Dietrich Bonhoeffer

(February 4, 1906 – April 9, 1945)

He was court-martialed and executed on April 9, 1945 in the Nazi concentration camp, Flossenbürg. Two years earlier he had been arrested by the Gestapo and thrown into prison. He spent time in two different prisons in Berlin—Tegel Prison and the Gestapo Prison—before being transferred to the Buchenwald concentration camp, then to Regensburg, then to Schönberg, and finally to Flossenbürg where he was executed.

Two days after Hitler was made Chancellor of Germany (January, 1933) he made an impassioned appeal to the German people to resist Hitler and his totalitarian vision for Germany. His appeal was not based upon politics but, rather, on the ethical demands of the Christian gospel on human beings. His radio broadcast was cut off the air in the middle of his speech and the animosity between his understanding of Authentic Christianity and the politics of the German Establishment was destined to intensify.

Unfortunately, Germany’s Institutional Church rejected him and almost immediately embraced Hitler and the Nazi regime (“be in subjection to the governing authorities….”) This forced him to establish an underground church—one that “obeyed God rather than men.”

The tragedy is that he did not have to die a martyr. Several times during his ten year struggle with the Nazis he found himself outside of Germany. For a time he was ministering in London, England. He visited Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States—twice. Each time, however, he chose to return to his native Germany. His friends begged him to remain in exile; everyone knew what awaited him in Germany. But he chose to make his place of abode precisely where the pressure was the most severe.

For me, Dietrich Bonhoeffer personifies Christian endurance: to remain beneath the afflictions that come upon those who choose to resist Evil and to serve Christ in this putrefying world. The nuances of his doctrine would obviously not conform to those of my Church; however, I refuse to allow that to keep him from serving as an outstanding example of Christian endurance for me. His decision to endure encourages me to remain faithful to the Founder of my beliefs.