By Anna Gustafson
New York Times bestselling author Eric Metaxas, who grew up in Jackson Heights, is returning to his home borough at the end of the month to discuss his most recent book about a young Protestant pastor from Germany who was executed during World War II for being involved in a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler.
Metaxas, who now lives in Manhattan, will speak at the Central Queens YM & YWHA Nov. 30 at 1:30 p.m. about his book, “Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy.” The book details the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a pastor and author who was 39 when he and his brother, brother-in-law and closest friend were arrested, put into concentration camps and executed by Nazis for plotting to assassinate Hitler.
“My mom is German and my grandfather was a soldier who was killed fighting for a regime he hated, and I’ve always tried to make sense of this period in history,” Metaxas said. “The story of Bonhoeffer has really haunted me. When I was first given a Bonhoeffer book, it was truly amazing and unlike anything I’d ever read.”
Published in April, the book marks the 65th anniversary of Bonhoeffer’s death and is the first biography on the pastor to come out in the past 40 years.
“That there has not been a major biography on this man in over 40 years is insane,” Metaxas said. “There’s a lot that’s come out in the last 40 years that wasn’t in the other biography. I have the story of the love affair between Bonhoeffer and his fiancée and the letters between them, and I give a very detailed account of his time in New York.”
Metaxas said most important to him was to prove that Bonhoeffer, who lived for a time in New York and fell in love with Harlem after teaching there, was a devout Christian who gave up everything to try and stop Hitler.
“The biggest thing for me was to reassess his theology,” Metaxas said. “He was kind of hijacked by atheists in a way over the years. They thought in his last two years he evolved into a post-Christian humanist, which is not true. I think there’s a lot of evidence I was able to uncover to make that super clear.”
To conduct research for the book, Metaxas, who wrote a best-selling biography on abolitionist William Wilberforce, spent time with two individuals who knew Bonhoeffer — Renate Bethge, the widow of Bonhoeffer’s best friend, and the elder sister of Bonhoeffer’s fiancée.
“Bonhoeffer is one of the most authentic people who have ever lived,” Metaxas said. “This is a guy who lived what he believed all the way to the gallows. You see the way Bonhoeffer lived and say you’d like to stand up against evil the way he did. It’s an incredibly inspiring story of faith.”
The Central Queens Y is at 67-09 108th St. in Forest Hills. For more information on the talk, call 718-268-5011, Ext. 151 or visit centralqueensy.org.
Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4574.