Eric Metaxas notes that Wednesday was Adolf Hitler’s birthday. He looks back on Hitler’s last birthday, and his bleak end, compared with the life and death of a man he tried to destroy, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. An excerpt:
How is it that one man slunk to his death defeated and is today despised by the whole world, while another man went to his death with God’s peace, and is today everywhere hailed as a hero, as one of the few Germans with the courage to see what was happening and to speak against it and act against it, even at the cost of his own life?
There’s much to say by way of an answer, but since the Easter season is upon us, let’s start there.
Bonhoeffer believed the Easter story. He actually believed the extraordinary story of God’s coming to Earth and dying and then rising from the dead to defeat death forever. He believed that because this was true, he need never fear death. All he needed to worry about was doing the right thing and trusting God with the results. And that he did.
Because Bonhoeffer believed these things he had the courage to do what almost no one else around him could do. He stood up for the Jews of Europe and today he is celebrated and cherished, while Hitler, who condemned him to death and who only believed in himself, is reviled as a monster.
That day in the bunker 66 years ago today, as the drugged-up Fuehrer celebrated his last birthday, he was alive and Bonhoeffer had been dead for eleven days.
But on that day — April 20, 1945 — who was happy and who was at peace, Hitler or Bonhoeffer? For that matter, which of them is happy and at peace today? It’s something chilling to think about, the contrast between these two Germans, between these two lives and these two deaths. But at this time of year especially, it’s appropriate that perhaps we do think about it.