Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas

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The life of German Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonheoffer was one committed to social justice and pacifism. He was also a spy who would help plan an assassination attempt on Hitler and was involved in “Operation 7,” an effort to smuggle Jews into Switzerland. He was a passionate anti-Fascist, and one of the most severe critics of German Christian Church who capitulated with the Nazis. Although he had traveled to the United States in 1939, he would soon decide to return to Germany on the last scheduled steamer to cross the Atlantic.

“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… Christians in Germany will have to face the terrible alternative of either willing the defeat of their nation in order that Christian civilization may survive or willing the victory of their nation and thereby destroying civilization. I know which of these alternatives I must choose but I cannot make that choice from security.”—Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 1939

Once back in Germany, Bonhoeffer served as a courier for the German resistance movement to reveal its existence and intentions to the Allies and to secure possible peace terms for a post-Hitler government. He was arrested on April 6, 1943 and remained imprisoned throughout the rest of his life. By direct order from Hitler, Bonhoeffer was executed by hanging on April 9, 1945 in Flossenbürg concentration camp, two weeks before US soldiers liberated it.

His life as a pastor and theologian of great intellect and spirituality has been hailed as exerting great influence on Christians across broad denominations and ideologies, including Martin Luther King, Jr. and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

A video interview with author Eric Metaxas: