THE PASTOR AND THE MATRIARCH OF THE GERMAN UNDERGROUND AND THEIR TIMES: A Polish Perspective
The famous story of the German anti-Nazi Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Junker Matriarch Ruth von Kleist as told from a hitherto untold Polish perspective.
Preface: Birth and Memory upon the Lesser Known Fault Line of History
This chronicles my witnessing of modern day Polish Wrocław’s Dietrich Bonhoeffer monument and a condensed history of Wrocław/Breslau’s early Medieval Slavic origin to the present day. This history is a microcosm pertaining to the narrative for the remainder of the book. This includes an account of the heinous pogrom perpetrated on the city’s Jews in 1453, as a chilling precursor of the anti-Semitism which Hitler would tap into almost half-a-millennium later.
Chapter 1: Roots, Genesis and Moulding of the Pastor
This chapter opens with an account of the Medieval Dutch roots of the Bonhoeffers, to the birth, genesis and moulding of the young pastor Bonhoeffer. Pivotal to which was his nine-month sojourn to the Americas from September 1930 to June 1931.
Chapter 2: Ominous Clouds on the Horizon
Upon Dietrich’s return to Berlin from the Americas, he soon left for Switzerland to visit the famous Swiss Reformed theologian Karl Barth. However, around the same time, Dietrich wrote to the Swiss national Erwin Sutz, whom he had first met while in New York, that he sensed an exceptionally grim outlook for Germany at a tumultuous turning point in history.
Chapter 3: Evil’s Storm Descends
This chapter begins with Hitler’s ascent to power in a then minority government in late January 1933, followed two days later by Dietrich’s radio address being curiously cut short. Thereafter, the ramifications are dealt with at length in regard to the suspicious Reichstag (German Parliament) fire of late February 1933.
Chapter 4: The Aryan Paragraph
This infamous Paragraph embodies the philosophical core of National Socialism; it resulted in a set of disturbing new laws, by which all government employees had to be of Aryan stock. In the case of the German Church, compliance with this directive meant that all pastors of Jewish blood, including Dietrich’s dear friend Franz Hildebrandt, with lobbying by the pro-Hitler “German Christians,” were excluded from the ministry. As well, a modern-day parallel is drawn to the morally questionable Vatican deal with the People’s Republic of China in September 2018.
Chapter 5: London Pastorate and the Fanø Conference
Dietrich’s disillusionment with the official church in Germany influenced him to accept an eighteen-month London Pastorate from October 1933 until April 1935. He now had the opportunity for regular contact with the Bishop of Chichester, George Bell, whom he had first met at Novi Sad in Yugoslavia in September 1933 after the Novi Sad conference. In 1934, Dietrich attended an Ecumenical Conference on the Danish island of Fanø.
Chapter 6: Old Prussia — Birth of Ruth to Precarious Survival
This chapter steps back in time to cover the fifty-seven-year period from 1867 to 1924. It begins with the birth of Ruth von Kleist into the privileged Silesian Junker nobility, her happy marriage to a Pomeranian Junker, cut short by his untimely death in 1897, concluding in 1924, when her way of life was precariously balanced amid the chaos of the post-Great-War power vacuum, embodied in the collapse of the three great monarchical empires of Germany, Austro-Hungary, and Tsarist Russia. Poland and many other nations of eastern Europe were finally able to assert their new-found independence. The implications for Germany post-war, in particular for the lands of the Prussian Junkers bordering Poland, are discussed.
Chapter 7: Zingst and Finkenwalde
On April 15, 1935, Dietrich left London for Berlin, and almost immediately upon arrival, he and Franz Hildebrandt set about finding premises for the underground seminary training of Confessing Church pastors. For the first couple of months, it was located at temporary facilities near the German Baltic resort village of Zingst, before moving onto Finkenwalde, near Stettin (now modern-day Szczecin in Poland.) Sunday services were held in the underground seminaries, and it was during one of these services in 1935 at Finkenwalde that Dietrich first met the grand Junker matriarch Ruth von-Kleist.
Chapter 8: Institutionalised Hatred — The Nuremberg Laws
On September 15, 1935, three or so months after the underground seminary moved from Zingst to Finkenwalde, the Nuremberg Laws came into effect. In particular, The “Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honour” was proclaimed by Hitler at Nuremberg during the Rally of Freedom, held as part of the 7th Party Congress from September 10 to 16. Families were compelled to verify beyond all doubt that they had no Jewish blood going back 200 years. This meant that these laws went well beyond any anti-Jewish laws passed in 1933.
Chapter 9: The von Kleists and the Prophecy
In September 1925, Ruth and her son Hans Jürgen were summoned to a private meeting by the latter’s dear friend from childhood, Ewald von Kleist of Schmenzin, master of the nearby Schmenzin estate. Ewald called the meeting to discuss his reading of the book Mein Kampf (My Struggle) by Adolf Hitler, published earlier that year. It became dangerously seductive to many Germans, as Hitler ascended to power in late January 1933.
Chapter 10: Swedish trip and the Brethren Houses
Dietrich and his ordinands arrived in Sweden, with newspapers covering their visits on the front page; this had its downside. The news was relayed to Heckel and his cronies within the Reichkirche (German State Church). This aroused their jealousy and disdain, and Dietrich’s venia legendi, his right to lecture at the University of Berlin, was revoked. Upon their return to Germany however, Dietrich and his ordinands, with the support of Ruth and her clan, were able to set up the Brethren Houses in Pomerania at least. The pledges of support by Ruth and her Junker clan guaranteed the existence of Finkenwalde for another year.
Chapter 11: Memo to Hitler and his Olympics
Around the time Dietrich established the Brethren Houses in Pomerania, he heard that the Confessing Church administration was preparing a memorandum to be presented to Hitler. From August 1 to 16, 1936, the Berlin Olympics gave the Third Reich a propaganda gold mine. During and around this time, the regime moderated its anti-Jewish actions and actions against the Confessing Church. Dietrich envisaged an opportunity for pastors around the country to make a public proclamation of the Confessing Church memo.
Chapter 12: The Sammelvikariats
In mid-1937, Dietrich’s friend Franz Hildebrandt, following his arrest and subsequent release, made his flight unnoticed to Switzerland, and ultimately to London. In September, while Dietrich was on summer vacation with Eberhard Bethge, Hitler’s henchmen sealed the doors of the Finkenwalde Seminary, leading to Dietrich creating the Sammelvikariats, which were mobile and decentralised collective pastorates in the remote reaches of Pomerania.
Chapter 13: Flight and the Tumultuous Appeasement of Evil
In March 1938, Hitler annexed Austria, and in late September to early October that year, thanks to the rank appeasement of British PM Neville Chamberlain, he annexed the ethnic German-populated Sudeten region of Czechoslovakia. Chamberlain’s appeasement also led to the abortion of the planned German coup attempt on Hitler. During this time, in September, Dietrich’s twin sister Sabine, her husband Gerhard Leibholz and their daughters, with the help of Dietrich and Eberhard Bethge, made a successful flight to Switzerland, and subsequently to England.
Chapter 14: Reichskristallnacht
In early November 1938, an infamous chain of events was triggered when a seventeen-year-old Ostjuden (Eastern Jew) shot Ernst vom Rath, the third secretary of the Germany Embassy in Paris. The latter would die from his wounds two days later, which gave Hitler the pretext to invoke the infamous Reichskristallnacht (national night of broken glass) on the nation’s Jewish businesses and people.
Chapter 15: New York — Troubled Revisiting
Early in 1939, Dietrich’s response to possible military call-up was forced. His mother had seen a notice ordering all men born in 1906 and 1907 to register with the military, and informed Dietrich. This prompted him to look into the possibility of a move back to New York in order to avoid the military draft. However, once he arrived in New York in June 1939, eight years after he had left New York to return to Germany, he was overcome with chronic homesickness, prompting his return to Germany, after just twenty-six days back in New York. However, the trip to New York had given Dietrich a year’s reprieve from military call up.
Chapter 16: Homecoming to Outbreak of War
This chapter covers Dietrich’s return to Germany, the outbreak of WWII, and events up until the middle of 1940, which include the fall of France. At this time, Dietrich proved his suitability for his future double life as pastor and spy. In August, just before the outbreak or war, the infamous T-4 euthanasia program commenced after years of preparation. For dedicated Nazis, it was convenient to implement this program with war imminent. Dietrich was made aware of this and atrocities committed in Poland, courtesy of his brother-in-law Hans Von Dohnányi, now in a very senior position in military intelligence (the Abwehr) which became the focal point for the anti-Hitler conspiracy.
Chapter 17: Pastor and Spy
This chapter covers Dietrich’s official entry into the anti-Hitler conspiracy. Ostensibly, he was working for Military Intelligence (the Abwehr), an instrument of Hitler’s Reich. However, its highest echelons, including its head Admiral Wilhelm Canaris and his brother-in-law Hans Von Dohnányi, were all committed to Hitler’s overthrow. Dietrich remained no less a pastor in his new double life, which now permanently exempted him from military call-up. This chapter also clarifies the rival intelligence agencies in Hitler’s Reich and discusses his launch of Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941.
Chapter 18: Romance, Plots and Arrest
This chapter deals firstly with the burgeoning romance from June 1942, between Dietrich and the young Maria von Wedemeyer, the granddaughter of Ruth von Kleist and the daughter of Ruth’s youngest of five children, Ruth junior, referred to by the German diminutive Ruthchen. In March 1943, there were two unsuccessful assassination attempts on Hitler. Remarkably, in both instances, the plotters were able to cover their tracks. Nevertheless, in early April 1943, the top echelons of the anti-Hitler conspiracy, including Dietrich, his brother-in-law Hans Von Dohnányi, and Hans Oster, among others, were arrested. Curiously, the arrests had nothing to do with any failed plots or coups against Hitler.
Chapter 19: The Tormentor Tormented
This chapter documents the first eighteen months of Dietrich’s incarceration, where he was held in Berlin’s Tegel prison. His brother-in-law Hans von Dohnányi was incarcerated in the military officers’ prison next to the Lehrter Railway Station. Dietrich and his brother-in-law were, from a position of chronic weakness, able to outwit their cunning but less intelligent tormentor, the military Judge, General Manfred Roeder. At no stage, much to the chagrin of Roeder, did they reveal any information that betrayed their colleagues.
Chapter 20: Valkyrie II
This chapter centres around the final but failed assassination attempt on Hitler on July 20, 1944, and the life of the most pivotal figure among the plotters, Colonel Count Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg. The assassination attempt was codenamed “Valkyrie.” Curiously, this was the regime’s codename for a contingency plan to suppress a possible foreign worker’s revolt in the Reich. The link between the two Valkyries will be discussed. As will be the claim of many cynics that Stauffenberg only became part of the anti-Hitler conspiracy when the war started going badly for Germany. As a devout Catholic, Stauffenberg’s moral and spiritual dilemma in confronting this act are explored together with the remarkable odyssey and post-war survival of his wife Nina and children.
Chapter 21: Valkyrie’s Wake
This chapter deals with the aftermath of Valkyrie, in particular, for the Bonhoeffer family, including its adverse effect on Dietrich’s relationship with Maria. One month following Valkyrie, Maria made her last visit to Dietrich on August 23, 1944. In September, Dietrich’s brother Klaus and brother-in-law Rüdiger Schleicher were arrested. On October 8, 1944, Dietrich was transferred to the “less accommodating” residence of the cellar prison of the Reich SS Headquarters on Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse.
Chapter 22: Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse
This chapter opens with Fabian von Schlabrendorff’s impressions of Dietrich while both were incarcerated in Berlin’s Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse, which was the nerve centre for the administration and co-ordination of terror throughout the Third Reich and its occupied territories. Following the American bombing of the prison in early February 1945, most of the prisoners were either transferred to the concentration camps of Flossenbürg in northern Bavaria, or, as in Dietrich’s case, Buchenwald, about 320 kilometres south of Berlin near Weimar. Fabian, along with a handful of other prisoners, still remained at Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse, as their cases still had to be “heard.”
Chapter 23: Buchenwald
This chapter describes Dietrich’s two-month incarceration at the Buchenwald concentration camp. While not among the general population of inmates on starvation rations, but rather one of the “special prisoners”, their life in a subterranean cellar similar to that at Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse was still very grim. Descriptions of Dietrich’s fellow inmates are given, based largely on the account of the captured British MI6 operative, Sigismund Payne Best.
Chapter 24: Dietrich’s Final Days
On Easter Sunday, April 1, 1945, the prisoners could hear the thunder of American artillery. The prisoners’ liberation seemed imminent, but later that day, the chief guard told the seventeen special prisoners to get ready to leave. Their destination was unknown. Days later, Dietrich’s group ended up in the idyllic Bavarian village of Schönberg. They were quartered in the village school. On Sunday April 8, 1945, the penultimate day of Dietrich’s life, a pair of Gestapo agents arrived around noon. They ordered Dietrich to “komm mit uns” – “Come with us.”
Chapter 25: Old Prussia Gone With The Wind
The theme of this chapter is the obliteration towards and in the wake of war’s end of the only way of life the grand old lady, Ruth von Kleist, ever knew. It would indeed be, “gone with the wind” of the greatest cataclysm the world had known. The orgy of Soviet retribution through mass rape, murder, pillage and plunder of the Reich is pivotal to this theme. Ruth would survive the war in Europe by almost five months, but in those months, the Pomeranian estates she knew became almost unrecognisable under Sovietisation. It was not until her final moments in early October 1945 that her youngest, intrepid child, Ruthchen, made the perilous trip from the American occupied zone of Germany to be with her mother, and revealed the death of Dietrich to the matriarch. The chapter concludes with the matriarch passing away, eager for her reunion with Dietrich in paradise. Other remarkable women from Ruth’s clan, feature prominently.
Chapter 26: Oma Ruth’s Progeny After Death
This chapter deals with the fate of Grandmother (Oma) Ruth von Kleist’s progeny after her death. Her eldest son Hans Jürgen, after incarceration in Moscow’s infamous Lubyanka prison, followed by nineteen months of hard labour in a Siberian gulag, survived and lived on until 1969. An account is given of how the former estates of Ruth look in the modern day: the Silesian estate of Grossenborau, now Polish Borów Wielki, where Ruth was born on February 4, 1867, and the Pomeranian estates of Kieckow, now Polish Kikowo, where Ruth lived following her marriage in 1886. Heinrich von Kleist, the son and youngest child of Hans Jürgen von Kleist (eldest son of Ruth), made the post-war Polish Catholic church in Kikowo his passion, as a symbol of reconciliation between the two nations.
Chapter 27: The Prominenten and Miraculous Reprieves
After explaining the term “Prominenten” (prominent or special prisoners), the miraculous post-war survival of two members of the German Underground is discussed. They were their Vatican conduit Josef Müller, and the key conspirator in several assassination plots on Hitler, including the July 1944 Valkyrie plot, Fabian von Schlabrendorff. The latter was the adjutant of Henning von Treskow, himself a nephew of Ruth and mentor for the central figure in the Valkyrie plot, Claus von Stauffenberg. Fabian was also married to Luitgarde née von Bismarck, one of Ruth’s many grandchildren. In June 1945, Josef Müller had an emotional meeting with Pope Pius XII. Before discussing Fabian’s tribulations and miraculous survival, the contentious claim that the wartime pope was “Hitler’s Pope,” is addressed.
Chapter 28: Memory Transcending Executioners’ Legal but Criminal Flights from Justice
This chapter begins by describing Dietrich’s final hours before his execution, and those of his fellow victims, at Flossenbürg at around 6 a.m. on Monday April 9, 1945. On this same day at Sachsenhausen, a half-conscious and prostrate Hans von Dohnányi was executed following the sentence passed by another SS Drumhead court martial. Two conflicting theories in regard to how the execution of Dietrich and his fellow victims at Flossenbürg were carried out are discussed. While Dietrich’s executioners avoided meaningful prison time post-war, these two cogs in the machinery of the Third Reich are barely remembered, while the memory of Dietrich lives on in perpetuity. The narrative concludes by returning to the monument to Dietrich in modern day Wrocław, formerly his birthplace of German Breslau on February 4, 1906. This monument, which I visited in February 2005, opens the narrative in the preface.
Chapter 29: Dietrich and Ruth and their Times Relevance for America in 2020-21 — Lessons of History
This chapter explains the relevance of this book in the modern-day world — in particular for America in 2020-21 with the rise of the radical left, in no small part aided and abetted by the Chinese Communist Party, disturbingly infiltrating almost all aspects of American society. Not the least of which being, the highly questionable November 2020 election and the rampant radical-left street violence, with chilling echoes from the death throes of Weimar Germany and Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution from 1966-76. The reporting of which being virtually non-existent or tacitly approved of by a global mainstream media subservient to the agenda of the radical-left, devolving the former’s credibility to no more than media of Berlin and Moscow in the 1930s. Hence, the emphasis in this chapter on at least considering alternative media such as The Epoch Times for a more balanced and informed perspective.
Polish WWII Supplement I: The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact
The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, named after the foreign ministers of the Soviet Union and National Socialist Germany, was the non-aggression pact signed in Moscow between the Third Reich and the Soviet Union on the night of August 23-24, 1939, barely a week before Hitler’s invasion of Poland. Critical to this ideologically incongruent pact was the secret additional protocol which specified the carve-up of eastern Europe between the two oppressive dictatorships. Sixteen days following Hitler’s invasion of Poland on September 1, Stalin, in accordance with the pact’s secret protocol, on September 17, ordered the invasion of Poland’s east. This carve-up of Poland was wholeheartedly supported by Mao Zedong, who subsequently proposed his so-called “Polish Solution for China,” carving up China between his communists and Imperial Japan in an interview with Communist American journalist Edgar Snow.
Polish WWII Supplement II: The Gleiwitz (Gliwice) Incident
Before implementing his invasion of Poland, Hitler required a pretext; the emphasis was not so much on plausibility, but rather on fermenting confusion and exploiting the lack of readiness of the Poles and their dithering allies, Britain and France, in the prelude to the invasion. Accordingly, on the evening of August 31, 1939, the SS, in concert with the Abwehr (Regular Military Intelligence), staged “Operation Himmler,” a series of fake Polish attacks on German positions near the border with Poland, of which the action at Gleiwitz was but one. In spite of their amateurish premise and execution, the Gleiwitz incident, and Operation Himmler in general, achieved their common objective.
Polish WWII Supplement III: The Katyń Wood Massacre
The Katyń Wood Massacre was the Stalinist-perpetrated massacre of over 4,000 Polish officers taken prisoner in September to October 1939 during the Soviet invasion of eastern Poland. It was committed in the forest of Katyń in early April 1940, near the western Russian town of Smolensk, and the mass graves were discovered in April 1943 by Polish auxiliaries working for the German Army. Nevertheless, the virulent pro-Stalinist denial, including the current Russian president Vladimir Putin and the American Medieval English Literary and neo-Stalinist revisionist professor Grover Furr of New Jersey’s Montclair State University, continues to this day. As such, this historical supplement logically de-constructs all such pro-Stalinist denial arguments; one source is the written Nuremberg testimony of Major Rudolf-Christoph von Gersdorff, subordinate and close friend of Ruth’s nephew Henning von Treskow, who was, at the time of the discovery of the Katyń mass graves, the German Intelligence officer for the region. He submitted the first report to Berlin. The accounts and personal stories of the twelve appointed international investigators at Katyń are also documented. Attention is given to the credentials and credibility of all such witnesses.
Polish WWII Supplement IV: AK and 1944 Warsaw General Uprising — Stalin’s mass murder by German proxy
The term AK refers to the Armia Krajowa or Home Army – the non-Communist Polish Underground, which formed the vast majority of the Polish Underground, and was the largest underground movement in all of Nazi occupied Europe. The historical supplement narrates how the AK came into being in early 1942, and explains the iconic and famous anchor or “kotwica” that came to symbolise a free and independent Poland. The sixty-three-day 1944 Warsaw General Uprising (August 1 – October 2) against the occupying Germans was ruthlessly suppressed by the Germans, while the Soviet Army, under Stalin’s orders, stood back and tacitly allowed the mass murder by German proxy. Personal stories include those of Tadeusz Bór Komorowski, who issued the order to invoke the Rising, and his remarkable wife, Irena, and her two little boys Adam and Jerzy, who, through her bravery and ingenuity, survive until this day. I conclude with a description of my visit to the Warsaw Uprising Museum on October 9, 2004, utilising digital photos I took of tablets documenting the Rising.