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on October 28, 2013
Very well-researched. Some information was new to me, though I've read a great deal about Dietrich Bonhoeffer and family, and the tribulations they suffered during WW II. For example: Dohnanyi's wife contaminated food she brought him with diphtheria bacilli (at his request), so that he could be moved out of the prison to a hospital cell. It is humbling to read about a person of whom relatively little is known, and to see how he used his official position to help others in the face of grave danger to himself. Exemplary people, and a book that all of us would benefit from reading.

Unlike the present-day betrayer of U.S. secrets, [who has done all he can to escape the consequences of his actions, and whom I consider a traitor], Dohnanyi accepted the retribution he knew would come to him, even though the punitive actions of the criminal Nazi machine were far worse than anything that would be handed down today.
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on September 26, 2013
"No Ordinary Men" is brief; but its 150 pages vividly depict the related careers of two brothers-in-law, the well-known Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the lesser known Hans von Dohnanyi, in their courageous struggle against Nazi totalitarianism. It is hard to imagine how they kept to their righteous path through the temptations and terror and moral degeneracy that surrounded them as Germany foundered in the 1930s and 1940s. Yet they seemed to have seen themselves not as remarkable, but as men of ordinary decency.

As the authors remark at the end of their study, "Though the world knows of Bonhoeffer in detail and hardly at all of Dohnanyi, they deserve to be remembered together. The Third Reich had no greater, more courageous, and more admirable enemies than they. Dohnanyi aptly summed up their work and spirit when he said they simply took 'the path that a decent person inevitably takes.' So few traveled that path -- anywhere."

Quite a remarkable book. Very highly recommended.
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on February 27, 2014
I have long wondered how the Nazis managed to squelch any criticism of their management of the national policies. Granted, here in the USA we speak, nay, shout our disapproval of politics and policies we don't agree with. But, could the Germans be so docile, so ignorant, so tame, they just said, "so what?" to everything that was changing in their daily lives? And yet, that is what occurred. They seemed to knuckle under rather easily. I have been exploring this question through quite a few books recently after reading Ambassador Dodd's diary. He was our last Ambassador to Germany before WWII and it is quite a frank book. So, it was a real pleasure to come to know the Bonhoeffer family and to see that they were not the type of family to simply acquiese in behavior and policies they believed were inherently amoral. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a theologian, could not in good conscience remain quiet. That he lived as long as he did proves his international influence and the uneasiness within the Nazi regime. Perhaps they had a fear of just removing him. Hans von Dohnanyi, Dietrich's brother-in-law, decided to work from within, collecting and cataloging the atrocities he was seeing from the inside. Both worked quietly and behind the scenes to overthrow Hitler. Bonhoeffer's name is still remembered but unfortunately for history, Dohnanyi has never received the credit he deserves. Good research and good footnotes are an additional plum in this very good pie!
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on January 12, 2017
Overview:
This is a short but detailed account of both Bonhoeffer and Dohnanyi's resistance to Hitler's regime. It explores the internal struggles both men wrestled with emotionally, spiritually and eventually physically. It also seeks to show the inner workings of the resistance strategies and complexities as well as the relational ties these men had. 

Spiritual Insights:
In life we need to struggle through our rationalization decision making process using psychological tricks such as compartmentalization to assist us. We often divide life's circumstances in order to form a response by choosing spiritual verses physical, or emotional verses logical or theological verses secular. This helps us either to avoid acting in a situation or to move ahead to accomplish a task God may be asking us to do. Bonhoeffer and Dohnanyi both struggled from the beginning and the slow rise of national socialism into the wartime chaos of life and the neat, tidy compartmentalization rational life that existed prior to Hitler's ultimate rise as dictator. We also need to struggle with our ever growing, ever encroaching governmental overreach and power grabs in various areas life once thought verboten. It is not an option to decide, for example, to just be spiritual and not look to another's physical needs, or if your current government's ideology is clearly anti-biblical to simply not teach the biblical truths surrounding those subjects in your church. We must resist evil, rescue the dying, protect the vulnerable and bind up the wounded. Faith must be accompanied by works/action or it is dead. 

Bonhoeffer said, "What keeps gnawing at me is the question, what is Christianity, or who is Christ actually for us today?" "What mattered most was the inner life of faith, which for him was not at all the life of someone trying to be pious or merely treasuring piety's outward forms; it was about 'living unreservedly in life's duties, problems, successes and failures, experiences and perplexities." 

He also "used the word 'religion' almost pejoratively referring to the outer forms of established faith practices; he thought that most of Christianity's encrusted habits and structures that had been revered for centuries might, even should, be jettisoned.'"

Dohnanyi struggled internally as Chief Assistant to the Reich's Minister of Justice (Guertner) that he too, "had become against his will a part of the National Socialist system." "Hitler had kept Guertner on so as to reassure people that the 'law' remained in non-Nazi hands. Dohnanyi "remarkably, with cool-headed efficiency and rising outrage...began to keep a chronological record, along with supporting evidence and an index, of the regime's illegal acts. "Dohnanyi, who at the very end of his life was haunted by having involved Dietrich in the anti-Hitler plots." As Bonhoeffer's brother-in-law, marrying Dietrich's older sister Christel and part of the family it was a greater emotional burden on Dohnanyi having recruited Dietrich into the actual plots to assassinate Hitler. 

AwakeandReady(dot)org Book Rating:
I give this book a 4 star rating. I loved the book's ability to cover so much territory in so few pages but yet because of this fact, the book seemed disjointed at times giving names and times without enough connections to those people and places etc. All and all, this was a very good read and I recommend it to anyone wanting to get started in understanding Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Hans von Dohnanyi - hero's of the faith and humanity. 
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on June 17, 2014
I had just finished reading "Hitler's Pope" by John Cornwell, which is an account of the actions (or inaction) of Pope Pius XII in the lead-up to and the duration World War II.
I then saw a review of "No Ordinary Men" and was intrigued by the contrast between the decisions made by the Catholic Church, and what Bonhoeffer and Dohnanyi had done in the face of the Nazi totalitarianism and brutality.
According to Cornwell, Eugenio Pacelli (later Pius XII) bargained with Hitler to secure church rights in Germany as the Nazis rose to power. In return, Pacelli allowed the Catholic political party in Germany, perhaps the main political opposition to Hitler, to be dissolved.
And when the world became aware of the Holocaust, Pacelli (now Pope) continuously resisted calls for the Church to unequivocally condemn the genocide.
Bonhoeffer and Dohnanyi, on the other hand, risked and ultimately lost their lives opposing and even conspiring against the Nazis.
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on June 5, 2014
American Protestantism is anemic, lame and lazy. All too often we conform to the status quo...pastors are afraid to be prophetic for it will not profit their ministries....so we get bland sermons and blighted beliefs...No Ordinary Men should be a must read for all Protestant pastors. This slender volume is insightful and inspirational. Their story is told with compassion and conviction yet balanced. The authors provide a small window in which to view the horrible events of Nazi Germany. And they do so without clutter or vagaries. It is a well written historical perspective on a very evil age when the church sought to keep the status quo...and did was afraid to speak out and up...I frankly find most of Protestantism and much of today's preaching much like the German church...and all too little like the confessional church of Bonhoeffer . If for no other reason than to see what the church today ought to be contrasted with what it in fact is is why you should read this book!!!!
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on January 12, 2014
The book "No Ordinary Men" has the tone of an adventure narrative and the depth of a theological treatise. Both Bonhoffer and Dohnanyi, were members of prominent German families whose scholarship and imaginative use of their erudition would have earned them at least marginal respect in a variety of cultures and political environments. The risks both took in opposing the Nazi regime by joining a conspiracy to end Hitler's life gave their activities historical significance. Looking beyond their own existence, they asked, "what will happen to Germany after the Nazi regime is overcome?" What truths will emerge when evil has been vanquished and sanity is restored? Can Germany admit the error of its anti-semitic biases which evident even before Hitler came to power/

As the shadow of oppression and evil haunted Europe and then the rest of the world, religion began to lose its soul. Both Protestant and Catholic leaders capitulated to Hitler's evil designs. Only the "Confessing Church" a small group of dissidents, resisted the twisted thinking and outrageous acts of the Third Reich, This book combines theological reasoning with bold ethical insight.

The authors decline to nominate its subjects for some form of Protestant sainthood, choosing instead to present a balanced view of the true humanity of two men who were anything but "ordinary." And thus it remains credible to the end.
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on January 1, 2015
This book was outstanding, and difficult to put down once I started it! I have read several works about Bonhoeffer and Dohnanyi, but this one adds depth, perspective, and detail to their thoughts, feelings, activities, and motivations that were part of their legacy. This book brings out a fuller dimension of the entire family being involved in resistance work. It was surprising to learn that some family members were arrested at various times, but then released. Not only did Bonhoeffer and his family foresee the rise of a future fuhrer figure, but also predicted its destructive end. In attempting to convey Bonhoeffer’s resistance work, many authors tend to favor Dietrich and diminish Hans von Dohnanyi’s work. This book adds new detail about Hans, particularly about his arrest, torture, and eventually his hanging ordered by Hitler.

It was shocking to learn that those Germans who were resisters to the Nazi regime, despite their sacrifices and peril, were often treated more badly and more dishonorably than surviving Nazi officials, and were to many viewed as traitors who had betrayed their country.

If there were any disappointments with this book, in my view it would only be because of its brevity. The author makes up for this with its potent portrayal of these two extraordinary men, and adding new information about them.

Highly recommended!
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on August 2, 2014
Its a terrific and moving story. I am a remnant of the Second World War having been born in Berlin in 1939 and living there throughout the entire 1940's. I did not survive unscathed but had the benefit of the blissful ignorance of childhood. It is only now as an aging and orphaned child of Europe that I have come realize the grinding humiliation that would have been the experience of such superior and humane beings as these two and their families. There were others. Thousands of them. Most suffered the same unjust fate. There were not enough of them. That is the tragedy of that generation of Germans. Those perverse 12 years of the Third Reich will probably never be fully understood. How could this happen in Germany! Truly the cradle of high European culture. Surely, there are lessons there for our time! Lets keep trying to understand. fds.
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on November 4, 2013
new book arrived promptly, priced reasonably. this is a well written story of two men who should receive highest praise for their unselfish and humanitarian acts...they paid the price with their lives. not many germans resisted hitler's reign of terror...these men did. an excellent book on a facet of the 3rd reich that is not as well known as it should be. highly recommended. thanks to NY review of books for publishing this.
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