The story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer is a powerful and inspiring one, giving an insightful look into what was going on during World War II. The theologian became well known throughout the world for standing up for what he believed in doing his part to protect the Jews from Hitler’s reign of terror. While many different films and books have attempted to recount the story of Bonhoeffer, this film is unique as it combines the story of Bonhoeffer with real-life interviews of the people that knew him and supported him. Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Nazi Resistor, Martyr is a touching documentary that will give new and never-before-seen insights in Bonhoeffer’s life and mission.
Martin Doblmeier takes us into a new world, combining archival footage, photos, and real-life interviews with those who knew Bonhoeffer the very best to create an incredible story and in-depth look into the life of Bonhoeffer. Featuring Eberhard Bethge, Klaus Maria Brandauer, John De Gruchy, Geffrey Kelly, and Richard Mancini, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Nazi Resistor, Martyr will take you on a masterfully told narrative through the life of one of the most well-known and well respected theologians of the 20th century.
Originally released in June of 2003, this movie was produced by Journey Films and features interviews with many real-life people who knew Bonhoeffer. The creators of Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Nazi Resistor, Martyr explained that they knew this could very well be the last time some of these people would ever speak about Bonhoeffer. So when they went to film these interviews, rather than having a few short questions to fire through and then leave, they chose to sit down and have long, open conversations with these people. They wanted to get as much information as they could about these people’s experiences and lives. They wanted the footage they filmed to be used for more than just this film. They wanted to gather as much information as they could for archival purposes. This film was Directed by Martin Doblmeier, best known for this film, Albert Schweitzer: Called to Africa and The Blueprint: The Story of Adventist Education. A few different voice actors were cast to voice key roles, and Klaus Maria Brandauer was chosen to voice the title character, Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
One interesting detail that is noted in this documentary is that Bonhoeffer was not a well-known name during the events of World War II. Unlike other famous characters from history, Bonhoeffer was not a household name during his life. He was simply a humble man teaching theology at the University of Berlin. Outside of the college and his group of friends, very few knew about him or what he believed in. When the Nazis rose to power in Germany, Bonhoeffer began to notice changes in the country around him and soon he was being told by the Nazis what he could and couldn’t say. Bonhoeffer soon realized that what he was being forced to teach was wrong, and he was banned from saying many of the things he wanted and needed to say. As a teacher of theology, it was his duty to teach God’s word and he quickly realized that the oppression of the Jews was something that needed to be stopped.
He knew he couldn’t sit idly by and simply allow the Nazis to rise to power and persecute the Jews as they had been doing. So, he chose to speak out against this tyrannical abuse of power. Because of Bonhoeffer’s unpopular and illegal beliefs, he was banned from teaching at the University of Berlin. Here, Bonhoeffer was faced with a dilemma. If he spoke up for what he believed, he would be a dead man. But if he chose to remain silent, his conscience would not allow him to live either. So, Bonhoeffer knew the truth, and knew what he believed in God’s word and decided to do something about it.
It was at this point that he johned the Abwehr, an organization specializing in military intelligence that was quietly working to expose Hitler’s tyranny and hopefully bring him down. Here, he worked as a spy, running undercover and covert operations that would help the Allies and hinder the Nazis. The devout theologian that he was, he also spent this time writing Anti-Hitler texts that would both raise awareness for people who were trying to live in ignorance and raise the morale of people who were working to fight back against the Nazis.
Eventually, however, Bonhoeffer was caught and was put in jail for his rebellion. Here, he continued to write, being one of the few things he was allowed to do. He would write many documents here that wouldn’t be found or published until after his death. He was also able to smuggle letters out to some of his friends and comrades. Bonhoeffer did what he was able to behind the confines of his prison bars and after over a year of prison life, he was sentenced to death. Judge Otto Thorbeck found him guilty of treason and sentenced him to death after his year-long stint in prison and it was here that Bonhoeffer’s story of rebellion and hope would come to an end.
Bonhoeffer had many different titles over his lifetime, being a theologian, professor, resistor, and even spy. But now was when he would take on his final role – martyr. On April 9th, 1945, Dietrich Bonhoeffer would be hanged for his decision to resist the Nazis and fight back for what he believed. Although his life was over, his story was just beginning. Through his written documents and letters, Bonhoeffer’s words became an inspiration for many for years to come. His story would be a powerful and moving one that would be recounted years after his death.
In this film, Doblmeier hopes to piece together Bonhoeffer’s life and create a touching story to inspire a new generation.
This film is an interesting and educational narrative that is sure to give you fresh insights on the incredible story of Bonhoeffer. If you have been a longtime fan of the theologian or are simply interested in learning more about him now, you are sure to enjoy this movie. It has been Dove Approved for ages 12+, is close captioned, and has an approximate run time of 92 minutes.