Subversive Historian – 04/09/09

The Hanging of Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Back in the day on April 9th, 1945, Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer was hanged with piano wire by the Nazis at the concentration camp in Flössenburg, Germany. Executed at the age of 39 and just one month before the end of World War II, Bonhoeffer had immediately spoken out against the reign of Adolf Hitler when he came to power in 1933. A year later, Bonhoeffer was involved in organizing the Pastors’ Emergency League which later morphed into the Confessing Church whose seminaries were eventually shut down by the Nazis in 1937. As a religious ethicist, he left Germany for a seminary in New York, but returned to his country within a month feeling the need to more actively resist Hitler’s regime. As a theologian who philosophized that “action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility,” Bonhoeffer joined an anti-Nazi conspiracy as a double agent and participated in a failed plot to assassinate Hitler.

Some pacifists question the moral basis of his decision to resort to violence, however, beyond question is the fact that Bonhoeffer, in the face of tremendous injustice, was willing to die resisting.


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