Back to the Future – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I am glad my sons and daughter are past the age of the draft. Can you imagine a WW III with nukes and egos like Putin, Trump, Kim Jong-un, Xi Jinping and Ahmadinejad?

In school (which I didn’t like much), I oft times questioned, “Why are we studying history?” It was so boring and seemingly pointless. The only exception for me was my perverse fascination with Hitler. I wondered how he could get a whole nation to follow him in the brutal genocide of so many women and children, and how he could turn a generation of men and boys into cold blooded killers.

That interest has followed me to adulthood. Recently, I read a book about Dietrich Bonhoeffer who was a pastor, prophet, spy and martyr in Germany during WWII. He is called a prophet because when the populace didn’t believe Hitler had a chance of getting onto the voting ballot, Pastor Bonhoeffer sensed he was a dangerous man with a selfish agenda. Then, when Hitler did make it onto the general election ballot, he was not taken seriously by many at the time. Bonhoeffer’s apprehension grew. He recognized Hitler’s seductive appeal to Germans. Hitler campaigned across Germany with his platform of making Germany Great Again, fear mongering and bigotry. Before anyone knew it, Hitler was elected and his message became mandated and sinister.

As promised in his election campaign, Hitler immediately waged war on Russia but then his greed escalated, pushing him into Poland and the slaughtering of Jews. To build his army, he enacted the draft. Young men were faced with the choice of killing or be killed by a firing squad.

Hitler’s pre-election religion propaganda culminated into a government takeover of churches that were instructed to comply or lose their funding. Pastors were not exempt from the draft. Their sermons had to be Reich approved, which left little to preach about except Antisemitism. This was the turning point for Bonhoeffer.  He began plotting the assassination of Hitler.

Inside Germany, the growing coo had no support from Winston Churchill and Roosevelt. They were hindered by slow communications and suspicion of the Germans. Eventually, Bonhoeffer and other German patriots and military officers would be discovered and martyred.

Now, some 4 decades after school, I know why history is important. You must remember it and learn from it, lest you repeat it.


History is a detective hunt.