An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich

(Feb. 4, 1906-Apr. 9, 1945). Pastor and theologian. He was born in Breslau, Germany. Bonhoeffer began his theological studies at Tübingen University but moved to Berlin University. In 1927 he received the licentiate in theology, summa cum laude, and defended his doctoral dissertation. It was published as The Communion of Saints (1927). In 1929 Bonhoeffer became assistant professor in systematic theology at Berlin University. The next year, he published his second dissertation, Act and Being (1930). On Sept. 5, 1930, he began a year of theological studies at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. In 1931 he was appointed youth secretary of the World Alliance for Promoting International Friendship through the Churches. On May 29-31, 1934, the Confessing Church, to which Bonhoeffer belonged, issued the Barmen Declaration, which repudiated the claims of National Socialism and upheld the lordship of Christ. In 1936 his authorization to teach at Berlin University was terminated because of his resistance to the powers of Nazi Germany. He was declared a “pacifist and enemy of the State.” In 1939 he went to the United States again, but decided he must return to Germany and suffer with his people. On Sept. 9, 1940, Bonhoeffer was prohibited from public speaking and ordered to report regularly to the police. Because of his opposition to Hitler and the Nazi regime, he was arrested on Apr. 3, 1943, and held in Tegel Prison, Berlin. On Apr. 9, 1945, he was hanged with six other Hitler resisters. Among his most popular books are The Cost of Discipleship (1937), Life Together (1938), and Letters & Papers from Prison (1944). Bonhoeffer is commemorated in the Episcopal calendar of the church year on Apr. 9.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.