This graphic biography tells the story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, an influential theologian who joined the conspiracy in the plot to kill Hitler and end the Nazi reign of terror. Born in Germany in 1906, Bonhoeffer became attracted to religion as a boy. The enormous death toll of the Great War affected his worldview, as did a trip to Harlem, where the prejudice and racism he witnessed strengthened his religious resolve.
Although Bonhoeffer was a loyal German, he couldn’t tolerate the rise of Hitler and his inner voice told him that he must stay in Germany and fight against him. He aided the failed 1943 plot to kill Hitler, devised by Germany’s military intelligence leaders. Bonhoeffer’s contributions to the plot were eventually revealed, however, and he was hanged just before Hitler committed suicide.
This book gives young readers plenty to absorb, with its mix of text and illustration in a color palette of red, black, and teal. While detailing Bonhoeffer’s life, Hendrix also lays out the larger historical context. Smooth, pointed writing easily transitions between Bonhoeffer’s and Hitler’s narratives. There are several allusions to the Jewish plight, concentration camps, and the Final Solution. All real quotes are asterisked and cited in the back matter, which also includes an author’s note, research and authenticity material, source notes, and a selected bibliography.
This biography can go a long way toward showing that not all Germans were Nazis, and has the potential to spark meaningful classroom discussions.
Barbara Krasner is a doctoral candidate in Holocaust & Genocide Studies at Gratz College and is Director, Holocaust, Genocide & Human Rights Center at Mercer County Community College. She holds an MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts.