~Dietrich Bonhoeffer~

 February 4,1906 –  April 9, 1945

I chose to post this poem titled “Who am I?” after posting “This is Who Jesus Christ is to Me”.

Though our prisons may not be literal, we may relate to what he found there.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was perhaps the most courageous

and outspoken of all clergyman in Germany

during the Nazi party rise to power under Adolph Hitler.

He was hung by the Nazis on the 9th of April 1945

at the Flossenbürg Concentration Camp.

Bonhoeffer wrote this poem in Tegel prison in 1944

This was one of his final works.


“Who am I?”

Who am I? They often tell me

I stepped from my cell’s confinement

Calmly, cheerfully, firmly,

Like a squire from his country-house.

Who am I? They often tell me

I used to speak to my warders

Freely and friendly and clearly,

As though it were mine to command.

Who am I? They also tell me

I bore 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 myself 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,

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, 0 God, I am Thine!

March 4,1946