Berlin fights to save work of anti-Nazi theologian
Germany is launching an appeal to save thousands of valuable letters and manuscripts which had belonged to Protestant theologian and Nazi resistance fighter Dietrich Bonhoeffer by digitalising them.
(Photo: 1995 German stamp honouring Bonhoeffer)
The Berlin state library says it needs 40,000 euros to save the documents which it counts as one of its most prized collections. It wants to put about 6,200 pages of his work on the Internet to make them more widely available.
The papers include the farewell letter Bonhoeffer wrote to his parents before his execution in a concentration camp in 1945, just days before the end of World War Two, for opposing Hitler. He was 39.
Last summer, the library put the originals in non-corroding folders as the paper was in danger of falling apart and had been damaged by rusting paper clips. The collection also includes draft papers, sermons he held in Barcelona and New York as well as fragments from his book Ethics.
Bonhoeffer is viewed by many as one of the most important Protestant theologians of the last century. He was a leading member of the Confessing Church which opposed the Nazis.
He was particularly against the Nazis’ anti-Semitic policies, arguing Christians had a duty to resist any unlawful action undertaken by the state. He wrestled with the question of how far a Christian can go in fighting evil — and whether a Christian, or a pacifist, can justify murder.
He was arrested and imprisoned in 1943 on suspicion of conspiracy.
How important is it to save Bonhoeffer’s bequest and how much relevance does his work have today?