April 9: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Theologian, Martyr, 1945


When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne; they cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before thou wilt judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell upon the earth?” Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.

Revelation 6.9-11


On this day in 1945, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was taken by his Nazi captors from his cell where he had been imprisoned for treason, and was hanged. Bonhoeffer was a remarkable man — a brilliant theologian and extraordinary pastor. From the first days of the Nazi accession to power in 1933, Bonhoeffer was involved in protests against the regime, and especially its policies of anti-Semitism. He was a leading spokesman for the Confessing Church — the center of Protestant resistance to the Nazis — and worked tirelessly for a peaceful end to the Second World War. After an attempt on Hitler’s life failed, documents were discovered which revealed that Bonhoeffer had played a minor role in the assassination conspiracy. He was duly arrested, and spent the remainder of his life in various prison camps, including the infamous Buchenwald. While imprisoned, he continued to write, to teach, to minister to other inmates, and even to preach and administer the sacraments, as he was allowed.

As he was taken to the scaffold on April 9, 1945, he turned to one of his fellow prisoners and said: “This is the end. For me, the beginning of life.”


Gracious Lord, in every age you have sent men and women who have given their lives for the message of your love. Inspire us with the memory of those martyrs for the Gospel like your servant Dietrich, whose faithfulness led them in the way of the cross, and give us courage to bear full witness with our lives to your son’s victory over sin and death; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

— Pastor Stickley