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Dietrich Bonhoeffer: The Political Activist

Among the most powerful and enigmatic figures of the past century was German pastor, theologian and author Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He was born in Breslau, Germany, in 1906. In the late 1930s, he became one of Germany’s most prominent resistance activists. Arrested in 1943, he was moved from prison to prison for two years before being hanged at the Flossenburg concentration camp less than a month before Germany surrendered. His anti-Nazi theological and political resistance, together with his condemnation of anti-Semitism, cost him his life, and moved his contemporaries to call him a modern Christian martyr.

His work and life were celebrated at a remarkable symposium held at Boston University recently. Entitled “Faith and Resistance: The Struggle of a German Theologian Against the Nazi Terror,” the symposium featured two major panels. The first panel discussed Bonhoeffer’s historical and political relevance. The second panel focused on the theological and educational Bonhoeffer.

This week’s show featured excerpts from the first panel. Professor of Literature and Religion Geoffrey Hill, Professor of History Dietrich Orlow, and former U.S. ambassador to Tanzania Charles R. Stith were among the panel’s speakers. We also presented brief remarks from Boston University Professor of Worship Horace T. Allen Jr, who was close to several of Bonhoeffer’s lifelong friends.