The German Resistance’s Ambassador

  • 1st Picture for document

In October of 1940, a position was created for Bonhoeffer in the Abwehr’s Munich station, which enabled him to travel unimpeded as part of his ostensible espionage.

He traveled to Switzerland for the first time in February of 1941. There, he was able to meet with the utterly surprised Karl Barth and hold talks with leading figures of the nascent World Council in Geneva. These meetings were intensified on his second trip to Switzerland in August-September of 1941. In April of 1942, Bonhoeffer traveled together with Helmuth James Graf von Moltke to Oslo and Stockholm in order to establish contact with various figures. Shortly afterward, he took his third trip to Switzerland, visiting Barth again and other friends.

Upon reading in the Swiss press that George Bell, Bishop of Chichester and his English confidant from his days in London, had announced a visit to Sweden, Bonhoeffer hastily prepared a meeting with him. The Foreign Office courier identification pictured here was issued just in time for him to catch the Bishop in the Swedish city of Sigtuna.

Hans Schönfeld, Director of the Study Department of the World Council of Churches in Geneva, had arrived a few days before. He had already given Bell important details about the German resistance movement and the planned coup d'état; then Bonhoeffer, a second, even better informed source, arrived as well.

The aim of the meeting in Sigtuna was to attest to the existence of a functioning opposition with concrete coup plans in order to learn how London would respond once Hitler had been eliminated. To this end, the Lord Bishop was supposed to approach the British Foreign Secretary. A code for an answer was agreed on.

Yet, no one in London even contemplated negotiating. If there were such plans, according to Foreign Office in London, one would have been aware of them long since. The feelers were rebuffed.

After the war, Bell was the first to publicly acknowledge Bonhoeffer’s international political efforts in the military resistance. Bell emphasized Bonhoeffer’s Christian motivation and recounted that, as a Christian, Bonhoeffer had expected a punishment. The act itself ought to be understood as part of the atonement.

Source / title

  • © bpk/Staatsbibliothek Preussischer Kulturbesitz Berlin, Handschriftenabt., Nachlass 299/Bonhoeffer, Nr. A 61,5 (1)

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