Reviewed by: Richard Schmitz
|Older teens and Adults
|Documentary Biography History
|1 hr. 33 min.
|Year of Release:
June 20, 2003
Taking a visible staunch stand against great evil
About the fall of mankind to worldwide depravity
Vocal opposition to Hitler’s euthanasia program and genocidal persecution of the Jews
“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless.
Not to speak is to speak.
Not to act is to act.” —Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Germany in the years leading up to and through World War II
In April 1933, Bonhoeffer raised the first voice for church resistance to Hitler's persecution of Jews, declaring that the church must not simply “bandage the victims under the wheel, but jam the spoke in the wheel itself.”
The life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer—German Lutheran pastor, theologian, anti-Nazi dissident, and key founding member of the Confessing Church, insisting that Christ, not the Führer, was the head of the church.
Bonhoeffer completed his Staatsexamen (equivalent to a bachelor's and master's degree), at the Protestant Faculty of Theology of the University of Tübingen. He completed his Doctor of Theology degree (Dr. theol.) at Berlin University in 1927, graduating summa cum laude.
In 1930, at age 24 Bonhoeffer went to the U.S. for postgraduate study and a teaching fellowship at New York City’s Union Theological Seminary. Although Bonhoeffer found the American seminary not up to his standards (“There is no theology here.”), he had life-changing experiences and friendships.
His writings on Christianity’s role in the secular world became widely influential, and his book The Cost of Discipleship is widely known.
What is FAITH and why is it important? Answer
Did God make the world the way it is now? What kind of world would you create? Answer
What is THE FINAL JUDGMENT OF GOD? Answer
Martin Doblmeier … Narrator (voice)
Klaus Maria Brandauer … Dietrich Bonhoeffer (voice)
Adele Schmidt … Sabine (voice)
Richard Mancini … Bishop Bell (voice)
John Conway … Himself
Wolfgang Huber … Himself
John De Gruchy … Himself
Jean Lasserre … Himself
Otto Dudzus … Himself
Victoria Barnett … Herself
Renate Bethge … Herself
Christian Gremmels … Himself
Desmond Tutu … Himself
Eberhard Bethge … Himself
Winfried Mächler … Himself
Christoph von Dohnányi … Himself
Clifford Green … Himself
Ruth Alice von Bismarck … Herself
Peter Hoffmann … Himself
Geffrey Kelly … Himself
First Run Features
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First Run Features
“Pastor, Pacifist, Nazi Resister”
Two of the most chilling moments I have experienced in a motion picture came in the films “Alien” and “Bonhoeffer.” In “Alien,” it was the now famous dinner scene which used a dozen or so gallons of cranberry juice concentrate and a puppet monster. In “Bonhoeffer,” the scene was all too real in grainy black and white: a conference of Lutheran pastors offering Hitler, in unison, warm smiles and the Nazi salute.
“Bonhoeffer” is directed and narrated by Martin Doblmeier. Available on video or DVD, this independent film presents the too-little-known revolutionary Lutheran pastor, academic and philosopher who moved from pacifist to participant in a plot to kill Adolph Hitler. In the film, we learn Deitrich Bonhoeffer, abandoned the safety of the United States to board the last passenger liner bound for Germany as war boiled from angry threat to evil action.
While all too many of Bonhoeffer’s colleagues clung to appeasement and denial as Cristalnacht descended into “the final solution.” Doblmeier uses a mix of historic footage, photos, interviews with family, academics and theologians (such as Desmond Tutu) with actors portraying key moments in Bonhoeffer’s life in Nazi Germany.
The beauty of this film is its ability to combine Bonhoeffer’s spiritual and political journeys. Just before the start of war, Bonhoeffer had returned to Germany and established a small Bible school where he passed along the message of a true, personal faith in Christ—something he gained while attending African-American churches in Harlem in the late 1930s. Bonhoeffer, who’d earned a PhD at age 21, came to America to study at the Union Theological Seminary. Dissatisfied with a purely academic relationship with Christ, he studied and came to appreciate the personal Christian faith he found at the Black church.
Bonhoeffer took his new-found faith back to Germany where he gained followers among young theology students—and a percentage of the German population. He preached on the radio, however his sermon critical of Nazi thinking ended his access to the media and put him under watch by the Nazi party.
Bonhoeffer was a pacifist, but he made a moral decision to work on a plot to assassinate Hitler, revealing his depth of character and courage. The plot was uncovered and Bonhoeffer was imprisoned, where he grew his faith and even brought some of his jailers to personal relationships with Christ.
The film is well worth watching, if for no other reason than it is an introduction to this remarkable Christian. The film has a couple of slow spots, but is a solidly-crafted piece of work in its totality.
The film will probably not hold younger teens or youngsters’ attention, but it is excellent for older teens.
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.