Dear Friends — on this day in 1945 at dawn Dietrich Bonhoeffer was executed at Flossenburg concentration camp in the woods of Bavaria.
In 2008 I had the honor of visiting the spot where this great hero stepped into glory. Here is a photo I took of the hallowed spot.
Many people reading my Bonhoeffer biography are seeing parallels today with what happened in Germany in the early Thirties, and I am very sorry to agree with this reading. We must be vigilant in standing up for freedom. Knowing how freedom was taken away in the Thirties — or rather, how people surrendered their freedoms — is one way to see what we must do today. We must know that apart from our standing up boldly — and not allowing anyone to take an inch of freedom without a fight —we are no different than those who surrendered to this fate in Germany.
I also had the honor that spring in 2008 of meeting people who knew Dietrich Bonhoeffer personally. I wrote about meeting them in the preface to the 10th anniversary edition of my Bonhoeffer biography. Here is the excerpt that appeared in National Review last year. Please share it with anyone you are able.
At left I am pictured with the elder sister of Dietrich’s fiancee, Ruth-Alice von Bismarck. As a teenager her grandmother took her and all her siblings (including Dietrich’s then 12-year-old fiancee to be) to hear Dietrich preach each Sunday at Finkenwalde, in what was then Prussia and is today Poland. Susanne and I spent an absolutely extraordinary afternoon with Ruth-Alice in 2008, and in 2013 she went to glory. I will never forget saying goodbye to her, when she said how grateful she was to Dietrich and to her sister Maria for bringing us together.
In the photo below I am with Dietrich’s niece, Renate, who married his best friend, Eberhard Bethge. She was at the center of many of the central events in my Bonhoeffer biography. Susanne and I spent a memorable afternoon with her at her home in 2008 the day after our visit with Ruth-Alice von Bismarck. She went to her eternal reward only two years ago, in 2019. Both of these women were unfailingly gracious to us and we will always treasure those afternoons with them.
My BONHOEFFER book — with the entire 10th anniversary preface, which is three times as long as the National Review excerpt — is available at MYSTORE.com with the code ERIC. Signed copies can be purchased HERE. Please acquaint yourself with the story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer as you are able. For such a time as this.
Here is my maiden speech on Bonhoeffer on April 9th in 2010, the 65th anniversary of his death.