I recently finished reading a biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The funny thing is that I chose this book because I was confused. I was mixing Bonhoeffer up with Niemoller. I was so excited to learn more about the man who said this:
I took that photo on our 2012 trip to Boston.
Bonhoeffer had a lot in common with Niemoller, except he was executed about 2 weeks before Hitler killed himself. Hitler personally selected Bonhoeffer to be killed because Bonhoeffer was part of a large conspiracy of German aristocrats to assassinate Hitler.
In fact, they tried to kill Hitler and failed several times without Hitler even knowing it, until that last time when the bomb actually did explode, right at Hitler’s feet, and the evil murderous man didn’t die.
You’ve heard of the Gestapo, but have you heard of the Abwehr? That was another German government intelligence agency. The Abwehr was full of guys who wanted to kill Hitler in order to save millions of lives and to save Germany. It was dissolved by the Nazis in 1945 when they realized it was full of conspirators.
Bonhoeffer was a part of that group. Niemoller was not. Niemoller had already been in prison since the beginning of the war.
Don’t let Niemoller fool you. He was humble. He spoke out so boldly against the Nazis, from his pulpit, as a Lutheran pastor, that he spent pretty much all of World War II locked in a German prison cell. His support for Hitler was extremely short-lived. When Hitler first rose to power, some people just thought “Yay! Not Communist!” It didn’t take too long for the gloves to come off.
Did you know that when Alan went to Iraq he learned that their whole middle eastern society was indoctrinated to believe that the Holocaust never happened? They all believe it was a giant myth. They say it was propaganda put out by the Jews, because there is such a strong hatred of Jews over there.
History tells the true story. There are survivor stories, photos, videos, piles of their hair, remaining buildings of their death camps, and first-hand journal accounts of what happened to the Jews and to anyone else who stood in the way of the Nazis.
Niemoller and Bonhoeffer did know each other long before either of them were imprisoned. There was mutual respect there. They ran in the same circles. They knew many of the same people. They lead the Confessing Church movement, which pulled away from the German Church, blatantly disagreeing with Nazi policies.
It was so interesting to learn about WWII from more of a viewpoint on what was happening inside Germany.
No quote in the book beat Niemoller’s quote on apathy. There’s a reason it’s so famous, but here are a few quotes from the book on Bonhoeffer that I found interesting.
I loved what Bonhoeffer wrote in his Advent letter of 1938 to Confessing Church leaders. I love it because the fact is that good is not always winning. Sometimes evil is winning, but that doesn’t mean you should not do the right thing:
“And we simply cannot be constant with the fact that God’s cause is not always the successful one, that we really could be “unsuccessful”: and yet be on the right road. But this is where we find out whether we have begun in faith or in a burst of enthusiasm.” (Bonhoeffer, p. 318)
Not every nation’s churches folded under the pressure of the government as Germany’s did. Germany occupied Norway from 1940-1945, and their church leaders fought back, even if their government didn’t.
“In March Quisling overreached again, establishing a Norwegian version of the Hitler Youth. A thousand teachers immediately struck in protest……On Maundy Thursday, Bishop Berggrav, the heroic leader of the pastors’ resistance, was put under house arrest. So on Easter, April 5, every pastor in Norway did what their bishops did six weeks earlier and what Bonhoeffer had begged the German pastors to do in July 1933: they went on strike.” (Metaxas, p. 395)
A different 9/11.
In Europe, they write dates with the day followed by the month and then the year, so 9/11 is November 9th. Germany’s 9/11 was in 1938. It is called Kristallnacht, the night of broken glass. The Nazis beat up and killed Jews, destroyed their businesses, burned their synagogues, and destroyed and looted their homes. Broken glass was everywhere. The result thereof was only more terror.
Here is a little bit of what Bonhoeffer wrote in response to it. He read Psalm 74, the 2nd half of which reads “They burn all of God’s houses in the land.”
“This was when Bonhoeffer most clearly saw the connection: to lift one’s hand against the Jews was to lift one’s hand against God himself. The Nazis were attacking God by attacking his people. The Jews in Germany were not only not God’s enemies; they were his beloved children.” (Metaxas, p. 316)
Whether you agree with Bonhoeffer or not, he was a fascinating man who walked very closely with God. I thoroughly enjoyed learning more not only about him but about WWII Germany. If you can hang with the first half of the book, which is slower, you will be richly rewarded by the second half.
$8.92?? What? I paid a lot more for it back at Christmas time. *sigh*
And here’s an Amazon affiliate link in case you want to read this book too. Just be forewarned. It’s like 600 pages, but you will learn a ton.
And for my next book, I have decided to read something quicker. I’m going with a Christian fiction novel involving some espionage and action. Excited to get into this one too.
What have you read lately that’s good? Leave me a note in the comments.