"Bonhoeffer recognizes that the real question is not the freedom of the church to preach the gospel. The real issue is for the church to actually stand beside the victims."
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Church and State
"In the first place [the church] can ask the state whether its actions are legitimate and in accordance with its character as state, i.e., it can throw the state back on its responsibilities. Secondly, it can aid the victims of state action. The church has an unconditional obligation to the victims of any ordering of society, even if they do not belong to the Christian community(!). The third possibility is not just to bandage the victims under the wheel, but to put a spoke in the wheel itself."
Dietrich and his twin sister Sabine are born on February 4 in Breslau (Wroc³aw), Silesia. They were 6th and 7th of eight children.
The Bonhoeffers move to Berlin
Dietrich enters grammar school after early years of home schooling
World War 1 begins
Oldest brother, Walter, killed in World War I
Bonhoeffer returns to Germany & ordained:
July: meets theologian Karl Barth;
Aug.: appointed lecturer in theology at Berlin University;
Sept.: appointed youth secretary of the World Alliance for Promoting International Friendship through the Churches;
Oct.: appointed chaplain at Technical College, Berlin (serves until 1933);
Nov. 15: ordained; during this period, “becomes a Christian”
Teaches confirmation class in poor section of Berlin (classes begin in late ’31); attends ecumenical meetings in Geneva and elsewhere
Apr. 23: Ludwig Müller appointed Hitler’s personal representative for the Protestant churches
Pope Pius XI, signs the Concordat, an agreement with the Third Reich not to interfere, in exchange for assurances that Catholic church will not be attacked.
Feb.27: burning of Reichstag building in Berlin gives Hitler chance to increase state control;
Mar. 20: first concentration camp (Dachau) opened;
Apr. 1: boycott of Jewish-owned businesses; Apr. 7: Jews banned from holding public office;
By April Jews banned from public employment.
Dec. 20: Protestant youth organizations incorporated into Hitler Youth;
May 29-31: The Confessing Church is organized at Barmen, Germany, and the Barmen Declaration is adopted, insisting that Christ, not the Fuhrer, is the head of the church. Bonhoeffer leaves for England to head a church for Germans.
June 30: Hitler purges SA leaders;
August 2: Hitler proclaimed as both Chancellor and President when German President Paul von Hindenburg dies.
Aug. 23–30: Bonhoeffer delivers speech on peace to ecumenical conference at Fan, Denmark
Dec. 15: Karl Barth dismissed from Bonn University
Bonhoeffer returns from England to direct the seminary for the Confessing Church in Finkenwalde, Germany.
April 26: preachers’ seminary opens at Zingsthof on the Baltic Sea;
June 24: seminary relocates to Finkenwalde; Bonhoeffer publishes influential article on “The Confessing Church and the Ecumenical Movement”
By December, Himmler declares all examinations for the Confessing Church invalid, all training there invalid and all participants liable to arrest.
In July, the Confessing Church leader and WWI hero Martin Niemöller is arrested.
August Olympic Games in Berlin begin. Hitler is quoted as saying of 4-time gold medal champion Jesse Owens “The Americans should be ashamed of themselves, letting Negroes win their medals for them.” He refuses to shake Owen’s hand.
August 5, Bonhoeffer’s authorization to teach at Berlin University is withdrawn.Declared a “pacifist and enemy of the State,” lectures at Confessing Church program near Olympic stadium
Feb.: at ecumenical meeting in London, resigns as youth secretary in protest of the World Alliance’s failure to speak out for the Jews;
July 1: Martin Niemöller arrested;
In September the seminary at Finkenwalde is closed by the Gestapo.
By November, 27 pastors and former Finkenwalde students are arrested. Also in November, Bonhoeffer publishes The Cost of Discipleship.
Dec.: leads “collective pastorates” for clandestine training of clergy
Jan expelled from Berlin (forbidden to live or work there)
In February Bonhoeffer makes his initial contact with members of the German Resistance including Gen. Wilhelm Canaris
In September he writes Life Together.
Bonhoeffer helps sister Sabine, her Jewish husband Gerhard Leibholz and two daughters escape to England by way of Switzerland.
On March Austria is annexed by Germany.
In April all German pastors are ordered to take an oath of allegiance to Hitler in recognition of his 50th birthday.
Sept.: Hitler and Neville Chamberlain sign Munich Agreement;
On November 9 a nation-wide, organized riot called Kristallnacht (Crystal Night) takes place, bringing the destruction of nearly 300 synagogues across Germany, the looting of 7,500 Jewish-owned shops, and the arrest of 30,000 Jewish men.
World War II
On January 1 all Jewish-owned businesses are liquidated by order of Hermann Göring.
In March German troops invade Czechoslovakia.
Mar.: in London, meets with Bishop Bell, Reinhold Niebuhr, and Dutch ecumenical leader Willem Visser’t Hooft;
In June Bonhoeffer returns to the United States for second time (lecture tour). He realizes almost immediately that this was a mistake and he returns to Germany on the last scheduled steamer to cross the Atlantic.
July 8: decides he must return to Germany and suffer with his people;
Aug.: becomes civilian agent of the Abwehr, German military intelligence agency
On September 1 Germany invades Poland. Great Britain and France declare war on Germany.
Hitler calls for extinction of the Jews. German invasion often marked as start of WW2.
On April 9 German troops invade Denmark and Norway. In May German troops invade Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg and France. By August the Battle of Britain begins; German Luftwaffe bombs London. Churchill becomes prime minister
Sept. 9: prohibited from public speaking and ordered to report regularly to police; begins writing “Ethics”;
Spends September and October working on Ethics.
Nov.: assigned to Abwehr staff in Munich; stays at Benedictine abbey nearby
March 27 Bonhoeffer is forbidden to print or to publish because of his “subversive activities”. He makes two trips to Switzerland on behalf of the Resistance & meets Barth and Visser’t Hooft.
In April German troops invade Yugoslavia and Greece. In June they invade the Soviet Union. By September a decree requires all German Jews to wear a yellow star stitched to their clothing. In October the first deportations of Jews from Berlin begin and the first gas chambers are installed at Auschwitz, Poland. Oct operation Dec. 7: Japan attacks Pearl Harbor; Dec. 11: Germany declares war on U.S.; “Manhattan Project” atomic research begins
Jan. 20: Nazi leaders plan the “Final Solution”—extermination of all European Jews; first automatic computer
In April Bonhoeffer visits Norway and Sweden for the resistance. In May he meets in Sweden with the British Bishop Bell, a member of Parliament, on behalf of the Resistance.writes Christmas essay, “After Ten Years,” to remind co-conspirators of their ideals
Jan.: German army surrenders at Stalingrad;
In January the Casablanca talks begin between US President Franklin Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
In January Bonhoeffer proposes and becomes engaged to Maria von Wedemeyer.
On April 5 he is arrested and incarcerated at Tegel Prison, Berlin.
Apr. 29: charged with “subversion of the armed forces”;
May 13: German-Italian forces surrender in North Africa; On May 19 Joseph Goebbels, the German minister of propaganda, declares that Germany is now Judenfrei (free of Jews). polio epidemic in U.S.
Beginning in July Bonhoeffer is intensively interrogated in prison.
From November 28 to December 1 Joseph Stalin of the USSR, Roosevelt and Churchill meet at Teheran.
In December Bonhoeffer writes his Christmas essay, “After Ten Years.”?? writes letters to Eberhard Bethge and others that later form “Letters and Papers from Prison”
In January Allied military forces land at Anzio, Italy. In Hungary 437,000 Jews are shipped to Auschwitz.
June 6 Allied military forces land on Normandy coast, France (D-Day).
On July 20 Count Klaus von Stauffenberg attempts to assassinate Hitler at Rastenburg, East Prussia.
Sept. 22: Gestapo discovers incriminating Abwehr files;
Oct. 5: Gestapo arrests brother Klaus, brother-in-law Rüdiger Schleicher, and others, causing Bonhoeffer to abandon escape plan;
Oct. 8: moved to Gestapo prison at Prinz Albrecht Strasse, Berlin;
Dec. 19: last letter to Maria Wedemeyer.
February 4-7. An Allied conference is held at Yalta from February 4th to 7th to discuss post-war settlements.
On March 7 American forces cross Rhine River at Remagen
On April 3 Bonhoeffer is moved from Buchenwald to Regensburg.
Apr. 5: in Hitler’s midday conference, order given to annihilate the Canaris resistance group, which includes Bonhoeffer;
Apr. 6: moved to Schönberg;
Apr. 8: moved to Flossenbürg concentration camp and court-martialed;
Apr. 9: hanged with six other resisters; brother-in-law Hans von Dohnanyi & key figures of the resistance executed at Sachsenhausen concentration camp;
On April 12 President Franklin Roosevelt dies; Harry Truman is sworn in as president.
Apr. 23: Red Army reaches Berlin;
Apr. 23: brother Klaus and brother-in-law Rüdiger Schleicher killed for their role in conspiracy;
On April 30 Adolf Hitler commits suicide in his Berlin bunker.
By May 2 Berlin falls.
On May 7 the German forces make an unconditional surrender.
July 6–Aug. 7: Potsdam conference;
July 27: Bonhoeffer’s parents learn of his death via London broadcast of memorial service
On August 6 through 9 United States drops atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan.
By August 15 hostilities end in the Pacific/Far East.
On November 20 major war criminal trials begin in Nuremberg.