Friday, July 07, 2006

Greatest Protestant martyr of the Twentieth Century (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a pastor of the Confessing Church in Germany, returned to Germany after staying for a while in New York to serve as a pastor among the German émigrés. His friends in New York advised him not to leave, but he persisted. While on the ship aboard for Germany, he wrote, “I. . . made a mistake in coming to America. I must live through this difficult period of our national history with the Christian people of Germany. I will have no right to participate in the reconstruction of Christian life in Germany after the war if I do not share the trials of this time with my people.”
Ever since the beginning of Nazism, Bonhoeffer was already taking a hard line against the new Reich. He was involved in setting up the Protestant Confessing Church, which was a Church subversive to Nazism’s anti-Christian doctrines. When He returned to Germany, he headed an illegal seminary for Confessing Church pastors. The Gestapo also banned him from preaching; then teaching; and finally any kind of public speaking. Bonhoeffer also led the Confessing Church in protesting against the Nazi’s treatment against the Jews.
During this time, Bonhoeffer worked closely with numerous opponents of Adolf Hitler. Many of his friends in the resistance are plotting to assassinate Hitler, but Bonhoeffer refused to participate with them. He said, “I can never again serve as a pastor if I am to participate.” The plan didn’t succeed, just like the other plans on Hitler’s life. In the meantime, Bonhoeffer was helping Jews escape into Switzerland.
On April 5, 1943, the Gestapo came to Bonhoeffer’s house. They said, “Come with us,” and took Bonhoeffer with them away in a car. He was imprisoned in Tegel Military prison. He was kept there for six months before his arrest warrant was delivered. Many more attempts against Hitler’s life sprung up, but Bonhoeffer was not involved in any of it. His brother and two brothers-in-law were also imprisoned, accused of collaborating with the plot against Hitler’s life.
One morning, Bonhoeffer and other prisoners were herded into a van and driven towards the southeast. Unknown to the prisoners, they were all going to be condemned to death. The next Sunday, on April 8, Bonhoeffer held a brief worship service in a schoolhouse. After the service, they were taken to Flossenberg and condemned to death. Bonhoeffer spent the whole night in prayer and preparation for his death, which would come about the following day.
The next day, Bonhoeffer and his companions were stripped of their clothes and forced to walk up to the gallows, where they were hanged. Weeks after his death, the war ended.


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