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Thursday, November 22, 2018

The Faithful Spy: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler


John Hendrix's The Faithful Spy: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler was a book that I picked up because it not only looked interesting, but it was also something that I know I will one day want my son to read.

This graphic depiction of a story I had never heard about before was just amazing. I was blown away by the representations of some difficult material, including Hitler and the underpinnings of the Holocaust. Hitler was portrayed as a wolf, so his actual human representation was only presented once. This is important, as any other consisted picture of him might have served to humanize him; rather, seeing him as a wolf in sheep's clothing created a metaphorical yet arresting picture of a man whose need for power destroyed millions of lives. I also found the explanation of the rise of the Nazi party to be incredibly well-done and very clear. It's hard for even those with high level reading skills to grasp onto all of the nuances and details of that point in history, and I felt that this book did a wonderful job making clear what happened along with the timeline. Hendrix put a small box on the corner of the page when he was discussing the military exercises that contained a map showing the areas that the Nazi's had already conquered and that which they were moving into. Not only was this a great story of standing up for your beliefs -- and we will get to that momentarily -- it was also a history book.

I was never aware of the story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a man of God who believed it was his moral imperative to kill Hitler. Spending time in America and seeing legal racial discrimination, even among his fellow Christians, shapes who Bonhoeffer is and what his faith means. When he returns to his home country of Germany at the beginning of the era we know well from our history books, he wants to bring the active faith he discovered in America. As Germany begins to see its takeover by the Nazi party, he finds himself involved in anti-Nazi activism that puts him on the enemy list, and he briefly escapes to America before realizing that to truly live his faith, he must be in the middle of the storm. He returns to Germany and joins the resistance. He struggles with his belief in the Bible and what he knows needs to happen to save Germany -- and the world -- from a tyrant who was seeking to end the lives of millions of minorities. The question he faces -- is it justified to kill a person to save millions of others -- shapes his activism, and Bonhoeffer becomes central to the plot to kill Hitler.

This is an absolutely incredible story, and one that I want my son to read one day. I want him to know that people don't just oppose hate with their words, but also with their actions even if they seem extreme at the time. We can't prove what would have happened if Hitler had been stopped earlier; it could have been a Medusa situation, or it could have helped good people realize that they were turning into bad ones. Maybe those who sought power would have still pushed forward because this was the way they were taking it. Who knows? But we do know now who Dietrich Bonhoeffer was and why we should be grateful to him. My son will know, too. 

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