Bonhoeffer Student Edition: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy

Bonhoeffer Student Edition: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy

by Eric Metaxas
Bonhoeffer Student Edition: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy

Bonhoeffer Student Edition: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy

by Eric Metaxas


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What would you do if your faith could cost you your life?

The fascinating story of one of Christianity’s most courageous heroes, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, is now abridged and adapted for students. This compelling account of Bonhoeffer’s remarkable testimony—combined with historical, theological, and political elements and enhanced with photos—brings the story to life. How did Bonhoeffer become someone who would defend God’s truth, even when it was a matter of life and death? How did he endure the hardships that came with his faithfulness? How might we respond similarly to injustices today?

New York Times bestselling author Eric Metaxas vividly portrays the struggles and faith of Bonhoeffer, a man who had the courage to follow his convictions into Nazi Germany and stand up for the truth of God.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780718021641
Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
Publication date: 05/05/2015
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 1,190,408
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.75(d)
Age Range: 10 - 14 Years

About the Author

Eric Metaxas is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther, If You Can Keep It, Miracles, Seven Women, Seven Men, and Amazing Grace. His books have been translated into more than twenty-five languages. His writing has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and the New Yorker, and Metaxas has appeared as a cultural commentator on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC. He is the host of The Eric Metaxas Radio Show, a daily nationally syndicated show aired in 120 U.S. cities and on TBN. Metaxas is also the founder of Socrates in the City, the acclaimed series of conversations on “life, God, and other small topics,” featuring Malcolm Gladwell, Ambassador Caroline Kennedy, Baroness Caroline Cox, and Dick Cavett, among many others. He is a senior fellow and lecturer at large at the King’s College in Manhattan, where he lives with his wife and daughter.

Read an Excerpt


Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy


Thomas Nelson

Copyright © 2015 Eric Metaxas
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-7180-2244-0



JULY 27, 1945, LONDON

We have troubles all around us, but we are not defeated. We do not know what to do, but we do not give up the hope of living. We are persecuted, but God does not leave us. We are hurt sometimes, but we are not destroyed. We carry the death of Jesus in our own bodies so that the life of Jesus can also be seen in our bodies.


Peace had at last returned to Europe. The war that came to be known as World War II had been over for two months. The tyrant Adolf Hitler took his own life in a gray bunker beneath his shattered capitol in Berlin, and the Allies declared victory.

Slowly, slowly, life in Britain turned to the task of rebuilding itself from the rubble. It was the first summer of peace in six years. But as if to prove that the whole thing hadn't been just a terrible nightmare, awful news kept pouring in. Evidence began to emerge of the death camps and the many other unspeakable acts carried out by the Nazis against millions of Jews—and anyone else who dared to go against them.

Rumors of such horrors had been whispered about throughout the war, but now they were confirmed by shocking photographs, newsreel footage, and eyewitness accounts from the soldiers who had freed the camps' prisoners during the last days of the war. The truth of all that the Nazis had done was worse than anyone had imagined. The world was stunned by the very evilness of the Nazis' evil.

At the beginning of the war, it had been possible to separate the Nazi government from the German people and to see that not all Germans were Nazis. But as the war raged on—and as more and more British fathers and sons and brothers died—telling the difference between Nazis and Germans became more difficult. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill decided to use this to his advantage during the fighting. By making the Germans and the Nazis into a single, hated enemy, he believed it would be easier to defeat them and put an end to the nightmare of the war.

But not all Germans were Nazis. Some Germans, known as the German resistance, were actually working inside Germany to defeat Hitler and the Nazis. The resistance reached out to Churchill and the British government for help. They hoped to work together with the British to defeat the Nazis, but they were turned away. The resistance wanted to tell the world that some Germans trapped inside Nazi Germany felt as much pain as the rest of the world did. But no one was interested in what they had to say. It was simply too late. Churchill thought it was simpler to tell the British people that there were no good Germans. Some even said that the only good German was a dead German.

But now the war was over. And even as the full evil of the Nazis' Third Reich was coming to light, the other side of things had to be seen too. Perhaps all Germans weren't evil after all.

And so on this day, July 27, 1945, in the Holy Trinity Church in London, a service was taking place that some people struggled to understand. For many it was deeply disturbing, especially for those who had lost loved ones during the war. This was because the memorial service being held this day on British soil was for a German who had died three months earlier. The news of his death had been hidden in the fog of war and was only now slowly becoming known. Most of his friends and family still knew nothing about it. But here in London there were gathered those few who did.

In the pews of the church sat the man's thirty-nine-year-old twin sister, her half-Jewish husband, and their two girls. It had been this man who had helped them slip out of Germany before the war, driving at night across the border into Switzerland. The dead man counted among his friends a number of important people, including George Bell, a bishop in the Church of England. It was Bell who had arranged the service, for he had known and loved the man being honored. They had met years before when they both worked to warn Europe about the Nazis' evil plans. Later, they had also worked together to try to rescue Jews and to bring the German resistance to the attention of the British government.

* * *

Far away in Berlin, the capital of Germany, in a three-story house, an elderly couple sat by their radio. Together, the couple had raised eight children, four boys and four girls. Their second son had been killed in the First World War. For a whole year, his young mother had been crushed by grief. Twenty-seven years later, a second war would take two more boys from her. Her husband was the most respected psychiatrist in Germany. And even though they knew it was dangerous, they had both spoken out against Hitler from the beginning. They were proud of their sons and sons-in-law who had worked to bring his evil reign to an end. But when the war ended at last, they didn't know what had happened to their sons. A month before they sat down by their radio, they had finally heard that their third son, Klaus, had been killed. But they still knew nothing about their youngest son, Dietrich. Then a neighbor told them that the BBC radio would broadcast a memorial service the next day from London. It was for Dietrich.

When the time for the service came, the old couple turned on their radio. As they listened, they took in the hard news that the good man who was their son was now dead. At the same time, many British people took in the hard news that the dead man—who was a German—was also a good man.

The man who died was engaged to be married. He was a pastor and a theologian. And he was executed for his role in the plot to assassinate—to kill—Adolf Hitler. The man's name was Dietrich Bonhoeffer. This is his story.




The rich world of his ancestors set the standards for Dietrich Bonhoeffer's own life. It gave him a certainty of judgment and manner that cannot be acquired in a single generation.


That old couple listening to the radio in 1945 met for the first time at a party in the winter of 1896. Their names were Karl Bonhoeffer and Paula von Hase. Years later, Karl wrote, "There I met a young, fair, blue-eyed girl ... as soon as she entered the room she took me captive. This moment when I first laid eyes upon my future wife remains in my memory with an almost mystical force."

Karl and Paula married on March 5, 1898, just three weeks before the groom's thirtieth birthday. The bride was twenty-two. He was a doctor, and she was a teacher. They both came from respected and well-known families.

Karl and Paula had eight children within ten years. Both Karl-Friedrich and Walter were born in 1899—one in January and the other in December. Their third son, Klaus, was born in 1901, followed by two daughters, Ursula in 1902 and Christine in 1903. On February 4, 1906, their fourth and youngest son, Dietrich, was born ten minutes before his twin sister, Sabine. He teased her about this head start throughout their lives. Susanne, the last child, was born in 1909. Dietrich was the only child to inherit his mother's fair skin and straw-colored hair. The others were dark like their father.

All the Bonhoeffer children were born in the city of Breslau, Germany, which is now a part of Poland. There, Karl Bonhoeffer was head of psychiatry and neurology at the university, as well as director of a hospital for nervous diseases. The Bonhoeffers lived in a gigantic, rambling, three-story mansion with gabled roofs, lots of chimneys, a screened porch, and a balcony that overlooked a large garden where the children played.

The parents took great joy in their children and encouraged their interests. One room became a zoo for the children's pets, which included rabbits, guinea pigs, turtledoves, squirrels, lizards, and snakes. There were also collections of birds' eggs, mounted beetles, and butterflies. Another room was set up as a dolls' house for the girls. Still another room was the boys' workshop, complete with tools and a carpenter's bench.

Their mother was in charge of the home. Trusted governesses helped look after the children, but it was Paula who taught them their lessons in an upstairs schoolroom. As a single woman, Paula had taken the teacher's examination. As a married woman, she used her skills to teach her young children. When they were a bit older, she sent them to the local public schools, where they made excellent grades.

Paula also oversaw the children's religious schooling. She felt it was important to teach them the basics of theology, which is the study of God and God's relation to the world in everyday life. Long before they knew that little Dietrich would grow up to be a pastor and theologian himself, they wrote down some of his earliest thoughts about God. Once, when he was about four years old, he asked his mother: "Does the good God love the chimney sweep too?" and "Does God, too, sit down to lunch?"

Though they believed in God, the Bonhoeffers rarely went to church. The family was not against the church—in fact, the children loved to "play" at baptizing each other—but their Christianity was mostly carried out at home. Daily life was filled with Bible reading and hymn singing, all of it led by Paula Bonhoeffer.

Paula Bonhoeffer's faith was clearly seen in the values that she and her husband taught their children. Selflessness, generosity, and helping others were very important in their family. Still, the children were not perfect. Their governess remembered this:

Dietrich was often mischievous and got up to various pranks, not always at the [proper] time. I remember that Dietrich specially liked to do this when the children were supposed to get washed and dressed quickly because we had been invited to go out. So one such day he was dancing round the room, singing and being a thorough [pest]. Suddenly the door opened, his mother descended upon him, boxed his ears right and left, and was gone. Then the nonsense was over. Without shedding a tear, he now did what he ought.

Though Karl Bonhoeffer would not have called himself a Christian, he respected his wife's desire to share her Christian beliefs with their children. Paula had grown up in a family that was devoted to God, and she was quite serious about her faith. Through her teachings and her example, she passed this faith down to all her children, especially Dietrich.


In 1912, Dietrich's father took a job as the head of psychiatry and neurology in Berlin, at one of the world's best universities. This put him at the top of his field in all of Germany. The move to Berlin was a big change for the family. Their new house was not as grand as their old house, and their yard was smaller. But it had the honor of sharing a wall with Bellevue Park, where the royal princes and princesses played.

In 1913, seven-year-old Dietrich began school outside the home. He did well in school, but he was not beyond needing discipline, which his parents were quick to give. "Dietrich does his work naturally and tidily," his father wrote. "He likes fighting, and does a great deal of it."


After the move to Berlin, the Bonhoeffers spent the summer of 1914 in a country house in the mountains nearby. But on the first day of August, while the three younger children and their governess were in the village enjoying themselves, the world changed: Germany had declared war on Russia. For some time, tensions between the countries of the European continent had begun to rise as they each strived to gain more power and more land. Germany and Austria-Hungary had allied themselves against Russia and Serbia. So, when Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Serbia, those tensions exploded into a war that would quickly consume much of the world.

It was the beginning of the Great War, which would later come to be known as World War I. Dietrich and Sabine were eight and a half years old. Sabine remembered the scene:

The village was celebrating its local shooting festival. Our governess suddenly dragged us away from the pretty, enticing market stalls and the merry-go-round which was being pulled by a poor white horse, so as to bring us back as quickly as possible to our parents in Berlin.... In the late evening we could hear through the window the songs and shouts of the soldiers in their farewell celebrations. Next day, after the adults had hastily done the packing, we found ourselves sitting in the train to Berlin.

When the children arrived back home, one of the girls ran into the house and exclaimed, "Hurrah! There's a war!" She was firmly corrected. The Bonhoeffers were not completely against the war, but they would not celebrate it.

For the most part, however, the boys were thrilled, though they were more careful about showing it. Dietrich's brothers wouldn't turn eighteen and be able to fight in the army until 1917, which was three years away. No one dreamed the war could last that long. But they could at least get caught up in the whole thing and talk about it as the grown-ups did. Dietrich often played at soldiers with his cousins, and he collected newspaper articles about events at the front lines of the war. Like many boys, he made a map and stuck colored pins into it, marking the Germans' movements across Europe.


In time, though, the hard realities of war came home. A cousin was killed. Then another. Another cousin lost a leg. Another had an eye shot out and a leg severely crushed. Yet another cousin died. Food grew scarce. Even for the well-to-do Bonhoeffers, hunger became an issue. Dietrich turned out to be especially good at tracking down food supplies. In fact, his father praised him for his skill as a "messenger and food scout." Dietrich even saved up his own money to buy a hen for eggs.

As the war continued, the Bonhoeffers heard of more deaths and injuries among their circle of friends. In 1917, their two oldest boys, Karl-Friedrich and Walter, were called to fight in the war. Walter had been preparing for this moment since the war broke out, taking long hikes with extra weights in his backpack to make himself stronger. Karl-Friedrich actually took his physics textbook to war with him. In 1917, things were still looking very well for Germany. They were confident they would win the war. Walter left home in April 1918. As the train was pulling away from the station, Paula Bonhoeffer ran alongside it, telling her son: "It's only space that separates us."


Walter was injured by an exploding shell on April 23, just two weeks after leaving home. The doctors hadn't thought the wounds were serious and wrote the family to tell them not to worry. But an infection developed, and his condition worsened. From his sickbed, Walter sent a letter to his parents:

My dears, ... I am using my technique of thinking of other things so as not to think of the pain. There are more interesting things in the world just now than my wounds.... I think of you with longing, my dears, every minute of the long days and nights.

From so far away, your Walter.

He died three hours later.

Walter's death changed everything. Sabine wrote:

I can still remember that bright morning in May and the terrible shadow which suddenly blotted it out for us.... [W]hen a messenger brought us two telegrams I remained standing in the hall. I saw my father hastily open the envelopes, turn terribly white, go into his study and sink into the chair at his desk where he sat bowed over it with his head resting on both his arms, his face hidden in his hands.

Later, the family received other letters that Walter had written in the few days before his death, saying how he had hoped they might visit. His father never stopped wishing they had.

Walter's death was a turning point for Dietrich. War had ripped apart his family. The first hymn at Walter's funeral service was "Jerusalem, Thou City Fair and High." Dietrich sang loudly and clearly, as his mother always wanted the family to do. And she did, too, drawing strength from the song's words, which spoke of God's promise to "wipe away every tear."

Dietrich's other brother Karl-Friedrich continued to fight in the army. The terrible but very real possibility that they might lose him, too, only added to his mother's heartbreak. Then her seventeen-year-old son Klaus was called up to join the army. It was too much. Paula collapsed. For several weeks, she stayed with neighbors, unable to get out of bed.


In November of 1918, everything changed yet again: Germany lost the war.

The confusion that followed was unlike anything Germany had ever seen before. Just a few months earlier, they had been on the verge of victory. What had happened? Many blamed the Communists—those people who believed that all property should belong to the government and that the wealth of a country should be equally shared by all of its people. There were rumors that the Communists had spread confusion within the army. Many said they had turned the soldiers against their own government and had "stabbed it in the back." People were outraged and threatened violence in the streets.


Excerpted from Bonhoeffer by ERIC METAXAS. Copyright © 2015 Eric Metaxas. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1: The End, 1945, 1,
Chapter 2: A Mischievous Boy and the Great War, 1896–1921, 7,
Chapter 3: Off to University, 1923–1927, 23,
Chapter 4: Venturing Abroad, 1928–1930, 33,
Chapter 5: A New Way of Seeing the Church, 1930–1933, 43,
Chapter 6: Nazi Lies, 1933, 53,
Chapter 7: Worshiping God ... or Hitler?, 1933–1934, 73,
Chapter 8: Secret Seminaries, 1934–1937, 93,
Chapter 9: Rumblings of War, 1937–1939, 115,
Chapter 10: The Great Decision, 1939, 131,
Chapter 11: From Pastor to Spy, 1940–1942, 141,
Chapter 12: Meeting Maria, 1942–1943, 157,
Chapter 13: Cell 92, 1943–1944, 167,
Chapter 14: The Conspiracy Fails, 1944–1945, 185,
Chapter 15: On the Road to Freedom, 1945, 197,
Chapter 16: The Martyr, 1945, 215,
List of Key Words and People, 221,
Notes, 231,
About the Author, 245,

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