Tag Archives: Nazi Germany

July 1945 – Dietrich Bonhoeffer – Service of Remembrance – Holy Trinity Church – Brompton Road – London


“In July 1945, just three months after Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s execution, a service of remembrance in celebration of his life was held at the Holy Trinity church, just off the Brompton Road in London.

“To many who had suffered the trials and sacrifices of the war, holding a service in the British capital to remember a dead German was incomprehensible, distasteful and disturbing. The public prints were especially critical of the event. Nevertheless, the memorial service for Bonhoeffer’s life was full to overflowing.

“Speaking of his murdered friend, Bishop George Bell, who had tried so hard to make the voice of the German resistance heard by those who led the Western Allies, said: 

‘Dietrich has gone…our debt to [him] and to all others similarly murdered is immense. His death is a death for Germany – indeed for Europe too…He was inspired by his faith in the living God and his devotion to truth and honour. As one of a noble company of martyrs of different traditions, he represents the resistance to the living God to the assaults of evil, but also the moral and political revolt of the human conscience against injustice and cruelty’.

“In 1998, empty niches above the Great West Door of Westminster Abbey were filled with the statues of ten ‘modern martyrs’. One of them is Dietrich Bonhoeffer”.

~ Source: “Nein! Standing Up To Hitler 1935-1944” – Paddy Ashdown [in collaboration with Sylvie Young] – Collins 2018 – Page 310.

April 10 2019 -“Never forget: Recalling the Death of Bonhoeffer” – Deacon Greg Kandra


Never Forget: Recalling the Death of Bonhoeffer

German Federal Archives/Wikipedia

The great preacher, writer, theologian and witness to the faith, Dietrich Bonhoeffer,was executed on April 9, 1945, just days before the Nazi camp where he was held, Flossenbürg, was liberated. He was 39.

Here’s what happened: 

On 4 April 1945, the diaries of Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, head of the Abwehr, were discovered, and in a rage upon reading them, Hitler ordered that the Abwehr conspirators [those who had plotted for Hitler’s assassination] be destroyed. 

Bonhoeffer was led away just as he concluded his final Sunday service and asked an English prisoner, Payne Best, to remember him to Bishop George Bell of Chichester if he should ever reach his home: “This is the end—for me the beginning of life.”

Bonhoeffer was condemned to death on 8 April 1945 by SS judge Otto Thorbeck at a drumhead court-martial without witnesses, records of proceedings or a defense in Flossenbürg concentration camp.  He was executed there by hanging at dawn on 9 April 1945, just two weeks before soldiers from the United States 90th and 97th Infantry Divisions liberated the camp,  three weeks before the Soviet capture of Berlin and a month before the surrender of Nazi Germany.

Bonhoeffer was stripped of his clothing and led naked into the execution yard where he was hanged, along with fellow conspirators Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, Canaris’s deputy General Hans Oster, military jurist General Karl Sack, General Friedrich von Rabenau, businessman Theodor Strünck, and German resistance fighter Ludwig Gehre.

Eberhard Bethge, a student and friend of Bonhoeffer’s, writes of a man who saw the execution: “I saw Pastor Bonhoeffer… kneeling on the floor praying fervently to God. I was most deeply moved by the way this lovable man prayed, so devout and so certain that God heard his prayer…In the almost fifty years that I worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.”

His legacy has been profound:

Bonhoeffer’s life as a pastor and theologian of great intellect and spirituality who lived as he preached—and his being killed because of his opposition to Nazism—exerted great influence and inspiration for Christians across broad denominations and ideologies, such as Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, the anti-communist democratic movement in Eastern Europe during the Cold War, and the anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa.

Bonhoeffer is commemorated in the liturgical calendars of several Christian denominations on the anniversary of his death, 9 April. This includes many parts of the Anglican Communion, where he is sometimes identified as a martyr.

In our own troubled time, Bonhoeffer’s courage in the face of evil, and his suffering in the face of persecution, stand as a testament to true Christian witness — the very essence of what it means to be a “martyr.”

His likeness is preserved in Westminster Abbey, alongside other martyrs, including St. Oscar Romero and Martin Luther King, Jr.

He continues to teach and inspire Christians today.

“The first service one owes to others in a community involves listening to them,” he wrote. “Just as our love for God begins with listening to God’s Word, the beginning of love for others is learning to listen to them. God’s love for us is shown by the fact that God not only gives God’s Word but also lends us God’s ear. . . . We do God’s work for our brothers and sisters when we learn to listen to them.”

He also urged us to be open to God’s will in our lives, whatever that may be.

“We must be ready,” he said, “to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, pray for us.

“Has the 1662 Prayer Book become a subversive text? A Service in Memory of George Bell?” – Peter Hitchens – October 5 2016

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05 October 2016 1:15 PM

Has the 1662 Prayer Book become a subversive text? A service in memory of George Bell

I have long thought that the 1662 Book of Common Prayer (actually its first version was written in 1549)  would eventually become a subversive document.

Increasingly, its sentiments are revolutionary not only in the Christian sense (which calls for an uninterrupted lifelong revolution in the human soul) but in that they subvert to accepted beliefs of today. In almost every conceivable way, from its insistence upon lifelong marriage to its finely-carved but stony insistence on moral absolutes, confession and judgement, it rebls against the ad hoc, temporal ethics of the day.

To attend a service properly conducted according to its order in a building of the Anglican tradition, is to see an expression in architecture, music and poetry of Immanuel Kant’s conclusion from his ‘Critique of Practical Reason’, carved on his tombstone in Koenigsberg, which has somehow survived the storms of war and Communism even while that once-pagan city became first an outpost of Hitler’s evil empire and then, after 1945,  a fortress of Soviet Communism closed to the outside world:  ‘Two things fill the mind with ever-new and increasing wonder and awe, the more often and the more seriously reflection concentrates upon them: the starry heave n above me and the moral law within me’.

Such a service took place late on Monday afternoon at the church of St Michael’s, Cornhill, in the heart of the old City of London.

It was to commemorate the day in the Church calendar in which the life of the late Bishop George Bell is supposed to be marked. Following accusations of child abuse against Bishop Bell, the Church has tended to draw back from commemorating him, removing his name from a guest house at Chichester Cathedral and from two Church schools, as well as acting in many other ways as if this accusation is proven, which it is not. Many who value George Bell’s reputation felt that there needed to be a firm answer to this, not just because his memory as man of principle is too valuable to be cast aside on the basis of a single, uncorroborated, untested allegation from many decades ago; but because his reputation as a courageous defender of truth requires that he himself is treated according to his own principles.

The order of service (attended by a congregation of about 50, including  some senior clergy, by relatives of Bishop Bell and by readers of this weblog) was almost entirely from the 1662 book and in its tradition. Bible lessons were read from the 1611 Authorised Version, which preserves the same poetic, mysterious form of language. The music included Purcell’s great anthem ‘Rejoice in the Lord Alway’ and the 27th Psalm with its searing lines ‘Though an host of men were laid against me, yet shall not my heart be afraid; and though there rose up war against me, yet will I put my trust in him…’

Perhaps more pointedly it contained the opening hymn ‘Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation’, written in the 17th century in German by Joachim Neander and brilliantly translated by the Victorian Catherine Winkworth, especially two rather fierce verses which are far too seldom sung by the modern Church of England:

‘Praise to the Lord, who, when tempests their warfare are waging,
who, when the elements madly around thee are raging,
biddeth them cease,
turneth their fury to peace,
whirlwinds and waters assuaging.

Praise to the Lord, who, when darkness of sin is abounding,
who, when the godless do triumph, all virtue confounding,
sheddeth his light,
chaseth the horrors of night,
saints with his mercy surrounding.’

This was one of many German references in the service, given the high reputation Bell has among German Christians because of his early and dedicated support for the Christian resistance to Hitler,  his advocacy for refugees from Hitler in Britain and his refusal to allow loathing for Nazism to become anti-German feeling, even at the height of war, epitomised by his opposition to the deliberate bombing of German civilians. (Bell’s own hymn (he was a poet as well as a great patron of the arts) ‘Christ is the King’  was sung to music from, Vulpius’s ‘Gesangbuch’, and the organ voluntary was of course by J.S.Bach. The Old Testament lesson from Isaiah Chapter 2, and its reference to swords into ploughshares, recalled Bell’s loathing of war (though he was by no means a pacifist and insisted instead that war must be waged justly).


The New Testament lesson, from the Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 25, , describes an attempt to condemn St Paul through a kangaroo court, and the response of the just Roman, Festus , to this: ‘It is not the manner of the Romans to deliver any man to die, before that he which is accused have the accusers face to face, and have licence to answer for himself concerning the crime laid against him’.

Well, quite. Doesn’t everyone think that? Not, alas, in this case.