The Faith­ful Spy: Diet­rich Bon­ho­ef­fer and the Plot to Kill Hitler

John Hen­drix

  • Review
By – February 25, 2019

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 the author of many books across gen­res, includ­ing fic­tion, poet­ry, cre­ative non­fic­tion, and chil­dren’s lit­er­a­ture. Her recent titles include 37 Days at Sea: Aboard the M.S. St. Louis, 1939, Civil­ian Casu­al­ties in War and Ethel’s Song: Ethel Rosen­berg’s Life in Poems. Her book Goldie Takes a Stand! Gol­da Meir’s First Cru­sade was a recip­i­ent of the Syd­ney Tay­lor Hon­or Award. She holds a Ph.D. in Holo­caust and geno­cide stud­ies from Gratz Col­lege, teach­es in the Holo­caust and geno­cide stud­ies pro­gram at the Col­lege of New Jer­sey, and serves as direc­tor of the Mer­cer Coun­ty Holo­caust, Geno­cide, and Human Rights Edu­ca­tion Cen­ter. She also holds an MFA in writ­ing for chil­dren and young adults from the Ver­mont Col­lege of Fine Arts.

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