THE EXECUTION of DIETRICH BONHOEFFER (By Alfred the Great Academy)

Eventually, Bonhoeffer’s complicity in the plot was discovered. From his bunker in Berlin, Hitler personally ordered Bonhoeffer’s execution. Thus it was that at dawn on the morning of April 8, 1945, Bonhoeffer was led naked into the execution yard while prison guards jeered and ridiculed him. At the foot of the scaffold Bonhoeffer paused to kneel and pray. He then got up and climbed the steps to the gallows. Using a meat hook from a slaughterhouse, Bonhoeffer was then slowly hoisted by a noose formed of piano wire. Asphyxiation is thought to have taken half an hour.

Just 11 days later, the Americans liberated the prison where Bonhoeffer had been kept.

For many years, the Lord had been preparing Bonhoeffer for the hour of his death. In The Cost of Discipleship, he had written about the necessity for Christians to embrace death. “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die. It may be a death like that of the first disciples who had to leave home and work to follow him, or it may be a death like Luther’s, who had to leave the monastery and go out in to the world. But it is the same death every time – death in Jesus Christ, the death of the old man at his call.”

The following poem was written by Bonhoeffer in the concentration camp shortly before his death:

By gracious powers so wonderfully sheltered,
And confidently waiting come what may,
we know that God is with us night and morning,
and never fails to greet us each new day.

Yet is this heart by its old foe tormented,
Still evil days bring burdens hard to bear;
Oh, give our frightened souls the sure salvation
for which, O Lord, You taught us to prepare.

And when this cup You give is filled to brimming
With bitter suffering, hard to understand,
we take it thankfully and without trembling,
out of so good and so beloved a hand.

Yet when again in this same world You give us
The joy we had, the brightness of Your Sun,
we shall remember all the days we lived through,
and our whole life shall then be Yours alone.

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