Bonhoeffer's Pacifism

Perhaps the most significant biographical event in the development of Bonhoeffer’s views on pacifism was the death of his brother Walter. Having enlisted to fight in the Great War in March 1918, he succumbed to infected leg wounds a little over a month later on April 28. Bonhoeffer, 12 at the time, was utterly devastated. His ability to cope with the bitter loss wasn’t helped by the effect Walter’s death had on their mother. She subsided into such an all-consuming depression that she had to move out of the family home so as not to confront the rest of her children with the profundity of her grief. It’s no wonder, then, that the art of warfare held few charms for Bonhoeffer.

Furthermore, the memory of Walter’s death in the war was something Bonhoeffer would literally carry around with him for the rest of his days. At his confirmation in 1921, he was given Walter’s Bible. It was the one he would use throughout his life.


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