Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility.


Dietrich Bonhoeffer  (February 4, 1906 – April 9, 1945) was a German Lutheran pastor, theologian and activive member of German resistance movement against Nazism.  He was also a founding member of the Confessing Church (a Christian resistance movement in Nazi Germany).

Bonhoeffer was born in Breslau, Silesia into a middle to upper-class professional family. He and his twin sister Sabine were sixth and seventh of eight children.

His parents supported his decision to become a minister.  He received his doctorate in theology from the University of Berlin, and then spent a post-graduate year abroad studying at Union Theological Seminary in New York City.

Bonhoeffer returned to Germany in 1931 as Hitler was rising to power.  A strong opponent of Nazism, he was involved, together with Martin Niemöller, Karl Barth and others, in setting up the Confessing Church. Between late 1933 and 1935.   After serving as a pastor in London, he returned to Germany to head an illegal seminary for Confessing Church pastors, first in Finkenwalde and then at the von Blumenthal estate of Gross Schlönwitz, which was closed on the outbreak of war. The Gestapo also banned him from preaching; then teaching; and finally any kind of public speaking. During this time, Bonhoeffer worked closely with numerous opponents of Adolf Hitler. 

Bonhoeffer played a key leadership role in the Confessing Church, which represented a major source of Christian opposition to the Nazi government in Germany.  

In 1939, Bonhoeffer joined a hidden group of high-ranking military officers based in the Abwehr, or Military Intelligence Office, who wanted to overthrow the National Socialist regime by killing Hitler. He was arrested in April 1943 after money used to help Jews escape to Switzerland was traced to him. He was charged with conspiracy and imprisoned in Berlin for a year and a half. After the unsuccessful July 20 Plot in 1944, Bonhoeffer's connections to the conspirators were discovered. After moving to a series of prisons and concentration camps ending at Flossenburg. Here, he was eventually executed by hanging at dawn on 9 April 1945, just three weeks before the liberation of the city. Also hanged for their parts in the conspiracy were his brother Klaus and his brothers-in-law Hans von Dohnanyi and Rüdiger Schleicher.



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