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On the evening of April 5, 1943, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was brought to the Tegel prison. As soon as he was allowed to write to his parents, he assured them that he was alright and didn’t really need anything…
However, when he wrote to his good friend Eberhard Bethge, he gave quite a different description. In December of 1943, Bonhoeffer wrote…
And finally I would begin to tell you, e.g., that, despite everything I have written it is horrible here, that the dreadful impressions often pursue me well into the night, and that I can cope with them only by reciting countless verses of hymns, and that then my awakening begins with a sigh instead of with the praise of God.
(Senior Military Prosecutor Manfred) Roeder was known to be both clever and brutal. There was no doubt that the other conspirators regarded Bonhoeffer as the weakest link in the chain. Only if he reacted correctly during interrogation could they construct a new centre of operations and begin their plans over again. If he failed to do so, they would all find themselves in Freisler’s People’s Court.
Would Bonhoeffer stand up to the physical pressure?
As soon as Roeder found out that he had someone before him who was hiding important knowledge while pretending to be an unsuspecting pastor, he would have the prisoner tortured. Bonhoeffer would by no means be the first of Roeder’s victims to receive such treatment.
For the next few weeks, the fate of the Resistance movement depended on Dietrich Bonhoeffer!
And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27).
At noon that day, 5 April (1943), at his parents’ home, Bonhoeffer tried to telephone his sister Christine, when as unfamiliar voice answered the phone, the thought flashed through his his mind: her house is being searched! Without disturbing his parents, he went next door, where his sister Ursala prepared a hearty midday meal for him.
Then he went to his study in the attic to ensure that every precaution had been taken should it be searched, and thereafter waited, with Ursala and Rudiger Schleicher as well as Eberhard Bethge, for whatever was to happen. About four o’clock in the afternoon, his father came over and said, “There are two men up in your room who would like to speak to you.”
The two, (Senior Military Prosecutor Manfred) Roeder and (Franz-Xaver) Sonderregger, had already arrested Christine von Dohnanyi, and they soon drove away with Bonhoeffer. In Munich that same day, Josef and Anni Muller were also arrested.
Bonhoeffer’s reply, in which he wrote “Dear Maria” instead of “Dear Miss Wedemeyer”, overflowed with joy:
…My heart is opening wide and brimming with gratitude and confusion and still can’t take it in–the “yes” that is to determine the entire future course of our lives.
Published: February 11, 1996
IN a famous moment of frustration described in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus, contending with the doubts of his fellow Galileans, declared, “A prophet is not without honor, save in his own country.”
For centuries, those words have been used to describe the tribulations of the deserving. But rarely have they seemed so appropriate as they did last week, when a group of Lutheran church members and human rights advocates in Berlin denounced the fact that the Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was condemned as a traitor by the Nazi SS court in 1945 for having helped to plot an assassination attempt against Hitler, is still legally a traitor in Germany. (Although the verdicts of Nazi people’s courts were declared void a decade ago, that declaration did not cover the SS courts.)
The revelation that Bonhoeffer is still legally a traitor struck a chord here and in Germany, because Bonhoeffer is widely considered a Christian martyr. His writings on faith and civic responsibility appeal to people across religious, national and ideological lines.