Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Theologian and Martyr 1945

Today marks the 66th anniversary of the martyrdom of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. There’s a brief bio on the Holy Women, Holy Men blog. Bonhoeffer was both a powerful witness and martyr to the faith, and a challenging theologian.

A recent book by Martin Marty explores the history of his Letters and Papers from Prison, which his close friend, confidant, and biographer Eberhard Bethge edited and published. Here’s an excerpt. Here’s more on the series “The Lives of Great Religious Books” to which Marty’s book belongs.

Included in the Letters and Papers is the poem “Who am I.” Here’s an English translation that first appeared in the March 4, 1946 issue of Christianity and Crisis:

Who am I? They often tell me

I stepped from my cell’s confinement

Calmly, cheerfully, firmly,

Like a squire from his country-house.

Who am I? They often tell me

I used to speak to my warders

Freely and friendly and clearly,

As though it were mine to command.

Who am I? They also tell me

I bore the days of misfortune

Equally, smilingly, proudly,

Like one accustomed to win.

Am I then really all that which other men tell of?

Or am I only what I myself know of myself?

Restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage,

Struggling for breath, as though hands were

compressing my throat,

Yearning for colors, for flowers, for the voices of birds,

Thirsting for words of kindness, for neighborliness,

Tossing in expectation of great events,

Powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance,

Weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making,

Faint, and ready to say farewell to it all?

Who am I? This or the other?

Am I one person today and tomorrow another?

Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,

And before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling?

Or is something within me still like a beaten army,

Fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?

Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.

Whoever I am, Thou knowest, 0 God, I am Thine!

From Religion Online.

2 thoughts on “Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Theologian and Martyr 1945

  1. Thank you for the reminder as well as for the poem that i had not run into before. If you I find myself thinking of him often during the theological disputes of the present, especially the recent kerfluffle over “Love Wins”.

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