Text by Victoria Barnett
Over the past 50 years, many Christians have been engaged in the process of reexamining the role of the Church in Germany during the Nazi era. What has become evident in this undertaking is the depth of the chasm between the ideals the Church had always set for itself and the way it responded to the brutalization of the German government under Adolf Hitler.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was one of the few church leaders who stood in courageous opposition to the Fuehrer and his policies. To honor his memory, the Church Relations department of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum has asked Victoria Barnett, author of For the Soul of the People, Protestant Protest Against Hitler, to write an essay about Bonhoeffer spanning the years from the rise of Nazism until his death in the Flossenbürg concentration camp in 1945.
The following story will give the reader some sense of the conflict within the Protestant church, as well as the remarkable response of one pastor/theologian to that conflict and to the turmoil within the nation itself.
FURTHER SUGGESTED READINGS
Barnett, Victoria. For the Soul of the People: Protestant Protest Against Hitler. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.
Bethge, Eberhard. Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Man of Vision, Man of Courage. New York: Harper and Row, 1970.
Bethge, Eberhard, Renate Bethge and Christian Gremmels, eds. Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Life in Pictures. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1986.
Kelly, Geffrey B. and F. Burton Nelson, eds. A Testament to Freedom: The Essential Writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. (revised edition) New York: Harper-Collins, 1995.
Klemperer, Klemens von. German Resistance Against Hitler, 1938–1945. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992.
Rasmussen, Larry L. Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 1989.