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Dietrich Bonhoeffer


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Dietrich and his twin sister Sabine are born on February 4. Six years later the Bonhoeffers move to Berlin where Dr. Karl Bonhoeffer begins teaching neurology and psychiatry. Dietrich enjoys a comfortable, privileged childhood there.
  • Breslau
  • 1 Jan 1906


The young Bonhoeffer begins theological studies at Tubingen University. Within four years he successfully defends his brilliant and ground-breaking doctoral thesis, Sanctorum Communio ( Communion of Saints), a significantly new way of looking at the nature of the Christian church.
  • Tubingen
  • 1 Jan 1923

New York

Bonhoeffer sails to New York and begins a teaching fellowship at Union Theological Seminary. There he meets, among others,  Frank Fisher, a Black fellow seminarian who introduces him to Abyssinian Baptist Church and the African American church experience. Bonhoeffer hears Adam Clayton Powell preach the Gospel of Social Justice there and he forms a life-long love for Black Gospel music.
  • New York
  • 1 Jan 1930

Returns to Germany

Bonhoeffer returns to Germany.
  • Germany
  • 1 Jan 1931

Radio Address

Dietrich Bonhoeffer during transatlantic crossing - 1931

Hitler is installed as Chancellor. Two days later, Bonhoeffer delivers a radio address on leadership attacking Hitler. He is cut off the air. In November, Bonhoeffer is ordained at St. Matthias Church, Berlin.

  • Berlin
  • 1 Jan 1933

Rise of Hitler and the Third Reich

By April the Aryan Civil Service legislation bans Jews from public employment. Ludwig Müller is appointed Hitler%u2019s representative for the Protestant churches and installed as Reich Bishop of the first-ever national church of Germany. The Pope, Pius XI, signs the Concordat, an agreement with the Third Reich not to interfere, in exchange for assurances that Catholic church will not be attacked.
  • Berlin
  • 1 Jan 1933

Bonhoeffer leaves for England

The Confessing Church is organized at Barmen, Germany, and the Barmen Declaration is adopted, insisting that Christ, not the Fuhrer, is the head of the church. Bonhoeffer leaves for England to head a church for Germans.

On August 2, German President Paul von Hindenburg dies. Hitler proclaimed as both Chancellor and President.

  • Barmen, Germany
  • 1 Jan 1934

Bonhoeffer returns to Germany

Bonhoeffer returns from England to direct the seminary for the Confessing Church in Finkenwalde, Germany. By December, Himmler declares all examinations for the Confessing Church invalid, all training there invalid and all participants liable to arrest.

In September, the Nuremberg Laws are passed, canceling citizenship for German Jews.

  • Finkenwalde
  • 1 Jan 1935

Bonhoeffer removed from Berlin University

In July, the Confessing Church leader and WWI hero Martin Niemöller is arrested. In August, Bonhoeffer’s authorization to teach at Berlin University is withdrawn.

The August Olympic Games in Berlin begin. Hitler is quoted as saying of 4-time gold medal champion Jesse Owens “The Americans should be ashamed of themselves, letting Negroes win their medals for them.” He refuses to shake Owen’s hand.

  • Berlin
  • 1 Jan 1936

Bonhoeffer publishes 'The Cost of Discipleship'

In September the seminary at Finkenwalde is closed by the Gestapo. By November, 27  pastors and former Finkenwalde students are arrested. Also in November, Bonhoeffer publishes The Cost of Discipleship.

Pope Pius XI issues “With Burning Anxiety,” protesting Hitler’s infractions of their earlier agreement, the Concordat of 1933.

  • Finkenwalde?
  • 1 Sep 1937

Contacting the German Resistance

In February Bonhoeffer makes his initial contact with members of the German Resistance. In September he writes Life Together. Bonhoeffer’s sister Sabine, her Jewish husband Gerhard Leibholz and two daughters escape to England by way of Switzerland.

Jewish temple burning - 1938On March 12 Austria is annexed by Germany. In April all German pastors are ordered to take an oath of allegiance to Hitler in recognition of his 50th birthday. On November 9 a nation-wide, organized riot called Kristallnacht takes place, bringing the destruction of nearly 300 synagogues across Germany, the looting of 7,500 Jewish-owned shops, and the arrest of 30,000 Jewish men.

  • Germany
  • 1 Sep 1938

A fateful return to Germany

In June Bonhoeffer returns to the United States for second time. He realizes almost immediately that this was a mistake and he returns to Germany on the last scheduled steamer to cross the Atlantic.

On January 1 all Jewish-owned businesses are liquidated by order of Hermann Göring. In March German troops invade Czechoslovakia. On September 1 Germany invades Poland. Great Britain and France declare war on Germany.

  • USA & Germany
  • 1 Jan 1939

Bonhoeffer is forbidden to speak in public

Bonhoeffer is forbidden to speak in public and is required to report regularly to the police. He spends September and October working on Ethics.

On April 9 German troops invade Denmark and Norway. In May German troops invade Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg and France. By August the Battle of Britain begins; German Luftwaffe bombs London.

  • Germany
  • 9 Apr 1940


Bonhoeffer is forbidden to print or to publish. He makes two trips to Switzerland on behalf of the Resistance.

Hitler shaking hands with Reich Bishop Ludwig MullerIn April German troops invade Yugoslavia and Greece. In June they invade the Soviet Union. By September a decree requires all German Jews to wear a yellow star stitched to their clothing. In October the first deportations of Jews from Berlin begin and the first gas chambers are installed at Auschwitz, Poland. On December 7 Japan attacks Pearl Harbor and the United States joins the war effort.

  • Enter a place
  • 1 Oct 1941

Continued work with the Resistance

In April Bonhoeffer visits Norway and Sweden. In May he meets in Sweden with the British Bishop Bell, a member of Parliament, on behalf of the Resistance.
  • Norway and Sweden
  • 1 May 1942


  • Enter a place
  • 17 Oct 2006

Contributor: chris
Created: October 17, 2006 · Modified: August 31, 2010

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