Letters and Papers from Prison
and Paul Ricoeur's
"Hermeneutics of Testimony"
JAMIE S. SCOTT
On 5 April 1945, German dictator Adolf Hitler issued one of the many annihilation orders which characterized the last vindictive days of the Third Reich. Before dawn on 9 April, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was tried in a summary court-martial, charged with complicity in the von Stauffenberg assassination plot on Hitler. Later that morning, Bonhoeffer and several other victims were led to the woods behind Flossenbürg concentration camp and ordered to strip. Their hands were tied behind their backs and they were hanged. Bonhoeffer's last words were: "For me, this is the end — the beginning of life." 1 The studied ambiguity of this statement embodies the sort of irony of necessity often associated with such deadly conflicts between political and religious loyalties. On the one hand, we now know that Hitler's suspicions of Bonhoeffer and his fellow conspirators were accurate, and that therefore, within terms of the harsh exigencies of wartime law, Bonhoeffer's execution was in some sense justified. On the other hand, the influential ecumenicist, Dr. G.K.A. Bell, expressed a much more agreeable view when he proclaimed Bonhoeffer "one of a noble company of martyrs of differing traditions." 2 More recently, Clifford Green has elaborated upon Bell's judgment, locating Bonhoeffer within that "noble lineage in Christian theology in which an intimate relationship exists between the thinking of the theologian and his personal experience as a Christian man." 3 The fact that he was willing to die for his beliefs testifies to his sense of self‐ justification. But as Bonhoeffer awaited death in prison, he attempted to flesh out this sense of self-justification in writing. These efforts resulted in a classic of Christian prison testimony: Letters and Papers from Prison. The marked inseparability between Bonhoeffer's actions and thoughts is most obvious in this text. This paper attempts to articulate the rela
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Book title: Paul Ricoeur and Narrative:Context and Contestation. Contributors: Morny Joy - Editor. Publisher: University of Calgary Press. Place of publication: Calgary, Alta.. Publication year: 1997. Page number: 13.
This material is protected by copyright and, with the exception of fair use, may not be further copied, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means.