His name might not be immediately recognizable, but Dietrich Bonhoeffer is certainly one of the most interesting figures of World War II history and one of the most important voices in religion and Christianity in the past century.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906 – 1945) was a German Lutheran pastor, theologian, and anti-Nazi dissident. He was born in what is now Wroclaw, Poland to Karl and Paual Bonhoeffer. He had a twin sister, Sabine, and they were the sixth and seventh children out of eight.
Bonhoeffer was a prolific academic theologian. By the age of 25, he had earned two Doctorate Degrees. Over his lifetime, he wrote over a dozen books on Christianity, including The Cost of Discipleship.
However, Bonhoeffer is most famous for his staunch resistance to the Nazi dictatorship and vehemently opposed Hitler’s euthanasia program and genocidal persecution of the Jews. In 1934, Bonhoeffer co-founded the Confessing Church, which stood in opposition to the antisemetic, Nazi-influenced Deutsche Christen movement within German Protestants. As part of the Confessing Church, Bonhoeffer lead an illegal, underground seminary. During the War, Bonhoeffer joined the Abwehr, a German military intelligence organization at the center of the anti-Hitler resistance. As a member of the Abwehr, he traveled abroad to solicit support of the resistance and also participated in operations to help German Jews escape to Switzerland.
Bonhoeffer was arrested in April, 1943 by the Gestapo and was imprisoned at Tegel prison for one and a half years. On July 20, 1944, an attempt to assassinate Hitler failed. In September 1944, documents related to the conspiracy tied Bonhoeffer and his brother, Klaus, to the assassination plot. It is Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s imprisonment and trial that will be dramatized in our production.
The Writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer
We hope that our production inspires you to seek out more information regarding the life and legacy of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Most of Bonhoeffer’s lectures and books have been translated into English, the most notable among them being Discipleship, Ethics, and The Cost of Discipleship. English translations of Bonhoeffer’s works have been published in a 17 volume series by Fortress Press and individual works have been published by a variety of publishers.
Works About Bonhoeffer
Mary Ruth Clarke and Tim Gregory, the playwrights behind Bonhoeffer’s Cost, site the following books, in addition to Bonhoeffer’s own writings, as source material used extensively in the creation of their play:
Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Biography by Eberhard Bethge
The Last Days of Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Donald Goddard
Bonhoeffer (Documentary). Directed and written by Martin Doblmeier.
Bonhoeffer: Agent of Grace (Historical Drama). Directed by Eric Till. Written by Gareth Jones and Eric Till
Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Memories and Perspectives (Documentary). Directed by Martin Doblmeier.
Hanged on a Twisted Cross (Documentary). Directed by T.N. Mohan. Written by Lathika Mohan, T.N. Mohan, and Kris Rasmussen.
The Restless Conscience: Resistance to Hitler Within Germany 1933-1945 (Documentary). Directed and written by Hava Kohav Beller.
The Top Secret Trials of the Third Reich (Documentary). Directed by Jochen Bauer.
A View From the Underside: The Legacy of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Historical Drama). Directed by Al Staggs.
The Beams are Creaking by Douglas Anderson.
Bonhoeffer by Tim Jorgenson.