Who stands firm? Only the one for whom the final standard is not his reason, his principles, his conscience, his freedom, his virtue, but who is ready to sacrifice all these, when in faith and sole allegiance to God he is called to obedient and responsible action: the responsible person, whose life will be nothing but an answer to God’s question and call. (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)
From the Jewish Virtual Library
Protestant theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer stands out among the Christian leaders during the Nazi era, for he was one of the few to actively resist the racist actions of the Nazi regime. In addition to his legacy of courageous opposition to Nazism, Bonhoeffer’s theological writings are still widely read in Christian communities throughout the world.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was the sixth child of Karl and Paula Bonhoeffer, born in Breslau, Germany, on February 4, 1906. He completed his studies in Tübingen and Berlin. In 1928, he served as vicar in the German parish in Barcelona; and in 1930, he completed his theological examinations at Union Seminary in New York. During this period, he became active in the ecumenical movement and accumulated international contacts that would later aid his efforts in the resistance.
In 1931, Bonhoeffer took a teaching position with the theological faculty in Berlin. There he produced many of his theological writings, in which he took a traditional viewpoint in Jewish-Christian relations, believing that the Jewish people must ultimately accept Jesus as the Messiah. This theological work greatly increased his prominence in the Christian German community.
Hitler Rises to Power
After years of political instability under the Weimar republic, most Christian institutions were relieved with the ascent of the nationalistic Nazi dictatorship. The German Evangelical Church, the foremost Protestant church in Germany, welcomed Hitler’s government in 1933. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, however, although a member of the German Evangelical Church, was not complacent. In his April 1933 essay, “The Church and the Jewish Question”, he assailed Nazi state persecution.
Bonhoeffer’s defense of the Jews, however, was based on Christian supersessionism – the Christian belief that Christianity had superseded Judaism as the new chosen people of God. Despite his outspoken defense of victims of Nazi persecution, Bonhoeffer still maintained, on a religious level, that the “Jewish question” would ultimately be solved through Jewish conversion to Christianity. The Church strongly advocated this view, as did the ecumenical movements most responsible for aiding Jewish refugees fleeing Nazism.
In “The Church and the Jewish Question” (1933), Bonhoeffer pledged to fight political injustice. The Nazi injustice must not go unquestioned, and the victims of this injustice must not go unaided, regardless of their religion, Bonhoeffer wrote.
With Hitler’s ascent, non-Aryans were prohibited from taking parish posts, and when Bonhoeffer was offered such a post in the fall of 1933, he refused it in protest of the racist policy. Disheartened by the German Church’s complacency with the Nazi regime, he decided to accept a position at a German-speaking congregation in London.
The opponents of Nazi interference in Church affairs formed the “Confessing Church,” and some members, including Bonhoeffer, advocated open resistance against Nazism. The more moderate Protestants made what they saw as necessary compromises to retain their clerical authority despite expanding Nazi control. But under increasing Gestapo scrutiny, the Confessing Church was soon immobilized.
Bonhoeffer returned to Germany to teach at Finkenwalde, a Confessing Church seminary, where he continued to train clergy for the Confessing Church. But the official church barred his students from taking its clerical posts. In August 1937, the regime announced the Himmler Decree, which declared the training and examination of Confessing ministry candidates illegal. Finkenwalde was closed in September 1937; some of Bonhoeffer’s students were arrested.
Bonhoeffer went into hiding for the next two years; he traveled secretly from one eastern German village to another to help his students in their small illegal parishes. In January 1938, he was banned from Berlin, and in September 1940, he was forbidden to speak in public.
In the midst of political turmoil, Bonhoeffer continued to question the proper role of a Christian in Nazi Germany. When German synagogues and Jewish businesses were burned and demolished on Kristallnacht, November 9, 1938, Bonhoeffer immediately left for Berlin, despite having been banned by the Gestapo, to investigate the destruction. After his return, when his students were discussing the theological significance of Kristallnacht, Bonhoeffer rejected the theory that Kristallnacht had resulted from “the curse which had haunted the Jews since Jesus’ death on the cross.” Instead, Bonhoeffer called the pogrom an example of the “sheer violence” of Nazism’s “godless face.”
The Confessing Church resistance expanded its efforts to help “non-Aryan” refugees leave the country. One member of the resistance movement was the passionate anti-Nazi, Hans von Dohnanyi, a lawyer married to Bonhoeffer’s sister. In early 1939, Dohnanyi was transferred from the Justice Department to the Armed Forces High Command Office of Military Intelligence, and used his new post to inform Bonhoeffer that war was imminent. Bonhoeffer, knowing that he would never fight in Hitler’s army, left the country in June 1939 for a teaching position at Union Seminary in New York.
But upon arrival in the United States, Bonhoeffer realized that he had been mistaken, that if he did not lead his people during the difficult years of war and turmoil, then he could not partake in the postwar revival of German Christan life. His place, he decided, was in Germany; he returned only a month after his departure, in July 1939. He undertook a more active effort to undermine the regime. With international contacts in the ecumenical movement, he became a crucial leader in the German underground movement.
In October 1940, despite previous Gestapo tracking, Bonhoeffer gained employment as an agent for Hans von Dohnanyi’s Office of Military Intelligence, supposedly working for the expansion of Nazism. In reality, he worked for the expansion of the anti-Nazi resistance. During his 1941 and 1942 visits to Italy, Switzerland, and the Scandinavian countries, he attempted to gain foreign support for the resistance movement.
While plans to topple Hitler progressed only slowly, the need to evacuate more Jewish refugees became increasingly urgent. In early 1943, however, the Gestapo, which had traced Bonhoeffer and Dohnanyi’s large monetary sums intended for Jewish immigrants, foiled plans for a new refugee rescue mission. Bonhoeffer and Dohnanyi were arrested in April 1943.
Initially, the Gestapo believed that Bonhoeffer and Dohnanyi were embezzling money for their own interests. Then the truth began to leak out, and Bonhoeffer was subsequently charged with conspiring to rescue Jews, using official travel for other interests, and abusing his intelligence position to keep Confessing Church pastors out of the military. But the extent of Bonhoeffer’s resistance activities was not fully realized for months.
In October 1944, Bonhoeffer was moved to the Gestapo prison in Berlin. In February 1945, he was taken to the Buchenwald concentration camp, and then to the Flossenbürg concentration camp, where he was hanged on April 9, 1945. Hans von Dohnanyi was executed soon thereafter.
One Jewish Christian who worked closely with Bonhoeffer, and was helped by him and Karl Barth to escape to Switzerland, was Charlotte Friedenthal.
She was a Jewish evangelical Christian, one of the most active and persistent members of the Confessing Church in Berlin and the driving force behind many social, charitable and theological initiatives. A close colleague of the Spandau Superintendent Martin Albertz, a man of integrity and thoroughness, she acted more or less as the “business manager” for the directors of the Confessing Church. In the autumn of 1941, there was reason to fear she would be deported.
At the intervention of Bonhoeffer, among others, it proved possible through Swiss “church channels,” especially at the request of Karl Barth, to provide her with a visa for travel abroad. In the meantime, however, a law was enacted that forbade Jewish persons top leave Germany for any reason whatever, so her visa became useless. From the beginning of 1942, she was compelled to live in a “Jew House”, and to expect deportation as inevitable. At Bonhoeffer’s request, she was placed under military protection by Hans von Dohnanyi, and that enabled her name to be stricken more than once from the “orderly list” of those deported.
Then they devised and set in motion a hazardous plan, called “Operation Seven” to make it possible for her and six others to leave Germany “legally” via Switzerland to South America as “V-agents of military intelligence.” In all, fourteen Jews were rescued from the jaws of genocide between September 29 and mid-December 1942, and Bonhoeffer’s intermediation was decisive for one of them, namely Charlotte Friedenthal. Both Hans von Dohnanyi and Dietrich Bonhoeffer were arrested the following year, on April 5, 1943 and executed on April 9, 1945 in two separate camps.
Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for this amazing example of courage, faith and self-sacrifice. Help us to learn from Bonhoeffer’s life and teaching, and follow in his example today. In Yeshua’s name we pray. Amen
München im Netzwerk der Hilfe für „nichtarische“ Christen (1938 – 1941) Schriftliche Hausarbeit zur Erlangung des akademischen Grades eines Magister Artium
EXPLORATIONS AND RESPONSES: BIGOTRY AGAINST BONHOEFFER IN JERUSALEM By Stephen A. Wise and Balfour Brickner
Reasons for Bonhoeffer’s acceptances as a ‘Righteous Gentile” at Yad Vashem:
Risk 1: Operation 7, which smuggled into Switzerland a group of Jews that included Charlotte Friedenthal. Paldiel stated: “There can be no doubt that Bonhoeffer played a part in her rescue.” That, alone, should warrant recognition. But he trivialized it by asserting that: “Bonhoeffer’s role was in referring her to Dohnanyi, but he was not personally involved in this rescue operation.”
That is patently false. Not only does it fly in the face of Paldiel’s own statement in his aforementioned speech at the Holocaust Museum that “all who participated in this operation may also qualify for the Righteous title” (emphais added), but it was Bonhoeffer who secretly used his theological contacts—-the Rev. D. Koechlin, the head of the Swiss Protestant Churches, and famed theologian Karl Barth in Basel—-to have the Swiss police not block the refugees’ entry into Switzerland (as established by a letter found in Barth’s files stating that Bonhoeffer was “requesting support to the utmost . . . The danger for those concerned is very real.”).
Bonhoeffer’s participation in this rescue was further proved by an affidavit from Ms. Friedenthal’s niece, Julie Friedenthal Baxter, quoting her aunt’s diary statement: “Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, his brother-in-law v. Dohnanyi, and others are the ones who, humanly speaking, saved me from the concentration camp.”
In seven other detailed instances, Bonhoeffer risked himself to help Jews.
Charlotte Friedenthal (1892 – 1973) was born in Breslau, where he was welfare worker. Since it was in spite of their Protestant faith under the Nazis as a Jew, she lost her position and moved to Berlin. Along with Marga Meusel she tried to move the Inner Mission to a “Christian Aid Office for non-Aryans” set and win the head of the Bethel institutions Friedrich von Bodelschwingh for this concern. Charlotte Friedenthal therefore wrote him a letter haunting and put their plight and that of their fellow sufferers to the heart, which they call “from his own experience” knew.Bodelschwingh said because of “overload” from.
In 1940 she had packed her bags, because you seemed dicey location
Also by this initiative came close contact between Charlotte Friedenthal and Superintendent Albertz, who entrusted her with ever more tasks so that it was for him one of the most important employees. As of March 2, 1936, she was officially his secretary for many years again a paid post. Her duties on behalf of the church leadership belonged also to establish contacts with foreign organizations and ecumenism. To the contact partners included Adolf Keller in Geneva, Bischoff George Bell, Chichester (England) and his sister in law Laura Livingstone in London. From 1939, she was a “personal secretary” of Superintendent Albertz the General Secretary of church leadership (2.VKL) and lived from 1939 almost continuously in the Ihnestraße, although it was officially reported in a “Jewish house” in Hindenburgdamm. On 8 November 1940, she deposited two suitcases of the most up to Ihnestraße because you appeared capable of getting bleaker. And after the arrest of Albertz 1941, she led along with the few remaining employees in freedom of Albertz as pastor Rott the affairs of the church leadership provisionally on. In the memoirs of Wilhelm Rott, their daughter Bettina Rott has published in 2007, it’s the source reference to Eberhard Bethge to the VKL Office of Wilhelm Rott, that it belongs “to the few organs of the Confessing Church, which still works.
Enlarge imageRott pastor at office Ihnestraße 51st – PHOTO: BETTINA ROTT
For the church leadership, they also came with the two lawyers Julius Fliess and Fritz Werner Arnold in contact that were considered Jews under the Nazis and from 1938 could be active only as “consultants”.Arnold was from 1938 as a legal advisor to the “Office Griiber” which sought to (Auswander) help and support of non-Aryan Protestant Christians, active. He had in his previous efforts to maintain heavy war-wounded Jewish lawyers work opportunities, the Ministry of Justice Hans von Dohnanyi, the brother of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, met, who was office manager Minister of Justice and in his later work in Ausland / Abwehr OKW ( Official Canaris) contact with Arnold stopped him and finally under the so-called “business Seven” allowed to emigrate to Switzerland. Arnold was also the one who for Dohnanyi and Canaris held the necessary contacts with those who should come up with the list of “agents” of the company Seven. About him the collation of all necessary personal papers ran. Gerhard Maria knew of these efforts and said: “I remember that Dr. Arnold has negotiated a great deal with Rott and the others. We had to remain ignorant as possible. That’s why they have many also not told us. ”
For the transport of the papers and documents the niece of Mary Gerhard was without knowing exactly “on duty”, what it was once. As a 15-year-old schoolgirl transported them in her bag the documents of the Ihnestraße in the office of Dr. Arnold in the Ludwigkirchstraße in Wilmersdorf. The inconspicuous been possible with the subway. You knew this important service on 16/09. 1942 to bring the final papers to Dr. Arnold, who with the other at 29.09. Left Berlin.
Charlotte Friedenthal was under the protection of Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Through this company and Charlotte Friedenthal was rescued after other intensive efforts had indeed led to an entry visa in Switzerland, but they were stopped by a decree of Himmler dated 10/23/1941, is to be prevented by the “emigration of Jews with immediate effect. “Dietrich Bonhoeffer was Charlotte Friedenthal know in Ihnestraße and appreciate and they commended the protection of his brother and the Office Ausland / Abwehr end of 1941. Winfried Meyer describes in detail in his book, the life of Charlotte Friedenthal and stages in their salvation (p 70ff). This book are also cited reports of Gerhard Maria on the Ihnestraße 51 removed, the Winfried Meyer had interviewed in their new home in Lower Saxony in 1986.
Enlarge imageFrom the train station pickup Charlotte Friedenthal emigrated to Switzerland. – PHOTO: NATIONAL ARCHIVES BERLIN, 233042
Gerhard Maria describes in the interview, the departure of Charlotte Friedenthal, held their entry permit for Switzerland the day before expiration:
“On 09.04.1942 the exit to Basel in Switzerland took place. … Before leaving, we asked ourselves then always: Will it work, it will not work? Then suddenly it was: it’s time. She drove the pickup from the train station, and as I sat killed her. ”
As we came to the station and we found it a sudden, should now travel with star or without it. She came over so legally, had her ticket.Since then I said: You, Lotte, as now we do it because with your star when you arrive there on the German side in Basel as non-Aryan, you do not know what happened then. I remember that I called from the station at Rott and Bonhoeffer and asked what we should do. She then hides the star something under his coat collar and sat down in the compartment on the mantle. So, it was up to the last moment always things that could be dangerous for them. I have it set in her third-class compartment and we then adopted as the other people too who had brought someone on the web. The train went according to plan. Then went across the border everything is normal, the papers she had, she did not have to worry about anything, it was so special papers necessary for all eventualities. ”
Enlarge imageAt the German Railway Station should arrive in Basel Charlotte Friedenthal put their star – what a moment. – PHOTO: WWW.LOOK-BACH.CH
Enlarge imageThe Diary of Charlotte Friedenthal. – PHOTO: HARTMUT LUDWIG
Winfried Meyer cites in his book, the diary of Charlotte Friedenthal of the train trip to Basel: “The fullness of the train decreases from Karlsruhe, of Freiburg are only a few travelers available. The sun shines through the window of my compartment, in which I find myself alone. … In Weil a. Rh., Last stop before Basel, passport control. Everything OK. Identification card and travel certificate shall be taken from me. … At about 12 clock, with about an hour late, the limit is exceeded. On the (DRB) Bahnhof I follow the few travelers. 10 RM changes to the Bank in francs. An old Porter offers me his help and show me the different stations to be passed. Passport and currency control in order. Customs, and medical. Luggage inspection. I forget completely or not to notice that I’m on Swiss soil. Two officers make me very kindly pointed out that I can put the star. What a moment !!! A Swiss official smiles at me and says, but you’re a lucky man! That’s a miracle! “(P 304)
Enlarge imageCharlotte Friedenthal wrote in exile a memorandum, which is not allowed to appear under her name even after 1945. – PHOTO: WINFRIED MEYER
Charlotte Friedenthal had to stay in Basel during the war and was allowed after overcoming considerable difficulties occasionally work “pure science” for the Ecumenical Council of Churches in Geneva, among others, a memorandum under the title: The Evangelical Church in Germany and the Jewish question, but because the strict prohibition of operating the Swiss authorities themselves in 1945 is not allowed to appear under her name.
The other “agents” of the company Seven, including Fritz Werner Arnold with his family and also Anne Marie Conzen and her daughters from the Altvater street in Schlachtensee, who lived in the neighborhood of Canaris and also knew Maria Gerhard and frequently visited (and later) left on September 29, 1942 in Berlin and arrived safely in Switzerland. They were accompanied by an intelligence officer, the departure described as follows: “In Lörrach, however, an SD Zugstreife wanted to make trouble, continue onward journey, since they wore the yellow star on their clothes. But thanks to my ID and my corresponding energetic occurrence, we continued the journey to the Swiss border. ” (p 311f)
Enlarge imageAnnemarie Conzen fled with her daughters from Berlin to Switzerland. – PHOTO: WINFRID MEYER
Anne Marie Conzen was twice in Berlin and lived each with Maria Gerhard and Charlotte Friedenthal in the Ihnestraße 51. In the book of the “House Gerhard” she describes her time there as saying after the Nazi era: “The two love residents of Ihnestraße applies my thanks. Lotte, the loyal friend of the spent together Basel emigration time, and Miss Gerhard, so housewifely cared for me in the 14 days of my stay in Berlin. 60. The fact that in this time Lotte’s birthday (= 1.12.) Fell and it was the first Christmas season in ice and snow and umbrella after three years of Argentine summer weeks of December, gives these days for me or a special shine! I leave with a sad heart, and with the safe located in the far distance desire to be able to come back again. ”
Enlarge imageGerhard Maria (left) and Charlotte Friedenthal (right) in the garden Ihnestraße to the 1950s. – PHOTO: IRMELA PRIEPKE
And 1960, she wears a “My written seven years ago wish to be allowed to recur is come true. An incomparably beautiful and peaceful Christmas I was able to celebrate with Lotte and Maria Gerhard. In the nearly three weeks of my stay I experienced a bit of serious history of the divided city of Berlin, but stronger than the sadness of political events lights in my mind the loyalty and friendship, which I received in the hospitable home in the Ihnestraße. I am leaving in great gratitude that I was given this beautiful time. ”
Maria Gerhard and Charlotte Friedenthal were people who let things get, despite all the trials and threats not have living consciously in their time, who visited with their guests theater, concerts and museums in Berlin, who actively participated in the Berlin church days and the Dahlem church life participated and still rested in itself. Keep alive the memory of them, I would like to encourage all readers to the heart.
EXPLORATIONS AND RESPONSES
BIGOTRY AGAINST BONHOEFFER IN JERUSALEM
By Stephen A. Wise and Balfour Brickner
Even before the war, German opponents of Hitler had considered overthrowing the Nazi regime; the first unrealized plan to overthrow Hitler was during the Sudeten crisis in 1938. A successful coup, however, depended upon the support of key German military figures; their readiness to take such risks diminished with the German victories in Poland and on the western front. This was maddening to civilian conspirators like Dohnanyi, who distrusted the military leaders and condemned their reluctance to move decisively against Hitler.
German resistance groups hoped to convince their Allied contacts of their seriousness and win foreign support for the overthrow of the Nazi regime. In October 1940, Dietrich Bonhoeffer began work as an agent for Military Intelligence, supposedly using his ecumenical contacts to help the cause of the Reich.
In reality, he used his contacts to spread information about the resistance movement. In trips to Italy, Switzerland, and Scandinavia in 1941 and 1942, he informed them of resistance activities and tried, in turn, to gain foreign support for the German resistance.
Dohnanyi and others put great hopes in Bonhoeffer’s foreign contacts, particularly in Bishop George Bell’s ability to carry messages to the high levels of British government. In turn, Bonhoeffer tried to convince his foreign contacts that some Allied signal of support for the German conspiracy was crucial, since only this would convince the German military to move against Hitler.
The Allied governments greeted these peace feelers with distrust. The military members of the resistance wanted guarantees of German territorial integrity and of their own position as leaders of a postwar Germany. Allied diplomats and leaders found this demand unacceptable, and never seriously considered support for a German coup. In January 1943, Churchill and Roosevelt announced that only the unconditional military defeat of Germany would eradicate Nazism.
Despite these rebuffs, the conspirators continued to plan Hitler’s downfall. But, as prospects for an early coup dimmed, some also searched for ways to help the victims of Nazism. On September 5, 1941, all Jews in the Reich were ordered to wear the yellow star; the first deportations to the East from Berlin occurred on October 15. On October 17 or 18, Bonhoeffer and Friedrich Perels, a Confessing Church lawyer, wrote a memo giving details of these first deportations. 17 The memo was sent to trusted German military officials in the hope that it might move them to action, as well as to ecumenical contacts and the US State Department.
In Dohnanyi’s office, a plan was conceived to get Jews out of Germany by giving them papers as foreign agents. The plan was not that far-fetched: in several cases, Nazi intelligence offices had used Jewish agents as a cover. There was also a steady underground business that helped Jews emigrate in exchange for large sums of money.
The Dohnanyi/Canaris effort, termed “Operation Seven,” eventually spirited fourteen Jews out to Switzerland (eleven had converted to Christianity; three had not). 18 Bonhoeffer used his ecumenical contacts to arrange visas and sponsors for the group. 19 At his instigation, one of those rescued was Charlotte Friedenthal, who had worked with Marga Meusel and with the Grüber office.
Friedenthal reached Switzerland in August 1942; the others arrived in September. Dohnanyi’s office immediately began plans for a new rescue attempt; before anything could come of these, the Gestapo traced the vast amounts of money that the conspirators had sent abroad for the emigrants. The arrests of Dohnanyi and Bonhoeffer followed in April 1943.
Initially, the Gestapo treated it as a corruption case, accusing Dohnanyi and his colleagues of lining their own pockets. They soon realized, however, that the rescue attempt was the tip of a larger iceberg. Bonhoeffer was charged with conspiring to rescue Jews; of using his travels abroad for non-intelligence matters; and of misusing his intelligence position to keep Confessing Church pastors out of the military and for his own ecumenical work.
The Gestapo report on Bonhoeffer described him as “completely in the opposition.” 20 Still, even after the failure of the July 20, 1944, attempt to kill Hitler, it was months before the Nazis realized the extent of Bonhoeffer’s involvement in resistance circles.
In October 1944, Bonhoeffer was moved to the dreaded Gestapo prison in Berlin; in February 1945, he was taken to Buchenwald. He was then moved to the Flossenbürg concentration camp where, on April 9, he was hanged, together with Canaris, Oster, and other conspirators. Hans von Dohnanyi and Klaus Bonhoeffer were executed days later.
The SS doctor who witnessed Bonhoeffer’s death later recalled a man “devout . . . brave and composed. His death ensued after a few seconds . . . I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.” Bonhoeffer sent one final message, to George Bell in England: “This is the end, for me the beginning of life.” 21
17 Bonhoeffer, Gesammelte Schriften, Vol. II, 640–643. [Back to text]
18 Winfried Meyer, Unternehmen Sieben: Eine Rettungsaktion. Frankfurt a. Main: Verlag Anton Hain, 1993, page 24. Meyer’s book is the most detailed account of Operation Seven and Bonhoeffer’s involvement in it. [Back to text]
19 Ibid., pp. 120-121, 306–335. [Back to text]
20 Jacobsen, H. A. Spiegelbild einer Verschwörung. Die Opposition gegen Hitler und der Staatsstreich vom 20. Juli 1944 in der SD-Berichterstattung. Vol. I. (Stuttgart: Degerloch), 508. [Back to text]
21 Bethge, Op. Cit., 1037–1038. [Back to text]