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All Our Yesterdays [Book]

Object | Accession Number: 2004.661.2

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    Overview

    Brief Narrative
    Book, All Our Yesterdays, read by Pastor Martin Niemoeller, and signed by him, while he was imprisoned in Dachau concentration camp from 1941-1945. When the Nazi Party came to power in 1933, Niemoeller was a Lutheran pastor in Berlin-Dahlem. In September 1933, Niemoeller helped found the Pastor's Emergency League to protest Nazi interference in church affairs and attacks on Christians of Jewish origin. In May 1934, he helped found a new protestant church in Germany, the Bekennende Kirche (the Confessing Church) and was barred from preaching by the government. Recognizing that the new government was a dictatorship, Niemoeller traveled around Germany preaching against the Nazis. He was arrested several times and in July 1937 was imprisoned in Berlin for nearly eight months. He was convicted of treason, but his sentence equalled time already served. In February 1938, Niemoeller rejected the terms of his release and was placed by the Gestapo in protective detention and sent to Sachsenhausen concentration camp, where he was again kept in solitary confinement. In 1941, he was sent to Dachau concentration camp, where he was housed with Catholic dissenters and permitted access to books. In 1945, he was transferred to Tirol, Austria, where he was liberated by American troops on May 5. After the war, he became president of the Hesse-Nassau Lutheran Church. He also began a world tour where he preached of the collective guilt of all Germans for World War II.
    Title
    All Our Yesterdays
    Date
    use:  1941-1945
    publication/distribution:  1940
    Geography
    use: Dachau (Concentration camp); Dachau (Germany)
    publication: Leipzig (Germany)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Sibylle Sarah Niemoeller von Sell
    Contributor
    Subject: Martin Niemoeller
    Author: Bernhard Tauchnitz
    Subject: Sibylle Sarah Niemoeller
    Biography
    Friedrich Gustav Emil Martin Niemoeller was born on January 14, 1892, in Lippstadt, Germany, to Heinrich and Paula Muller Niemoeller. His father was a Lutheran pastor. In 1910, Martin became a cadet in the Imperial German Navy. During World War I (1914-1918), Niemoeller was assigned to a U-Boat, and eventually appointed commander. The November 1918 armistice required naval commanders to turn over their U-Boats to Great Britain. Niemoeller, like many others, refused to do so and was discharged from the Navy.
    He married Else Bruner on April 20, 1919. In 1920, Niemoeller began seminary training at the University of Muenster. He was politically active, pro-monarchist , and a fervent nationalist. He believed that the Treaty of Versailles that ended the war, and the government that signed it, had crippled Germany. Niemoeller supported the unsuccessful Kapp-Lüttwitz Putsch in 1920 that attempted to overthrow the government. In 1923, Niemoeller took a position with the Lutheran Home Mission of Westphalia, a social welfare organization. In 1924, he was ordained. In 1931, he became pastor of Saint Anne's Church, in a wealthy parish in the Berlin suburb of Dahlem.

    Niemoeller expressed his political activism in his sermons, espousing his strong nationalism, his belief that the Weimar government and the Versailles treaty had fragmented German society, and the need for a strong leader to unify Germany. His views aligned with those of the increasingly popular Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist Party which also denounced the treaty, called for a renewal of nationalism, and advocated the importance of Christianity in restoring national morality. Niemoeller voted for the Nazis in the 1924 Prussian state elections and in the March 1933 national parliamentary elections, the last elections held in prewar Germany, which consolidated the new Nazi government under Hitler.

    To protest the Nazi regime’s interference in church affairs and the attacks on Christians of Jewish origin, Niemoeller helped found the Pastor's Emergency League in September 1933. In May 1934, he participated in the founding of a new Protestant church in Germany, the Bekennende Kirche (the Confessing Church) to oppose the German Christian leadership. Once Niemoeller recognized that the Nazi regime was a dictatorship, the charismatic preacher began to travel around Germany speaking against the Nazis. He was placed under surveillance and arrested several times. In July 1937, he was arrested, charged with treason, and imprisoned in solitary confinement in Moabit Prison in Berlin for nearly eight months. He was found guilty in February 1938. His sentence equaled the time already served, but he rejected the terms of his release. He was placed by the Gestapo in protective detention and transferred to Sachsenhausen concentration camp, again in solitary confinement. In 1941, he was sent to Dachau concentration camp, where he was housed in a barracks with Catholic dissenters and permitted access to books. In 1945, he was transferred to Tirol, Austria, where he was liberated by US troops.

    In 1947, Niemoeller became president of the Hesse-Nassau Lutheran Church and began a world tour where he preached of the collective guilt of all Germans for World War II. He retained his fervent nationalism and criticized Allied policies in postwar Germany. In the 1950s, Niemoeller became a pacifist and leading critic of nuclear arms. He and his wife had four sons and three daughters. His wife died in 1961. From 1961-1968, he served as president of the World Council of Churches. In 1971, Niemoeller married Sibylle von Zell. Niemoeller, age 92, died on March 6, 1984, in Wiesbaden, West Germany.
    Sibylle Sarah Niemoeller von Sell was born as Sibylle Augusta Sophia, Baroness von Sell in 1923 in Potsdam, Germany. She was the only daughter of Baron Ulrich von Sell and his wife Augusta, the former Baroness von Brauchitsch. Augusta was a member of a Prussian aristocratic family known for centuries for providing military leaders and statesmen. Both of her grandfathers and three of her greatgrandfathers were generals. Sibylle’s father was a diplomat prior to World War I (1914-1918.) Ulrich’s three brothers were killed in the war and he was wounded by shrapnel. In 1925, he became financial advisor to and administered the fortune of Germany’s last emperor, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Hohenzollern, who abdicated in 1918 and was granted asylum in the Netherlands. The Kaiser was godfather to Sibylle and her younger brother.
    Sibylle’s father and his family had been opposed since the 1920s to Hitler and the National Socialist Party which assumed power in 1933. The family moved to the Berlin suburb of Dahlem in 1926. In 1931, Martin Niemoeller became pastor of a local church, St. Anne’s. Niemoeller was the founder of the Protestant Confessing Church and an outspoken opponent of the Nazi Party and government. The two families developed a close relationship. Sibylle was removed from the local high school because of her refusal to join the Hitler Youth. She was sent to a private school in Eberswalde where she witnessed the burning of the town synagogue during the Kristallnacht pogrom on November 9-10, 1938, and was shocked by eagerness of so many Germans to join in the destruction and vicious antisemitism. The family home was often visited by the Gestapo. Sibylle was taught to always turn the radio back to a German station after listening to the BBC in case there was an inspection. She was taught to give only monosyllabic answers to all questions if she was ever arrested. By 1939, her family was actively resisting the Nazi dictatorship. Her father was part of an underground network that provided hiding places and assisted Jews to escape Germany. On July 23 and 25 1944, Sibylle and her father were arrested by the Gestapo for participating in the failed assassination plot against Hitler on July 20, 1944, known as Operation Valkyrie. Planning meetings for the operation had taken place in the family home. Sibylle’s father had confided details of the plot with her, and his belief that it would fail. Sibylle’s cousin, Werner von Haeften (1909-1944), was General Claus von Stauffenberg’s aide de camp and carried the attache case with the bombs placed in the conference room at Hitler’s headquarters. Stauffenburg and von Haeften were shot, and Werner’s brother was hanged. Sibylle was arrested interrogated, slapped and punched, but then released. Her father was interned in the Lehrter Street prison in Berlin. Sibylle then spent six months training horses for miltiary service on the eastern front. One night, she stole a horse and fled Berlin, heading west to find the Americans. She met the US Army 82nd division as they marched through Germany.
    Germany surrendered on May 7, 1945. During the capture of Berlin by Soviet troops in early May, Sibylle’s father Ulrich was taken by the Soviet KGB security service and imprisoned in a gulag. The Soviets denied this, but the family later discovered that Ulrich had starved to death on November 22, 1945, in Jamlitz gulag. In the immediate postwar period, Sibylle worked as a radio announcer and journalist. She also assisted British intelligence in identifying former Nazi officials. Sibylle eventually emigrated to the United States. She settled in New York and became a US citizen. Sibylle worked for ABC-TV as a researcher. In 1959, she married Ross K. Donaldson, an ABC executive, and they had a son. After she and Donaldson separated in 1968, Sibylle reencountered Martin Niemoeller, a family friend from prewar Berlin. Niemoeller had been imprisoned by Hitler for his public opposition from 1937 until the end of the war, much of the time in solitary confinement in Dachau concentration camp. In 1947, Niemoeller did a worldwide tour where he preached of the collective guilt of all Germans for World War II. In the 1950s, he became a pacifist and leading critic of nuclear arms. Niemoeller had been a widower since 1961. The couple married in 1971 and lived in Wiesbaden, Germany. Sibylle worked for the American Red Cross in the US Air Force Hospital. Martin died in 1984. In 1990, Sibylle converted to Judaism and began using the name Sarah. Her two volume autobiography was published in 1992-1994. In 1998, Sibylle returned to the US. She began speaking in public about life in Germany during the Nazi dictatorship.

    Physical Details

    Language
    English
    Object Type
    Books (lcsh)
    Materials
    overall : paper, ink

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    No restrictions on access
    Conditions on Use
    No restrictions on use

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Provenance
    The book was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2004 by Sibylle Niemoeller, the wife of Martin Niemoeller.
    Funding Note
    The cataloging of this artifact has been supported by a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
    Record last modified:
    2022-07-28 18:11:54
    This page:
    https:​/​/collections.ushmm.org​/search​/catalog​/irn522541

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