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“Message of peace and courage”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was murdered by the Nazis. A film is being made in the USA about him and his particular links with the United States.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer pictured in 1939
Dietrich Bonhoeffer pictured in 1939. © picture-alliance/akg-images

At the time of the Nazi dictatorship, there were few Germans who opposed National Socialism as resolutely as Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945). A Protestant theologian, he was hanged at Flossenbürg concentration camp shortly before the end of the Second World War. A feature film is currently being made in memory of this extraordinary personality in the USA.

Who was Dietrich Bonhoeffer?

Born in Breslau in 1906, Dietrich Bonhoeffer had already joined the church’s opposition to National Socialism by 1933, the year Hitler seized power. During the Second World War, the Protestant theologian used his ecumenical contacts to forge links between Western governments and the German resistance. He was imprisoned in 1943 and executed at Flossenbürg concentration camp on 9 April 1945, shortly before the camp was liberated by the US army.

What links did Bonhoeffer have with the USA?

Bonhoeffer went to New York in 1930, where he studied at the Union Theological Seminary. This was a key period for him in which he travelled around the USA making friends and coming under the formative influence of such groups as the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem. According to a biography, engaging in direct dialogue with members of the church community was something he regarded as “one of his most significant and gratifying experiences” in America, though he found it “shocking” to see the disadvantages suffered by black people in the USA. Bonhoeffer travelled to the USA once again in 1939 at the invitation of friends but returned to Germany six weeks later, just before the start of the Second World War.

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What sort of film is currently being made about Bonhoeffer?

Due for release in US cinemas in November 2024, “Bonhoeffer” is an exciting biopic with thriller-like elements that deals with the time Bonhoeffer spent in the USA and also his resistance to Nazi terror. Young German actor Jonas Dassler takes on the leading role, while the cast also includes August Diehl (“Inglourious Basterds”), Moritz Bleibtreu (“Run Lola Run”) and Flula Borg, who comes from Germany and is primarily known in the USA as a comedian. Director and author Todd Komarnicki stresses that Bonhoeffer’s “message of peace and courage” is just as important today as it was during the Second World War.