Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was born on February 4th 1906, as a son of a professor of psychiatry and neurology at the University of Berlin. Throughout his early life he was an outstanding student, and when he finally reached the age of 25 he became a lecturer in systematic theology at the University Berlin. Something that is very striking is that when Hitler came to power in 1933, Bonhoeffer became a leading spokesman for the Confessing Church, the center of Protestant resistance to the Nazis. He organized and for a shot amount of time he led the underground seminary of the Confessing Church. His book Life Together describes the life of the Christian community in that seminary, and his book The Cost Of Discipleship attacks what he calls "cheap grace," meaning that grace used as an excuse for moral laxity.

Bonhoeffer had been taught not to "resist the powers that be," but he came to a conclusion to believe that to do so was sometimes the right choice. In 1939 his brother-in-law introduced him to a group planning the overthrow of Hitler, and he made significant contributions to their work. (Bonhoeffer at this time was an employee of the Military Intelligence Department.) He was later arrested in April of 1943 and imprisoned in Berlin. After the failure of the attempt on Hitler's life in April of 1944, he was first sent to Buchenwald and then to Schoenberg Prison. Bonhoeffer was almost killed, but was lucky as his life was spared, because he had a relative who stood high in the government; but then this relative was himself implicated in anti-Nazi plots. On Sunday 8 April 1945, he had just finished conducting a service of worship at Schoenberg, when two soldiers came in, saying, "Prisoner Bonhoeffer, make ready and come with us,” As he left, he said to another prisoner, "This is the end, but for me, the beginning of life." Bonhoeffer was killed as he was hung the next day on April 9th of 1945, less than a week before the Allies reached the camp.

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