Dietrich Bonhoeffer Biography

(Theologian Known for His Staunch Resistance to the Nazi Dictatorship)

Birthday: February 4, 1906 (Aquarius)

Born In: Wrocław, Poland

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German pastor, theologian, anti-Nazi dissident, member of the Abwehr – the German military intelligence organization against Nazis and Hitler, and the founding member of the Confessing Church. From the very beginning, he was interested in Christianity and becoming a pastor even when he belonged to a family that was thoroughly into science and logic as his father was a known neurologist in Berlin. When he communicated his thoughts about taking up theology in college and becoming a pastor, he was ridiculed that he would end up living a very poor and insignificant life. Bonhoeffer decided to change this perception and started studying liberal theology. His need to understand and eventually teach the placement of Christianity in the context of a liberal world took him to America where he experienced more spiritual side of the religion than just ideological. He came back to Germany and was ordained to be a pastor but by this time the Nazi movement was at its peak and Bonhoeffer was strongly against the idea of execution of Jews or oppression of any sort. He joined the secret German military intelligence and helped people to escape from Germany which led to his arrest and ultimate execution. Bonhoeffer has given the world some wonderful theological ideas on neo-orthodox Christianity and contributed to the world of literature with the most sought-after work of his lifetime, 'The Cost of Discipleship’, which is considered as a modern classic and is a spiritual guide to set of disciplines to follow in order to receive the heavenly grace.

Quick Facts

German Celebrities Born In February

Died At Age: 39


father: Karl Ludwig Bonhoeffer,

mother: Paula von Hase

siblings: Christel von Dohnanyi, Karl Friedrich Bonhoeffer, Klaus Bonhoeffer, Sabine, Susanne Dress, Ursula Schleicher, Walter

Born Country: Poland

Quotes By Dietrich Bonhoeffer Pastors

Died on: April 9, 1945

place of death: Flossenbürg concentration camp, Germany

Notable Alumni: Union Theological Seminary, University Of Berlin, University Of Tübingen

Cause of Death: Execution

City: Wrocław, Poland

More Facts

education: University Of Berlin, University Of Tübingen, Columbia University, Union Theological Seminary

  • 1

    What was Dietrich Bonhoeffer's role in the resistance against the Nazi regime?

    Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a key figure in the resistance against the Nazi regime in Germany. He was involved in various plots to overthrow Hitler and was ultimately arrested and executed for his participation in the resistance.
  • 2

    How did Dietrich Bonhoeffer's religious beliefs influence his actions during World War II?

    Dietrich Bonhoeffer's strong Christian convictions played a significant role in shaping his opposition to the Nazi regime. He believed it was his duty to stand up against injustice and defend the persecuted, which led him to actively resist the Nazis.
  • 3

    What was the significance of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's book

    Dietrich Bonhoeffer's book "The Cost of Discipleship" is considered a classic work on Christian ethics and the call to follow Jesus. It emphasizes the importance of costly grace and living out one's faith in a radical and sacrificial manner.
  • 4

    How did Dietrich Bonhoeffer's time in prison impact his spiritual beliefs?

    During his time in prison, Dietrich Bonhoeffer continued to deepen his spiritual beliefs and reflect on the nature of faith and God's presence in the midst of suffering. His letters and writings from prison reveal a deep trust in God even in the face of adversity.
  • 5

    What is Dietrich Bonhoeffer's legacy in the field of Christian theology?

    Dietrich Bonhoeffer's legacy in Christian theology is profound, as his writings and actions continue to inspire and challenge believers around the world. He is remembered for his courage, commitment to social justice, and emphasis on the importance of living out one's faith in practical ways.
Childhood & Early Life
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was born in Breslau, Silesia Province, Prussia to Karl Bonhoeffer and Paula von Hase. His father was a neurologist and a psychiatrist who moved the family to Berlin to establish himself as a professor of neurology at University of Berlin.
He was home-schooled by his mother, until the age of 6 or 7. Young Bonhoeffer was expected to follow his father’s footsteps and become a psychiatrist but he declared as a teenager that he wanted to become a pastor.
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In 1924, Bonhoeffer passed matriculation at the University of Berlin, a centre of liberal theology. It was here that he was introduced to the concept of neo-orthodoxy, which was a reaction against liberal theology.
Bonhoeffer graduated summa cum laude from the University of Berlin in 1927 and became a theologist at the age of 21. His thesis, ‘Sanctorum Communio (Communion of Saints)’, was very well received in the world of Christian theology.
In order to become a pastor, Bonhoeffer started to serve as a curate in the German Lutheran parish in Spain and then returned back to the University of Berlin to write ‘Akt und Sein (Act and Being)’.
As Bonhoeffer was still very young to be ordained, he went to America in 1930 to pursue further studies. He took up a teaching fellowship at Union Theological Seminary where he had life changing experiences after interacting with the African-American spirituals.
In 1931, he came back to the University of Berlin to lecture in systematic theology, but his travels changed the way he looked at Christianity. More involved with its spiritual side now, Bonhoeffer was ordained at the St. Matthew's Church.
Bonhoeffer raised his voice against Nazi policy towards Jews and professed that the Church should oppose this and reject Hitler’s ideologies. He formed the Confessing Church - the form of church that practiced equality.
By 1934, he was disillusioned by how Confessing Church could not exhibit any power and the opposition towards Nazis was yielding no effect, therefore he moved to serve in a German speaking Protestant Church in London.
Bonhoeffer returned to Berlin in 1935 as he felt that his country needed his servicest, even though the chances of a change were bleak. Within a year, Bonhoeffer was declared as the enemy of state.
The Confessing Church seminary was closed down as the Nazi control over church and Germany in general intensified in 1937. This led to Bonhoeffer travelling throughout Eastern Germany in order to organize underground seminars to sympathetic students.
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This was the time when he wrote on the theological subjects that were close to his heart and published ‘The Cost of Discipleship’, in which he talks about inculcating greater spiritual discipline to achieve the grace.
In 1939, worried about being asked to take an oath under Hitler or be arrested, he left Germany to live in America but in two years time he returned back as he felt guilty for leaving his countrymen alone in the times of struggle.
By 1941, Bonhoeffer was forbidden to speak in public or print or publish anything; therefore he joined the Abwehr, a German military intelligence organization, and served as a messenger for the small German resistance movement.
Bonhoeffer was arrested as he was involved in helping some German Jews escape to neutral Switzerland in 1943 and he was imprisoned at Tegel Military prison for a year and a half. He continued to write in the jail.
In 1945, Bonhoeffer’s court martial took place and he was sentenced to death by hanging by wire so as to prolong the death. He was hung along with other conspirators like, Admiral Wilhelm Canaris and Hans Oster.
Major Work
The most important work of Bonhoeffer’s life is considered to be ‘The Cost of Discipleship’ which was written in 1937. It presented his thoughts on the neo-radical practices of Christianity in the background of the Nazi invasion of Germany.
Facts About Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was an accomplished pianist and had a great love for music, often finding solace and inspiration in playing the piano.
He had a mischievous sense of humor and enjoyed playing pranks on his friends and colleagues, showing a lighter side to his serious demeanor.
Bonhoeffer had a deep appreciation for nature and often found spiritual connection and renewal in spending time outdoors, particularly in the mountains.
Despite his academic and intellectual pursuits, he had a passion for physical fitness and enjoyed staying active through activities like hiking and swimming.
Bonhoeffer was known for his love of good food and wine, often hosting elaborate dinner parties for friends and colleagues where lively discussions on theology and life would take place alongside delicious meals.
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