“However it would have to happen soon. We must learn to act differently from those who always hesitate, whose failure we know in a wider context. We must be clear about what we want, we must ask whether we are up to it, and then we must do it with unshakable confidence.” These words come from an imprisoned Bonhoeffer in December of 1943, as he is writing to his dear friend Eberhard Bethge. Bonhoeffer laments here, as well as in other letters, the timidity of man to take action, especially meaningful action which could bring about the potential for terrible consequences.
Daring to do what is right, not what fancy may tell you, valiantly grasping occasions, not cravenly doubting freedom comes only through deeds, not through thoughts taking wing. Faint not nor fear, but go out to the storm and the action, trusting in God whose commandment you faithfully follow; freedom, exultant, will welcome your spirit with joy. -Ethics
Bonhoeffer demands action from the individual. Regardless of potential consequences, the courageous act is required. To put off this action, this moment of decision is to stave off your own realization.
But to procrastinate and prevaricate simply because you're afraid of erring, when others - I mean our brethren in Germany - must make infinitely more difficult decisions every day, seems to me almost to run counter to love. To delay or fail to make decisions may be more sinful than to make wrong decisions out of faith and love. -Dietrich Bonhoeffer; a biography: theologian, Christian, man for his times
Just days after the election of Adolf Hitler, Bonhoeffer gave a radio address (which was cut short by government interference) where he said “If the leader tries to become the idol the led are looking for–something the led always hope from their leader–then the image of the leader shifts to one of a mis-leader...” Throughout his work he makes the case that we must never hand over our volition to, or allow it to be taken from us by, outside sources of power such as the church, the state, duty, tradition, or even ethics. We must act, even if it puts us at risk of being wrong. He was horrified by the way people so willingly surrendered to the Nazi cult; people were so easily caught up in the frenzy of the dream of the thousand year reich.
To participate in the Nazi dream, via commision or omission, active obedience or non-resistance, was to forfeit your intellectual personhood. To join the Nazi cause was to buy into an alternative reality, with alternative values, alternative ethics, and alternative facts. As time went on Bonhoeffer, along with many other Germans, became increasingly aware of the horrors and atrocities taking place under Hitler: the meatgrinder that was the eastern front, the cruelty in the west, the euthanizing of the German undesirables, and the nightmare of the concentration camps where the racially impure were being exterminated en masse. To remain silent in this world on fire was to reject your humanity, and to choose to live outside reality.