Faithful Heroes: Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German pastor, theologian and one of the founding members of the Confessing Church. His stand against anti-Nazism cost him his life.
He was born on Feburary 4, 1906 in Prussia, which was then in the German Empire {now in Poland}. His father, Karl, was a psychiatrist and neurologist while his mother, Paula, was a teacher. Dietrich was the sixth of the couple’s eight children and had a twin sister, Sabine.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dietrich completed the equivalency of a bachelor’s and master‘s degree from the University of Tübingen, before completing summa cum laude his Doctor of Theology from Berlin University in 1927.
In 1930, he traveled to New York City where he had a teaching fellowship at Union Theological Seminary. He returned to Germany a year later, where he lectured on theology at his alma mater {University of Berlin}. Later that year, he was ordained to the ministry.
During his time at U. of Berlin, his faith deepened and resolved to carry out the teaching of Christ in the gospels.
Two days after Hitler was installed as Chancellor in early 1933, Bonhoeffer attacked Hitler via a radio address and warned Germany of impending doom.
As Nazism entered the German church, Bonhoeffer continued to fight for what was right and eventually founded the Confessing Church. Only 20% of German pastors supported the Confessing Church.
In a 1932 sermon he said “The blood of martyrs might once again be demanded, but this blood, if we really have the courage and loyalty to shed it, will not be innocent, shining like that of the first witnesses for the faith. On our blood lies heavy guilt, the guilt of the unprofitable servant who is cast into outer darkness.”
In 1933, he took a

two year appointment in London, England amid much opposition. He returned to Germany in 1935, where he secured funds to begin an underground seminary. He spent the next two years secretly traveling around Germany teaching his students.
In 1938, he was banned from Berlin by the Gestapo and two years later they shut down his seminary. He wrote The Cost of Discipleship and Life Together.
In 1939, he took a trip to the United States returning on the last scheduled steamer to cross the Atlantic for Germany.
The Gestapo continued to harass him upon his return and forbid him to print or publish anything.
On January 13, 1943, he became engaged to Maria von Wedemeyer, who was the granddaughter of a close friend.
On April 5, 1943, Bonhoeffer was arrested and imprisoned. Maria became invaluable in smuggling in food and messages. His brother and brother-in-laws were also arrested.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

One guard offered to help him escape, but he refused fearing retaliation against his family.
He was condemned to death on April 8, 1945 and as he was led off told a fellow prisoner “This is the end—for me the beginning of life.”
A friend of his who witnessed the execution later wrote “I saw Pastor Bonhoeffer… kneeling on the floor praying fervently to God. I was most deeply moved by the way this lovable man prayed, so devout and so certain that God heard his prayer. At the place of execution, he again said a short prayer and then climbed the few steps to the gallows, brave and composed. His death ensued after a few seconds. In the almost fifty years that I worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.”
After his death, his letters were published in Letters and Papers from Prison. His writings survivor along with the fervor of which he fought against the Nazi’s, who fell two months after his execution.

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