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Bonhoeffer and Hitler

Let me recommend a valuable exercise: a simultaneous reading of biographies of two guys who tried to kill each other.

I normally try to aim for variety in what I read, but for whatever reason it seemed that my sojourn with Metaxas on Bonhoeffer might be paired well with John Toland, Adolf Hitler (HT: @abedis). Fair warning: Toland is 1200 pages of doom, and one can feel a bit like. The mere presence of the book in the house gives my wife the creeps; she has threatened to put a cover on it. And my seven yr old asked me why I was reading about Hitler. But the book is a smashing read, and provides a look at the decline of a nation into fanatical chaos.

Reading the two bios made for an interesting compare and contrast:

Both men tried to save Germany: Bonhoeffer by pursuing righteousness and opposition to evil, and Hitler by purifying it of Jews and Communists.

Both men turned to politics: Bonhoeffer to the politics of the kingdom of God and its demands, Hitler to the politics of raw power.

Both realized that they could not care what others thought about them, and that the task before them would require courage and resolution in the face of overwhelming odds.

Both men were given to intensity and passion, which they poured into the vocations they believed God had given them.

Both men avoided marriage until near the bitter end: Bonhoeffer was secretly engaged shortly before his arrest, Hitler married about 40 hours before death.

Both men were prepared to look like something they were not for the sake of their mission.

One man was petrified for his life, given to paranoia, fearing assassination and revolt at every turn. One man did not hold his life but put in on the line for his country.

One man was much beloved and nurtured by his family, but taught to be considerate of others; the other was abused, listless, and completely self-absorbed.

One man spent endless days meditating on the Jews, and wrote his own Scriptures urging their termination. The other man spent endless days studying Jewish Scriptures and the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—writing about those Scriptures led to the termination of his publishing career.

Each tried to kill the other; Hitler succeeded, only to kill himself in defeat three weeks later.