‘When They Came for the Ukrainians …’ a Kazakh Updates Pastor Niemöller

September 9, 2014
The poster with an adaptation of anti-fascist and theologian, Pastor Niemöller's poem that addresses the need to stand up to victimization of any certain group. Photo: stopputler.org

Staunton, September 9 – Nurlan Turekhanov, a Kazakh designer, has updated German Pastor Martin Niemöller’s explanation for why Hitler was able to pick off one group after another and why groups whose members think they are beyond being victimized should not be so certain.

In a poster that has gone viral in the Kazakh, Russian and Belarusian blogosphere but that deserves to be even more widely known, Turekhanov writes the following: “When they came for the Moldovans, I didn’t say anything because I wasn’t a Moldovan. When they came for the Georgians, I didn’t say anything because I wasn’t a Georgian.”

“When they came for the Ukrainians, I didn’t say anything because I wasn’t a Ukrainian. When they came for me, there wasn’t anyone left to speak out on my behalf.”

Many writers have referred to Niemöller’s observation in recent months, but to the extent that many in the populations of the post-Soviet states are now doing so, Vladimir Putin’s aggression against Ukraine may come to be viewed by an increasing number of them as a direct threat to all of them, as an indication that an attack on one is an attack on all.

The spread of such attitudes will not only represent another obstacle for the Kremlin leader but also and potentially more importantly create the basis for cooperation among groups of these countries, cooperation that could help them resolve some of their own problems even as they help to block Moscow’s aggression.