With extensive commentary about their historical context and theological significance, this volume of writings covers a crucial time and an understudied period of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s life. It begins during the final period of his illegal work in training Confessing Church seminarians and concludes as he begins his activities in the German resistance. Bridging these two periods is his brief journey to the United States in summer 1939, when he pondered and ultimately rejected a move to the safety of exile. Bonhoeffer’s writings from this transitional period, particularly his New York diary, offer a rare and more deeply personal picture of Bonhoeffer in a time of great inner turmoil.
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Banned by the Gestapo in 1937 from preaching and teaching, Bonhoeffer went through a period of existential insecurity. How could he best uphold his forthright Christian witness against Nazi totalitarian claims? One recourse was to maintain his theological education activities underground and illegally. Another was to go abroad and thus avoid conscription for military service. But a quick visit to New York in the summer of 1939 convinced him that such an exile would be a mistake. He had too many ties to his family, his seminarians, and to his country. He returned to Germany just before Hitler launched his wars of aggression in September 1939. This meticulously edited and translated collection of Bonhoeffer’s letters and papers for this period describes his often traumatic dilemmas, both theological and personal, in his attempt to remain true to his vocation in these critical years of conflict and confrontation.
—John S. Conway, author, The Nazi Persecution of the Churches 1933–1945
This is one of the most absorbing and illuminating volumes of the Bonhoeffer collected works, giving us the Bonhoeffer who struggled under terrible circumstances in Nazi Germany to provide seminary training worthy of the Christian name, even as he struggled with fundamental decisions about his future. We are indebted to the editors and translators for another superb volume in this series.
—Gary Dorrien, Reinhold Niebuhr Professor of Social Ethics, Union Theological Seminary Professor of Religion, Columbia University
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906–1945) a German theologian, pastor, and ecumenist, was a professor in Berlin, an uncompromising teacher in the Confessing Church, and a consistent opponent of National Socialism. Executed by Hitler at the end of World War II, his influence continues today as one of the most important theologians of the twentieth century.