THE BONHOEFFERS: Portrait of a Family by Sabine Leibholz-Bonhoeffer

THE BONHOEFFERS: Portrait of a Family

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The twin sister of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the anti-Nazi theologian and martyr, describes him, their parents, other brothers and sisters, and her life in England as a refugee with her husband, a law professor of Jewish descent. The book is written in a flat, understated manner which is sometimes agreeable, sometimes irritating. The brief sketches say nothing but good of the family members; their life, however, as well-born, well-connected Berliners makes interesting reading. The author has almost wholly comfortable memories of World War I, and even during the postwar inflationary crisis they maintained servants, summer houses, and travels. The Bonhoeffers' sturdy religiosity comes across in an appealing way. After Hitler took power, ""Everyday it became more unpleasant,"" especially for her husband; but they left reluctantly only in 1938, refusing to sell their house (an aristocratic aunt kept it up for them and was caught by the Gestapo reading Rosa Luxemburg). In England Mrs. Leibholz-Bonhoeffer regrets the ugliness of her child's school uniform and the absence of a piano in the house. Whatever hostility they encountered was anti-German, not anti-Jewish -- some people simply couldn't grasp the notion of an anti-Hitler German. On the other hand, this book reminds one how patriotic the anti-Nazi conspirators' circle was, although there is not a shred of political information about the plot which killed two of the author's brothers and two brothers-in-law, except insistence that the plot materialized before the war was lost. After the war the Leibholzes returned to Germany. Uncharitable readers may complain that the author seems to care only about her family and friends; moreover, those interested chiefly in Dietrich Bonhoeffer will find little valuable material; certainly, the book conveys no ""universality,"" but rather an evocation of a very specific caste, period, and mentality. Like the handsome photographs illustrating the book, the family portrait's appeal will depend on the reader's prior knowledge and interest.

Pub Date: May 11th, 1972
Publisher: St. Martin's Press