Germany seeks to save resistance fighter's archive

BERLIN (Reuters Life!) - Berlin’s state library has launched an appeal to save the archives of theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was executed at a concentration camp in 1945 for opposing Hitler.

Almost a fifth of the 10,000 pages in Bonhoeffer’s archive have suffered severe chemical decay and other physical damage and are in urgent need of restoration, said the library, which is looking to raise 40,000 euros to fund the project.

“(Bonhoeffer’s archive) is one of the most significant legacies for the history of theology and the German resistance movement,” the library said in a statement.

Bonhoeffer was a leading figure in the resistance movement against Nazism, which led to his imprisonment in 1943 in Berlin and execution in Flossenbuerg concentration camp shortly before the end of the war, at the age of 39.

“It’s very important to do as much as possible to keep these records alive for the next generation,” Christine Korenke, Bonhoeffer’s niece, told Reuters.

“Bonhoeffer is a very important model for young people. He makes people ask themselves: ‘How did someone from the pacifists come to do what nobody else dared and try to kill Hitler’?”

Bonhoeffer, a leading member of the dissident “Confessing Church” banned during the Third Reich, worked with anti-Hitler army officers and traveled to neutral Sweden in 1942 to discuss secret coup plans with a British bishop.

He was arrested in 1943. After the coup against Hitler failed on July 20, 1944, the Nazis discovered Bonhoeffer’s links to the conspirators and sent him to a concentration camp.

The archive has 3,520 documents with over 10,000 pages, including letters Bonhoeffer wrote from prison, lecture scripts and photos, charting his youth through to his development as a theologian, involvement in the resistance and time in prison.

Reporting by Anna Brooke, editing by Paul Casciato