Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Letters and Papers from Prison” as Want to Read:
Letters and Papers from Prison
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Letters and Papers from Prison

4.31  ·  Rating details ·  2,684 Ratings  ·  126 Reviews
One of the great classics of prison literature, Letters and Papers from Prison effectively serves as the last will and testament of the Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a young German pastor who was executed by the Nazis in 1945 for his part in the “officers’ plot” to assassinate Adolf Hitler. 
      This expanded version of Letters and Paper
Paperback, 437 pages
Published July 1st 1997 by Touchstone (first published 1951)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Letters and Papers from Prison, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Letters and Papers from Prison

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
Sep 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Another fantastic one for my quote series:

“Please don’t ever get anxious or worry about me, but don’t forget to pray for me – I’m sure you don’t. I am so sure of God’s guiding hand that I hope I shall always be kept in that certainty. You must never doubt that I’m traveling with gratitude and cheerfulness along the road where I’m being led. My past life is brim-full of God’s goodness and my sins are covered by the forgiving love of Christ crucified.”

One of my favorite research papers to write wa
Brad Kittle
Sep 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Theologically inclined people
Really enjoyed the sections where D talked about the problems of faith in the modern world (now post-modern). The world, according to D, has rejected God as a beginning point for science, philosophy and even theology! Christians are now called to live with Christ in a world that has rejected religion without being religious. In the letters D's ideas were not completely expressed but a lot of interesting thoughts could come out of what he did write. ONe can see where Peter Rollins got a lot of hi ...more
Apr 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
From April 1943 to April 1945, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a prisoner of the Gestapo. Suspected of participating in a plot against Hitler, he was eventually executed in the closing days of World War II. This book is a collection of letters he wrote from prison to his family, his fiancee Maria, and his dearest friend Eberhard.

Bonhoeffer was in his late 30s when he was arrested. He was a Lutheran theologian, who had publicly questioned the rise of fascism and anti-Semitism in Germany and was systemati
Jana Light
Jan 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: spiritual
Oh, my. As if I weren't already inordinately fond of Bonhoeffer -- his writings and his life -- this collection of his letters and notes (written while he was in prison on suspicion of conspiracy to assassinate Hitler) cements him in my high estimation. I feel so many things about this book. In the midst of such a difficult, painful experience, Bonhoeffer displays deep faith and profound composure in his letters to his family and fiance. I was often struck by how much pain he tries to alleviate ...more
Sep 04, 2010 rated it liked it
"You must never doubt that I'm traveling with gratitude and cheerfulness along the road where I'm being led." -- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, letter from prison, Aug. 23, 1944

My sister pointed out how much significant writing comes from people who were incarcerated: The Apostle Paul (several of his epistles), Martin Luther King Jr. ("Letter from a Birmingham Jail"). John Bunyan wrote at least the first part of "The Pilgrim's Progress" while in jail. I'm sure there are many other examples ... and "Letter
Alan Johnson
The story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer is tragic and inspiring. This edition of his letters and papers from a Nazi prison provides invaluable primary-source material in the context of events that engulfed Bonhoeffer during World War II. Of course, as a result of his circumstances, he had to be circumspect, as it was evident that the Nazi authorities would read his correspondence.

Bonhoeffer made the long journey from Lutheran nonresistance to the prevailing governmental authorities to a more active res
Feb 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
The brilliance of this book lies in the intimacy you get with the authors (mostly Bethge and Bonhoeffer). The cheerfulness and resilience displayed by Bonhoeffer, implicated in many of his letters, are extremely admirable. What can be quite hard about reading these letters with little background knowledge is the high degree of familiarity assumed. Because Bethge and Bonhoeffer were very close, they could express a world of thought in half a sentence, which makes it sometimes hard for an outsider ...more
Feb 11, 2014 rated it it was ok

THE GOOD: True story. Does go into a fair bit of theological detail.

THE BAD: To be honest, this book was a bit of a bore. I've always been interested in WW2 and learning more about Dietrich Bonhoeffer, one of the great theologians of his time. However, the majority of his letters were pretty mundane (get me this, get me that) and failed to keep me entertained at all.

THE UGLY: I give this book 2 stars based on fact that I felt like I had to labour through most of it (Excuse the pun).
Peg Catron
Feb 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing
In prison for his resistance against the Nazi regime, Bonhoeffer struggles with what it means to be a christian in the postmodern world. Here is where he begins to formulate his idea of "religionless Christianity." he writes with the urgency, immediacy, and raw emotion of a man wrestling WITH and at the same time resting WITHIN a real God in a real world gone mad. He writes with the power of kierkegaard and the quiet passion of Buber all at the same time. This book helped me find the courage to ...more
May 19, 2009 rated it really liked it
Rev. Bonhoeffer's prison writings; written while he was imprisoned by the Nazis. I would recommend any of this great man's writings. However, I would not recommend this as a first book for someone unfamiliar with his work. Because it is largely comprised of his letters, it can be a bit disjointed and confusing to someone unfamiliar with his thought. Best to start with "The Cost of Discipleship" or the "Ethics".
Dec 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Both inspiring as well as a smack to the bottom in the same breath. At one end it is a reminder to always act how Jesus would to influence others in daily life, and at the other it is a wake up call to Christians to act against a religionless world and Christianity and return to restoring touchstone of the Church and Christ.

"God is beyond in the midst of our life. The church stands, not at the boundaries where human powers give out, but in the middle of the village."
"I believe that God will give us all the strength we need to help us to resist in all time of distress. But he never gives it in advance, lest we should rely on ourselves and not on him alone. A faith such as this should allay all our fears for the future."

What an amazing book written by an amazing man.
Denise Ballentine
An important volume in prison literature. Insightful. It was helpful to have read a biography of Bonhoeffer before tackling this. Not light or easy reading, some of the letters just trifles, but overall worth the read.
Feb 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, religious
This is kind of a sad book, but also quite uplifting and inspiring. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a Christian preacher put in prison and then killed in Germany during World War II. This book is a record of his letters and writings smuggled out of prison to his family and friends, many of which include some beautiful Christian teachings. In addition to these words, Dietrich's positive and uplifting attitude is very inspiring, as well as his family's support during trials of their own.

Here are a few of
Sean Meade
Nov 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I cannot recommend this edition, given the other ones that are available (but I happened to have it). Context is needed, not least because Bonhoeffer was playing a role in many of his letters (for the censors) and they read as being pretty naive and over-cheerful. I finally started reading the relevant parts of Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy beside it and that helped a lot.

What made B. such a great man? He was brilliant and came from a great family and had great opportunities. But I th
Nathan Albright
Nov 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: challenge
Given my interest both in the life and thought of anti-Hitler German martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer [1] and my general interest in reading the letters of others [2], it was probably no surprise that I would eventually find this book and also find it of great interest.  Having some familiarity with the poetry of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, but little with his letters or with his other writing, this book was of great interest for a variety of reasons.  For one, this particular correspondence is immensely fas ...more
Letters and Papers from Prison (LPP) by Dietrich Bonhoeffer is a fascinating creation of desperation and subtle suffering wrapped up within an understanding and reliance upon the Judeo-Christian God. Bonhoeffer is a Lutheran Theologian who was arrested by the Gestapo during the Second World War, due to his resistance to the Nazi Germany Regime. Bonhoeffer was executed by the way of hanging 23 days before the capture of Berlin, as someone that under no-circumstances, was to be allowed to survive. ...more
Oct 31, 2013 rated it liked it
This book has taken me some time to read, sitting on my bedside table for well over a month. There are two reasons for this; the first being the time taken to comprehend the depth of some of the writing, with the second being the inability at times to endure the book knowing full well the tragic ending.

There is no doubt that Bonhoeffer was a great figure in the twentieth century Christian world, a great thinker about Christianity in the modern world, and one of the great moral opponents of Adolf
Dec 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
"Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Letters & Papers from Prison" is an interesting look at prison life, WW2, Bonhoeffer's family relationships, friendship (which is most of the latter part of the book, along with practical Christianity) and theology. It's haunting to read letters where the writer and reader are ignorant, but you can count the months down to when one will die.

I thought this was beautiful. In the middle of Dietrich's last letter to his friend Eberhard, he wrote: "Please don't ever get anx
Dec 09, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: People who live through stories.
Shelves: christian
This is not particularly dense at the surface level. Bonhoeffer is not spending the bulk of his time digging into theological issues, though he does that occasional, particularly at the end. Instead, he is relating to his friends and family, particularly super-friend Bethge. Over time, it adds up. Bonhoeffer is a person. He's eternally hopeful for his release, but we all know better - there's a certain sadness in reading his letters to his family, friends and fiance. Toward the end, you have the ...more
Ann Canann
Aug 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: religion
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, one of the most influential theologians of our time, had a classical Literature education, and studied under the great theologians of his day. He became a Lutheran Pastor. In 1942. He became involved in the German resistance movement. In April of 1943 he was arrested by the Gestapo and sent to Flossenburg Concentration Camp. There he held services and taught his fellow prisoners and contemplated what it means to be good.

A Christian classic, this book contains a collection of
Oct 24, 2008 rated it liked it
I wasn't able to finish this book because it had to go back to the library. It's a collection of letters between a German Lutheran minister who imprisoned for over a year (for being part of the German resistance and for roles in plots to assassinate Hitler) and finally executed by the Nazis about a month before he would have been liberated by the Allies.

His letters are in some ways ordinary and in some ways extraordinary. He and his family write back and forth about the practical dealings of his
Jan 05, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: spiritual, philosophy
Bonhoeffer, the martyr of the Christian resistance to Hitler, writes with eloquence in these letters. He tells us of the doubts and terrors that afflicted him, yet we know of the eerie serenity and equanimity with which he mounted the scaffold to face his own hanging. He speaks of a godless world where god is not an immediate presence to be turned to when we have problems, as he had seemed in earlier times, but that instead we must learn to help ourselves. He also seems to say that the world is ...more
Apr 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I will be reading more Bonhoeffer. This book is a good introduction in some ways because the letters are very readable for the layperson. Only when he discusses intricacies of Barth and a few other German theologians did I get a little lost, but not for long. It is hard to read the hope he has to get out of prison and return home when you know his story.

Too many good quotes... almost every page...

"It is not your love which sustains the marriage, but from now on the marriage that sustains your lo
Martha Groeber
Mar 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A remarkable addition to any Bonhoeffer biography. I read Eric Metaxas's "Bonhoeffer" a year ago, and reading these letters gives more depth to my understanding of this unusual man. Beginning with his imprisonment in April 1943 until his letters were stopped by the Gestapo in October 1944, his correspondence with his family and friends was enormous. His letters begin with his hope for a speedy release. As the months go on, he resigns himself to his imprisonment without flagging in his hope in Go ...more
Mar 15, 2011 rated it really liked it

I got this book at the library and I think I want to get it for my kindle and re-read it. Many words of wisdom. Bonhoeffer is very analytical with his thoughts and I enjoyed how he worked his thoughts onto his letters. The letters were very revealing and somber. There were several surprises in the book. He did think about suicide but had claimed that he would overcome by prayer. In one of his letters to his good friend who was a soldier, writing about the baptism of his baby and wanting to be th
Aug 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
I did not like the first third to half of the book. Bonhoeffer's preaching wearied me and he made points which made me wary. The latter portion of the book, particularly his letters with Eberhard Berthge were mesmerizing and tragic. The depth of his theological thought, particularly as examines the role of Christianity in a "world come of age," is much more intriguing than the first portion. The most tragic, and interesting from a literary standpoint, aspect to the work is the resounding confide ...more
Nov 30, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: religion, philosophy
Not for everybody. It was interesting to see the subtle shift in tone of his letters over his two year imprisonment. It was especially engaging as he struggled with the apparent distance of God that he feels.

In his last months he proposes a 'religionless' Christianity, which I don't believe is a secular humanism that the God is Dead movement of the 60's preferred. He begins to write about Christianity happening, not in the churches and or in ritual sacraments, but in the 'center of life', that i
Weston Mccarron
Aug 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Very interesting musings from a powerful Christian intellect. Towards the end, Bonhoeffer starts to develop his controversial idea of a post-theism Christianity. Unfortunately, his life was cut short by the Nazis before he could fully develop this idea.

"God as a working hypothesis in morals, politics, or science, has been surmounted and abolished; and the same thing has happened in philosophy and religion (Feuerbach!). For the sake of intellectual honesty, that working hypothesis should be dropp
Sep 25, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book, although it was not quite what I expected. The first half of the book was mostly letters back and forth between Bonhoeffer (in prison) and his family members who were not in prison. Fairly banal and bland stuff, where I had been hoping for more theological reflection. I got more of what I was looking for in the second half of the book, but I always felt like I was missing something. I think there must have been other letters that were not included in this collection and yet ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer
  • The Crucified God: The Cross of Christ as the Foundation and Criticism of Christian Theology
  • Dogmatics in Outline
  • Christ and Culture
  • The Hauerwas Reader
  • The Prophetic Imagination
  • The Gospel in a Pluralist Society
  • The Courage to Be
  • The Politics of Jesus
  • The Nature of Doctrine
  • Summa Contra Gentiles: Book 1: God
  • She Who Is: The Mystery of God in Feminist Theological Discourse
  • Engaging the Powers: Discernment and Resistance in a World of Domination (Powers, #3)
  • Brother to a Dragonfly
  • Exclusion & Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation
  • On Wealth and Poverty: St. John Chrysostom
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German Lutheran pastor and theologian. He was also a participant in the German Resistance movement against Nazism, a founding member of the Confessing Church. His involvement in plans by members of the Abwehr (the German Military Intelligence Office) to assassinate Adolf Hitler resulted in his arrest in April 1943 and his subsequent execution by hanging in April 1945, sho ...more
More about Dietrich Bonhoeffer
“We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.” 914 likes
“Jesus himself did not try to convert the two thieves on the cross; he waited until one of them turned to him.” 348 likes
More quotes…