Bonhoeffer in Berlin and Buchenwald

I recently visited three historical sites related to Dietrich Bonhoeffer on a trip through Thuringia, Brandenburg and Berlin.

Bonhoeffer House in Berlin-Charlottenburg

Dietrich’s parents built the house at Marienburger Allee 43 in 1935 as a retirement home. He stayed here whenever he visited Berlin and even had a study whee he wrote parts of his book Ethics. At times, he met here with his fellow conspirators (some of whom belonged to his own family). He was arrested in the house on April 5, 1943. After the war, the manuscript for After Ten Years was found hidden in the house.

Located in the Charlottenburg district of of Berlin, the house is easy to reach by car. It is just a few blocks away from the intersection of A115 and A100. The house is only open to visitors, however, by appointment.

My wife and I only learned of the house after we arrived in Berlin so we were unable to schedule a tour. We drove to the house anyway, just to see it and we decided to risk ringing the doorbell without a reservation. A very courteous caretaker told us that, unfortunately, it would not be possible to see the house that day. If you go, be sure to make arrangements well in advance.

The Gestapo Prison on Prinz-Albrecht-Straße

Bonhoeffer was incarcerated at Tegel prison in the western suburbs of Berlin from April 1943 until October 1944. Tegel remains a working correctional facility (JVA Tegel) and I did not visit it. In October 1944 Bonhoeffer was moved to the Gestapo headquarters on Prinz-Albrecht-Straße (currently Niederkirchnerstraße) in downtown Berlin where he stayed until February 1945. Nothing is left of the Gestapo / SS complex except the a portion of the foundation .

Today, the Gestapo site is a memorial, “The Topography of Terror.” A section of the Cold War era Berlin Wall runs along the edge of the memorial.

An exhibit in the gallery displays the photos of some of the notable prisoners confined here.

Buchenwald Concentration Camp

In Feburary 1945, Bonhoeffer was transferred to the Buchenwald Concentration Camp outside of Weimar in Thuringia. Bonhoeffer was kept in a prison cell in the basement of a building on the SS compound, and segregated from the general population of the prison. The remains of Bonhoeffer’s Buchenwald prison are shown below.

By the spring of 1945, the conditions at Buchenwald were beyond deplorable due to overcrowding, hunger, disease and the cruelty of the SS guards. As a special prisoner, Bonhoeffer may have been spared some of the horrors of daily life in Buchenwald. As an object of special attention, however, I doubt that he was spared the cruelty.

In April 1945, Bonhoeffer was moved briefly to Regensburg and then to Flossenbuerg where he was executed.

Bonhoeffer at Flossenbürg
Bonhoeffer at Ettal