Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Dietrich Bonhoeffer d. 9th April 1945

Today, 9th April, is the anniversary of the death in 1945 of Dietrich Bonhoeffer at Flossenbürg concentration camp. 
This is the account of Bonhoeffer's execution given in Eberhard Bethge's still definitive (1967) biography of his friend:
“In  Flossenbürg the execution took place in the grey dawn of the Monday The camp doctor saw Bonhoeffer without knowing at the time who he was . Ten years later he wrote:  'In the morning of that day between five and six o'clock the prisoners......were taken from their cells, and the verdict of the court martial read out to them. Through the half-open door in one room of the huts I saw Pastor Bonhoeffer, before taking off his prison garb, kneeling on the floor praying fervently to God. I was most deeply moved by the way this lovable man prayed, so devout and so certain that God heard his prayer. At the place of execution, he again said a short prayer and then climbed the few steps to the gallows, brave and composed. His death ensued after a few seconds. In the almost fifty years that I worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.'..."
His final message to George Bell, the Bishop of Chichester, entrusted to a fellow prisoner were these:  “This is the end - for me, the beginning of life.”

“To be called to a life of extraordinary quality, to live up to it, and yet to be unconscious of it is indeed a narrow way. To confess and testify to the truth as it is in Jesus, and at the same time to love the enemies of that truth, his enemies and ours, and to love them with the infinite love of Jesus Christ, is indeed a narrow way. To believe the promise of Jesus that his followers shall possess the earth, and at the same time to face our enemies unarmed and defenceless, preferring to incur injustice rather than to do wrong ourselves, is indeed a narrow way. To see the weakness and wrong in others, and at the same time refrain from judging them; to deliver the gospel message without casting pearls before swine, is indeed a narrow way. The way is unutterably hard, and at every moment we are in danger of straying from it. If we regard this way as one we follow in obedience to an external command, if we are afraid of ourselves all the time, it is indeed an impossible way. But if we behold Jesus Christ going on before step by step, we shall not go astray.” 
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship 

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