in your struggle against the political policy of the United States and its allies. With reference to the re armament of Germany and the so-called Cold War
with Russia I have heard you referred to. As a communist which is. Something for both of us I think to smile at. But I have never yet heard you called a pacifist. I am at this point tempted to call you a pacifist. You may do so and you may not do so. I don't make a principle out of pacifism. I do believe that violence has no promise and yet I am not 100 percent convinced that you eventually out from love because love is a fulfillment of the law of Christ. You might even take to weapon to do what love. And what's the love of
Christ for your neighbor say commands you to do. I'm not sure about it. I shouldn't take him over the edge decision know which comes to me to be made only in maybe in years to come. I refuse to. To make a decision I know which I don't over see. For this moment in so far I'm not a pacifist because I don't believe in principles I believe in the love of God and that's as love of God for me means to love my brother. And what's the love of the brother commands that will in the given moment be the fulfillment of God's commandment and of God's love. And in so far you may call me a pacifist I am not cross was you who about it. But I just should like to say I am not so quite sure that in a given moment my decision will fall to the
pacifist side. Even if I have told you and I'm telling you again that I don't believe that violence has any promise from God. And now I'd like to revert because to the. Conflict of duties with which we began talking airs as you and to your decision. To oppose national socialism. Which certainly must have claimed you since it represented not only a political development but also the regime the government of your country. A conflict which. But you must have then encountered. I'd like to I'd like to go a little deeper into the problem of the of the conflict of duties which we spoke of
with reference to some of the hard choices you had to make in the period of 1933 shall we say and means I should see the road which comes to my mind in this connection is we have to obey God rather than men. And I think that to follow this directive has been one of my most strong and nevers in those years and I have seen that. And also it the overtly also. Dealing with your own beings in an in the human way certainly does something which by God is not allowed but forbidden and that in this moment then as a state as we all saw it the state begins to persecute a human being. The church ANSA Christian and
the human being has to stand against it because it is one I should even say it's a central truth of the Christian gospel that for God there is nothing more important in the whole realm of His creation then say human being for whom he even gave himself and for whom he even second fire is to his son in whom he was with these. Then doctoring knew Mahler at the height of the power and the enormity of Naziism you had reached the absolute adherents. To shall I say. Am I right in saying to the doctrine of civil disobedience.
I should change it a little. I had come to the conclusion that it is not well done. To obey somebody else. Then Zo one whom you acknowledge and who claims they all saw a.. And this this development I take it. Represented a basic evolution in you. From the time of your days in the German Navy. When I assume if your commander had insisted upon sinking that French torpedo boat had so ordered had said to Neymar I order you would have obeyed at that time you would have obeyed if you could not have persuaded him otherwise. I shouldn't have contradicted aunt tried to hinder him to do what he was doing in command of the vessel
on which I was his. Certainly only his officer and at that time the idea of resisting somebody in doing what he is in he in command does. I had not yet penetrated as a possibility into my mind suddenly. The question today would be for me if ever I should bring myself in a position that I could be phased was such a problem. Yes that means I cannot I cannot imagine being in that big 8 on a submarine again. No but let me put it this way. You are a navigator are an officer in the. Christian church in the Evangelical Church of Germany and I'm interested. Also in this connection in knowing not only whether a Christian in your
view might have to defy his church authorities but also whether the church itself in Germany should have been counted on at the time of Naziism to do more than it did or should be counted on. Now not only in Germany but anywhere else in the world. These are really this is really a combination of Westerns I daresay. I see this combination and I think that the voice of the church certainly has not been clear and outspoken enough in the south right. And we have spoken out to Sis In fact in sister got a coronation of 1945. And but before today I should say the church is not speaking in such a way that people are really big get guidance from the church for their decisions.
Certainly the Church cannot take away the decisions forms of conscience of the single Christian. But the church is really all Blige That's my conviction to give guidance to people that they may find it is sedition which will hold. In front of the Christian conscience. And if the church does not do it. Then their single Christian has to do it in spite of his church That's my conviction. Then if I understand you correctly your doctrine of the absolute responsibility of the Christian. Of the Christian person. Is to choose not in a random idealistic fashion
between blacks and whites and goods and evils but is to choose with and absoluteness of responsibility. Yes between. Mixed goods and evolves Yes so that but for the best of men for the best of the neighbors for the best of those persons for whom God makes you responsible. Then let me see if I could put it this way. Would you say that what you have learned in your life. Is that there is not on the one hand. Only the absolute. More on the other. Only the relative. But there exist side by side and always working together. The absolute responsibility of the Christian and in the real world the relative choice between relative evils
the absolute responsibility must be taken into account in making these choices. Yes I think you have been a member of CLE of me. Is that what the C o Rajan score dogmatics and Essex can't be separated and must not be meddled. Thank you very much doctor anymore. You have been listening to the voice of Germany's most famous clergyman Pastor Martin e-mailer in a recorded interview from DR NAMEER a study in his home an be spotted in Germany. Dr anymore a U-boat commander in the first world war against the Allies was an inmate of the Nazi concentration camps during the Second World War from 1937 to 1945. One of Hitler's political prisoners. The interviewer was Milton Mayer an American author broadcaster lecturer and professor of social research from the University of Frankfurt who has been traveling throughout many of the countries of
Europe recording the voices of a great number of people on a wide variety of subjects. Today's program with Dr. Nimer dealt with what he had learned during his life and how he has changed his views in the next program of the series from London. Milton Maier interviews Mr. Kingsley Martin editor of the British weekly magazine The New Statesman a nation on the press and magazines and newspapers of Britain and the United States. The program you have just heard is made possible under a grant from the fund for adult education an independent organization established by the Ford Foundation. These programs are prepared and distributed by the National Association of educational broadcasters. This program was introduced by Norman McKeon This is the NEA betake network.
Voices of Europe
Pastor Martin Niemo_ller
Producing Organization
National Association of Educational Broadcasters
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/500-g15tc765).
Episode Description
An interview with Pastor Martin Niemo_ller, a German clergyman who was imprisoned by the Nazis during World War II.
Series Description
Interviews with noted Europeans on a variety of subjects, conducted by Milton Mayer, American author and broadcaster, lecturer and professor in the Institute of Social Research at Frankfurt University.
Broadcast Date
Global Affairs
Spiritual life
Media type
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
Interviewee: Niemo_ller, Martin, 1892-1984
Interviewer: Mayer, Milton, 1908-1986
Producing Organization: National Association of Educational Broadcasters
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 52-37-5 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:00?
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “Voices of Europe; Pastor Martin Niemo_ller,” 1953-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed July 25, 2024,
MLA: “Voices of Europe; Pastor Martin Niemo_ller.” 1953-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. July 25, 2024. <>.
APA: Voices of Europe; Pastor Martin Niemo_ller. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from