Mug shot of Dr. Martin Luther King

Politics: Never Forget that Everything Hitler Did Was Legal

“But if Not” was a sermon delivered by Martin Luther King, Jr. on November 5, 1967.

This excerpt takes up civil disobedience and King’s observations regarding Hitler’s Germany and the power of tyranny to legalize oppression and murder.

Immigrant Kids are Dying in CBP Detention Centers

“Never forget that everything Hitler Did was Legal.”

“Civil disobedience is the refusal to abide by an order of the government or of the state or even of the court that your conscience tells you is unjust. Civil disobedience is based on a commitment to conscience. In other words, one who practices civil disobedience is obedient to what he considers a higher law.

And there comes a time when a moral man can’t obey a law which his conscience tells him is unjust. And I tell you this morning, my friends, that history has moved on, and great moments have often come forth because there were those individuals, in every age in and every generation, who were willing to say

“I will be obedient to a higher law.” These men were saying “I must be disobedient to a king in order to be obedient to the King.” And those people who so often criticize those of us who come to those moments when we must practice civil disobedience never remember that even right here in America, in order to get free from the oppression and the colonialism of the British Empire, our nation practiced civil disobedience.

For what represented civil disobedience more than the Boston Tea Party. And never forget that everything that Hitler did in Germany was legal! It was legal to do everything that Hitler did to the Jews. It was a law in Germany that Hitler issued himself that it was wrong and illegal to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany.

But I tell you if I had lived in Hitler’s Germany with my attitude, I would have openly broken that law. I would have practiced civil disobedience. And so it is important to see that there are times when a man-made law is out of harmony with the moral law of the universe, there are times when human law is out of harmony with eternal and divine laws. And when that happens, you have an obligation to break it, and I’m happy that in breaking it, I have some good company.

I have Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. I have Jesus and Socrates. And I have all of the early Christians who refused to bow.”

I say to you, this morning, that if you have never found something so dear and precious to you that you will die for it, then you aren’t fit to live.

You may be 38 years old, as I happen to be, and one day, some great opportunity stands before you and calls upon you to stand for some great principle, some great issue, some great cause. And you refuse to do it because you are afraid.

You refuse to do it because you want to live longer. You’re afraid that you will lose your job, or you are afraid that you will be criticized or that you will lose your popularity, or you’re afraid that somebody will stab or shoot or bomb your house.

So you refuse to take a stand.

Well, you may go on and live until you are ninety, but you are just as dead at 38 as you would be at ninety.

And the cessation of breathing in your life is but the belated announcement of an earlier death of the spirit.

You died when you refused to stand up for right.

You died when you refused to stand up for truth.

You died when you refused to stand up for justice.”

The whole sermon is also available here: The Internet Archives

45 thoughts on “Politics: Never Forget that Everything Hitler Did Was Legal

  1. Reblogged this on sherriemiranda1 and commented:

    We can sleepwalk through life. OR we can decide what is right & what is just and DO IT!
    Peace, love & justice for all,
    Sherrie Miranda’s historically based, coming of age, Adventure novel “Secrets & Lies in El Salvador” is about an American girl in war-torn El Salvador:
    Her husband made a video for her novel. He wrote the song too. You can go to her Home page to watch it: Or go to YouTube & type in the title of her novel! 😉 ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes…Hitler was inspired by the reservation system, but indirectly. He was inspired by the American Eugenics movement which was at it’s and going global at about the time Hitler sat down to write Mein Kampf …The leading advocates for the American Eugenics movement were inspired by the ‘artificial poverty’ of the reservation system–which resulted in a very high death toll.

      You can go further and say that the Warsaw Ghetto was a very crude experiment in using deprivations of extreme poverty as a form of execution. The real inspiration for the use of extreme poverty as a form of execution was first recommended by an American military doctor and Family Therapist Paul Popenoe, in his bestselling 1918 book, Applied Eugenics. You can read it here:

      Popenoe served in World War 1. He noticed that ‘the unfit’ died from the extreme conditions of poverty caused by war. That without the ‘mitigating’ influence of a civilized world the Darwinian laws Natural Selection could do their job of ‘weeding out’ the defectives, the racially impute, the chronically poor, and the indolent; in short, anyone who wasn’t white, straight, Christian and from the upper middle class was probably unfit. He recommended the use of the conditions of poverty as a covert form of execution.

      The first use of this was at a State Hospital. The head physician gave patients milk that was infected with tuberculosis. His theory was that the fit would survive….

      The Warsaw Ghetto was the use of it in a more over way. Hitler had the city walked off and removed all public services. They had no water, electricity and minimal amounts of food. We know that it was an experiment because the Nazi’s were methodical about everything. The Nazi’s took weekly photos of everyone who entered the ghetto to study their decline. They wanted to now how long it took to kill someone with poverty.

      The United States was the breeding ground for the Nazi Holocaust. That’s history…it’s not speculation.

      We defeated Hitler.

      We did not defeat the idea that some people are undeserving of life.

      The evidence is all around us…

      Thank you for that link…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you for your reply.

        What I find most horrid is that most people really don’t know this. But I have to tell you, once it really sinks in that the wealthiest men and women of the early 20th Century openly advocated for the execution of people with mental illnesses and learning disabilities you will see our nations mental health policies in whole new way.

        The Nazi’s used Applied Eugenics as part of the defense at the Nuremberg Trials.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Good!…The economic policies that are so damaging to the lives of the poor and people with psychiatric disabilities are related to our Nation’s history of racism, class discrimination and eugenics. As evidence note the red necks in Congress who commit treason to subvert a Black President. Nuff sed! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. First Hitler wasn’t the first one to excute genocide. That has been going on for years and years. I think we all know what is right and what is wrong. For myself I don’t believe in Killing people as he did. It took a while for hitler to get into power and with his lies convinced people to support him. Is the society sick for believing him…no they were led astray by what he was saying. He bombed his own instillation to go to war with Poland. In this day and age you really don’t know if it is true or not. Let me remind you that innocent people went to their death including infants. Hitler sent gay men to their deaths. Also the mentally ill were experimented on. I think that is an aberration of knowing what is right and what is wrong

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh yes…lither got all of his ideas regarding Eugenics from the U.S. — the Allies defeated Hitler, not fascism, and not the fascist impulse. The exclusion of the Warsaw Ghetto was based on ideas expounded by an American Eugenicist. It was an open experiment in creating artificial poverty. The Innocent And you are correct…the first victims were ‘mercy killings’. I am aware of the Pink Triangle. The figure of six million dead excludes gays, gypsies, the poor, the mentally ill, the disabled, the elderly, the poles, and political prisoners. The Nazi’s were a brutal extreme in human savagery.

      But I find it hard to believe that the German people were ignorant of what their government was doing. They may have made themselves ignorant but that isn’t the same as not knowing…I do understand that the idea that the German people knew is controversial. But I can’t understand how a government can murder people on such a grand scale without the full knowledge of the people. I think that the German people lost their sense of right and wrong… What I find scary is the ease with which a nation of civilized people can do that.

      All of us in the U.S. know that homelessness is wrong. All of us know that it didn’t exist on this scale prior to 1980. All of us know that the rational, the noble cause of de-institutionalization failed…and all of us know that this Nation has never been richer or more technically able to feed and house everyone…So why are there more homeless people now than in 1980…And why do we persist in telling ourselves the lie that they brought it on themselves when we know that every tax cut comes from services to the mentally ill, the population most likely to die on the streets. That was the lie that many German’s told themselves about the Jews. They brought it on themselves.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes the german knew what was going on and some probably didn’t but I think a small minority of them and probably scared of what hitler would do to them thus feinging ignorance

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I agree. Fear is an old tool for manipulating masses of people…fear and scapegoating. The last thing a tyrant wants is a people who can reason…

        I have no doubt that many of the German people of that generation were desperate to believe that they were on the side of good.

        What I think we forget is that Hitler and the people who supported him were as human and as moral as we are.

        I think that what we can learn from them is this: beware of the guy who tells you that your problems are caused by someone else–some easy to target “other”.

        Beware of the smiling demagogue for he will eventually bring you and your generation to shame.

        And most of all..beware of the most profound evil of them all: silent complicity.

        Once it becomes acceptable for a leader or a political party to publicly humiliate and scapegoat a group of people the soul of your nation is on its death bed.

        Thank you for engaging me this way. I really enjoy an open discussion.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Conditions are ripe for a guy like Trump.

        What makes it sad was that his parents; the one’s that saw the Holocaust in real time, created a safety net to prevent the kinds of unrest and sense of alienation that caused people to fall for a guy like Hitler. It was called the New Deal…I don’t know if Trumps parents agreed with it but it worked. They regulated capitalism because they had to survive the consequence of the Depression. They understood the dangers of extreme income disparities…they also understood that it takes a large educated middle class to sustain a just Democracy. As I’ve written before; they weren’t perfect, but they did create a more perfect union…

        And despite their imperfections; in the final analysis they created a nation that was smarter and more just than those who came after them…

        (I’m not slamming baby boomers because no one generation is to blame for this mess. There were plenty of people from Roosevelt’s generation that hated him….and I suspect that they were the ones who were voting in the election of 1980)

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I guess that will depend on whether the voters are up to the task of giving up the masturbatory pleasures of running on their emotions in order to do the hard work of salvaging their democracy.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. What adult human being often don’t understand is that they are always in charge of what they are doing. This responsibility can never be transfered to somebody else, or a society in general. When you kill somebody as a soldier, that is purely your choice and responsibility, not that of a general or your people at home sending you to war. Even you, not reacting and not raising your voice when seeing something going wrong is your choice, thus your responsibility. If you have been abused and you abuse yourself, that is your choice and responsibility. You cannot blame your wrong doing on your past. If you lack empathy by nature, as a psychopath, what you do is your responsibility. There is no escape.
    That is why it is useless to fulfill anybody elses expectations. You have to walk your own path in life anyway. Either passively by being pushed around by others. Or actively, by following your own instincts, morals and laws of what is just and injust. You individual responsibility never can be taken off of us. So we better let love into our lives and let love, compassion and respect be our guidance for our decisions and our deeds.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think I understand what you’re saying.

      I think we can be seriously screwed up but still accountable for our actions. There are choices that we make both in isolation and in conjunction with others–and that we are accountable for the consequences of those choices. I believe that accountability begins with the understanding that we are all flawed…that no decision is entirely perfect and that we often hurt people without intending to…

      I also believe that people can be rendered powerless when systems become more important than the rights of the individual and the health of the nation and the globe.
      I place more emphasis on reason than on love. I don’t have to love someone to understand that it is wrong to take more than I need, and that when I do I leave less
      for others. One doesn’t even need to be compassionate to know that it is wrong to take so much more than you need that it causes other people to go hungry.

      All it takes is a willingness to accept the responsibilities that come with being a citizen of the world and a steward of the Earth.

      Thank you for your post. I think that respect for others comes with maturity and the willingness to let go of childhood.

      We either take our place as adults or we die as old children who never got past the age of two.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That was a long reply Robert. I can only talk from my perspective and I would differentiate between a basic feeling I have towards life and a logic resoning of what is the right thing to do in life. I think that is like saying “I know what is the right thing to do” as to compared to “I have faith in what is the right thing to do”. For me the second is by far the stronger position as this motivation to do the right thing comes from a deep inner feeling that your whole being stands behind.You can physically feel what is right and endure all the consequences because you are in balance with yourself. If you logically deduce what is the right thing to do and it still does not feel right, then it will be hard to fully take on the responsibility of what your are doing. Of course it is best when reasoning and feelings are in line. I think we need to let love into our hearts and take it from there. 🙂


      2. I get the best comments when I do long replies, yours is an example…:)

        It’s hard to really share one’s thoughts in two or three words. Perhaps the Internet would be a more civil place if people took the time to think about what they believe and genuinely tried to communicate those thoughts and feelings. I love irony and a well wrought meme…but I treasure a genuine exchange…

        You wrote: You can physically feel what is right and endure all the consequences because you are in balance with yourself. If you logically deduce what is the right thing to do and it still does not feel right, then it will be hard to fully take on the responsibility of what your are doing. Of course it is best when reasoning and feelings are in line. I think we need to let love into our hearts and take it from there. 🙂

        I think you’re absolutely right. I think this is what Martin Luther King Jr. is alluding to when he says: “I say to you, this morning, that if you have never found something so dear and precious to you that you will die for it, then you aren’t fit to live.”

        A sense of right and risking the consequences of taking a stand is what we are supposed to do as adults.

        We get better at doing it as we grow older but we never get perfect at it.

        This is the gift that comes from cultivating a genuine respect for the miracle of existence, a respect that places the lives of our fellow beings above the artificial constructions of political, economic and religious systems. One evolves a value system that is neither left nor right, but deeply spiritual. I love the Catholic Church and the teachings of Christ inform my world view. But I never mistake the ritual of going to Mass with acts of faith.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Robert,

        If nobody told you today that you are a great guy, let me be the one to do so:
        You are amazing!



    1. King had an amazing intellect. I love that he lays claim to Jesus and Socrates in the same sentence. Both of them emphasized the importance of self examination–If you want to know God you must know yourself.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This is so wonderful. Life is for living, not going along with the masses. I am reading a book on Plato and I am reading about Socrates and it is discussing exactly the same thing. He was an old man but had been challenged for many years because he believed in a higher consciousness and wanted to share his ideas with the youth rather than worship the gods of the day. I think this battle must be fought in every civilization, over and over. There is only One, and it is us. Great post Rob!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. How interesting that you are reading about Socrates. I’ve been watching a series of documentaries on the Ancient Greeks. They were a fascinating people who truly represented the duality of human nature. To learn about the realities of the Spartan culture is to marvel at how far we’ve come and how far we have to go. To read about the fall of Athens is to see how brief a golden moment can be. Athenian democracy rose and fell within forty years. Can we avoid what looks like an ingrained pattern of progress and decline? Can we use out senses to reason out the problems of our day or will we fall to hubris? If you are interested in checking out these documentaries look for Dr. Michael Scott on Youtube. He has got to be one of the more brilliant of a new generation of passionate historians.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I wrote him down, I will check him out when I’m less busy. I do think our human nature alone makes us keep repeating the same mistakes of power, control, greed, corruption and destruction. Unconditional love for all of life, the strongest power of all, gets left out in the cold in favor of personal love, ego and separation. Our unity is what will make us strong but we fight against it and have since the beginning of civilization. That’s interesting that they only lasted 40 years. Honestly, life does not have to be so hard.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. This was a moving post with so much more than my tribute carried in messages. Yes, we must reject so many ways that society acts. I hate that I work with bigots. So few, less than 20 are able to accept equality and don’t make snipes or verbal attacks of our President. The lack of respect towards an elected official embarrasses me. My parents were often teaching us acceptance. I cannot imagine why children are taught anything else. Great post with powerful words and thoughts, Robert.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful comment. I do find it ironic that people who can find no fault with GWB can find nothing good about Obama, even though Obama is clearly more qualified to be President. I don’t understand people who claim the mantle of patriotism even as they attack and debase our system of government.


  6. Oh, that statement “never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal” made my heart skip a beat. I can’t even discuss that horror without my blood boiling.


    1. I’m glad I found a recording of the sermon in which he made that statement. King belonged to the generation of men and women who went to war with the Nazis…and who saw the horror and fully understood that a Hitler can happen anywhere. That’s why they produced films like Democracy and Despotism. When King makes that statement he is also reminding us of our own history, and a time when the enslavement of the African people was not only legal, it was considered essential to the prosperity of the nation.


    1. Hitler represents the dark side of human nature.

      Our ability to use language and law to justify and rationalize savagery. It is in all of us.

      I think the generations that fought the Nazis understood that they could be Nazis too and they tried to create a system that would actively work against it.

      Unfortunately, A different generation heard the siren call of greed from a nymph named Ayn Rand and now we are the enemy that they fought…complete with a charming and manipulative demagogue who openly berates Muslims and Mexicans to the cheers of his armed henchmen. It’s sad. I think we in the States want to be seen as a noble people
      who stand on the side of the angels…unfortunately the scent of sulfur gives us away…:)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I hate that monster. I get very upset at the mere mention of his name. He killed the one beautiful soul – Anne Frank. That’s enough garbage from that monster.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Although it was legal for hitler to do what he did as he dictated on paper it was an aberration to spirituality. The fight still goes on in many countries of the world today. It would be nice if we could live in a different world.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your comment inspired me to go on an extended thought exercise.

      I wanted to determine if Hitler was the aberration or if it is the other way around.

      What if our sense of ourselves as spiritual beings is the aberration?

      What if our natural state is marked by our inability to sustain a proper respect for life–and the lives of the people around us.

      I started with the question of genocide. Why did it happen in Germany and in other nation’s and why are we at risk for it today?

      I view Adolph Hitler and an expression of the will of the German people.

      In democratic systems the leadership always reflects the will of the people.

      I may be wrong but it’s what I believe.

      According to Wiki 33 events qualify as Genocide. This excludes political persecutions that were merely unjust and inhumane.

      If one tallies the lowest estimated death toll from each of these events the total number of people executed for the crime was being born to the wrong race or religion or with the wrong sexual preference is: fifty six million eight hundred twenty thousand (56,820,000) people targeted by their political systems and exterminated. And that’s based on the lowest possible estimates and only includes one event from antiquity.

      It is also interesting to note that the Wiki entry does not include the slaughter of native Americans or the near obliteration of the indigenous people of Central and South America.

      If we include the Inquisition as merely inhumane we add 2,240 people

      If we include the decimation of Native Americans an estimated 9,000,000 people died from disease, slavery, and violence.

      There is debate as to whether the decimation of the indigenous population in North America was genocide. Though there are suggestions of intent.

      If we include the Aztecs who thought that Cortez and his men were gods we add another 240,000 people to the list of people killed for their resources and land or simply for being in the way.

      If we add the Inca population and go with the lowest possible estimates we add 3,000,000 people.

      If we add the Maya and go with the lowest number based on the estimated population of 15 million people at their peak we add another 3,000,000 people.

      The conquest of the America’s is considered by many scholars a genocide and in South America the Spanish actively destroyed the culture, language and books of the indigenous people.

      But what about the merely inhumane?

      During the African slave trade, using the lowest possible estimates, at least 6,000.000 people died during transport and another 2,000,000 people died as a result of disease, suicide or murder at the hands of their owners.

      Continuing with the merely inhumane, an estimated 100 million people were homeless worldwide and as many as 1 billion people lacked adequate housing according to a study done in 2005.

      It’s difficult to find the precise number of people who have died as a direct result of homelessness since 1980.

      So I’m going to extrapolate the yearly death rate based on the few statistics that I can find.

      We know that the median age of death for a chronically homeless person is 44.

      The average life expectancy for people in developed countries is 80.

      Therefore, if an average of 123,833 people were homeless in the United States in 2007 and 123,833 are homeless in United States in any given year then the estimated yearly death rate as a result of homelessness, based on a media age of death at 44 is and using the lowest possible number is 619,166 deaths from homelessness per year.

      My political view of homelessness in the United States is that it is entirely artificial. It is the result of intentional cuts to services, health care, deprivation of resources and the stigma against the mentally ill.

      If my point of view is correct, modern homelessness is a crime against humanity and more serious than merely inhumane.

      If the kind of artificially induced homelessness that we have today began in 1980 and only 3,095,825 people died as a direct result of homelessness in the United States since 1980 then an estimated 1,111,449,700 people have died as a result of the artificially induced poverty we call homelessness.

      I know the figure seems outrageous…I encourage people to do their own research.

      So if we add all of these figures up the average number of people who have died because of who they were, what they looked like, skin color, religion, greed, and mental status is about 1,189,272,180 or one billion one hundred eighty-nine million two hundred seventy-two thousand one hundred eighty people. Executed for the crime of existing.

      So I can’t agree that Hitler or the people who brought him to power were a spiritual anomaly.

      For some reason they collectively lost their sense of reason which resulted in a loss of the spiritual state we call human.

      What makes us human is the sense that we are more than animals.

      Without that sense of being more than animals we become vicious apes – apes that know how to mimic the sound of reason and the appearance of faith in the human spirit even as they crush the souls and bodies of their own countrymen.

      This is especially interesting when one considers the thirty year decline of the United States and our politics at this moment in our history.

      We will either come to our senses as a people and toss the rich oligarch and his convenient misguided tools into the backwater where they belong or we will simply let him lead us to our destruction as a civilized Nation.

      Germany looked great even as it descended into the squalor of industrialized mass murder. It was clean and the people were prosperous and highways were built.

      The human condition is such that if we are not constantly on our guard we lapse into barbarism.

      One misses the elementary reaction against injustice and for justice—that reaction which in the long run represents man’s only protection against a relapse into barbarism. Albert Einstein on Moral Decay

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