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German pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer made one of the most courageous decisions in the history of Christianity when he decided in 1939 to leave the safety of New York City and return to Germany where he confronted Adolf Hitlerand the Nazis. His reward for this incredible act of selflessness was to be hanged in a concentration camp in 1945.

Bonhoeffer, one of the towering figures of the 20th century, may not be a name familiar to the majority of Americans more than sixty years after the end of World War II. Bonhoeffer was a man determined to do the will of God, no matter what the personal cost.

Bonhoeffer once said, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

As Hitler and the Nazis seized control of Germany and attempted to exterminate the Jews of Europe, a small band of dissidents including Bonhoeffer, worked to bring down the Third Reich. Bonhoeffer, a pastor and author, was famous for his classic religious books.

Bonhoeffer’s life was changed during his time at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem before he returned to his native Germany to oppose Hitler. He took the position that Christians are obligated to stand up for the Jews.

Upon his return to Germany he became involved in the effort to smuggle Jews into the safety of neutral Switzerland. He also put his beliefs into action by being involved in the well-known Valkyrie plot against Hitler.

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