Dietrich's Friend Eberhard

A fellow resister of the Nazis, editor, and biographer dies half a century after his subject and companion.

Just over a month ago, on March 18, theologian and biographer Eberhard Bethge died at age 90. Most of what we know about Dietrich Bonhoeffer comes from Bethge's books, one of which was recently re-released in revised form. Most of what we know about Bethge is that he wrote about Bonhoeffer—all six of my Web searches on Bethge's name turned up only bylines.

A few more details on Bethge's life are available. He was born in Warchau, near Magdeburg, in 1909. He attended several universities, receiving a Doctor of Divinity degree, before attending the secret Finkenwalde Seminary where Bonhoeffer taught the doctrines of Germany's Confessing (anti-Nazi) Church. He became Bonhoeffer's close friend and confidant, and he also married Bonhoeffer's niece, Renate.

Though a member of the Resistance, Bethge was drafted to serve in the German army during World War II. He was later arrested, along with dozens of other resisters, after the failed attempt to kill Adolf Hitler on July 20, 1944. After the war he spent several years as pastor for the same German-speaking congregation in England that Bonhoeffer had served in 1933-35. He also held various academic posts and lectureships, including stints at Harvard Divinity School, Chicago Theological Seminary, and Union Seminary in New York. He continued to give lectures until a year before his death.

Bethge is best known as the author of the definitive biography Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Man of Vision, Man of Courage. (A new version, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Biography, has just been released by editor Victoria J. Barnett, who corrected some translation errors and added material from the German edition—notably on Bonhoeffer's childhood—that had never appeared in English.) Bethge also collected and edited ...

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