Bonhoeffer Timeline: A Chronology of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life

The Cambridge Companion to Dietrich Bonhoeffer

SOURCE (Amazon affiliate link): John W. de Gruchy, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), xxiv–xxvi.

  • 1906, 4 February, Dietrich Bonhoeffer born in Breslau, Germany
  • 1912 Family moves to Berlin, where Karl Bonhoeffer, Dietrich’s father, takes up a position at Berlin University
  • 1913 Dietrich Bonhoeffer begins gymnasium studies
  • 1916 Family moves to the suburb of Grunewald
  • 1918 Walter Bonhoeffer, Dietrich’s brother, dies on the western front
  • 1921 Dietrich and twin sister, Sabine, are confirmed
  • 1923 Begins theological studies at Tübingen
  • 1924 Continues theological studies at Berlin; travels to Rome and north Africa with elder brother Klaus
  • 1927 Qualifies for licentiate with his doctoral dissertation, Sanctorum Communio (DBWE 1)
  • 1928 Curate in Barcelona
  • 1929
    • Summer lectures in systematic theology, Berlin;
    • assistant pastor in Berlin
  • 1930
    • Completes second dissertation, later published as Act and Being (DBWE 2);
    • Sloane Fellow at Union Theological Seminary, New York (1930-1)
  • 1931
    • July: first meeting with Karl Barth
    • August: lecturer in theological faculty, Berlin
    • September: appointed Youth Secretary of World Alliance for Promoting International Friendship through the Churches Conference, Cambridge
    • October: chaplain at Technical College, Berlin
    • November: takes confirmation class in Berlin-Wedding
  • 1932 Winter lecture course on ‘Creation and Sin’ (later published as

Creation and Fall (DBWE 3))

  • 1933
    • January: Hitler becomes Chancellor
    • February: The Reichstag is burnt
    • April: Aryan civil-service legislation is passed, dismissing Jews from public office
    • Ludwig Müller appointed Reichsbischof
    • Summer lectures in Berlin, on Christology
    • September:
      • Pastors’ Emergency League organised, with aid of Martin Niemöller;
      • Brown Synod dominated by German Christians is held
    • October: Bonhoeffer moves to London to take up pastorate of two German-speaking churches
  • 1934
    • May: first synod of the Confessing Church is held at Barmen; Adoption of Barmen Declaration
    • August: Ecumenical Conference, Fanö
  • 1935
    • April: becomes director of Preachers’ Seminary, Zingst
    • June: seminary moves to Finkenwalde
    • September: Nuremberg Laws are passed
    • October: family moves to Charlottenburg, Berlin
    • December: Confessing Church seminaries declared illegal
  • 1936
    • February: members from Finkenwalde visit Denmark and Sweden
    • August: authorisation to teach at Berlin University is withdrawn
  • 1937
    • September: Finkenwalde is closed down by Gestapo
    • November: The Cost of Discipleship (DBWE 4) is published
    • December: begins collective pastorate in Köslin and Gross-Schlönwitz
  • 1938
    • January: expulsion from Berlin
    • February: makes first contact with leaders of the resistance movement
    • April: all pastors required to take the oath of allegiance to Hitler
    • September: writes Life Together (DBWE 5) while in Göttingen
    • November: Crystal Night (Kristallnacht)
  • 1939
    • June: travels to America for the second time;
    • returns to Berlin in July
    • August: becomes a civilian agent of the Abwehr (military intelligence)
    • September:
      • German troops invade Poland;
      • formal Allied Declaration of War
  • 1940
    • March:
      • illegal seminary in Köslin and Gross-Schlönwitz closed down by the Gestapo
      • Begins to write his Ethics (DBWE 6)
  • November:
    • becomes member of Abwehr staff in Munich
    • Stays at Benedictine monastery in Ettal;
    • continues work on the Ethics
  • 1941
    • February-March: travels to Switzerland to meet with Karl Barth and Visser’t Hooft
    • August: second visit to Switzerland
    • October: the first Jews are deported from Berlin
  • 1942
    • April: travels to Norway and Sweden
    • May: visits Switzerland for third visit
    • May/June: meets Bishop George Bell in Sweden
  • 1943
    • January: becomes engaged to Maria von Wedemeyer
    • April: arrested, placed in Tegel Prison, Berlin
    • December: writes Christmas essay, ‘After Ten Years’
  • 1944
    • April: first of the ‘theological letters’ from prison
    • July: assassination attempt on Hitler
    • September: incriminating evidence on the Abwehr is uncovered by the Gestapo
  • 1945
    • February: moved to Buchenwald concentration camp
    • April: moved to Regensburg and then Schönberg and finally to Flossenbürg
      • 8 April: court-martialed
      • 9 April: executed at Flossenbürg

Bethge, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Biography

SOURCE (Amazon affiliate link):  Eberhard Bethge, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Biography, ed. Victoria J. Barnett, trans. Betty Ross, Frank Clarke, and William Glen-Doepel with Eric Mosbacher, Peter, Revised edition (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2000), 1025–1027.

  • 1906 4 February, Dietrich Bonhoeffer born in Breslau
  • 1912 Father appointed to Berlin University; family moves to Berlin
  • 1923 Theological studies in Tübingen
  • 1924 Further theological studies in Berlin
  • 1927 Qualifies for licentiate under R. Seeberg with Sanctorum Communio
  • 1928
    • 17 January, first theological examination;
    • 15 February, assistant pastor in Barcelona
  • 1929
    • Assistant to W. Lütgert in Berlin (until 1930)
  • 1930
    • 18 July, qualifies as university teacher with Act and Being;
    • 5 September, leaves for New York to study at Union Theological Seminary
  • 1931
    • In July first meeting with Karl Barth in Bonn;
    • after 1 August, lecturer at the theological faculty in Berlin;
    • 1–5 September, attends World Alliance Conference in Cambridge where he is appointed youth secretary;
    • 15 November, ordination; winter 1931–1932, lecture course “The History of Systematic Theology in the Twentieth Century” and seminar “The Concept of Philosophy and Protestant Theology”;
    • from November (until March 1932), in charge of a confirmation class in Berlin-Wedding
  • 1932
    • In the summer term, lecture course “The Nature of the Church” and seminar “Is There a Christian Ethic?”;
    • buys a hut in Biesenthal;
    • July and August, attends ecumenical meetings in Ciernohorské, Kúpele, Geneva, and Gland;
    • winter term, lecture courses “Creation and Sin” (published in 1933 as Creation and Fall) and “Recent Theology,” and seminar on “Problems of a Theological Anthropology”
  • 1933
    • 1 March, radio talk “The Führer Principle”;
    • April, article “The Church and the Jewish Question”;
    • summer term, lecture course “Christology”;
    • August, pamphlet “The Aryan Clause in the Church”;
    • September, preliminary work with Niemöller on Pastors’ Emergency League pledge;
    • 17 October, begins London pastorate
  • 1934
    • 22–30 August, ecumenical conference in Fanö;
    • 28 August, becomes co-opted member of Universal Christian Council for Life and Work;
    • 4–8 September, with Jean Lasserre in Bruay;
    • 5 November, London parishes repudiate the Reich church government
  • 1935
    • March, visits Anglican communities;
    • 15 April, farewell visit to Bishop Bell in Chichester;
    • 26 April, preachers’ seminary opens in Zingst (by the Baltic);
    • 24 June, seminary moves to Finkenwalde;
    • July, article “The Confessing Church and the Ecumenical Movement”;
    • 6 September, establishment of a brothers’ house proposed to Provisional Church Administration
  • 1936
    • February, last Berlin faculty lecture “Discipleship”;
    • 29 February–10 March, preachers’ seminary visits Denmark and Sweden;
    • 22 April, lecture in Finkenwalde “On the Question of the Church Community”;
    • 5 August, authorization to teach at university withdrawn;
    • 20 August, Life and Work meeting in Chamby
  • 1937
    • February, last participation in an ecumenical conference in London;
    • 1 July, Niemöller arrested;
    • end of September, preachers’ seminary closed by police;
    • November, twenty-seven former Finkenwalde seminarians arrested,
      • Discipleship published;
    • 5 December, beginning of collective pastorates in Köslin and Gross-Schlönwitz (later Sigurdshof)
  • 1938
    • 11 January, expulsion from Berlin;
    • February, first contacts with Sack, Oster, Canaris, and Beck;
    • 20 June, meeting of former Finkenwaldians in Zingst, Bible study “Temptation”;
    • September, Life Together written in Göttingen;
    • 26 October, lecture “Our Way according to the Testimony of Scripture”
  • 1939
    • 10 March, journey to London for talks with Bishop Bell, Visser ’t Hooft, Niebuhr, and Leibholz;
    • 2 June, leaves for United States;
    • 20 June, letter of refusal to Leiper;
    • 27 July, back in Berlin
  • 1940
    • 15 March, end of term in Köslin and Sigurdshof;
      • two days later Gestapo orders closure;
    • June and July, visitations in East Prussia;
    • 14 July, dissolution of study conference in Blöstau;
    • August, talks with Oster and Dohnanyi on military exemption and work for the Abwehr office;
    • 4 September, forbidden to speak in public and required to report regularly to the police;
    • September and October, work on Ethics at Klein-Krössin;
    • 30 October, assigned to Abwehr office in Munich;
    • from 17 November, visits to the Benedictine abbey in Ettal
  • 1941
    • 24 February–24 March, first journey to Switzerland;
    • 27 March, forbidden to print or publish;
    • 29 August-26 September, second journey to Switzerland, together with Visser ’t Hooft writes to W. Paton on The Church and the New Order;
    • October, first deportations of Jews from Berlin, “Operation 7”
  • 1942
    • 10–18 April, journey with Moltke to Norway and Stockholm;
    • May, third journey to Switzerland;
    • 30 May–2 June, flies to Stockholm to meet Bishop Bell
  • 1943
    • 17 January, engagement to Maria von Wedemeyer;
    • 13 March and 21 March, attempted assassinations of Hitler;
    • 5 April, house search and arrest, sent to Tegel prison;
      • at the same time, Hans von Dohnanyi and Müller arrested with their wives;
    • 29 April, arrest warrant drawn up, charged with “subversion of the armed forces”
  • 1944
    • January, chief interrogator Roeder dismissed;
    • February, Canaris dismissed and the Abwehr incorporated into the Reich Central Security office;
    • 6 March, first big daylight air raid on Tegel;
    • 30 April, first theological letter;
    • May, charge indefinitely postponed;
    • 20 July, von Stauffenberg’s attempt on Hitler’s life;
    • 22 September, Gestapo commissar Sonderegger discovers files in the Abwehr bunker in Zossen;
    • early October, escape plan;
    • 5 October, plan abandoned because of fear of reprisals following arrests of Klaus Bonhoeffer, Schleicher, and Perels;
    • 8 October, taken to the Gestapo prison in the cellar at Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse
  • 1945
    • 7 February, sent to Buchenwald concentration camp;
    • 3 April, removed from Buchenwald to Regensburg;
    • 5 April, execution ordered at Hitler’s midday conference;
    • 6 April, moved to Schönberg;
    • 8 April, moved to Flossenübrg; during the night, summary court-martial;
    • 9 April,
      • executed together with Oster, Sack, Canaris, Strünck, and Gehre;
      • Hans von Dohnanyi killed in Sachsenhausen;
    • 23 April, Klaus Bonhoeffer, Schleicher, and Perels killed in Berlin

By Joshua Steele

Software engineer using "dead" languages to help the living. Learn more at joshuapsteele.com.

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