Vividly and concisely written, critical as well as appreciative, and containing material never before published in English, this new biography paints a memorable portrait of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the great German theologian hanged by the Nazis in 1945. Portraying the complexity of Bonhoeffer’s personality and the difficult, lonely course his life took, Wind especially brings out Bonhoeffer’s early realization of the horror of Nazi treatment of the Jews, and despite misunderstanding by fellow church members, his brave involvement in the resistance against Hitler, his resolve to become “a spoke in the wheel.”
Wind’s fresh but brief biography should contribute to the growing interest in Bonhoeffer, the German theologian executed by the Nazis for his part in an attempt to assassinate Hitler. The love that Wind (a teacher and minister in Germany) feels for her subject shines through her every word, but she never lets the book slip into hagiography. The portrait of the martyr that emerges is one of an independent, driven, tormented man, given to narcissism. Of particular interest to readers more acquainted with Bonhoeffer’s life will be the accounts of his early career in Spain, Britain and the United States; Wind details the impact, for instance, of his time at Union Theological Seminary in New York, where he encountered racism. Ultimately, Bonhoeffer gave up a comfortable, safe teaching job in the United States to return to stand with his nation in its time of trial, speaking out as early as 1933 against the treatment of the Jews. Bonhoeffer’s example continues to inspire, and Wind’s book shows readers why. Well-researched and documented, using sources not available in English, and written in a breezy, conversational style, it should appeal to a broad audience.
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