Dietrich Bonhoeffer is someone I admire, someone we all should admire for his courage and bravery. Under very tough circumstances he stood up for what he believed in. He stood up when everybody else backed down. He knew that what was going on around him was wrong and he said so. The sad thing is that he was almost the only one to do so.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was born on February 4, 1906 in Breslau, Germany. After University in Tubingen, Germany, he attended Union Theological Seminary in New York. He became a participant in the European Ecumenical Movement. He was one of the few people in the 1930s with a grasp of both German and English language theology. He was a professor at a number of important universities until his teaching authorization was withdrawn on August 5, 1936. He published many books and theological tracts, including his two most famous books, The Cost of Discipline and Life Together. He became one of the most important Protestant theologians of his time.
Bonhoeffer’s opposition to the National Socialism and Nazi Party made him a leader in the Confessing Church, a church that he co-founded. He was an advocate for the Jewish population. He was arrested by the Nazis in 1943 and put into prison following the discovery that he had helped smuggle Jews across the border into Switzerland.
His leadershp in the Anti-Nazi Confessing Church, and his participation in the “Abwehr” German resistance movement made his work unique.
When Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933 he said that he feared the church and her pastors, fearing they were a threat to his ambitions. In 1940, when Hitler’s power and popularity were at their highest point, a courageous young pastor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, scorned the failure of the church to speak out against this evil. He said, “The Church must confess that she has witnessed the lawless application of brutal force, and physical and spiritual suffering of countless innocent people, oppression, hatred, and murder, and that she has not raised her voice on behalf of victims and not found a way to aid them.”
Bonhoeffer’s warning went unheeded. He was dismissed by colleagues as a “single-issue fanatic.” Less that five years later he was dead, hung by a piano wire at Flossenberg concentration camp.
He was a hero in my mind. He stood up for the oppressed. He continued to refuse to renouce his faith in the concentration camp and they finally hanged him. He believed that there is a cost to discipleship, that sometimes it has to be paid for. He did the right thing when he had to know the right would cost him his life. That makes him a unique kind of hero.