History Book – Bonhoeffer executed, and Churchill resigns

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Monday, April 6th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: the WORLD History Book.

Today, the resignation of one of Britain’s most beloved prime ministers. Plus, 75 years ago, the Nazis execute German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

But first, the effectual end of the American Civil War. Here’s Paul Butler.

PAUL BUTLER, REPORTER: Starting in the summer of 1864, Union forces under the direction of General Ulysses S. Grant corner the Army of Northern Virginia. General Robert E. Lee and his men are pinned down, in and around Petersburg and Richmond. 

Confederate forces hold their ground for 10 months, but on April 1st, Major General Philip Sheridan gains control of a major supply line 15 miles away. A day later, Grant penetrates the defenses around Petersburg—forcing Lee and his army to retreat. 

On April 6th, 1885, Grant’s forces surround and capture 6,000 Confederate troops. Lee realizes continued resistance is pointless, and the two generals agree to a truce. They arrange to meet at the home of Wilmer McLean in Appomattox, Virginia. 

On April 9th—wearing a dress uniform and golden sash—General Lee arrives first. General Grant shows up in his field uniform. The two respected rivals awkwardly make small talk for about 15-minutes before settling down to business. Then Lee asks for Grant’s terms. 

PRICE: Confederates are to lay down all their military equipment. 

Ernest Price is the chief of education and visitor services at the Appomattox Court House National Historical Park:

PRICE: He also provides that Confederate officers would be allowed to keep their sidearms. And he also says they can keep their animals if they are privately owned…

That means returning troops will have animals available for Spring planting after heading home. The terms also stipulate that as long as Confederate soldiers honor their parole, they will be unmolested—meaning military men won’t face trial. 

Additionally, the Union army provides immediate rations for the starving Confederate troops. Lee and Grant stand and shake hands.

PRICE: At 3 o’clock, they’ll come out of the McClean House. 

Grant salutes and Lee returns the gesture. 

PRICE: It’s a very solemn moment. A powerful scene.

A Union army band begins to play in celebration, but Grant motions them to stop. He reportedly tells his officers: “The war is over. The Rebels are our countrymen again.” 

SONG: “My Love is a Band Boy”

Next, April 9th, 1945. The Nazi Gestapo hang German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer for his role in plotting against Adolf Hitler. Biographer Eric Metaxas:

METAXAS: It’s really tempting for us to look at this as a tragedy, but I think that Bonhoeffer himself would rebuke us for having that view…

Bonhoeffer was a member of Abwehr, a German military intelligence organization. He was also a covert courier for the German resistance movement. Through his many ecumenical contacts, Bonhoeffer tried to raise the Allies’ awareness of internal forces working against Hitler. He lobbied for Allied support for a replacement government if they were successful in overthrowing or assassinating Hitler from within. But U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill refused. 

In 1943, Bonhoeffer was imprisoned for assisting Jews. A year later, his name was discovered on a list of Abwehr agents involved in the failed assassination plot against Hitler. Bonhoeffer was sentenced to death. 

METAXAS: I’m convinced he went to the gallows with peace, and even with joy. In fact, someone who observed him—a doctor who had seen many, many deaths, said he had never seen anyone go to his death with peace and submission to God than he saw in Bonhoeffer.   

His last recorded words were: “This is the end—for me, the beginning of life.”

And finally, April 4th, 1955. Winston Churchill resigns as England’s Prime Minister: 

NEWSREEL: That morning, crowds gathered on Downing Street to try and catch a glimpse of a great Englishman…  

Churchill began his political career at age 25 as a Member of Parliament. First as a Conservative, then a Liberal, and then as a Conservative once again. His decorated career in British government spanned more than half a century—most notably as prime minister from 1940 to 1945 during the difficult years of World War II. He returned as Prime Minister in 1951 but resigned four years later due to poor health. 

NEWSREEL: The man who in 1940 had said he had nothing to offer except blood, toils, tears, and sweat, has paid his part of the bargain in full. 

Churchill suffered many strokes in his later years—the last occurring on January 15th, 1965. He died nine days later. 

NEWSREEL: Here lay a man, remarkable in stature…

In 2002, a BBC poll of a million British subjects ranked Sir Winston Churchill as the most important British historical figure of all time. 

That’s this week’s WORLD History Book, I’m Paul Butler.

(Photo/Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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