Prisoner of Note – Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The martyred Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906 – 1945) was arrested in 1943 in connection with anti-Nazi activities. He was interred in Buchenwald for two months in the winter of 1945 and eventually transferred to Flossenbürg.  He was arrested in 1943 in connection with anti-Nazi activities.

Even as the Americans approached Flossenbürg, the Germans staged a court-martial of Bonhoeffer and others who had been involved in the Valkyrie plot to kill Hitler the previous July. They were all hung on April 9, 1945. Bonhoeffer was last seen naked, kneeling in prayer. The Americans reached Flossenbürg April 23; Hitler and Eva Braun committed suicide on April 30. 
Bonhoeffer was one of eight children, of a well-connected, prosperous Germany family. The family would lose four members to the Nazis for their anti-Nazi stance. His older sisters Ursula and Christine both married lawyers who also passionately resisted Hitler’ they too were arrested and killed just before the war ended.  Bonhoeffer’s twin sister Sabine, married a lawyer who was a baptized Christian but of Jewish descent
Within days of Hitler rising to power in 1933, Hitler censored a radio speech by Bonhoeffer that spoke against idol worship, such as Hitler.  He continued to be monitored closely by the Nazis.  He was a prolific theologian, having attained his PhD at age 21, four years before he was allowed to be ordained.  In 1937 he authored The Cost of Discipleship, a classic of Christian literature, and penned many letters from prison as well.  
His stance is also notable because a great majority of Lutheran pastors consented to Hitler’s rule, some were even offended by his outspoken stance. In Germany the church is much more closely connected with government than in the U.S.  He and some friends began to form a branch called the ‘Confessing Church’ for serious Christians, who believed that to follow Jesus was to stand up for the dignity of others who are different.  His good friend and colleague in the Confessing Church Leadership was Martin Niemöller, famous for the following statement:
First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out –
because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out –
because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out –
because I was not a Jew. 
Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.
Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act. –  Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Note – There has been renewed  interested in Dietrich Bonhoeffer since a 608-page biography by Eric Metaxas published in 2010 became an international bestseller. 

Sources:  Coles, Robert Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 1998; Metaxas, Eric, 7 Men and the Secret of Their Greatness, 2013