A Time of Trials

Fifty years ago, April 9, 11 days before U.S. troops liberated the Flossenbürg Concentra-tion Camp where he was held, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was executed by his Nazi captors. He and perhaps 5,000 others were put to death in the months before the end of World War II because of their participation in a plot to assassinate Hitler. This extra-

ordinary Lutheran minister and theologian lived only 39 years, the last two years of which he spent in prison. Yet he left behind sufficient theological reflections to fill 16 volumes.

Still he is not a household name. Last summer at a retreat center with a religious identity only one of 25 college juniors and seniors could identify Dietrich Bonhoeffer. They had been asked if they would like to participate in a Bonhoeffer seminar led by Eberhard Bethge, Bonhoeffer's student, close friend, and key biographer, and Renate Bethge, Bonhoeffer's niece and co-trustee of the Bonhoeffer legacy. (Several did in fact attend.)

It's not something we do well, remembering our "heroes of conscience." But Dietrich Bonhoeffer deserves to be remembered and studied as a 20th-century martyr in the same breath with Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Archbishop Oscar Romero, and others of notable achievement who could have honorably stayed above the battle but chose to risk their lives for what they believed.

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Sojourners Magazine May-June 1995
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