From birth to death, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was surrounded by loving, devoted, fascinating, high-achieving, and brave women. This Women’s History Month, TDBI remembers some of the many women who formed, inspired and supported Dietrich’s life and work.
Paula von Hase, Dietrich’s mother, was the backbone of the Bonhoeffer family. Her integrity and faith likely gave him the strength needed to defy Hitler, one of the most powerful and frightening political figures in German history. Paula taught all her children to pray, read Scripture, and think seriously about God. While both his maternal grandfather and great grandfather were chaplains to Kaisers and were jailed for their political dissent, it was his paternal grandmother, Julie, who modeled moral courage when she openly defied Nazi blockades of Jewish-owned stores. Sabine, his twin sister, was Dietrich’s emotional anchor and his youngest theological interlocutor, and his younger sister, Susanne, would be his lifeline to his beloved family after he was imprisoned.
And there were others. Maria Horn, his Moravian governess, reinforced his piety. Ruth von Kleist-Retzow, his principal benefactor, made his seminary vision a reality. Maria von Wedermeyer, his fiancée, provided him intimate companionship, even from beyond the prison walls that separated them.
These women – and many more – made important contributions to their communities and helped change the world with their love and support of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.