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Who Am I?

  For Holocaust Memorial Day, a poem by Dietrich Bonhoeffer






Who am I? They often tell me

I would step from my cell's


calmly, cheerfully, firmly,

like a squire from his country-


Who am I? They often tell me

I would talk to my warden

freely and friendly and clearly,

as though it were mine to


Who am I? They also tell me

I would bear the days of


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


restless and longing and sick, like

a bird in a cage,

struggling for breath, as though

hands were compressing my


yearning for colors, for flowers,

for the voices of birds,

thirsting for words of kindness, for


trembling with anger at despotisms

and petty humiliation,

tossing in expectation of great


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.




Reproduced by kind permission of Alive Publishing, Great Britain




4 Comment count
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Thank you for sharing this poem. Bonhoeffer is my greatest hero.

Alethea Eason
Author of Hungry

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I didn't know this poem.

I didn't know this poem. Thanks for sharing it.

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Me, neither.

I'm glad you posted it, Rosy.
Cheryl Snell

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Thanks for stopping by,

Thanks for stopping by, Alethea, Dale and Cheryl. Bonhoeffer's story is all the more poignant because he himself had escaped the troubles in Europe and was teaching in New York when, smitten by conscience, he returned to his native country to show solidarity with the persecuted. "Christians in Germany face the terrible alternative of willing the defeat of their nation in order that civilization may survive, or willing the victory of their nation and thereby destroying civilization. I know which of these alternatives I must choose. But I cannot make that choice in security."