Bonhoeffer the Assassin? Challenging the Myth, Recovering His Call to Peacemaking.
Mark Thiessen Nation, Anthony G. Siegrist, and Daniel P. Umbel.
Paperback: Baker Academic, 2013.
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Reviewed by Shaun C. Brown
“Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906–45), a pastor and theologian, is perhaps best known today for his involvement in the conspiracy to topple the Hitler government, which included his involvement to kill Hitler, leading to Bonhoeffer’s subsequent execution at the hands of the Third Reich” (1). Since Eric Metaxas’s biography introduced Bonhoeffer to a wider audience, this opening statement carries even more weight. This plot usually says that through his theological study, Bonhoeffer came to hold some form of pacifist position, but when faced with the cold reality of Nazi Germany, he abandoned his pacifism, embraced a Reinhold Niebuhr-like realism perspective, and joined the plot to kill Hitler.
Mark Thiessen Nation, along with two of his former students, Anthony G. Siegrist, and Daniel P. Umbel challenge this understanding of Bonhoeffer’s life and work. In particular, “[W]e will argue that it is highly unlikely Bonhoeffer was involved in any assassination attempts. And since he was not involved in such attempts, there is no textual evidence that he attempted to justify such attempts” (13). Part 1 consists of a sketch of Bonhoeffer’s biography, while part 2 analyzes his writings.