Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Vol. 12: Berlin: 1932-1933

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Vol. 12: Berlin: 1932-1933

Article excerpt

Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Vol. 12: Berlin: 1932-1933. English Edition, edited by Larry L. Rasmussen and translated by Isabel Best and David Higgins; supplementary material translated by Douglas W Stott. (Minneapolis: Fortress Press. 2009. Pp. xxii, 680. $55.00. ISBN 978-0-800-68312-2.)

Dietrich Bonhoeffer occupies a rare place in history. For example, he was one of the few Christians in Germany never charmed by any portion of what Hitler offered to the beleaguered German people. He, along with the rest of his family, recognized from the start what is acknowleged today- that this regime did not protect but violated moral values. He also occupies a rare place in history as a martyr, executed in April 1945 and now remembered, for example, at Westminster Abbey, where his statue is one of ten in a row of modern martyrs newly placed over the west entrance.

Bonhoeffer also occupies a relatively rare place in publishing, with sixteen thick volumes of his complete works offered to readers of English, thirteen of them now complete. This represents a project of the International Bonhoeffer Society, undertaken to make available in English the sixteen volumes completed in German by 1998. Bonhoeffer is well worth the trouble, on two counts. His life story is one of Christian courage and ethical acumen in response to Hitler and the Holocaust. Nazi horrors were perpetrated by a Christian nation with an extraordinary list of cultural accomplishments. Bonhoeffer's rare voice in opposition- including, finally, participation in the failed plot to assassinate Hitler- has an important place in the history of that period. Additionally, Bonhoeffer's writings increasingly became available and grew in stature during the postwar period, so that he now ranks among the most influential Protestant theologians of the twentieth century.

Volume 12 is of special interest, since it represents a crucial year, starting three months before the rise of Hitler. Born in 1906, Bonhoeffer was only in his mid-twenties at the time, but he had packed many accomplishments into his tender years. He completed his doctorate by age twenty-one and his second dissertation, the German Habilitation, at age twenty-four. He then spent 1930-31 at Union Theological Seminary in New York, befriending Reinhold Niebuhr and learning to know and respect the African American experience of worship at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in neighboring Harlem. Bonhoeffer began lecturing at the University of Berlin in 1931 at age twenty-five; this volume tells us much about his ideas, his students, and his unique approach to the trade of the German professor. …

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