February 29, 1936: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who would later be executed by the Nazis for his involvement in the resistance, had already made a name for himself, stirring up trouble with his actions alongside the Confessing Church. He had broken with the (much) larger German Christians and already declared that they represented a false Christ to the world, in part due to their allegiance to the Nazi state.
Bonhoeffer was heavily involved in ecumenical movements, and had informed the Foreign Office that he would be traveling as the director of the Preacher’s Seminary at Finkenwalde to support ecumenical work in Sweden. Today in history, the Foreign Office sent a letter to the German Legation in Stockholm warning them about Pastor Bonhoeffer’s actions:
The Reich and Prussian Ministry for Church Affairs as well as the Church Foreign Office would like to warn you about Pastor Bonhoeffer because his activities are not conducive to German interests. State and church officials have serious objections to his trip abroad, which has only now become known.
I respectfully ask that you report back concerning his public activities and concerning possible reactions in the Swedish press.
(From Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Volume 14: Theological Education at Finkenwalde: 1935-1937 [DBWE 14:146])
This message’s import should not be understated. It shows that Bonhoeffer was already being monitored both at home and abroad. It also shows the close relations the Reich leadership had established with the German Christian church, for it was not just secular authorities who rejected Bonhoeffer’s resistance, it was also the church. May we, in our own time, never allow such evil to be united with the church. May we call out such evil wherever it stands. May we resist, even to death, the attempts of the world to thwart Christ’s church.
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