“Who Am I” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
By Dr. Ted Baehr
The Christian Film & Television Commission
- In Berlin, Germany, Wilfried Schulz, media representative of the International Bonhoeffer Society, presented Dr. Ted Baehr, chairman of the Christian Film & Television Commission, a very rare limited edition facsimile reprint of a famous poem written by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, "Who Am I." The facsimile was published to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birthday of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
Bonhoeffer was a professing Christian who kept the Christian faith alive during the dictatorial reign of National Socialist Adolf Hitler in Germany.
Dr. Baehr was in Berlin teaching German filmmakers how to produce successful redemptive movies with faith and values.
Receiving this poem, Dr. Baehr said, "This is a humbling, encouraging and convicting honor. Just as Bonhoeffer stood up to the forces of evil attacking Christianity, we hope and pray that all of us at the Christian Film & Television Commission may be able to do the same in a much more limited sense since we do not face the persecution that ended the life of Bonhoeffer in one of Hitler's death camps just before the end of the war."
Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote “Who Am I” just one month before he was executed. This is an English translation of the famous text:
Who am I? They often tell me I would step from my cell's confinement calmly, cheerfully, firmly, like a squire from his country-house.
Who am I? They often tell me I would talk to my warden freely and friendly and clearly, as though it were mine to command.
Who am I? They also tell me I would bear the days of misfortune equably, smilingly, proudly, like one accustomed to win.
Am I then really all that which other men tell of, or am I only what I know of myself, restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage, struggling for breath, as though hands were compressing my throat, yearning for colors, for flowers, for the voices of birds, thirsting for
words of kindness, for neighborliness, trembling with anger at despotisms and petty humiliation, tossing in expectation of great events,
powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance, weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making, faint and ready to say farewell to it all.
Who am I? This or the other? Am I one person today, and tomorrow another? Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others, and before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling? Or is something within me still like a beaten army, fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?
Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am thine.
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