Jewels in Her Crown: Treasures of Columbia University Libraries Special Collections

Exhibition Themes > Theology & Religion > 138. Dietrich Bonhoeffer

138.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945).  Application to Union Seminary. Printed document, completed by the author and signed in ink. Berlin, February 12, 1930. Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Archives, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Manuscript Collection

Dietrich Bonheoffer was raised in the academic circles of the University of Berlin where his father was a professor of psychiatry and neurology. He studied theology at the universities of Tübingen and Berlin from 1923 to 1927, and served for a year as assistant pastor for a German-speaking congregation in Barcelona. With this document he then applied for one year of graduate study at Union Theological Seminary that began in September, 1930. He returned to Germany the following year.

With the rise to power of the Nazis in 1933, Bonhoeffer was a vocal opponent of the regime, speaking out in particular against its policies of anti-Semitism. His stance became politicized in 1938 after he became involved through his brother-in-law, Hans von Dohnanyi, in a plot to overthrow Hitler. Although he returned to New York in 1939, he stayed for only two weeks, writing to Union's Seminary's Reinhold Niebuhr: "I will have no right to participate in the reconstruction of Christian life in Germany after the war if I do not share the trials of this time with my people." Following the failure of the July 20, 1944 attempt to assassinate Hitler, Bonheoffer was arrested and executed on April 9, 1945. His Letters and Papers from Prison, published in 1951, contain some of his most profound writing.

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