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Bonhoeffer on Younger Generation and Leadership [blog]

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Did you know that 80 years ago to this day (Feb. 1), young German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, spoke on the Berlin radio station on the topic of Youth and Leadership?

Apparently, this occurred only two days since the Nazis took over the power in Germany and some argued that Bonhoeffer did that to oppose their rule, but the truth is we do not know if this is true or not. His program was scheduled way before the political change, but it is possible that he changed the tone of his address inspired with the situation in the country.

What is interesting is that Bonhoeffer spoke about the concept of the Leader (Fuhrer) that existed in German culture for decades already. The same term was later used by Hitler for his propaganda purposes. But, at the time of the address, it was still a popular concept of the Fuhrer Principle.

Bonhoeffer started with explaining why Germany was looking for the Fuhrer – as a search for meaning and guidance out of troubles, the Great War and its consequences and the deep economic crisis in 1920s. There he argued about the real leadership and the false leadership of the Fuhrer. The real leadership comes from God, while the authority of Fuhrer is self-derived and autocratic, with a messianic aspect. Because of that such a leader becomes an idol.

Bonhoeffer said: “Whereas earlier leadership was expressed in the form of the teacher, the statesman, the father… now the Leader became an independent figure. The Leader is completely divorced from any office, he is essentially and only ‘the Leader.’

He argued that the true leader must stand before God and be responsible to God. When the leader starts to points toward the state or nation they take over the ultimate authority from God.

How true and how prophetic from such a young person!

Whether on purpose or not his radio address was cut off before he could make his conclusion. The station was silenced, and no one until today knows what happened. Some say Nazis did it, others think of more technical or electric reasons. I am of an opinion that their PR offices were well aware of the power of media, especially radio in those days.

(quotes taken from the book Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas)


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