New Release: Bonhoeffer the Assassin?

Cover ArtMost of us think we know the moving story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s life–a pacifist pastor turns anti-Hitler conspirator due to horrors encountered during World War II–but does the evidence really support this prevailing view?

Bonhoeffer the Assassin? carefully examines the biographical and textual evidence and finds no support for the theory that Bonhoeffer abandoned his ethic of discipleship and was involved in plots to assassinate Hitler. In fact, Bonhoeffer consistently affirmed a strong stance of peacemaking from 1932 to the end of his life, and his commitment to peace was integrated with his theology as a whole.

The book includes a foreword by Stanley Hauerwas.


“An enormously important book. It is exactly right on the core of Bonhoeffer’s Christian ethics and incisively helpful on the ethics of peace and war. The point is not principlism but God in Jesus entering incarnationally with compassion into the midst of our defenses and alienation, bringing healing and our participation in Jesus’s nonviolent way.” – Glen Stassen, Fuller Seminary

“Nation, Siegrist, and Umbel challenge the widely-held assumption that after the beginning of World War II Bonhoeffer not only participated in the anti-Nazi conspiracy but set aside his earlier pacifism and adopted a more ‘rational’ and ‘realistic’ stance, which included participation in the plot to assassinate Hitler….[T]his volume will decisively reframe the way we read the thought and life of this most remarkable Christian.” – Barry Harvey, Baylor University

“This book offers a well-researched, well-thought-through argument that demands attention from anyone interested in the legacy of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. It is a new look at his life and work that offers a critical lens on traditional interpretations of his devotion to the Sermon on the Mount in the face of real life crisis. These authors are to be applauded for this significant contribution.” – Reggie L. Williams, McCormick Theological Seminary

“If you mention Bonhoeffer, just about everyone thinks of his involvement in a conspiracy to kill Hitler. This becomes a major key–sometimes the key–to interpreting his writings. This fascinating book not only questions this assumption but also shows what happens when you read him without it. A thoroughly engaging book.” – Arne Rasmusson, University of Gothenburg

“This extensively researched and passionately argued book will invariably provoke discussion in Bonhoeffer studies as it challenges misconceptions of his role as assassin and patriot. It persuasively reconciles Bonhoeffer’s pacifist writings with his political activities in the Abwehr, as well as themes of pacifist obedience with political responsibility often separated by Niebuhrian ‘political realist’ readings. This is an invaluable study of Bonhoeffer’s theological ethics that must be taken seriously.” – David Haddorff, St. John’s University

“Those of us who have been uneasy with the too-glib assumption that Bonhoeffer gave up his commitment to pacifism to join a conspiracy against Hitler can now rejoice. This book’s careful scholarship thoroughly proves that the major change in Bonhoeffer’s theology happened much earlier and that he remained steadfast thereafter as a pacifist until his death at Nazi hands.” – Marva J. Dawn, Regent College

“This book’s provocative title is designed to challenge the received view of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s role in the German Resistance’s plans to overthrow the Nazi regime by murdering Hitler. The authors seek to show that he had no sympathy with such political violence. Instead he remained true to the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount, especially to Jesus’s teachings about the ethics of peace, which he had outlined so forcefully in his book Discipleship.” – John S. Conway, University of British Columbia


Mark Thiessen Nation (PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary) is professor of theology at Eastern Mennonite Seminary in Harrisonburg, Virginia, and has authored several books, including John Howard Yoder: Mennonite Patience, Evangelical Witness, Catholic Convictions.

Anthony G. Siegrist (ThD, Wycliffe College, University of Toronto) is associate professor of theology at Prairie Bible College in Three Hills, Alberta.

Daniel P. Umbel (MDiv, Eastern Mennonite Seminary) is a pastor, formerly of Mt. Olivet Church in Dyke, Virginia, and lives in Grafton, West Virginia.

For more information on Bonhoeffer the Assassin?, click here.