Visit from Poland

On 8 June 2022, as in the previous year, three professors from the Evangelical School of Theology, EWST, Wroclaw visited us. Dr Wojciech Szczerba, Dr Marek Kucharski and. Dr. Piotr Lorek came to Berlin to strengthen the cooperation with the Evangelical Academy of Berlin and also with the Bonhoeffer House within the framework of the ERASMUS programme. The accompanying group of the Bonhoeffer House was represented by Martina Dethloff, Viking Dietrich, Kurt Kreibohm, Ingrid Portmann and Gottfried Brezger.

 

The guests from Wroclaw gave a lively and concrete account of the many efforts in their university and in society to provide refugees from Ukraine not only with accommodation, but also with a perspective in their unstable life situation. In the Kreisau Youth Meeting Centre alone, about 100 refugees have found refuge and learning opportunities.

An important point of discussion was the consultation on a project in which the Bonhoeffer House is linked in partnership with the EWST. In March 2022, a joint application was submitted to the EU Commission, on which a decision has not yet been made.

The title of the project is:

Bonhoeffer House: „Who stands firm?“

Learning civil courage with the Bonhoeffer family.

The project aims to complement the 1987 exhibition on the life and work of Dietrich Bonhoeffer in the house, thematically by focusing on the participation of women in the Bonhoeffer family in the resistance, and medially by using digital means to enable local access in the House and global access worldwide.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s thoughts and actions, rooted in family relationships, ecumenical experiences and the practice of his faith, continue to challenge us today to show civil courage. The German-Polish partnership opens our eyes to learning and acting together in different contexts.

Consultation of the teams of the Bonhoeffer Houses in Friedrichsbrunn and in Berlin

The two Bonhoeffer Houses, the Memorial and Place of Encounter in Berlin and the family’s holiday home in Friedrichsbrunn in the Harz Mountains, have much in common: „civic maturity and civility in Berlin and free space of life in Friedrichsbrunn complement each other“ (Günter Ebbrecht).

After the visit of the team from Berlin to Friedrichsbrunn in June 2018, the team from Friedrichsbrunn now came to Berlin on 7 May 2022. Both sides were happy to finally meet again in real presence. In lively conversation, experiences with the visitors and ideas and perspectives for future work were exchanged. In both houses, the work, which is done exclusively on a voluntary basis, is reaching its limits, especially as new challenges, such as the greater involvement of digital media, have to be met.

The meeting of the two teams is a good basis for joint further thinking on how the story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his family and their civil courage can be kept alive for very different groups and issues in society.

On the 77th anniversary of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s death on 9 April: „The Restoration of an authentic Worldly Order under God’s Command“ – Peace goals for the time after the end of the Nazi state

Remembering birthdays is important, especially of people who mean a lot to us. But it seems to me that remembering the day of death is even more important, especially for people who lost their lives in the resistance. The birthday belongs to that one person, but the day of death connects them with all those who walked the difficult path with them. This is especially true for the memory of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the others who were persecuted and murdered just before the end of tyranny.

In these days in which the war in Ukraine, with the suffering of the people in the country and in exile, and with the threat to other countries in Europe, occupies our thoughts, it can be helpful to remember the historical and political foundations of the European peace order, which is a thorn in Putin’s side. Among its roots are the designs of the ‚Kreisauers‘ and the ‚Freiburgers‘. They risked their lives in resistance to the National Socialist state of injustice and arbitrariness when they worked in the middle of the war (1942/43) on the goals of a peace order after the war. The guiding idea was to overcome the dangers of nationalism by distributing the threatening concentration of power in the nation state downwards and upwards: through an infranational structure of federalism with the principle of subsidiarity and a supranational structure of a sovereign European confederation of states. The decisive factor was the establishment of a lasting legal order after the tyrants had been disarmed. The rule of law, to be established against all nationalist opposition, was seen as the prerequisite and basis for the responsibility of the individual in the social, economic and political spheres. In the new society liberated from National Socialism, this included the rule of law to protect personal development and the establishment of democratic structures as the highest educational goals.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer also took part in the discussion about peace aims. For all those who were working conspiratorially towards this, the success of their plans depended on a clarification of the peace conditions of the Allies in the event of a possible overthrow in Germany. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was predestined to promote this clarification because of his ecumenical relations, especially with Bishop George Bell. In England, a discussion had developed in church-related circles about the ideas for a ’new Europe‘ after the war. In July 1941, William Paton, as spokesman for a discussion group with high-ranking church, social and political leaders, published in July 1941 a peace draft with the theme „The Church and the New Order“.[1]

Dietrich Bonhoeffer responded to secial points of this draft during his second trip to Switzerland (28 August – 26 September 1941) together with Willem A. Visser’t Hooft, the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches in Geneva, which was still in the process of being established. Eberhard Bethge describes this memorandum from Geneva as a „highly political book review“.[2] In the comments on Paton’s 4th chapter („The Ideal and the Next Steps“), Dietrich Bonhoeffer concretises the peace goals in his draft:

„What matters is whether a state order in Germany is realized that acknowledges its responsibility to the commands of God. That will become evident in the total removal of the Nazi system, including and especially the Gestapo; in the restoration of the sovereignty of equal rights for all; in a press that serves the truth; in the restoration of the freedom of the church to proclaim the word of God in command and gospel to all the world.“[3]

 

Bonhoeffer contradicts the „division of the whole of reality into sacred and profane“[4] and thus challenges the secular understanding of the world historically founded in the Enlightenment. The ‚Kreisauers‘ and the ‚Freiburgers‘ also formulate a reference to God in their ideas for a peace order. Bonhoeffer, however, explicitly seeks the basis of the legal order not in the ideal of the individual’s personal right or human rights, but in God’s command to protect the other, which is guaranteed in God’s Otherness (1st commandment) and in the divine monopoly on the use of force and can be experienced in Christ as the ‚Man for Others‘. „Whoever confesses the reality of Jesus Christ as the revelation of God, confesses in the same breath the reality of God and the reality of the world, for they find God and the world reconciled in Christ.“[5]

 

What does this Christian confession in interreligious dialogue mean today for the ideas of the rule of law in Europe in the face of religious-cultural plurality and diversity of life-stiles? On what normative foundation can the „common house of Europe“ exist in stormy times and also withstand the imperial warlike attacks of the „Russki Mir“[6] („Russian World“)? Certainly not only through the demonstration of military strength to the outside world, but fundamentally through the internal strengthening of civil, state and international law. In a legal and peaceful order that is committed to the commandment of love, the last will be first (Matthew 19:30). Its success is not based on the assertiveness of the interests of the strong, but on the social participation of the weak in society and in the international community of states. If the dignity of ‚the Other‘ is to be respected, protected and its violation through aggression, hatred, disregard and exclusion also sanctioned, openness, willingness to learn and readiness for dialogue is the path of empathy and solidarity with all those who are threatened by exclusion. The Christian commitment to the commandment of love becomes the preparation for God’s reality in the unreconciled world. Dietrich Bonhoeffer experienced the promise of this commandment of God, which demonstrates its reconciling power in Christ’s word and deed, in ecumenism, in the „universal Christian brotherhood that rises above all national hatreds“[7].

 

Gottfried Brezger, Rev. ret., Chairperson of the Board

Memorial and Place of Encounter Bonhoeffer-Haus, registered association, Berlin

 

„The Restoration of an authentic Worldly Order under God’s Command“- Peace goals for the time after the end of the Nazi state: Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works (DBWE). Volume 16. Conspiracy and Imprisonment: 1940-1945. Minneapolis 1996, 532.

[1] William Paton: The Church and the New Order, Gateshead on Tyne, July 1941.

[2] Eberhard Bethge: Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Theologe – Christ – Zeitgenosse. Eine Biographie. München 1970, 3. Auflage.

[3] Dietrich Bonhoeffer DBWE 16,532.

[4] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Ethics, DBWE 6,57.

[5] Ibid. 62.

[6] Today, the formulation in Bonhoeffer’s draft of the response to Paton in anticipation of the German defeat and the Russian victory makes us take special notice: „It is not pan-Germanism, but rather pan-Slavism that is the coming danger“. The memorandum, written jointly with Visser’t Hooft, says: „Even though we may consider the British-Russian alliance a justifiable and unavoidable political decision, we must not minimise the danger which Russia represents for all what we hold dear.“ DBWE 16, 532f.,539.

[7] Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s last words, a message to Bishop George Bell, DBWE 16,469.

 

Visit from Brussels

Katharina von Schnurbein, since 2015 the first European coordinator on combatting Antisemitism, visited the Bonhoeffer House on the occasion of her participation in the commemorative forum on the 80th anniversary of the Wannsee Conference on 20 January 1942.

Katharina von Schnurbein on 19 January 2022 in front of the 1st panel of the exhibition in the Bonhoeffer House:
Places in Berlin with a reference to Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

We enjoyed a lively exchange of thoughts about the current significance of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s thoughts and actions in the confrontation with anti-Semitism. „Only those who shout for the Jews may also sing Gregorian“ she wrote in our guestbook. Ms von Schnurbein is very well informed about the history and significance of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, not least through her meeting with Laura M Fabrycky in Brussels and reading her book ‚Schlüssel zu Bonhoeffers Haus‘. She was pleased about the volunteer work in the house and drew our attention to funding programmes of the European Commission under the aspects of Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values (CERV). We have taken up her suggestion and are in the process of checking whether the conditions of the call for proposals of one of the various programmes could fit in with our urgent objective: to complement the visits to the House by digitising the worldwide memory and encounter with the resistance of Dietrich Bonhoeffer in the context of his family.

Gottfried Brezger

„Keys to Bonhoeffers’s Haus“ – Zoom talk with the author Laura M. Fabrycky in Washington D.C. / USA on 4 February, 12 noon (Washington D.C. time), on the 116th birthday of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Laura M. Fabrycky was from 2016-2018 a member of the team at the Memorial and Place of Encounter Bonhoeffer House, Marienburger Allee 43 in Berlin.

We invite you to a live digital conversation (in English) and excerpts from her book (in German) and ask for registration: brezger@bonhoeffer-haus-berlin.de 

 

 

„Wie ich Welt und Weg Dietrich Bonhoeffers entdeckte“ („Exploring the world and wisdom of Dietrich Bonhoeffer“) is the subtitle of the book. The key to the house given to her becomes a mission for Laura to also give other people a key to connect their own questions and experiences with the life and thinking of Dietrich Bonhoeffer: „Even though not a single aspect of my live resembled Bonhoeffer’s, the Bonhoeffer-Haus bore witness as a place to human experiences knew in my daily life.“ (18). Published in 2021 by Gütersloher Verlag, with a brief chronology of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s life and extensive notes, this book is not a biography; it is the narration of personal experiences. Laura emphasizes individual aspects of Bonhoeffer’s life and thinking and takes us along on her journey with him.

Literature reference – Laura M. Fabrycky

Laura M. Fabrycky, a US-American, lived in Berlin with her family during her husband’s service at the US Embassy and became familiar with this country. In the Bonhoeffer House, this very special historical place of learning, she went in search of traces. As a member of the Bonhoeffer House team, she accompanied in English visitors through the Bonhoeffer family home for two years. She came from the outside and reported from the inside. The book is an exploratory journey which, when read, opens up interesting approaches to the life and work of Dietrich Bonhoeffer in its historical context and in its current significance.

 

Laura M. Fabrycky

Keys to Bonhoeffer’s Haus

Exploring the World and Wisdom of Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Fortress Press, Minneapolis / USA, 2020.

https://laurafabrycky.com/

Video presentation of a guided tour

Memorial and Place of Encounter – Bonhoeffer House
Registered Association
Marienburger Allee 43
14055 Berlin
Gottfried Brezger, Rev. ret.
Chairman of the board

 

 

1. I am standing here in front of the Bonhoeffer family home. Karl Bonhoeffer, one of the most famous psychiatrists and neurologists of his time,and his wife Paula had this house built as their retirement home. When they moved in in 1935, Karl was already 68 years old, but he still continued to practise. This was done on the ground floor, where he also had his library. Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his seven sisters and brothers did not grow up here, but in an old villa in the Grunewald district, about 3 miles away. Dietrich, the only one in the family who was not yet married, was 29 years old when he moved into the new house with his parents. Under the roof, where the two windows are, he had his study.

2. In his parents‘ house Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote his ‚Ethics‘ and met with opponents of National Socialism. In the city of the ‚Topography of Terror‘, this house was a ‚Topography of Resistance‘. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was arrested here on 5 April 1943.
We now walk through the garden gate to the entrance of the house.

3. Karl and Paula Bonhoeffer lost two sons and two sons-in-law in the resistance: Klaus and Dietrich, Rüdiger Schleicher, married to Ursula Bonhoeffer, who lived with their family in the house next door, and Hans von Dohnanyi, married to Christine Bonhoeffer. They are commemorated by the memorial plaque at the entrance to the house.

4. After the death of their parents Karl in 1948 and Paula in 1951, the family sold the house to the Protestant Church in Berlin-Brandenburg. The house became the centre of the congregation of students at the universities in the west of the city. Eberhard Bethge, Dietrich’s friend and biographer, moved in with his family as the first student pastor. Renate Bethge, née Schleicher, a niece of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, had grown up in the house next door. Later, the house became a student dormitory owned by the church and remained so for 30 years. For a whole generation, the memory of the resistance was pushed into the background – also politically. Then, in 1987, the „Memorial and Place of Encounter – Bonhoeffer House“ was opened, not as a museum but as a historical place of learning that commemorates extraordinary men and women. The exhibition on the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer on the ground floor and his restored study help in the search for traces.

5. Visitors from near and far come here. Dietrich Bonhoeffer is known worldwide as a pastor and theological teacher of the ‚Confessing Church‘, ecumenical admonisher for peace and author of moving letters and poems from prison. For him, „to pray and do justice and wait for God’s own time“ meant walking consistently the path of political resistance in faith, even to the point of death. His thoughts and actions also challenge us today in concrete ecclesiastical, ethical social and political conflicts to the responsibility for others that is founded in Christ in the time of “coming of age of the human being”.

6 .My name is Gottfried Brezger. I was a parish reverend in Berlin for 32 years and have now been retired for several years. I have been leading the work in this house since 1998. We are a team of currently six volunteers who invite individuals and groups for information and discussion and guide them through the house.

7. We request your enquiry or registration on our website:

https://www.bonhoeffer-haus-berlin.de

We are regularly open on Saturdays from 10am-12noon with a guided tour in English at 11am. In addition, appointments can be made during the week.

A warm welcome!

Dr. Wojciech Szczerba, Dr. Marek Kucharski und Dr. Piotr Lorek visiting the Bonhoeffer Haus

 

Bonhoeffer-Haus, 26 May 2021. Dr Wojciech Szczerba, Dr Marek Kucharski and Dr Piotr Lorek, professors of the „Evangelical School of Theology, EWST”, Wroclaw, talking to the members of the team at Bonhoeffer-Haus Martina Dethloff, Ingrid Portmann, Gottfried Brezger (photo).

The visitors from Wroclaw have come to Berlin to explore opportunities of cooperation with the Evangelische Akademie zu Berlin and also with the Bonhoeffer Haus within the framework of the ERASMUS programme. In doing so, they were following up on their meeting with members of the Bonhoeffer House team during their study trip to Wroclaw from 26-29 September 2019.

EWST Wroclaw is an internationally networked (e.g. with the Methodist Duke University in North Carolina / USA) interconfessional, interreligious (Interfaith) theological university, with special links to the Lutheran, Roman Catholic and Pentecostal churches. It is open to the challenges for theology, church and life in the secular context in mutual respect for other convictions.

Commemoration of the 76th anniversary of Bonhoeffer’s death

On April 9, 1945, Hans von Dohnanyi was murdered in Sachsenhausen and Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Flossenbürg together with the co-conspirators from the headquarter of the Wehrmacht.

Unfortunately, like last year, we cannot open the Bonhoeffer-Haus to visitors on the 76th anniversary of death due to the pandemic. With the thoughts of Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his „Account at the Turn of the Year 1942-1943, however, we can remain in memory of him and the others who gave their lives for the „coming generation“.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Some Statements of Faith on God’s Action in History

„I believe that God can and will let good come out of everything, even the greatest evil.

For that to happen, God needs human beings who let everything work out for the best.

I believe that in every moment of distress God will give us as much strength to resist as we need.

But it is not given to us in advance, lest we rely on ourselves and not on God alone.

In such faith all fear of the future should be overcome.

I believe that even our mistakes and shortcomings are not in vain and that it is no more difficult for God to deal with them than with our supposedly good deeds.

I believe that God is no timeless fate but waits for and responds to sincere prayer and responsible actions.”

(DBWE 8, Letters and Papers from Prison, Prologue, p. 46).

____________

Unfortunately, as in the previous year, we cannot open the Bonhoeffer House to visitors on the 76th anniversary of death due to the pandemic.

With the thoughts of Dietrich Bonhoeffer in the letter to Eberhard Bethge at Easter 1944, however, we can remain connected in memory with him and the others who gave their lives for „Continuing the life of a coming generation“ (see Appendix).

Best regards

Gottfried Brezger

Remember – commemorate – act

Remember – commemorate – act

– under this heading, over 50 people took part in the remembrance path to places on the evening of November 9, 2020. The Bonhoeffer-Haus e.V. memorial and meeting place, the Stolperstein Initiative of the Eichkamp settlers‘ association and the Evangelical Peace Congregation had invited guests. Victims of National Socialist persecution were commemorated in the following places:

1. Memorial plaque at the Mommsenstadion in memory of Jewish athletes who were excluded from clubs such as the Sport-Club Charlottenburg during National Socialism. They had to flee Germany; even Olympic champions were not protected from deportation and murder.

2. Stumbling blocks (Stolpersteine) in Waldschulallee in memory of Jewish citizens in the Eichkamp settlement.

3. Bonhoeffer House memorial and Place of Encounter with the memory of Klaus and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Rüdiger Schleicher and Hans v. Dohnanyi.

4. Camp of the „Organization Todt“ in the Waldschulallee with 2000 prisoners in barracks for forced laborers, prisoners of war, concentration camp prisoners and „unworthy of defense“ Germans („half Jews“, homosexuals, politically persecuted people).

5. Family home of the lawyer Ludwig Ruge close to the church of the Ev. Friedensgemeinde at Tannenbergallee 8. He represented many Jewish clients. His wife was Jewish and they hid two Jewish sisters in their home.