The Faithful Spy: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler by John Hendrix

Information

Goodreads: The Faithful Spy
Series: None
Source: Library
Published: 2018

Summary

A Lutheran pastor and theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer spoke out against Hitler’s increasingly horrifying political agenda, as well as his takeover of the Christian church.  Ultimately, he became convinced that assassinating Hitler was the only way to stop him.  Bonhoeffer gave his life to protect the vulnerable of society.  A graphic novel biography.

Star Divider

Review

The Faithful Spy is a thoughtful look at an intriguing questions: can a political assassination ever be justified?  Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German Lutheran pastor and theologian, grappled with just this dilemma as he watched Adolf Hitler abuse his power.  Bonhoeffer was convinced that Christianity compelled him to protect the Other, the vulnerable of society whom his country seemed all too willing to sacrifice for revenge and glory.  But he struggled with exactly how he was being called to serve.  Jim Hendrix’s graphic biography, rendered in teal, red, black, white, takes readers on a philosophical journey as he chronicles Bonhoeffer’s early efforts to maintain a truly Christian church through his decision to join a spy network dedicated to killing Hitler.

Readers need to follow various threads to understand this story, and Hendrix deftly balances them all: history stretching back to WWI, Bonhoeffer’s early life and influences, and Bonhoeffer’s  understanding of Christianity.  Vivid imagery accompanied by dramatic metaphors drives home his points as he depicts Hitler as a snarling wolf or draws a map showing the road from economic collapse after WWI to the rise of German nationalism.  However, Bonhoeffer’s concern with moral responsibility is the underlying thread that connects it all, the question readers are meant to engage with as they read Bonhoeffer’s story.

Though the question “Can you kill Hitler?” may seem overly dramatic, Hendrix makes it clear that the question is very real.  And not only because it was a literal question Bonhoeffer and his fellow conspirators grappled with.  At its core, the question is really more like, “What actions is a person morally obligated to take to protect others?”  And “What might a person be asked to give up in order to follow their conscience?”  In this respect, though the book is obviously about Bonhoeffer’s interpretation of Christianity, the story really reaches beyond a specific religion to ask readers to confront their own moral obligations.

In some respects, reviewing a work like The Faithful Spy is extremely difficult, simply because the content is so powerful.  No one really wants to critique the story of a man who gave his life in an effort to save the lives Hitler was destroying.  If any critiques are to be made, however, they are these: Hendrix is overly fond of using metaphors to give excuses for using arresting visuals, and his use of color and tiny text sometimes makes the book rather difficult to read.  Really all there is to be done about this, however, is to have a magnifying glass handy and  to make sure you read in a well-lit area.

It is no wonder that The Faithful Spy made so many “best of” lists in 2018.  Its subject alone would bring attention to the book.  However, Hendrix’s original use of color and his striking visuals make the work truly memorable.

4 stars

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5 thoughts on “The Faithful Spy: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler by John Hendrix

    • Krysta says:

      For me, it was definitely a new take on WWII, which can feel difficult when there are so many books out there on the war! But I liked how it was more of a reflection on one man’s journey. It doens’t pretend to be an unbiased account by any means. The author is clearly fascinated by and rooting for his subject. And that made me want to know more.

      Liked by 1 person

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