In his book Daring, Trusting Spirit John deGruchy reveals the larger context of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s participation in the resistance against Adolph Hitler:
The losses of the Bonhoeffer family were symbolic of a far more widespread loss that was most evident to the immediate survivors of the resistance. In the months that followed the failed coup of July 1944, the Nazis executed 11,448 people suspected of being involved in various resistance groups. These were people from all walks of life – the churches, the Communist and socialist parties, the civil service, the military – who had been engaged in some kind of activity to overthrow the Nazi regime and to create a foundation for what would follow. The Nazi regime, even in its death throes, had managed to eradicate its most articulate and thoughtful opponents. (Daring, Trusting Spirit: Bonhoeffer’s Friend Eberhard Bethge, John deGruchy, Fortress Press, 2006)
Keep that number in mind, 11, 448, the next time you are tempted to say “but” when referring to Bonhoeffer’s Christian witness. I have heard so many sloppy arguments for why Bonhoeffer’s life was wasted by the Resistance. Here are 11,448 more “wasted” lives. I recently had a gem of a book given to me titled Dying We Live: The final messages and records of some Germans who defied Hitler, Edited by Hellmut Gollwitzer, Fontana, 1960. On the other side, Dietrich Bonhoeffer would not have regarded his own decision as prescriptive in every case, shoot, most cases. Neither did he care that his name be honored or understood. He knew that he would be forever misunderstood as one more German around during the Holocaust–“numbered with the transgressors”. He did not mind the stain on his name because the name of Christ was stained and he didn’t mind the shame of that association.
I’d like to blog through Dying We Live at some point. Also, I picked up a review galley of What About Hitler? Wrestling with Jesus’s Call to Nonviolence in an Evil World, by Robert Brimlow, Brazos, 2006 at the Ekklesia Gathering this year. I’ll try to cover it when I get to the imprisonment in my Bethge blogging.