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.

So much strength to resist! Read Bonhoeffer in critical time (13) Trinity, June 6, 2020

Memorial and Place of Encounter Bonhoeffer-Haus Berlin

So much strength to resist! Read Bonhoeffer in critical time (13)
Trinity, June 6, 2020

This is the last episode on the website of the Bonhoeffer House (see: Aktuelles / News) in the se-ries of blogs since Sunday JUDICA on March 29, 2020. This should enable the House, which has been visited by small groups of up to 5 people again since the beginning of May, to be kept digital-ly open. In the 13 episodes, very different Bonhoeffer texts were placed in their historical and cur-rent context under the aspect:
»How do political resistance and mental strength to resist (resilience) belong together?«
In these days, when opponents of vaccination, supporters of conspiracy theories and other anti-democratic activists claim the term “resistance” for themselves, it is all the more important – in complete contradiction to this – to perceive Bonhoeffer’s life and thinking in resistance as help for strengthening and clarifying.

With warm regards and good wishes
Gottfried Brezger, chairman

TRINITY: The perfect love as mystery of the living God
– The doctrine of the trinity

DBW volume 13, p. 360-363 (the italics are original)
Sermon on 1 Corinthians 2:7-10
London, Trinity Sunday, May 27, 1934

But we speak God’s wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glo-ry. None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written [Isa.64:4],
“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him – these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God..”

The lack of mystery in our modern life means decay and impoverishment for us. A human life is of worth to the extent that it keeps its respect for mystery. By honoring mystery, we keep within us some of the child we used to be. Children keep their eyes wide open, wide awake, because they know that they are surrounded by mystery …
That the roots of all that is clear and obvious and understandable lie in mystery, that is what we do not want to hear … The mystery remains a mystery. It eludes our grasp.
However, mystery does not mean simply not knowing something … The person farthest away from us is not the most mysterious to us, but rather the neighbor. And the mystery of that person will not be diminished for us the more we find out about him or her; instead, he or she will become ever more mysterious to us, the closer we come together. The very deepest mystery is when two persons grow so close to each other that they love each other …

Why are we saying all this today, on the day when we are supposed to be talking about God in the Holy Trinity? We say it to draw attention, in a very human way, to that concept that we are always losing sight of and without which there is simply no way to come near to understand the idea of God the Holy Trinity – that is, the concept of mystery …
God cannot simply be grasped in the way we might expect to do it; instead, the church speaks of the secret and hidden wisdom of God. God lives in mystery. To us, God’s very being is mystery, from everlasting to everlasting … Every dogma of the church only points to the mystery of God.

But the world is blind for this mystery. It wants to have either a God whom it can calculate and exploit or else no God at all. The mystery of God remains hidden from the world. The world does not want it. Instead, it makes its own gods according to its wishes and never recognizes the mys-terious and hidden God who is near at hand … The rulers of this world live by calculation and ex-ploitation; that is how they come to be great rulers in the eyes of the world. But they do not under-stand mystery; only children do.
The world carries an unmistakable sign that proves it is blind to the mystery of God: the cross of Jesus Christ … That is the unrecognized mystery of God in this world: Jesus Christ. That this Je-sus of Nazareth, the carpenter, was the Lord of glory in person, that was the mystery of God. A mystery, because here on earth God became poor and lowly, small and weak, out of love for hu-mankind; because God became a human being like us, so that we might become divine; because god came to us so that we might come to God …God’s love and closeness – that is the mystery of God, the holy mystery prepared for those who love God.

That this is the one God, Father and Creator of the world, who in Jesus Christ loved us even unto death, who in the Holy Spirit opens our hearts to receive and to love that one God; that there are not three gods, but only one, who envelops, creates, and redeems the world from beginning to end; and that in each of these God is fully God, as Creator and Father, as Jesus Christ and as the Holy Spirit – that is the depth of deity, which we worship as a mystery and understand as a mys-tery … God’s self-glorification expressed in love – that is God’s essential mystery …

When we say, at the beginning of our worship service, “In the name of God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,” we are appealing to this mystery of the love of god. For hundreds of years the church has been teaching about God the Holy Trinity. But this is anything but a rationalistic hard-ening of religion; to the contrary, it is our continuing effort to point in every way can toward the mystery of the living God.
What the doctrine of Trinity means is immensely simple, so that any child can understand it. There is truly one God, but this God is perfect love [in which God glorifies himself and embraces the whole world in love] and as such God is Jesus Christ and the Holy [Spirit].


1 Strength to resist

„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 of ourselves and not on God alone.”

At the beginning of the series with Bonhoeffer texts were these words addressed to the conspira-tors at the turn of 1942/43 (Trust, in Prologue of Letter and Papers from Prison, DBW volume 8).
At the end of the 13 episodes of the 10 weeks since Sunday Judica on March 29, 2020, we read again, as on Sunday Exaudi, extracts from a sermon by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, now from his time in London. His sermon speaks of the “secret, hidden wisdom of God”.

The importance of the sermon was particularly emphasized by Ernst Feil (Die Theologie Dietrich Bonhoef-fers. Hermeneutik. Christologie. Weltverständnis, München 1971) and Hans-Jürgen Abromeit (Das Geheim-nis Christi. Dietrich Bonhoeffers erfahrungsbezogene Christologie, Neukirchen-Vluyn 1991).

2 God lives in mystery

The fight against the pandemic looks for ways to control the spread of the virus and spares no expense in limiting the consequences. What applies in principle is particularly true here: even sci-ence cannot exempt politically responsible persons from making decisions subject to uncertainty.

Fundamentally, the Christian faith has to do with the reservation of uncertainty. “God cannot simp-ly be grasped in the way we might expect to do it … God lives in mystery … But the world is blind for this mystery.”

Already in the last chapter of ‘Act and Being’ (1931) Bonhoeffer had the “eschatological possibility of the child” (‘actus directus’, DBW 2,158 ff.) opposed the adult’s belief in the limitation of his con-science and consciousness determined by the past (‘Actus reflexus’).

3 The cross of Jesus Christ as sign for the unrecognized mystery of God in this world

“Out of love for humankind” “God became poor and lowly, small and weak.” “God’s self-glorification expressed in love – that is God’s essential mystery.” As “perfect love” is the “truly one God … Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.” The triune relationship is the essence of God’s perfec-tion in love.

Seized by the incomprehensible, inspired by God’s love, compassion for God’s suffering in the world becomes the basic requirement for the action of Christians. Solidarity with the particularly threatened is part of the Corona crisis. But not only with the next ones, but also with the distant ones. And not only with those living today, but also with future generations. God’s self-glorification demands to resist the self-glorification of egomaniacs and autocrats, who only revolve more quickly in the crisis.

4 As much strength to resist – resistance and submission

Disappointed at the opportunity he had missed – in his opinion – due to “excessive concern” for his release after the investigation was completed, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote to his friend Eberhard Bethge on February 21, 1944, about “a negative side of bourgeois existence – simply that part of our lack of faith that remains hidden in times of security, but comes out in times of insecurity in the form of fear … of straightforward, simple actions, fear of having to make necessary decisions. I’ve often wondered here [in prison] where we are to draw the line between necessary resistance [Widerstand] to ‘fate’ and equally necessary submission [Ergebung] … I think we must rise to the great demands that come to each of us, but also do the commonplace and necessary things. We must stand up to ‘fate’ – to me the ‘neuter’ gender of this word is significant – as resolutely as we must submit to it at a given time. Only on the other side of this twofold process can we speak of ‘being led’ [‘Führung’]. God meets us not only as ‘Thou’ but also in the ‘disguise’ of an ‘It’, so my question is basically how to find the ‘Thou’ in this ‘It’. (i.e., ‚fate‘). Or in other words -excuse me, I really find grease spots disgusting, but I can’t write this page over again, since then the letter will be delayed even longer!”- how ‘fate’ really becomes ‘the state of being led’. So the boundaries between resistance and submission can’t be determined as a matter of principle but both must be there and both must be seized resolutely. Faith demands this flexible and alive way of acting.” (DBW volume 8,303 f.)

These thoughts inspired Eberhard Bethge to give Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s letters and papers from prison the title “Widerstand und Ergebung” in 1951.

As much strength to resist – so much strength to resist!

Dietrich Bonhoeffer does not ask about the distant, but about the close God. In his distress due to the continued detention, he is not concerned with the question of “Why?” in his relationship with God. It is the question of “Who?” that turns the ‘It’ into a ‘Thou’ – grease or not.

So much strength to resist today! I understand this in our time of limitations due to the pandemic: not in the pursuit of own or foreign principles and interests, but in flexible, lively acting in faith, both in the resistance to injustice, which is clearly evident in this crisis, as well as in surrendering or adapting to what is self-evident and necessary – in both we experience God’s ‘guidance’ and closeness. And so naturally e.g. the imperative of distance should be, so it is necessary for us to overcome the resistances that prevent us, to be close to those who need our “praying and doing justice” right now and in the future.

Stay protected and confident in flexible, lively acting in faith!
Gottfried Brezger

So much strength to resist! Read Bonhoeffer in critical time (12) Pentecost, May 31, 2020

Memorial and Place of Encounter Bonhoeffer-Haus Berlin

PENTECOST: “In a way we accommodate God and the whole world within us.”

Letters and Papers from Prison, DBW, volume 8

June 8, 1943, Karl Bonhoeffer to Dietrich in the Prison (DBW vol. 8,100)
We had actually hoped to have a letter from you yesterday or the day before. Since none has arrived today, I decided to write to you without waiting any longer: we hope that the delay is not caused by any health problems on your part. We cannot complain about our own health. Our life essentially goes in thoughts of you and Hans [v. Dohnanyi].

June 10, 1943, Paula Bonhoeffer to Dietrich (DBW vol. 8,101)
My brief note added to Papa’s letter should not be the only Pentecost greeting from me. I firmly trust that, even in your solitude, you will be able to celebrate a beautiful Pentecost, for you are, of course, not alone. You do know that all of us are gathered around you in our thoughts. Together let us remember the old Pentecost hymn that says: “Descend on us in fullness, until comfort may return, and all harm be overcome.” [O Holy Spirit, enter in] In the garden a peony [Pfingstrose] is actually about to bloom for Pentecost, the first time ever.
The letter of the fourth [Ascension Day] has just arrived. We had been awaiting it eagerly. It is al-ways a joy for us to see how your inner calling as a pastor and theologian is being confirmed for you, even in these hard times.

April 2, 1944, Dietrich to Eberhard (DBW vol. 8,337)
So Easter too will come and go without our being home and seeing each other [ E.B. was with the Army in Italy at that time) But I’m not putting off our hopes any further than Pentecost. What do you say to that?

May 24, 1944, Dietrich to Eberhard and Renate Bethge (DBW vol. 8,400)
I don’t know how to express my wishes to you for Pentecost except by using a word that I seldom speak. I wish you a blessed Pentecost, celebrated with God and with prayer; a Pentecost in which you feel the touch of the Holy Spirit; a Pentecost that will be for you, in the coming weeks and months, a rocher de bronce [rock of bronze] of memories. You need days you can look back on, not with the pain of having been deprived, but as a source of strength from something that en-dures. I’ve been trying to write you a few words on the ‘Daily Texts’, some of them today during the air raids, so they are a bit sketchy and not as well thought through as they should have been … Eberhard, does remembering Pentecost mornings in Finkenwalde still feel so good and signifi-cant for you too?

May 29, 1944, Dietrich to Eberhard (DBW 8,404)
I hope that despite the air raids you both are enjoying to the full the peace and the beauty of these warm, summery days of Pentecost. Inwardly, one learns gradually to put life-threatening things in proportion. Actually “put in proportion” sounds too negative, too formal or artificial or stoic. One should more correctly say that we just take in these daily threats as part of the totality of our lives. I often notice hereabouts how few people there are who can harbor many different things at the same time …Christianity, on the other hand, puts us into many different dimensions of life at the same time; in a way we accommodate God and the whole world within us. We weep with those who weep at the same time as we rejoice with those who rejoice. We fear (I’ve just been interrupt-ed again by siren, so I’m sitting outdoors enjoying the sun] for our lives, but at the same time we must think thoughts that are much more important to us than our lives …
Life isn’t pushed back into a single dimension, but is kept multidimensional, polyphonic. What a liberation it is to be able to think and to hold on to these many dimensions of life in our thoughts … One has to dislodge people from their one-track thinking – as it were, in “preparation for” or “ena-bling” faith, though in truth it is only faith that makes multidimensional life possible and so allows us to celebrate Pentecost even this year, in spite of the air raids.

June 8, 1944, Dietrich to Eberhard (DBW volume 8,424)
We had put off seeing each other again from Christmas to Easter to Pentecost, and one holiday after another passed by. But the next holiday will certainly belong to us; I no longer have any doubt about that.


Dietrich Bonhoeffer learned from his family how to organize celebrations. So his mother is con-vinced that he will also succeed “in the loneliness” of the prison cell in Tegel: “For you are, of course, not alone. You do know that all of us are gathered around you in our thoughts. Together let us remember the old Pentecost hymn that says: “Descend on us in fullness, until comfort may return, and all harm be overcome.” This ‘knowledge’ also accompanies him in his last poem “By Powers of Good”.

The festivals in the church year not only structure church liturgy; for Bonhoeffer they are also sta-tions in his personal hope for release. After almost a year in prison, he wants to postpone his hope of returning home and seeing his friend Eberhard Bethge not “any further than Pentecost”.

A “blessed Pentecost”, he wishes Eberhard and Renate Bethge in his letter of May 24,1944, that it will be a “rock of memory” for the coming weeks and months. At the same time, he reminds Eberhard of Pentecost mornings in Finkenwalde.

“One learns gradually to put life-threatening things in proportion.” – this idea seems surprisingly topical to us in times of the pandemic. Even if, unlike Bonhoeffer in custody, we do not have to count on being exposed to the threat. But what does Bonhoeffer do with this thought? He uses the term “proportion”, which sounds “actually too negative, too formal or artificial ore stoic”, to con-structively: “We just take in these daily threats as part of the totality of our lives.”
Bonhoeffer notices in the prison “how few people there are who can harbor many different things at the same time” In contrast, he sets the Christian faith in which “life isn’t pushed back into a sin-gle dimension”, ” but is kept multidimensional, polyphonic”.

“In a way we accommodate God and the whole world within us.” And: “One has to dislodge people from their one-track thinking” — for me these two sentences illuminate Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s life and work in the light of the events of Pentecost. And in prayer and action they point the way to a non-religious understanding of the Christian message.

When God creates his world anew, the Church becomes then wide,
his power works spiritually, prepares us for the fight
for peace and justice in the world, let kindness, understanding be,
for unity-diversity, for miracles that we will see. (G.B., 2015)

So much strength to resist! Read Bonhoeffer in critical time (11) Exaudi, May 24, 2020

Memorial and Place of Encounter Bonhoeffer-Haus Berlin

EXAUDI: The Church of Aaron against the Church of Moses
– the Eternal Conflict in the Church of Christ


DBW 12.472 ff., Sermon on Exodus 32:1-8, 15-16- 18-20-30-35 (The Golden Calf)
May 28, 1933, Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche Berlin, on behalf of Gerhard Jacobi

The priest against the prophet, the church of the world against the church of faith, the church of Aaron against the church of Moses – this eternal conflict in the church of Christ and its resolu-tion, is what we are going to hear about today.

Moses and Aaron, two brothers from the same tribe, with the same blood and the same history, went part of the way side by side and then were torn apart – Moses, the first prophet, and Aa-ron, the first priest; Moses, the one called out by God, the one chosen without regard for his person, the man who was slow of tongue, the servant of God who lived only by listening to the word of his Lord; Aaron, the man with the purple robe and the sacred crown, the priest who had been consecrated and sanctified, who was supposed to keep the people worshipping God. And now in our story, we have Moses alone, way up on the terrifying mountain with the living god, between life and death with the thunder and lightning, called to receive the law of God’s cove-nant with God’s people – and down in the valley the Israelites with their priest in his purple robe, making sacrifices but estranged from God.

Why did Moses and Aaron have to go against each other? Why couldn’t they stand side by side and serve God together? Why are the church of Moses and the church of Aaron, the church of the Word and the church of the world, always breaking apart? The answer to this question is found in our text.

Moses is called by God to go up the mountain on behalf of his people. God wants to talk with him up there. The children of Israel know this; they know that Moses is standing up there on their behalf struggling, praying, suffering … But the church of Aaron, the worldly church, can-not wait; it is impatient. Where is Moses anyway? Why doesn’t he come back? We can’t see him anymore. Where is he with his God? “We do not know what has become of him:” Maybe he isn’t there at all anymore – maybe he’s dead …

Surely the church of the Word is once again on Mount Sinai today, and in fear and trembling, amid the thunder and lightning, stands against the Word of God, waiting, believing, praying, struggling – and for whom? For the church of Aaron, for he church down there in the valley, for the church of the world. When the worldly church gets impatient and cannot wait any longer, that is the first step on its collision course with the church of the Word. It was always so and will always be so.

“We don’t know what has become of this Moses. Con on, Aaron, you make us some gods go before us.” That is the second step that follows directly after the first. The church of the world, the church of the priests, wants something it can see. It doesn’t want to wait any longer. It wants to go ahead and do something itself, take action itself, since God and the prophet aren’t doing so. What is the priest there for anyway? What is the church doing there, if it I keeping them waiting?

… It’s really not such a bad request that is being made here; actually, it’s a pious request. They aren’t saying, away with all gods, but rather, we need gods, we need religion, make us some. They aren’t chasing the priest away either, but saying, do your job. Keep the people’s religion alive, give them worship services. They really want to remain a church, with gods and priests and religion, but a church of Aaron – without God.

We hear it said that the masses aren’t so ready to make sacrifices. But those who say so don’t know the world very well! The human race is ready to make any sacrifice that allows it to cele-brate itself, to worship its own accomplishments. The worldly church, the church of Aaron, is ready for any sacrifice it it can make its own god. Before the god that we have fashioned as it pleases us, the human race and the worldly church are happy to smile and kneel down. It is God who finds few prepared to sacrifice … Everything must be spent on making the idol more glorious, so they all throw in whatever they can and want, each according to his or her own ideals, into the melting pot. Then the frenzy begins; the worldly church celebrates its triumph. The priest has demonstrated his power, so there he stands in the middle in his purple robe and [with] his sacred crown, worshipping the work of his own hands ∙∙∙ and all around the people blissfully fall down and gaze at the idol they have created by their own might and from their own sacrifices. Who would stand aside from this pious jubilation, this dizziness beyond com-pare, this great deed accomplished by human will and ability? Now the worldly has its god ∙∙∙ so come and sacrifice to it.; be happy and play, eat, drink, dance, rejoice, get excited! You have a do again ∙∙∙ These, Israel, are the gods who brought you up out of slavery. Come and see, and worship!

But there is rumbling on Sinai. God is showing Moses his faithless people. And Moses trembles for his people and hastily climbs down the mountain…. Then he is standing among them, the unexpected prophet, brandishing high in his hands the tablets of the law, so that everyone must see the writing engraved on them by the hand of God: “I am the Lord your God, you shall have no other gods before me!” The worldly church is struck dumb with fear and horror at the sight; the frenzy is over – the living God has appeared in the midst of it and overwhelmed it. Then, in one incomparable and terrifying moment, the tablets of the law lie shattered next to the idola-trous image, and the idol itself is shattered and burnt up. That is the end of the worldly church, and it is God who has done it. God is still the Lord. Lord, have mercy ∙∙∙

Priestly church and church of the Word, church of Aaron and church of Moses – this historic colli-sion at the foot of Mount Sinai, the end of the worldly church and the appearance of the Word of God, is repeated in or church day after day, Sunday after Sunday. As the worldly church, which doesn’t want to wait, which don’t want to live by something unseen; as a church that makes its own gods, that wants to have a god that pleases it rather than asking whether it is itself pleasing to God; ass a church that wants to do for itself whatever God does not do; as a church that is ready to make any sacrifice for the sake of idolatry, the glorification of human ideas and values – as a church which presumes divine authority for itself through its priesthood – it is such a church that we come again and again to worship. And it is as a church whose idol lies shattered to pieces on the floor, as a church that has to hear anew, “I am the Lord your God” ∙∙∙ a a church that is struck by this word – it is as the church of Moses, the church of the Word, that we should depart from one another .

But the matter did not end in brokenness. Once again Moses climbed the mountain. This time it was in order to pray for his people. He offered himself as a sacrifice ∙∙∙ Moses could not bring about reconciliation. Who will bring about reconciliation here? None other than he who is both priest and prophet, the man in the purple cloak and the crown of thorns who stands before God and makes intercession for us, the crucified Son of the Father.
Here on is cross, all idolatry comes to an end. Here the whole human race, the whole church, is judged and pardoned. Here, God is wholly God, who does not tolerate any other gods but himself, but who is also wholly God in boundless forgiveness. We point to the cross as the church that is always both church of Moses and church of Aaron; we point to the cross and say: “See, O Israel, that is your God who brought you up out of slavery, and who will lead you again. Come, believe and worship. Amen.


In his interpretation of the biblical story of the “golden calf”, Dietrich Bonhoeffer – without nam-ing parties, programs and names – fundamentally and currently opposes the idolization of hu-man thoughts and values. How early and clearly he recognized the danger to the Church and the world, while others still saw the frenzy and triumph of the National Socialist Revolution as an opportunity for the realization of a ‘pious request’, is evident by his sermon on May 24, 1933 in Berlin Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church.

What had happened already in politics and in the church since the handover of power to the Chancellor Adolf Hitler on January 30?

Hitler used the staged euphoria (“social revolution”, national ‘liberation’ from the Versailles Trea-ty, religious elevation in the “melting pot” of national enthusiasm) to force the speed in the spring of 1933 when the NSDAP converted the state of the Weimar Reich constitution into a terrorist state. What had happened up to that point ,beat by beat’?

  • February 1/8, Dissolution of the Reichstag and the municipal assemblies in Prussia
  • February 4, Ban on political meetings (“Ordinance for the Protection of the German People”)
  • February 22, SS and SA members are appointed armed auxiliary police officers
  • February 28, Abolition of basic democratic rights by the ‘Reichstag fire ordinance’
  • March 11, Establishment of the Reich Ministry for ‘Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda’
  • March 20, Establishment of the 1st concentration camp in Dachau
  • March 21, ‘Day of Potsdam’, opening of the Reichstag after the national election of March 12
  • March 24, Reichstag elimination through the “Enabling Act”
  • March 23, “Heimtückegesetz” (Ordinance of the Reich President against treachery)
  • April 1 Boycott of Jewish shops and institutions
  • April 7, ‘Law to keep professional civil servants clean’ with the ‘Aryan paragraph’
  • April 26, Foundation of the Gestapo
  • May 1, National Socialist staging on May 1st at Tempelhofer Feld
  • May 2, Union busted
  • May 6, Dismissal of Jewish honorary professors and notaries
  • May 10, Book burning

The National Socialist strategy was based on manipulation of the public media, destruction of solidarity, intimidation, imprisonment and murder and the propagation of the ‘national communi-ty’ (‘Volksgemeinschaft’) with the exclusion of those persecuted by racial ideology. Provocation and breaking the law served as a test; if there was no protest, the laws were converted in the sense of National Socialist politics. There was no protest from leading church leaders. The Up-per Church Council of the Evangelical Church of the Old Prussian Union declared on April 11 in the Easter message: “With all Protestant fellow believers we know one thing in the joy of the deepest strength of our nation to the patriotic awareness of genuine national community and religious renewal.” The tables of the Ten Commandments were not broken, as was done by Moses, but remained intact.

„Who would stand aside from this pious jubilation, this dizziness beyond compare, this great deed accomplished by human will and ability?

During this time, the representatives of the churches were concerned with themselves, the Catholic Church with the negotiations for the Reich Concordat (signed on July 20, 1933), the Evangelical Church with the defense against the forced alignment (‘Gleichschaltung’) of the “German Christians”. At their Reichstagung on 3./4. April the ‘German Christians’ called for the adoption of the Fuhrer principle, the ‘Aryan paragraph’ and the elimination of the regional churches and denominational diversity by creating the ‘Reich Church’ (‘Reichskirche’).

With the intention of not letting the law of action be taken out of hand, the governing bodies of the Evangelical Church worked to regulate the cooperation between the regional churches and denominations in the church alliance with the constitution of the ‘Reich Church’. In addition to internal church struggle the church’s right to self-determination was damaged by state com-missioners and Hitler’s appointing Ludwig Müller as his representative for the affairs of the Evangelical Church.
The ‘Young Reformation Movement’ that formed in confrontation with the ‘German Christians’ on May 9, campaigned against Müller for Friedrich v. Bodelschwingh as the first Reich Bishop. On May 27, his designation was carried out by the majority of representatives of the regional churches.

Already a month before Karl Barth’s wake-up call “Theological Existence Today!” (June 25, 1933, published on July 1, 1933), which calls for the return from church political activism to spiritual reflection (“Theology and only theology to do”), Dietrich Bonhoeffer speaks in his Ex-audi sermon (see above) about the “eternal conflict” “of the Aaronskirche against Mosekirche”, whereby it can be assumed that he focuses on the actual conflict between the “Weltkirche” against the “Church of Faith” (may be also in Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church).

With a sociological view, Bonhoeffer describes the division of roles between the two brothers: “Moses, the first prophet, and Aaron, the first priest; Moses, the one called out by God, the one chosen without regard for his person, the man who was slow of tongue, the servant of God who lived only by listening to the word of his Lord; Aaron, the man with the purple robe and the sacred crown, the priest who had been consecrated and sanctified, who was supposed to keep the people worshipping “

Strange that Aaron shows no resistance to this role imposition. Rather, he is at the forefront of movement, frenzy and triumph, the glorification of his own work, the “Aaron’s Church – without God”. As it has to come, there is a collision between the Aaron’s and Moses Church at the foot of the Sinai. Moses makes everyone aware of the breach of the first commandment by break-ing the boards in anger. “But the matter did not end in brokenness. Once again Moses climbed the mountain. This time it was in order to pray for his people.” His resistance goes so far that he wants to prevent God from his punishment; instead of this he offers himself as a sacrifice. In his willingness to intercede for his people as a martyr, Moses is both a prophet and a priest.

Bonhoeffer is in the Christian tradition of understanding, which Moses, as the representative of the law and covenant of God with his people and his leader in the liberation from slavery, de-clares to be Jesus’ counterpart and forerunner: “Moses could not bring about reconciliation. Who will bring about reconciliation here? None other than he who is both priest and prophet, the man in the purple cloak and the crown of thorns who stands before God and makes interces-sion for us, the crucified Son of the Father.”

In the Christian-Jewish dialogue, it is the crucial point for the relationship between the covenant of Moses and the Church of Christ that the Church does not replace and disinherit the first covenant. In the synoptic narrative of the Transfiguration of Jesus (Mark 9-13, Matthew 17: 1-13; Luke 9: 28-36), Moses and Elijah appear and speak to Jesus.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer probably wrote the poem “The Death of Moses” after his involvement in the assassination plans had been discovered on September 22, 1944, by the ‘Zossen File Find”. Threatened by death, “the prophet Moses, man of God” comes very close to him:
“They stride into freedom, God, I see, as I sink to your eternity.” (DBW volume 8,540)

Even if there is no evidence that Martin Luther King Jr. read Dietrich Bonhoeffer (“What Martin Luther King Jr. informed by Dietrich Bonhoeffer?”, Video clip by Reggie Willi-ams, 2013, https: // www. King’s speech “I have a Dream”, during the ‘March on Washington’ on August 28, 1963, reminds of Bonhoeffer’s Moses “on the mountain peak”.

How do political resistance and mental strength to resist (resilience) belong together? What can we learn today from the story of Moses and Aaron and Bonhoeffer’s interpretation? To be able to wait in the middle of the crisis, to stand, to listen and to re-orientate on the first command-ment – that would be in my opinion in the sense of Moses church. It is the long road to liberation from unjust relationships and structures. As the current crisis shows, dependencies that de-structs solidarity are dangerous but not without alternatives.

We point to the cross as the church that is always both church of Moses and church of Aaron; we point to the cross and say: “See, O Israel, that is your God who brought you up out of slav-ery, and who will lead you again.”

So much strength to resist! Read Bonhoeffer in critical time (10) Ascension Day, May 21, 2020

Memorial and Place of Encounter Bonhoeffer-Haus Berlin

ASCENSION DAY: pulled up the whole world with him to life and to the light


DBW 11.444 ff., June 19, 1932 Sermon on Colossians 3:1-4, (4th Sunday after Trinitatis),
Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche Berlin, on behalf of Gerhard Jacobi
We have not been left alone at all in our lostness; instead, there is one who has stepped across the boundary that separates us from the Creator and from true life, has broken into our territory of death, has tasted all our living and dying to its deepest depths, and has still broken through this death, broken through to the eternal Father, to eternal life, where he is seated at the right hand of God. And he has pulled up the whole world with him to life and to the light, has swallowed up death in victory, has taken our whole prison captive and brought us freedom, the glorious freedom of the children of God.

DBW 12.468 ff. May 25, 1933, Sermon on 1 Peter 1:7b-9, Ascension Day,
Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche Berlin, on behalf of Gerhard Jacobi
Christ’s ascension has two meanings. It is Jesus’s farewell to his disciples, to the world, which he loved … Now the end of his time on earth had come. They had gone one last stretch of road to-gether–then came the final moment; he laid his hands on them in blessing, and then he was taken from their sight. They were alone. The curtain had fallen. He had left this world of evil and gone home to his heavenly Father; he is preparing a place for you, a home in his kingdom; he will take you home when his time comes. Just wait–and rejoice. He will come again …
Luther once said something like this: Since he was on earth, he was far from us, since he is in heaven, he is close to us. [Luthers Sermon zum Himmelfahrtstag 1523, WA 12,562, 24-26: „Darumb hut dich, daß du dir nit also gedenkist, das er yetzund weyt von uns kommen sey, ßondern gerad widersyns, do er auff erden war, war er uns tzu ferren, ytzund ist er uns nah.“] What does that mean? It means that now he is no longer king of the Jews but rather king of the whole world; it means that from heaven he reigns over his whole kingdom and is near, though not visible, and present to his whole church, wherever it is scattered, among Jews an heathen, through all the world. He is close to us in his church, in his Word, in his sacrament, in love among the brethren. Here he comforts us who are abandoned; here he soothes our homesickness ever anew; here he takes us who are estranged from God, who are in barren, empty places, who don’t know the way, who are alone, and makes us joyful n his Christly presence. Joy in the sermon, joy in the sacraments, joy in brothers and sisters–that is the joy of the believing church in its unseen, heavenly Lord …
Christ’s ascension–the curtain falls, the church of faith waits, and its joy is the sacrament. Christ’s coming again–heaven opens up. Home at last, our thirst is slaked–the community of the blessed sees the incomprehensible mystery. Its joy is Jesus Christ, none other than God. At present we are still strangers, wandering in the time between his ascension and his second coming, waiting long in hope and fear. But the ransomed of the Lord shall return with singing, and everlasting joy shall be upon their heads. Rejoice, O Christendom. Amen.

DBW 4,220 (Discipleship, 1937)
Through the Holy Spirit, the crucified and risen Christ exists as the church-community [Gemeinde], as the “new human being”. For Christ truly is and eternally remains the incarnate one, and the new humanity truly is his body …
The unity between Christ and his body, the church, demands that we at the same time recognize Christ’s lordship over his body. This is why Paul, in developing further the concept of the body, calls Christ the head of the body (Eph. 1:22; Col. 1:18; 2:19). The distinction is clearly preserved; Christ is the Lord. There are two events in salvation history, namely, Christ’s ascension and his second coming, which make this distinction necessary, these events categorially rule out any idea of a mystical fusion between church-community and Christ.

DBW 16,476 ff., The Ascension of Jesus Christ. A Reflection on Its Christological, Soteriological, and Parenetical Meaning, enclosed with the April 1940 monthly newsletter of the Pommeranian Council of Brethren of the Confessing Church to its pastors.
The ascension of Jesus has transposed us into the heavenly places (Eph. 2:6) and thereby orients our gaze toward heaven (Col. 3:1) … Where he is, we are also. We are already in heaven with Christ … That which is future is present, and the present already past. In this way we live in the power of Christ’s ascension.
The ascension of Jesus places us between having and waiting. We have heaven, and therefore we wait for it. We have been transposed into the heavenly places; our citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20).

DBW 8,96 f., To Karl and Paula Bonhoeffer, Day of Ascension, June 4, 1943
I had already finished a long letter to you when, just now, the mail brought the letters from Maria and my mother-in-law and with them and indescribable joy into my cell … Maria writes with such happiness about the day with you, and yet how difficult it must have been for her despite all the love you showed her. How she copes with everything is a miracle, and for me a source of happiness and an example beyond compare … I do hope, far more for her sake than mine, that these hard times won’t last too terribly long. However, I am certain that these months will someday prove infi-nitely important for our marriage, and for this I am grateful. I can hardly express how much I was touched by the letter from my mother-in-law [Ruth von Wedemeyer had written to him on May 27, 1943: “I am so happy that I have permission to write to you-that all the obstacles have been cleared away by the events of the last weeks–that I am now able wo write to you as to y very dear son.”]. Since the very day I was arrested, I have been tormented by the
Thought of having inflicted on her even more trouble in addition to all the sorrow of the past year [Her husband and her son were killed in the war]. And now she has taken these very troubles that have befallen us as the occasion to shorten the waiting period, and with that made me happy …
Today is Ascension Day, that is, a great day of joy for all those who are able to believe that Christ rules the world and or lives. My thoughts travel to all of you, to the church and the worship services from which I have been separated for so long now, but also to the many unknown people who move through this building, bearing their fate in silence. Again and again, these and other thoughts truly keep me from taking my own minor privations too seriously. Doing so would be very unjust and ungrateful.


Between longing anticipation for the joyful reunion and impatient waiting – this violent tension de-termines the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer in prison. It is a double wait: for freedom to be regained and for marriage to Maria.
The Ascension Day reminds of both: farewell and return, curtain down – curtain up – separation and abolition of the separation “for all those who are able to believe that Christ rules the world and or lives” – “as true as he has become man and forever remains”. Who “led our whole prison”. “Where he is, we are also “. Because “our citizenship is in heaven.” God’s will be done with us “as in heaven, so on earth”.

Way and truth, source of life, you are Christ of God.
You lead us the way to God and prepare the house for us.

So much strength to resist ! Read Bonhoeffer in critical time (9) May 17, 2020

Memorial and Place of Encounter Bonhoeffer-Haus Berlin

So much strength to resist ! Read Bonhoeffer in critical time (9) May 17, 2020

ROGATE: “Lord, teach us, to pray!” Praying along with Christ


“Lord, teach us to pray!” So spoke the disciples to Jesus. In doing so, they were acknowledging that they were not able to pray on their own: they had to learn. »To learn to pray« sounds con-tradictory to us. Either the heart is so overflowing that it begins to pray by itself, we say, or it will never learn to pray. But this is a dangerous error, which is certainly very widespread among Christians today, to imagine that it is natural for the heart to pray. We then confuse wishing, hoping, sighing, lamenting, rejoicing – all of which the heart can certainly do on its own – with praying. But in doing so we confuse earth and heaven, human being and God. Praying certain-ly does not mean simply pouring out one’s hart. It means, rather, finding the way to and speak-ing with God, whether the heart is full or empty. No one can do that on one’s own. For that one needs Jesus Christ …
If Christ takes us along in the prayer which Christ prays, if we are allowed to pray this prayer with Christ, on whose way to God we too are led and by whom we are taught to pray, then we are freed from the torment of being without prayer … We can pray only in Jesus Christ, with whom we shall also be heard …
God’s speech in Jesus Christ meets us in the Holy Scriptures. If we want to pray with assur-ance and joy, then the word of Holy Scripture must be the firm foundation of our prayer. Here we know that Jesus Christ, the Word of God, teaches us to pray. The words that come from God will be the steps on which we find our way to God …
Jesus Christ has brought before God every need, every joy, every thanksgiving, and every hope of humankind. In Jesus’ mouth the human word becomes God’s Word. When we pray along with the prayer of Christ, God’s Word becomes again a human word. Thus all prayers of the Bible are such prayer, which we pray together with Jesus Christ, prayers in which Christ includes us, and through which Christ brings us before the face of God. Otherwise there are no true prayers, for only in and with Jesus Christ can we truly pray …
At the request of the disciples, Jesus gave them the Lord’s Prayer. In it every prayer is con-tained. Whatever enters into the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer is prayed aright; whatever has no place in it, is no prayer at all. Al the prayers are summed up in the Lord’s Prayer … Luther says of the Psalter: “It runs through the Lord’s Prayer and the Lord’s Prayer runs through it, so that is possible to understand one on the basis of the other and to bring them into joyful harmony.” The Lord’s Prayer thus becomes the touchstone for whether we pray in the name of Jesus Christ or in our own name. It makes good sense, that the Psalter is very often bound together with the New Testament. It is the prayer of the church of Jesus Christ. It belongs to the Lord’s Prayer.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Prayerbook of the Bible. An Introduction to the Psalms, 1940, DBW, Vol. 5.

TEXTS B (from: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison, volume 8)

From first awakening until our return to sleep, we must commend and entrust the other person to God wholly and without reserve, and let our worries become prayer for the other person.
Christmas Eve 1943 to Eberhard Bethge. DBW 8, 256.

God, I call to you early in the morning,
Help me pray and collect my thoughts, I cannot do so alone.
In me it is dark, but with you there is light.
I am lonely, but you do not abandon me.
I am faint-harted, but from you comes my help.
I am restless, but with you is peace.
In me is bitterness, but with you is patience.
I do not understand your ways, but you know [the] right way for me.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Prayers for Prisoners: Morning Prayer, November 1943, DBW 8, 194 ff.

I should talk with you sometime about prayer in time of need. This is a difficult matter, yet our misgivings when praying for ourselves are perhaps not good either … I won’t say any more about this, I can only do that in person, but that’s the way it is; it takes a crisis to shake us up and drive us into prayer, and every time I find this shameful, and it is. Perhaps it’s because so far, as such moments, I’ve found it impossible to speak a Christian word to the others. Last night when we were lying on the floor again and one man called out aloud: »O God, O God!« – he’s otherwise a pretty frivolous fellow – I couldn’t bring myself to offer him any sort of Chris-tian encouragement and comfort, but I remember looking at the clock and just saying, it won’t last more than another ten minutes. I did this without thinking, automatically, probably with the feeling that I shouldn’t use it as an opportunity for religious blackmail.
To Eberhard Bethge, January 29/31, 1944, DBW 8, 275 f.

God does not fulfill all our wishes but does keep all his promises. This means God remains Lord of the earth, preserves the church, renews our faith again and again, never gives us more than we can bear to endure, makes us rejoice in his presence and help, hears our prayers and leads us on the best and straightest path to God. But doing all these things unfailingly, God elicits or praise.
To Eberhard Bethge, August 14, 1944, for Eberhard Bethge’s birthday on August 28, DBW 8, 569.

CONTEXT (see also the Editor‘s Introduction to the English Edition of Geffrey B. Kelly)

In the introduction to the “Prayerbook of the Bible”, Dietrich Bonhoeffer unfolds his christocen-tric understanding of prayer that leads to Christ and comes from him. In Luther’s footsteps, he understands the Psalms from the Lord’s Prayer and the Lord’s Prayer from the Psalms. Christus is recognized and confessed as the one word of God in the human word (see: Theo-logical Declaration of the Barmen Confession Synod of May 31, 1934, Thesis 1).

The exclusivity of the confession to Christ is experienced by Jews in Christian-Jewish dialogue and people who belong to another or no religion, as an appropriation or even as an exclusion. In his letter to Eberhard Bethge of April 30, 1944, Dietrich Bonhoeffer asks: “How can Christ be-come Lord of the religionless as well?”

It is not about excluding the “others” (this is also shown by the poem “Christians and Heathens” with the conclusion: “and forgives them both”), but rather about including them by unlocking the doors that separate us. Bonhoeffer’s question is an echo of the Pauline message of overcom-ing the fence between the Jewish people and the other peoples “in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28; Ephesians 2:11 ff.). The crucified one is “the peace” as the risen one. “Jesus Christ has brought all hardship, all joy, all thanks and all hope of people before God.” The “Lord” being of Christ is to be understood as a dialectical-dynamic conversion (“Metanoia”): If we allow “to be pulled into walking the path that Jesus walks, … into the – messianic – suffering of God in Jesus Christ” (letter of July 18, 1944 to Eberhard Bethge), he will liberate us from the smallness of our “own needs, questions, sins, fears” and take us in the greatness of his prayer so that “God’s will be done on earth, as it is in heaven”.
When Christ the “Bread of Life” (John 6:35) prays with us, the request for “our daily bread” be-comes the request for the preservation of the life of others, wherever.

So much strength to resist ! Read Bonhoeffer in critical time (8) May 8, 2020

Memorial and Place of Encounter Bonhoeffer-Haus Berlin

CANTATE: O sing to the Lord a New Song!


O sing to the Lord a new song. The emphasis is on the word new. What is this new song, if it is not a song that makes someone a new person, when a person leaves darkness and worry and fear behind and breaks forth into new hope, new faith, new confidence? The new song is the one that awakens God’s presence anew in us- even if it is a very old song, of the God who, as Job says, “gives songs in the night.” The song of praise in the night of our lives, of our suffer-ings and our fear, in the night of our death – this is the new song …
O sing to the Lord a new song – and yet all our songs are only a reflection of the song of songs, which sings of eternity before the throne of Jesus Christ …Why should not we, here and now, look forward to that new song that will embrace us when we finally close our eyes, the purest, sweetest, hardest, and most violent of all songs … Lord, we hasten to join in your new song. Jesu juva – help us, Jesus. Amen.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Sermon on Psalm 98:1, London, Cantate Sunday, April 29, 1934, DBW 13, 353 ff..


As part of a series of events organized by the ‘Confessing Church’ on the occasion of the Olympiad in Berlin, Dietrich Bonhoeffer describes »The inner life of the German Evangelical Church« as a story of the Evangelical hymn. In doing so, he contrasts Luther’s songs (“they are without exception songs of the word”) with the songs of Paul Gerhardt:
His personal life was … characterized by great suffering. Bu in this way he became the great preacher of consolation and joy of his era. His hymns no longer testify to the great struggles of faith of early Christendom Luther sang about temptation and struggle; Paul Gerhardt sings, “Be satisfied and remain quiet”; Luther: The righteous one fights by our side”; Paul Gerhardt: “Keeper of my life, truly, it in in vain.” Luther sang: “Grant peace, we pray, in mercy Lord”; Paul Gerhardt: ”Command us your ways.” Luther sang about Christian celebrations with words of Scripture; Paul Gerhardt sang about Christian experience: “Why should I be troubled?” Paul Gerhardt died with one of these stanzas on his lips.

Bonhoeffer then turns his eyes to the song in Pietism with Zinzendorf and Gellert: The pietist seeks a devout life, the enlightener a reasonable life.
Regarding the revival song with Philipp Spitta and Julie Hausmann (“So take my hands”), he notes:
It is an awakened religious life. But it all takes place alongside the church. It is pious poetry but not the preached word. The question is how this nineteenth-century faith will fare when genu-inely serious tribulations come upon the church. The tribulations came, and the response was the Church Struggle.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Presentation on the History of the Protestant Hymn (Student Notes), The Inner Life of the German Evangelical Church, DBW 14, 710 ff.


In his first letter from prison, on April 14th, Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes to his parents:
Forgive me for the worries I am causing you, but I believe that this time it is less myself than an adverse fate that is to blame. As an antidote it is good to read and memorize hymns of Paul Gerhardt, as I am currently doing.
In many letters from prison he finds refuge, comfort and clarity with Paul Gerhardt. In the first letter to his friend Eberhard Bethge, which is possible by circumventing censorship, he writes on November 18, 1943:
In the first twelve days here, during which I was kept isolated and treated as a dangerous crim-inal – to this day the cells on either side of mine are occupied almost exclusively by death-row prisoners in chains – Paul Gerhardt proved of value in unimagined ways, as well the Psalms and Revelation.
In his letter to Eberhard Bethge the day after the failed coup of July 20, 1944, Dietrich Bonhoef-fer writes:
I think you must be so often present in spirit with us here that you will be glad for every sign of life, even if our theological thoughts do preoccupy me incessantly, but then there are hours, too, when one is content with the ongoing processes of life and faith without reflecting on them Then the Daily Texts make you happy … And then returning to the beautiful Paul Gerhardt hymns makes one glad to have them in the repertoire. In the last few years I have come to know and understand more and more the profound this-worldliness of Christianity. The Chris-tian is not a homo religious but simply a human being, in the same way that Jesus was a hu-man being.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison, July 21, 1944, DBW 8, 541.


Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s head and heart, the “theological thoughts” and the “ongoing processes of life and faith without reflecting on them” come together in prison. So singing becomes a ‘new’ song, “that makes someone a new person” in the “profound this-worldliness”. And so the way for his own “new” song paves the way for him.

Paul Gerhardt songs, which are firmly established in the family tradition at festivals and during the church year, become Dietrich’s permanent hold and possession. The appreciation of the controversial orientation towards God’s Word in Luther’s songs is combined with the discovery described by Bonhoeffer in his letter of the 4th of Advent in 1943:
In these past few days I have discovered for myself the hymn »I stand her at your manger«. Up till now I had never really made much of it. Probably one has to be alone a long time and read it meditatively in order to be able to take it in. Every word is extraordinarily replete and radiant It’s just a little monastic- mystical, yet only as much as is warranted, for alongside the “we” there is indeed also an “I and Christ”, and what that means can scarcely be said better than in this hymn.

Bonhoeffer’s consolation poem for Maria and his family: “By Powers of Good” has become a ‘new song’ for many people. It has the power to awaken hope, faith and trust in us today when we leave “darkness and worry and fear behind” us, new.

So much strength to resist ! Read Bonhoeffer in critical time (7) May 8, 2020

Memorial and Place of Encounter Bonhoeffer-Haus Berlin

The huge masquerade of evil


The huge masquerade of evil has thrown all ethical concepts into confusion. That evil should appear in the form of light, good deeds, historical necessity, social justice is absolutely bewil-dering for one coming from the world of ethical concepts that we have received. For the Chris-tians who live by the Bible, it is the very confirmation of the abysmal wickedness of evil.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Who Stands Firm? Prolog in Letters and Papers from Prison, DBW 8, 38.


Stupidity is a more dangerous enemy of the good than malice … If we want to know how to get the better of stupidity, we must seek to understand its nature. This much is certain, that it is in essence not an intellectual defect but a human one. There are human beings who are of remarkably agile intellect yet stupid, and others who are intellectually quite dull yet anything but stupid … Upon closer observation it becomes apparent that every strong upsurge of power in the public sphere, be it of a political or a religious nature, infects a large part of humankind with stupidity. It would even seem that this is virtually a sociological-psychological law. The power of the one needs the stupidity of the other … [The stupid person] is under a spell, blinded, misused, and abused in his very being. Having thus become a mindless tool, the stupid person will also be capable of any evil and at the same time incapable of seeing, that it is evil. This is where the danger of diabolic misuse lurks, for it is this that can once and for all destroy human beings.

Yet at this very point it becomes quite clear that only an act of liberation, not instruction, can overcome stupidity. Here we must come to terms with the fact that in most cases a general internal liberation becomes possible only when external liberation has proceeded it …The word of the Bible, that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom declares that the internal liberation of human beings to live the responsible life before God is the only genuine way to overcome stupidity.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, On Stupidity, Prolog in Letters and Papers from Prison, DBW 8, 43 ff.


The church confesses that it has witnessed the arbitrary use of brutal force, the suffering in body and soul of countless innocent people, that it has witnessed oppression, hatred, and murder without raising its voice for the victims and without finding ways of rushing to help them. It has become guilty of the lives of the weakest and most defenseless brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Guilt, Justification, Renewal, Ethics-Manuscript 1940/41, DBW 6, 139.


In the first and fundamental thesis of the Barmen Declaration of the Synod of the Confessing Church from 29th to 31st May 1934 the false doctrine is rejected, as though the church could and would have to acknowledge as a source of its proclamation, apart from and besides this one Word of God, still other events and powers, figures and truths, as God’s revelation.

Nevertheless, Dietrich Bonhoeffer seems to be the only one who, as a theologian, took a clos-er, view of the psychological and social structures of the ideology of power. His insights, which anticipate Hannah Arendt’s thoughts from the 1950s, correspond to the sobering experiences in resistance under the conditions of the totalitarian rule of National Socialism. Where every criti-cal instance – as in the biblical tradition the “fear of God” – is eliminated, a “real inner liberation” of man only becomes possible “after the external liberation has preceded.”

But the insight that “every strong upsurge of power … infects a large part of humankind with stupidity” does not in any way release the ‘infected’, including the church, from their guilt. Die-trich Bonhoeffer’s sentences on the silence and failure of the church against the crimes against the fifth commandment belong to the earliest confession of guilt in the Nazi era. The represent-atives of the ‘Confessing Church’ were not ready to confess the guilt towards the Jews even at the ‘Stuttgart Confession of Guilt’ in October 1945.

They were faced with the fact that the unconditional surrender in German society was per-ceived by many in the population not as a liberation but as a being oppressed. The silence yawned in the place of the memory. Hannah Arendt wrote in her essay ‘Visit to Germany, The Aftermath of the Nazi Regime”, 1950 about the indifference with which the Germans move through the rubble finds its exact equivalent in the fact that nobody mourns the death. And she reports on the course of stories about the suffering of Germans, which would be set off against the suffering of others, whereby the ‘suffering balance’ is tacitly considered balanced. (in: Zur Zeit. Politische Essays. Hamburg 1999, S. 43–70).

The higher the gift of a new beginning of the relationship with the initiative’s ecumenical part-ners. They included George Bell, Bishop of Chichester / UK. With Dietrich Bonhoeffer, he was not only connected to the idea of the cross-border “Universal Christian Brotherhood”, but also to Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s confession at her last meeting on May 31, 1942, that Germany’s mili-tary defeat must be linked to an act of repentance: “Christians do not wish to escape repent-ance, or chaos if God will to bring it on us.” (George K. Bell, Diary Notes. 13.5.-11.6.1942, DBW 16, 300).

Together with Willem Visser’t Hooft, the general secretary of the Ecumenical Council of Churches in formation, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote a statement on his second trip to Switzerland in Geneva in September 1941 on William Paton’s peace letter “The Church and the New Order in Europe” (July 1941): He wrote: “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 free-dom of the church to proclaim the word of God in command and gospel to all the world. The entire question is whether people in England and America will be prepared to negotiate with a government that is formed on this basis even if it initially does not appear to be democratic in the Anglo-Saxon sense of the word. Such a government could establish at once. Much would de-pend on whether it could count on the immediate support of the Allies. (DBW 16, 532).

So much strength to resist ! Read Bonhoeffer in critical time (6) May 3, 2020

Memorial and Place of Encounter Bonhoeffer-Haus Berlin


If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation:
everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!
Bible for Sunday Jubilate from 2 Corinthians 5:17


The miracle of Christ’s resurrection has overturned the idolization of death that rules among us … Where death is final, earthly life is all or nothing …
Where, however, it is recognized that the power of death has been broken, where the miracle of the resurrection and new life shines right into the world of death, there one demands no eter-nities from life. One takes from life what it offers, not all or nothing, but good things and bad, important things and unimportant, joy and pain. One doesn’t cling anxiously to life, but neither does one throw it lightly away. One is content with measured time and does not attribute eterni-ty to earthly things. One leaves to death the limited right that it still has. But one expects the new human being and the new world only from beyond death, from the power that has con-quered death.
Within the risen Christ the new humanity is borne, the final, sovereign Yes of God to the new human being … The night is not yet over; but day is already dawning … The form of Jesus Christ alone victoriously encounters the world. From this form proceeds all the formation of a world reconciled with God.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Ethics as Formation, 1940, DBW English Version, volume 6, 91 f.


How did you spend Easter? Where you in Rome? How did you manage your homesickness? … For me the first warm days of spring are somehow wrenching, as they probably are for you. When nature comes into its own again but the tensions in our own lives and the historical com-munities in which we live remain unresolved, we feel the split especially strongly. Or it may just be a sense of longing, and perhaps it’s good for us to long for something again. For myself at any rate I must say that for many long years I have been living, not without goals and work to do and hopes that completely absorbed me, but without personal yearnings, and perhaps that makes one old before one’s time. Everything has become too “objective” [sachlich]. Almost everyone nowadays has goals and work to do. It’s all tremendously objectified and thingified. But who today can still afford strong personal feelings, real yearnings, and take the trouble and spend the energy to carry around a sense of longing within him, to explore it and let it bear fruit?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letter from April 11, 1944 to Eberhard Bethge, DBW English Version, vol-ume 8, 351.


These are two very different texts related to the miracle of resurrection and Easter. When placed side by side, they show how head and heart, theological knowledge and sensual experi-ence belong together in Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s life and work. This connection has a special meaning for me – and I think also for many others – in the encounter with him.

Bonhoeffer’s theological knowledge and sensual sensation are both subject to split, longing.

In prison, Dietrich Bonhoeffer lives intensely with the church year. Its structure gives it inner support especially until the execution of the plot. One year after his arrest, he wrote to Eber-hard Bethge on April 11, 1944:

“I have long had a particular affection for this season between Easter and Ascension Day. Here, too, there is a great tension. How should people endure tensions here on earth when they know nothing of the tension between heaven and earth?”

How do we endure the split when “the first warm days of spring” are upon us and our inner na-ture longs to join the outer nature, if only the virus, which is also part of nature, would not pre-vent us from doing so? How do we succeed in our praying and doing that we do not turn about ourselves and the prescribed distance of 1.50 m from the other becomes the inscribed felt infi-nite distance? How do we stay connected to each other and perceive the needs of the near and distant others and, together with others, take care not to leave anyone behind?

For Dietrich Bonhoeffer, knowing “the tension between heaven and earth” means trusting in the conquest of death by the risen Christ. The split still exists, the longing remains alive: “The night is not yet over; but day is already dawning.”

In the early morning dawn, believers experience the world in two ways: as the place of “the idolization of death” and at the same time as the place of life into which “the miracle of the res-urrection and new life shines into the world of death.” JUBILATE!

The expectation of the “new human being” and the “new world” is not a unique characteristic of the Christian faith. It also occurs in other religions and ideologies and it can be politically mis-used. In Bonhoeffer’s time this happened from this side, within the world – with all the signs of “idolization of death” – in the Nazi state. The expectation “only from beyond death, from the power that has conquered death” is not an escape from this world, but resistance against this abuse on this side. This expectation is reminiscent of the first thesis of the theological declara-tion of the Barmen Confession:

“Jesus Christ, as he is attested for us in holy scripture, is the one Word of God which we have to hear and which we have to trust and obey in life and in death.
We reject the false doctrine, as though the church could and would have to acknowledge as a source of its proclamation, apart from and besides this one Word of God, still other events and powers, figures and truths, as God’s revelation.”

The “new life” takes shape in our new focus on life. It resists forces of “idolization of death”, hatred, disenfranchisement, violence, war and its preparation. It “takes … from life what it of-fers” and thus does justice to reality. It takes responsibility for the own life and the lives of oth-ers.
“The final, sovereign Yes of God to the new human being” encourages us to act in the area of the penultimate, guided by the vision to be part of the “formation of a world reconciled with God.”

Christ, light of the whole world,
takes power from the darkness,
everything is put in the light
what keeps the world captive.