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Berlin library launches appeal to save Bonhoeffer’s papers

World News

The Berlin State Library has launched an appeal for funds to save and digitalise thousands of letters and manuscripts that belonged to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, an anti-Nazi Protestant theologian who was executed shortly before the end of the Second World War.

Bonhoeffer was a founder of the Confessing Church, along with Karl Barth, Martin Niemöller and others. It represented opposition to Adolf Hitler’s incursions into church life in Germany during the Nazi-era.

The library is seeking about 40 000 euros to save the papers and make the documents available online. Currently the collection consists of more than 10 000 pages. Rusting paper clips and ageing paper have threatened the collection and in mid-2008 the library put 196 documents with about 1944 pages into non-corroding folders.

"The amount required for restoration and digitalisation exceeds the capacity of the library. Obviously it will, as far as possible, use its own material and human resources. Nevertheless, we are asking the public to provide donations for part of the required funds," Barbara Schneider-Kempf, the library’s director-general said in a joint statement with Klaus G. Saur, head of the friends of the Berlin State Library on the library’s Web site.

By 8 January, 5700 euros had been raised, according to the Web site.

Bonhoeffer repeatedly clashed with the Nazi regime. The Gestapo secret police banned him from preaching, then teaching, and finally any kind of public speaking. In 1943 he was arrested and held in prisons and concentration camps, before being executed in April 1945, with the Allies approaching and barely three weeks before the end of the Second World War in Europe.

The Bonhoeffer collection was bequeathed to the library by his close friend, theologian Eberhard Bethge, who was married to Bonhoeffer’s niece. It includes draft papers, sermons he gave in Barcelona and New York as well as fragments from his book, "Ethics". It also includes the last letter he wrote to his parents from his death cell.

(c) Ecumenical News International

Photo : World News