February 4, 1906 – April 9, 1945
Bonhoeffer was born in 1906, son of a professor of psychiatry and neurology at the University of Berlin. He was an outstanding student, and at the age of 25 he was ordained and became a lecturer in systematic theology at the same University where his talk of peace was unpopular. He was a prolific author as well.
Before his ordination he spent time in the US. as an exchange student. It was there he saw first hand the evils of racisim, little guessing how relivant his experience would soon become to his life in Germany.
When Hitler came to power in 1933 Bonhoeffer was a leading spokesman for the Confessing Church and the director of one of it's main Seminaries. When the Nazis's closed the seminary
he organized and for a time led an underground teaching community. His book Life Together describes the life of the Christian community in that seminary. His book The Cost of Discipleship attacks what he calls "cheap grace," meaning grace used as an excuse for moral laxity.
The net tightened around the Jews as Bonhoeffer withdrew to America. As time passed he felt he must return to Germany against the council of many friends.
He became a resitance worker and part of a failed attempted to assassinate Hitler. It was his refusal to report for military service that finally led to his arrest in April of 1943.
He was sent first to Buchenwald and then to Schoenberg Prison. His life was spared, because he had a relative in the government; but then this relative was himself implicated in anti-Nazi plots. In prision He wrote his parents, his fiance, supported and prayed for fellow prisioners, and continued to write.
On Sunday 8 April 1945, as he finished conducting a service at Schoenberg two soldiers came in, saying, "Prisoner Bonhoeffer, make ready and come with us," the standard summons to a condemned prisoner. As he left, he said to another prisoner, "This is the end -- but for me, the beginning -- of life."
He was hanged the next day, less than a week before the Allies reached the prision camp. Perhaps it can be argued that he died for his political convictions and not His christian faith. Dietrich Bonhoeffer would have argued there was no distinction between the two.