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By Pastor Paul Gauche

Today’s Word: ‘Bonhoeffer’ as in… Dietrich.

Nancy Lee and I are in Berlin, Germany studying the life and theology of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. We’re part of a class taught by Nancy Lee’s good friend and Luther Seminary colleague, Dr. Andrew Root, author of “Bonhoeffer as Youth Worker: A Theological Vision For Discipleship And Life Together.” Our home base is Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s home, where he was arrested on April 5, 1943, by the Gestapo. In the days ahead, I’m inviting you to consider some of Dietrich’s most influential writings.

Bonhoeffer, the author of the Christian classics “(The Cost of) Discipleship and Life Together,” was born in Breslau in 1906. He and began his journey in church leadership during the rise of the Nazi regime. Although Bonhoeffer did not grow up in a particularly religious home, he announced his plans to join the church when he was fourteen. After earning his doctorate in theology at nineteen and working in churches abroad, Bonhoeffer became a pastor and lecturer in Berlin at twenty-five.

Hitler’s rise to power marked a turning point in Bonhoeffer’s career. Despite the mounting cost, Bonhoeffer spoke out against Hitler’s influence. Frustrated by the unwillingness of church leaders to oppose rampant anti-Semitism, Bonhoeffer helped establish the Confessing Church alongside Martin Niemoller and Karl Barth. Eventually forbidden to teach publicly and forced underground, Bonhoeffer taught seminary students for several years until the Confessing Church grew reluctant to contradict Nazi leadership. Bonhoeffer briefly sought asylum in the United States but returned to Germany after concluding that it was wrong to abandon his friends.

Formerly a pacifist, Bonhoeffer concluded that violence against the Nazi regime was necessary and joined the Abwehr, a German intelligence organization whose primary mission was to assassinate Hitler.  Ultimately, Bonhoeffer was arrested for his involvement in helping Jews flee the country. Still, he continued to teach with the help of guards who smuggled out his writing until he was transferred to a concentration camp. When his association with other Abwehr agents was discovered, Bonhoeffer was sentenced to death. He was hanged in April 1945, just weeks before Germany surrendered.






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