Mark Antony Rossi: The Love of Humanity
Image: Unsplash, downloaded (https://unsplash.com/photos/cAtzHUz7Z8g) 3.7.2021.
Something Immovable About Dietrich Bonhoeffer
I was fascinated with Dietrich Bonhoeffer years before I ever set foot in West Germany. As a young adult I heard his name in my Methodist church. My teenage interpretation was Bonhoeffer was the religious guy who went back to Germany to kill Hitler. It was a sexy slant to construct a modern day Christian hero. The ancient tales from the Bible are much harder to bring to life.
But something incredible did happen when a deeply spiritual, widely respected theologian decides to join the secret cause of killing Hitler. There are historic times when common society is saturated with malevolence and former institutions have little power to counter the gravest threats. Not even the family unit was spared as government-programmed youths routinely informed on their parents, relatives and neighbors.
At its zenith the Nazi Party had the power to replace God, Government, Education and Family and thus rule over an entire nation’s lives from cradle to cemetery. The Party morphed into something more than a political entity; it became a quasi-theocratic apparatus designed to root out free thought and racial impurity. Because any form of freedom is regarded as a dangerous weapon in a Racist Religious Police State.
Bonhoeffer was present in Germany while this nearly Satanic philosophy poured over society like black rain. He preached against the anti-Semitism, held underground seminars to instruct clergy and tried to rally the public against the monsters and the madness. But his efforts and message fell on deaf ears as he discovered even church leaders were too frightened to speak out against Hitler.
Banned and physically threatened on a daily basis by local authorities he decided to accept a guest lecturer posting in the United States. But soon after lamented his counsel of a Christian life after the war would be invalid if he decided to leave Germany. So he returned and avoided army conscription by serving as a spy for the military intelligence organization Abwehr. There he met many including its chief, Admiral Canaris who shared in the elaborate plot to free Germany of Hitler.
How does a pious man with a life-long commitment to nonviolence suddenly agree to a multi-faceted assassination plot? Bonhoeffer was the Christian’s Christian. He was the Pastor’s Pastor. He was a visionary theologian until he discovered after working for military intelligence the darkest Nazi crimes hidden from the public. It was at that moment he knew the path he must take by becoming a double agent to save as many people as possible. On that day Bonhoeffer stopped being a clergyman but instead became an active military asset against the racist regime.
The Abwehr’s intelligence networks increased after his trips to Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland. He made contacts with resistance leaders, arranged for German Jews to escape and informed wartime Allies of the scope of Nazi crimes against humanity. Eventually other members of the plot to kill Hitler were caught and confessed under torture the names of their co-conspirators. He was sent to a military prison and remained there for eighteen months until another failed plot against Hitler resulted in his transfer to a concentration camp where he was hung with piano wire as an enemy of the state.
I visited the memorial created for Dietrich Bonhoeffer. His body was never recovered and might have been incinerated by camp officials or buried in mass graves dug by American liberators. However; Bonhoeffer’s message of Hope in the face of Horror serves as evidence of the Grace of God. That Humanity can return from the brink of extinction and build a brighter future is a Faith we dare not misplace again.
I stood there in quietude expecting to sense his pain. But all I found was a peace that connected the circle. The Mission. The Message. The Man. Served another leader who centuries ago was also murdered by a cruel government. These men died in a cosmic crucible stripping down to a bare element what eternally remains: the love of humanity.
About the Author: Mark Antony Rossi is an USAF Cold War veteran, poet and host of the literary podcast “Strength To Be Human.” His poetry and fiction has been published extensively throughout literary world with work published in Anak Sastra (Taiwan), The Antigonish Review (Canada), Another Chicago Magazine, Big Window Review, Brain of Forgetting (Ireland), Collages & Bricolages, Earth & Altar, Flash Fiction (Italy), Gravel, Lethe (Turkey), Mad Swirl, Red Rock Review, Route 7 Review, Purple Patch (UK), Toad Suck Review, Transnational (Germany), Wild Quarterly and Yellow Chair.