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“I have come to the conclusion that I made a mistake in coming to America. I must live through this difficult period in our national history with the people of Germany. 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.”
A man suffered shipwreck in, with, and because of his country. He saw his church and its claim collapse in ruins. The theological writings he left consisted of barely accessible fragments. In 1945 only a handful of friends and enemies knew who this young man had been; the names of other Christians in Germany were more in the limelight. When his name did emerge from the anonymity of his death, the response from the world of academic theology and the churches was tentative and restrained.
Holocaust Museum Houston has additional special guided tours of its permanent exhibition with an emphasis on the life and work of German Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer this winter due to popular demand.
Four tours were scheduled in October, but quickly sold out. New tours have been scheduled for 10:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. Dec. 6 and Dec. 13 at the Museum’s Morgan Family Center, 5401 Caroline St., in Houston’s Museum District.
Admission is free for HMH members and students, $12 for nonmember adults, $8 for seniors and members of the active-duty military.
Tour sizes are limited, and advance reservation is requested. To register for any tour, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 713-527-1602. To schedule a separate private group tour for 10 or more in advance, visit the Museum’s Web site at www.hmh.org and check the Plan Your Visit tab.
Bonhoeffer was a brave exception to the silent bystanders who watched during World War II as their neighbors and friends were taken to the concentration camps. He spoke out from the pulpit and called for the church to take a stand against the Nazis. He was a part of the Abwehr resistance circle which helped Jews escape to Switzerland. In 1939, Bonhoeffer left Germany for a teaching position in New York, but he returned after one month, despite knowing that his life would be in danger. On April 9, 1945, Bonhoeffer was hung at Flossenburg on the direct orders of Adolf Hitler.
Bonhoeffer’s actions against the Nazi Party and his message to the church in the context of the events of the Holocaust will be the focus of tours of the Museum’s permanent exhibit, German railcar and Danish fishing boat. Tours include a look at the early influences on Bonhoeffer before the Holocaust, his organization of the Confessing Church to stand with the Jews in reaction to the Aryan clause, his involvement in assassination attempts on Adolf Hitler and his imprisonment and execution at the Flossenburg concentration camp by direct order from Hitler. The tours include the stories of the bishop of Munster and Pastor Trocme, church leaders who strived to protect victims from Nazi tyranny.
This was fun…
I sometimes talk about Dietrich Bonhoeffer in my services, church meetings etc. He was an inspirational person!
But then I thought sometimes it’s a bit boring to just talk about someone’s biography. So instead, I created a quiz.
These are my questions (and I had fun making up some of the answers!!):
- Bonhoeffer’s father was
a) a Lutheran minister
b) a butcher and an atheist
c) a psychiatrist and a Christian
- Because he was too young to be ordained after he finished his studies in theology (he had 2 PhDs and was a University Lecturer before the age of 25!), Bonhoeffer spent some time studying in:
a) the USA
b) the UK
- While he was in the States, Bonhoeffer attended and was deeply inspired by
a) a Presbyterian Church in Texas
b) a Methodist Church in Florida
c) an African-American Baptist Church in Harlem
- Bonhoeffer was
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On this day, 75 years ago, the bloodiest war in human history broke out when Nazi Germany, fresh off of signing a nonaggression pact with the Soviet Union, invaded Poland. Though two years would pass before the United States entered the war, the conflict would profoundly change the American role in the world.
Adolph Hitler had duped many world leaders into believing that Germany really wanted peace and perhaps just a little “lebensraum,” or “living space.” But events would prove that they were bent on the conquest of a continent, and that the only thing that could stop this menace was military might.
German SS troops, the military arm of the Nazi Party, put on Polish army uniforms and raided several German outposts along the German-Polish border, giving the regime a false pretense for their war of conquest. At 4:45 am, on September 1, 1939, over a million Germans poured over the Polish border en route to the takeover of a country that had enjoyed less than a quarter century of independence since the end of the Great War, the so-called War to End All Wars. Poland was defeated in less than a month and the world was plunged into an even more devastaing conflict.
The image of the Polish war effort in the popular mind is of antiquated Polish cavalry making chivalric, yet doomed charges against modern, sophisticated German tanks. Yet, this narrative is more the result of Nazi propaganda; the truth was much different. The Polish army fought well against their German foes, and was not too far behind technologically. Horses were still a major part of most armies on the eve of WWII because they were logistically important for troop and supply movement. Nevertheless, the German Army, drawing from their experience in the Spanish Civil War that they treated as a training ground just a few years earlier, used a sophisticated combined arms strategy of tanks, troops, and planes to quickly cut through their valiant, but outmatched Polish foe. The use of “blitzkrieg” or “lightning war” to rapidly advance and prevent the slog of trench warfare that became the norm in WWI, had become possible because of advances in communication and transportation technology. The German military would master this technique.
Poland was beaten so quickly because, on top of fighting the advanced German war machine in the West, the Polish army had to cope with the Soviet Union’s invasion from the East. Often lost in the modern historical revisionism which claims that it was really the Soviet Union that won the war and defeated Nazism, is the fact that the Communist empire helped launch World War II, and was fully complicit in the premeditated carving up of free countries.
Germany would go on to consume all of Europe, plunging the entire continent into the darkness of the Holocaust, a genocide of Jews that many at the time believed a modern, civilized country was simply incapable of. Nazi Germany had launched a new “dark age,” as British Prime Minister Winston Churchill said in his famous “Finest Hour” speech, that would be “made more sinister…by the lights of perverted science.”
Adolph Hitler, high off of the conquest of Europe, would turn his country against its powerful partner-in-crime, the Soviet Union, thus sowing the seeds of ultimate German defeat. Yet, the more important change in the war, at least for the free world, was the entrance of the United States after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
Coming to terms with the genocidal century just past, especially the unvarnished evil of Nazi Germany, has prompted theologians and philosophers to adjust and recalibrate much of what they thought they knew. Writers as diverse as Reinhold Niebuhr, John Pawlikowski, Richard Rubenstein and Elie Wiesel — some more successfully than others — have all struggled to reconcile the existence of the divine with unspeakable atrocities, many of them carried out in the name of God.
Few theologians witnessed the juggernaut of Nazi depravity at closer range than Dietrich Bonhoeffer. In “Strange Glory,” Charles Marsh, a professor of religious studies at the University of Virginia, renders Bonhoeffer’s life and thought in exquisite detail and with sympathetic understanding, and in the course of more than 500 pages, we see Bonhoeffer’s transformation from pampered scion and theological dilettante to energetic churchman and Christian martyr, all against the backdrop of cataclysmic changes in Germany.
Born the sixth of eight children in Breslau, Prussia, in 1906 to a psychiatrist and his wife, Bonhoeffer grew up in a privileged environment but one that was not especially religious. When Dietrich announced at age 13 his intention to become a theologian, his siblings questioned and even belittled his choice, arguing that the church was hopelessly irrelevant. “In that case,” the undeterred teenager replied, “I shall reform it!”
After his family moved to Berlin, Bonhoeffer attended the Grunewald Gymnasium, graduating at the precocious age of 17, and in 1923 settled in for a year of study at Tübingen University, while the Weimar Republic continued its downward economic spiral. Insulated by his family’s wealth, Bonhoeffer barely noticed. The following year, he set off on an aesthetic summer in Italy. Whereas Martin Luther had been repulsed by the opulence and corruption he witnessed on his visit to Rome four centuries earlier, Bonhoeffer was rather enchanted with the Eternal City and even, in Marsh’s telling, lured by the “beauty, exuberance and grandeur” of Roman Catholicism.
Bonhoeffer’s theological training began in earnest under the tutelage of Karl Holl, Reinhold Seeberg and Adolf von Harnack at Friedrich Wilhelms University in 1924. These were tempestuous times, not only politically but theologically. Although the eminent theologian Karl Barth had also studied with Harnack, he rejected what he saw as Harnack’s enervated liberalism, tethered as it was to nationalism and reduced to social utility. Barth sought a fresh understanding of divine transcendence.
Bonhoeffer was entranced, and in ensuing years he would seek to embellish Barth’s insights by emphasizing the ethical and communal ramifications of doctrine, insisting that the Christian Gospel unfolds most authentically within community, “not through individual social or ethical experience.” Bonhoeffer was searching, Marsh writes, “for a more embodied, vital and dynamic Protestantism.” The danger in Bonhoeffer’s ideas, as Marsh acknowledges, is that his notion of the kingdom of God, in the context of rising nationalism, could be commandeered in the service of Germany, especially when the German theological establishment “presumed the providential blessings of the warrior God.”
Bonhoeffer’s brief stint as an assistant pastor to the German Lutheran congregation in Barcelona provided a respite from the growing crisis in Germany and also exposed him to those less fortunate (although he continued to live comfortably). Even more formative was his year in the United States for postgraduate study in 1930. Although he was underwhelmed by his courses at Union Theological Seminary — and found that among his fellow students everyone “just blabs away so frightfully” — he responded to the Gospel he heard at Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist Church, where he became a pastoral assistant. And a road and rail trip through the South and into Mexico allowed him to see firsthand the effects of poverty and racism. Bonhoeffer came to admire the social conscience of Union students, although he found no more sustenance in the preaching of liberal Protestants in the United States than he had in Germany. “The sermon has been reduced to parenthetical church remarks about newspaper events,” he lamented.
Back in Berlin in 1931, Bonhoeffer continued his engagement with the poor in parish work, but the Lutheran church in Germany was quickly capitulating to Hitler’s regime. Nazi banners ornamented the churches; one minister declared, “Christ has come to us through Adolf Hitler.” Bonhoeffer’s initial protest centered on the so-called Aryan paragraph, passed by the Reichstag on April 7, 1933. It mandated the removal of all Jews, even baptized Jews, from civil service, which included the churches.
The protests were unavailing. As a leader of what would become the Confessing Church, Bonhoeffer organized a school for dissident seminarians at Finkenwalde, near the Baltic Sea. Until it was closed down by the Gestapo in 1937, Finkenwalde immersed Bonhoeffer in Christian community, a place where, in his words, “the pure doctrine, the Sermon on the Mount, and worship are taken seriously.” It was also where Bonhoeffer developed a lifelong, homoerotic relationship with a student, Eberhard Bethge, although Marsh insists it was chaste.
Marsh is a bit less persuasive in making the case that Bonhoeffer in no way cooperated with the Nazi regime. An avowed pacifist, Bonhoeffer secured an appointment with German military intelligence, which allowed him remarkable freedom to travel both in and out of Germany. His complicity in a plot to assassinate Hitler, however, sealed his fate, although his principal involvement lay in providing moral justification for tyrannicide.
The bomber group in flight around the time of the mission to Munich, Germany, in 1944. The “Yellow G” is in the bottom row, third plane from the left.
VATERSTETTEN, Germany — It has been nearly 70 years since a B-24 Liberator with the 485th Bomb Group was shot down near this small community in the midst of World War II.
On Friday, the people of Vaterstetten gathered to rededicate a memorial to the crewmembers of that bomber, the “Yellow G.”
The “Yellow G” was shot down on July 19, 1944, during a bombing run over Munich. If not for the tireless work of a core group of Vaterstetten citizens, the story of the aircraft and its crewmembers may have been lost to time, forgotten in the shuffle of hundreds of thousands of such stories that sprung up from the Second World War.
Of the 10 Americans aboard the plane, six were killed in the crash. The remaining four were taken prisoner, but survived the war. The last of those four, Staff Sgt. Al O’Brien, passed away in 2007 – two years before the completion of the memorial bearing his name.
Georg Reitsberger, the mayor of Vaterstetten, is a member of the town’s historical society. He felt that building a monument to the American crew was an important step in keeping peace at the forefront of everyone’s mind.
Understandably, not everybody in Vaterstetten felt the same way.
“They were very surprised about it,” Reitsberger said. “But then they thought it was a really, really good idea. It’s very unusual, I know that, because a lot of people lost their relatives in the bombing of Munich.
“It’s unusual to build a memorial for former enemies, but it’s so important to remember that we have had 70 years of peace. These things have to be remembered.”
Goetze, who wasn’t born when West Germany beat Argentina in the 1990 final, controlled a cross with his chest in the 113th minute and in one fluid motion volleyed the ball past goalkeeper Sergio Romero and inside the far post from five yards out.
Argentina’s Lionel Messi walks past as German players celebrate their 1-0 World …more >
“It’s an unbelievable feeling. I don’t know how to describe it. You just shoot that goal in, you don’t really know what’s happening,” Goetzesaid. “And then at the end of the match, having a party with the team, the whole country … it is for us, a dream come true.”
At the final whistle, Germanyplayers fell into a pile in the middle of the pitch in celebration. Messiwalked past them with his hands on his hips — still in the shadow of his compatriot Diego Maradona, who led his country to the 1986 title.
Goetze went on as a substitute for Miroslav Klose toward the end of regulation time and his fresh legs made the difference.
Andre Schuerrle broke down the left flank, sending his cross into the area, and the Bayern Munich midfielder did the rest with a clinical finish. The goal echoed that of Andres Iniesta four years ago, when the midfielder scored in similar fashion but from the other side of the area to give Spain a 1-0 extra-time win over the Netherlands.
According to Germany coach Joachim Loew, it was exactly as he’d planned when he made the substitution.
Germany became the first European team to win a World Cup in the Americas, and the victory ends a string of near misses since winning its last major title at the 1996 European Championship. The team lost the 2002 World Cup final to Brazil, the Euro 2008 final to Spain and was eliminated in the semifinals in both 2006 and 2010.