Dr. Bonhoeffer and a visit to Berlin- Tuesday Travels


I feel an instant connection whenever I meet another physician or someone related to a physician.  You will recognize it as the way you feel when you meet someone from your hometown, or high school, or previous job, after being away a long time.

People who share a common bond  with you best understand where you’re coming from, what you’ve been through, and what it’s like being you .

My patients who have physician relatives tend to be the most respectful of my knowledge, time, and privacy.  Anytime a physician’s  relative asks me a medical question in a social setting, I know it’s something important.

Many well-known people, past and present, come from physician families and I discovered one in my reading recently. About that time my son returned from a trip to Germany and posted beautiful photos online. Those two discoveries provided the idea for this blog post.

ornate building in Berlin



Dr. Bonhoeffer, psychiatrist

Dr. Karl Bonhoeffer started a medical practice in 1893 in what is now Wroclaw Poland, where he met and married his wife Paula Von Hase. He was a neurologist/psychiatrist at a time when both of those specialties were young. They had 8 children, including a set of boy/girl twins.

In 1912 they moved to Berlin where he was appointed head of psychiatry at Charite Hospital. There he taught and conducted research in brain disease; he worked with Dr. Carl Wernicke who became famous himself, having a disorder named after him- Wernicke encephalopathy, a brain disease caused by thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency, usually due to long term alcoholism. His name is also assigned to an area of the brain which helps us understand and produce meaningful speech, Wernicke center.

Dr. Bonhoeffer had two other famous physician colleagues- Dr.Sigmund Freud and Dr. Carl Jung.

One of the Bonhoeffers’ sons became a physicist, another a linguist (before dying in military service in the war), another entered law school. But the fourth son, brother to the twin girl, chose a different path, one his family did not heartily approve of. That son, Dietrich, pursued theology, a choice that would ultimately determine his unfortunate fate.


Reverend Bonhoeffer, theologian and pastor

Dietrich Bonhoeffer first attended Tubingen University and finished at Humboldt University. He traveled extensively abroad, including the United States and India and returned to Germany to serve the Church as pastor and preacher. He may have passed his life quietly in Christian service and scholarly pursuits had it not been for the rise of Nazism in Germany and the resulting  second world war.

Humboldt University, Berlin ,Germany

Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany


Bonhoeffer believed that Germany’s political and military goals were not compatible with Christian beliefs, so he clandestinely entered the resistance movement, including working as a confidential agent of military intelligence. He helped Jews escape Germany. He also was aware of and possibly  involved in plots to assassinate Hitler.

The burned books memorial in Berlin

memorial to burned books in Berlin





Reverend Bonhoeffer, the martyr

Unfortunately, he eventually came under suspicion and was arrested. After 18 months in a prison, he was transferred to a concentration camp where he was sentenced to death.

On April 9, 1945 he was executed by hanging, and his body was cremated. He was 39 years old. His brother Klaus and two brothers-in-law were also executed by the Nazis for their involvement in the resistance. Their father, Dr. Bonhoeffer, died in Berlin in 1948.



Fortunately, Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s prolific writing survived and inspires us  to live the way he did. Writing in Bonhoeffer for Armchair Theologians, the authors quote the concentration camp doctor  saying about him,

“I was most deeply moved by the way this unusually lovable man prayed, so devout and so certain that God heard his prayer. In my fifty years …as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.”

BONHOEFFER for Armchair Theologians








Here are a few quotes from his many books and sermons which were published both before and after his death.




“God wants to lead us. Not all the ways of humans are God’s leading. For a long time we can walk our own paths. On those we are pawns of coincidence, whether they bring good luck or misfortune. Our own ways always lead in a circle back to ourselves. But when God leads our ways, they guide us to him. God’s ways guide us to God. God leads us through happiness and unhappiness always and only towards God. In this we recognize god’s way.”

The mystery of Easter.





“Do and dare what is right not swayed by the whim of the moment. Bravely take hold of the real not dallying now with what might be. Not in the flight of ideas but only in action is freedom. Make up your mind and come out into the tempest of living. God’s command is enough and your faith in him to sustain you. Then at last freedom will welcome your spirit among great rejoicing.”




One of many murals on the east Berlin Wall

One of many murals on the east Berlin Wall

“To go one’s way under the sign of the cross is not misery and desperation, but peace and refreshment for the soul ,it is the highest joy”

The Cost of Discipleship

church in Berlin



Photos used courtesy of Ryan Oglesby 


Thank you for joining me to explore the HEART of health. I hope you’ve learned something. Please contact me about topics you want to read about.

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with my regards, Dr. Aletha WATERCRESSWORDS.COM-exploring the HEART of health



March- Match Day, Madness and More

Remember it’s Spring forward and Fall back to Daylight Saving Time

Most of the United States will change to Daylight Saving Time on Sunday March 10.2019.

So you will either be going to bed an hour later than usual, or awakening an hour earlier.

Either way, your body will tell the difference until your sleep cycle adjusts; I know mine always does.  WebMD offers these tips to make the change easier.

St. Patrick’s Day

Of course you know that March 17 is St. Patrick’s Day. Here is my previous post about one of my favorite places, Chicago, Illinois, where they dye the river green  to celebrate. 

The Chicago River is green on St. Patrick's Day
photo by Ryan Oglesby

Welcome Spring.

We will welcome the  first day of Spring, March 20,  in the northern hemisphere, with the occurrence of the vernal equinox.

This link to The Weather Channel explains what the vernal equinox means.

graphic of the earth explaining equinox and solstice
original source not known


Match Day

March 16 is Match Day. No, not the kind of match you light fires with.

It’s the day graduating medical students find out what residency program they will join through the National Resident Matching Program , which “matches” them with available positions in residencies all over the United States.

Why should you care? This matching process determines who will care for our medical needs in the next 30-40 years; our family physicians, internists, pediatricians, general surgeons, obstetricians, dermatologists, psychiatrists, and the multitude of other medical specialties. Most doctors will continue in the same specialty their entire career, although some  switch after a few or many years.



National Doctor’s Day

March 30 has been designated National Doctor’s Day in the United States. You may not have heard of  a day to honor doctors.

March 30 is Doctors' Day

The first Doctors’ Day observance was March 30, 1933, in Winder, Georgia. The idea came from a doctor’s wife, Eudora Brown Almond,  and the date was the anniversary of the first use of general anesthetic in surgery.

The Barrow County (Georgia) Medical Society Auxiliary proclaimed the day “Doctors’ Day,” which was celebrated by mailing cards to physicians and their wives and by placing flowers on the graves of deceased doctors.

In 1990, the U.S. Congress established a National Doctors’ Day first celebrated on March 30, 1991.

Of course, the most important physician for you to know is your own personal physician.

Learn how to choose a doctor and how to establish a good working relationship in this article by Dr. Danielle Ofri, author of

A Doctor’s Guide to a Good Appointment




And yes sports fans, I am aware that the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament, aka March Madness, starts in March. Like many of you, I will be following my favorite regional teams. Good luck everyone.


basketfall goal
I wonder how many college basketball players started at one of these?


I invite you to follow Watercress Words as we explore spring and summer health challenges and opportunities. Don’t forget to share with your friends.



                              Dr. Aletha