Happy Birthday - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (February 4, 1906 – April 9, 1945) was a German Lutheran pastor, theologian and participant in the German resistance movement against Nazism and founding member of the Confessing Church. He was involved in plots planned by members of the Abwehr (the German Military Intelligence Office) to assassinate Adolf Hitler. He was arrested in March 1943, imprisoned and eventually hanged, just before the end of the Second World War in Europe.

Bonhoeffer was born in Breslau, Germany (now Wrocław, Poland) into a middle to upper-class professional family. He and his sister Sabine were twins and the sixth and seventh of eight children. His father, Karl Bonhoeffer, was a prominent German psychiatrist in Berlin; his mother, Paula, home-schooled the children. Though he was initially expected to follow his father into the field of psychology, Dietrich decided at an early age to become a minister. His parents supported his decision. He attended college in Tübingen, where he received his doctorate in theology from the University of Berlin. As Dietrich was just 24 at this time, he was unable to be ordained [one must be 25 by church regulations]. This however, gave Dietrich the opportunity to go abroad. He then spent a post-graduate year abroad studying at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. During this time, he would often visit the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, where he became acquainted with the musical form that ethnomusicologists call the African-American Spiritual. He amassed a substantial collection of these spirituals, which he took with him back to Germany.

Bonhoeffer returned to Germany in 1931, where he lectured on theology in Berlin and wrote several books. A strong opponent of Nazism, he was involved, together with Martin Niemöller, Karl Barth and others, in setting up the Confessing Church. Between late 1933 and 1935, he served as pastor of two German-speaking Protestant churches in London: St. Paul's and Sydenham. He returned to Germany to head an illegal seminary for Confessing Church pastors, first in Finkenwalde and then at the von Blumenthal estate of Gross Schlönwitz, which was closed on the outbreak of war. The Gestapo also banned him from preaching; then teaching; and finally any kind of public speaking. During this time, Bonhoeffer worked closely with numerous opponents of Adolf Hitler.

During World War II, Bonhoeffer played a key leadership role in the Confessing Church, which opposed the anti-semitic policies of Adolf Hitler. He was among those who called for wider church resistance to Hitler's treatment of the Jews. While the Confessing Church was not large, it represented a major source of Christian opposition to the Nazi government in Germany.

In 1939, Bonhoeffer joined a hidden group of high-ranking military officers based in the Abwehr, or Military Intelligence Office, who wanted to overthrow the National Socialist regime by killing Hitler. He was arrested in April 1943 after money used to help Jews escape to Switzerland was traced to him. He was charged with conspiracy and imprisoned in Berlin for a year and a half. After the unsuccessful July 20 Plot in 1944, Bonhoeffer's connections to the conspirators were discovered. He was moved to a series of prisons and concentration camps ending at Flossenburg. Here, he was executed by hanging at dawn on 9 April 1945, just three weeks before the liberation of the city. Also hanged for their parts in the conspiracy were his brother Klaus and his brothers-in-law Hans von Dohnanyi and Rüdiger Schleicher. (from Wikipedia)

For some of his best works see NextStep Resources:
Life Together
The Cost of Discipleship
Christ the Center

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