Dorothee Sölle

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Dorothee Sölle (left; 1981)

Dorothee Steffensky-Sölle , b. Nipperdey (born September 30, 1929 in Cologne , † April 27, 2003 in Göppingen ), was a German Protestant theologian and poet . She was largely denied recognition in the scientific community . She was known worldwide as a theological writer and speaker.

Sölle was one of the most prominent representatives of a "different Protestantism ". She criticized the idea of ​​omnipotence about God and tried in her writings to link everyday life experiences - in particular of suffering, poverty, disadvantage and oppression - with theological content. Politically she was involved in the peace , women's and environmental movements.


From 1949 Dorothee Sölle studied theology , philosophy and literature at the University of Cologne , the Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg and the Georg August University of Göttingen . In 1954 she passed her state examination and received her doctorate with the dissertation Investigations on the structure of the night watch of Bonaventura for Dr. phil. In 1971 she completed her habilitation at the Philosophical Faculty of the University of Cologne with the subject of Realization, Studies on the Relationship between Theology and Poetry . In Germany, however, she was denied a chair . It was not until 1994 that she received an honorary professorship at the University of Hamburg .

Union Theological Seminar New York

First she worked 1954-1960 as a teacher in the higher school service in Cologne. Since 1960 she has also worked as a writer and freelance radio operator. In the years 1962–1964 she was a research assistant at the Philosophical Institute of the Technical University of Aachen and from 1964–1967 as a student assistant at the German Institute of the University of Cologne. After her habilitation in 1971 she worked in Cologne as a private lecturer for modern German literary history. From 1975 to 1987 she taught on a professorship for systematic theology at Union Theological Seminary in New York . A trip to North Vietnam in November 1972 became an important life experience for her . In 1984 she visited Nicaragua at the invitation of the Sandinista movement and watched the elections with an American peace group Witness for Peace .

Antoniterkirche in Cologne, June 2012

Sölle was involved in the peace movement and in numerous church-left and ecumenical organizations. She was a co-founder of the so-called Political Night Prayer from 1968 to 1972 in the Antoniterkirche in Cologne. In 1968 she was one of the founders of the Cologne School of Journalism . She was convicted of attempted coercion because of sitting blockades in front of the NATO medium-range missile depot on Mutlanger Heide or the poison gas depot in Fischbach . Some of these judgments were later overturned by the highest court. Her theology, which was provocative for the regional churches, and her committed advocacy for social justice also often caused controversy in non-church circles. Half a year before her death, on October 26, 2002, she gave the speech at the peace demonstration in Hamburg.

Sölle was a member of the advisory board of the company-critical network Coordination against BAYER Hazards (CBG) .

Sölle died at the age of 73 as a result of a heart attack that she suffered in the Evangelical Academy in Bad Boll . Her grave is in the Nienstedten cemetery in Hamburg. Her grave inscription reads: "In your light we see the light".


Sölle was married to the painter and art educator Dietrich Sölle and had three children from this divorced marriage: Martin (* 1956), Michaela (* 1957) and Caroline (* 1961). In 1969 Dorothee Sölle married the former Benedictine monk Fulbert Steffensky , who later became a professor of religious education in Hamburg . The daughter Mirjam (* 1970) comes from this marriage.

Dorothee Sölle last lived in Hamburg . Her father was the labor lawyer and first president of the Federal Labor Court Hans Carl Nipperdey (1895–1968) and her brother was the historian Thomas Nipperdey (1927–1992).


Sölle published 38 books and volumes of poetry on religious and political topics. Her poetic work was published in seven editions between 1969 and 2000. Above all, her memories Gegenwind from 1995 and her main work, Mystic and Resistance: You Silent Screaming from 1997, received a lot of attention. In 1982 she received the Droste Prize of the city of Meersburg for her poems.


According to their own statements, their beliefs were shaped by the awareness of living after Auschwitz . In 1983 she gave the following statement to the World Council of Churches in Vancouver:

“I speak to you as a woman who comes from one of the richest countries in the world; a country with a bloody history that smells of gas ... The world in which I live is rich, above all in death and better ways to kill. "

In it children are offered nothing but sand for consumption. In sharp contrast, she described western countries as deserted centers of culture, the Third World as permanent Auschwitz.

The doctrine of the omnipotence of God thus became the subject of critical reflection for them. She was of the opinion that God's work in this world depends on our actions, God has no other hands than ours. The core of their God-is-dead-theology was the departure from a "Papa-will-fix-it-theology". Sölle represented a political theology that was characterized by a radical this- sidedness and a demythologization of the Bible . In her book Gegenwind (published in 1995) she wrote:

“Theological reflection without political consequences amounts to hypocrisy. Every theological sentence must also be a political one. "

A mysticism shaped by feminism that managed without the idea of ​​a personal God was also decisive . Many of Sölle's ideas were shaped by the liberation theology of Latin America and by the books The Principle of Hope (1959) and Atheism in Christianity (1968) by the philosopher Ernst Bloch .

She expressed her core beliefs in her creed.


  • At the end of the search and the question about God there is no answer but an embrace.

Critical appraisal

Her friend, the Lübeck bishop Bärbel Wartenberg-Potter , paid tribute to Dorothee Sölle's prophetic and poetic voice at the funeral service in Hamburg's St. Katharinen Church . The biblical promise of a new heaven and a new earth was one of her life themes. She tried to find a new language for speaking to God and to dismantle old images of God - for example that of a ruler. Wartenberg-Potter assessed the fact that it had not been accepted at German universities as one of the most remarkable folly in post-war church history.

In an interview on Dorothee Sölle's death, the Hanoverian bishop Margot Käßmann emphasized the importance of her provocations for the development of the Protestant Church . Her speech about the death of God inspired people to think about God for themselves. An appeal to what is right and balanced annoyed her and led her to propose rather steep theses, for example on the question of rich and poor, the third world and our rich church, which are uncomfortable in a church, but “I would say you are good to do". In her great theological work she made a key contribution to the spread of feminist theology and reopened mysticism for many Protestants. Käßmann emphasized her poetry as the most beautiful thing that remains. Her loving side was far too little noticed in the arguments.

In 2011 the ecumenical network Initiative Church from Below awarded the Dorothee Sölle Prize for upright walking for the first time . The first award winner was Fanny Dethloff , the refugee commissioner of the North Elbian Lutheran Church . In 2013 the prize was awarded for the second time at the 34th German Evangelical Church Congress in Hamburg. Jutta Lehnert, pastoral advisor in the Diocese of Trier, was honored for her commitment to youth politics and her work against sexualised violence in the church. In 2015 Boniface Mabanza Bambu received the award from the Church Office for Southern Africa (KASA) as part of the “Center for Peace” on the occasion of the Evangelical Church Congress in Stuttgart.

The Dorothee-Sölle-Haus in Hamburg is named after her, which houses the church services and works, u. a. also the North Elbian church library . In Cologne, the square in front of the Christ Church on the Stadtgarten is named after her.



  • Representation. A chapter on theology after the 'death of God'. Kreuz, Stuttgart 1965, extended new edition, Stuttgart 1982
  • The truth is concrete. Walter, Olten / Freiburg 1967
  • Believe in God atheistically. Contributions to theology. Walter, Olten / Freiburg 1968
  • Imagination and obedience. Reflections on a future Christian ethic. Kreuz, Stuttgart 1968, ISBN 3-7831-0216-2
  • Meditations & useful texts. Poems. Berlin 1969, ISBN 978-3-87352-016-5 .
  • Political night prayer in Cologne 1. Edited by Dorothee Sölle and Fulbert Steffensky, Stuttgart, Berlin and Mainz 1969
  • Political night prayer in Cologne 2. Edited by Dorothee Sölle and Fulbert Steffensky, Stuttgart, Berlin and Mainz, no year
  • The right to be someone else. Luchterhand, Neuwied 1971
  • Political theology. Confrontation with Rudolf Bultmann . Kreuz, Stuttgart 1971, expanded new edition Stuttgart 1982
  • Suffer. Kreuz, Stuttgart / Berlin 1973, ISBN 978-3-7831-2248-0 .
  • The revolutionary patience. Poems. Fietkau, Berlin 1974, ISBN 978-3-87352-026-4 .
  • The outward journey. To the religious experience. Texts and reflections. Kreuz, Stuttgart 1975, ISBN 978-3-7831-0467-7 .
  • Sympathy. Theological-political treatises. Kreuz, Stuttgart 1978, ISBN 3-7831-0561-7 .
  • Learn to fly. Poems. Fietkau, Berlin 1979, ISBN 978-3-87352-501-6 .
  • Choose life. Kreuz, Stuttgart 1980, ISBN 3-7831-0595-1 .
  • Play with bread and roses. Poems. Fietkau, Berlin 1981, ISBN 978-3-87352-502-3 .
  • Armament kills even without war. Kreuz, Stuttgart 1982, ISBN 3-7831-0669-9 .
  • Crazy about light. Poems. Fietkau, Berlin 1984, ISBN 978-3-87352-503-0 .
  • Love and work. A theology of creation. Kreuz, Stuttgart 1985, ISBN 3-7831-0791-1 .
  • "A people without a vision perish." (Solomos 29,18.) Comments on the German present and on national identity. Hammer, Wuppertal 1986, ISBN 3-872943057 .
  • The window of vulnerability. Theological-political texts. Kreuz, Stuttgart 1987, ISBN 3-7831-0843-8 .
  • And what we will be has not yet appeared. Stations in feminist theology. DTV, Munich 1987, ISBN 3-423-10835-5 .
  • Civil and disobedient. Poems. Fietkau, Berlin 1990, ISBN 978-3-87352-504-7 .
  • Think god. Introduction to theology. Kreuz, Stuttgart 1990, ISBN 978-3-7831-1013-5 .
  • There must be more than everything. Thinking about god. Hoffmann and Campe, Hamburg 1992, ISBN 978-3-455-08459-7 .
  • Seizures. Texts to rethink. Hoffmann and Campe, Hamburg 1993, ISBN 3-455-08531-8 .
  • Dream me god. Spiritual texts with annoying political questions. Hammer, Wuppertal 1994, ISBN 3-87294-622-6 .
  • Headwind. Memories. Hoffmann and Campe, Hamburg 1995, ISBN 978-3-455-08584-6 .
  • Split the ice of the soul. Theology and literature in a speechless time. Mainz 1996
  • Mysticism and resistance - "You quiet screaming". Hoffmann and Campe, Hamburg 1997, ISBN 3-455-08583-0 .
  • Praise without lying. Poems. Fietkau, Berlin 2000, ISBN 978-3-87352-505-4 .
  • Maria. An encounter with Our Lady. Herder, Freiburg im Breisgau 2005, ISBN 3-451-28843-5 .

Musical reception

  • Sergio Pinto
    • Credo for the earth . Text: Dorothee Sölle. In: draft 1/2008, Friedrich Verlag .
    • I am your tree . Text: Dorothee Sölle. In: draft 1/2008, Friedrich Verlag.

The CD was recorded by the group Grupo Sal.

  • Ludger Stühlmeyer
    • God's breath breathes on me , text: Dorothee Sölle. For solo voice and piano / organ. Commissioned by the Friends of the Evangelical Academy Tutzing . Premiere: April 2013 as part of a reading with Ursula Baltz-Otto on the 10th anniversary of Dorothee Sölle's death.
    • Crucify , text: Dorothee Sölle. For vocal solo and organ. WP: March 2017.


  • Ursula Baltz-Otto:  Sölle, Dorothee. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 24, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2010, ISBN 978-3-428-11205-0 , pp. 530-532 ( digitized version ).
  • Reinhold Boschki , Ekkehard Schuster: Capable of turning back. In conversation with Dorothee Sölle. Matthias Grünewald Verlag, Mainz 1999, ISBN 3-7867-2205-6 .
  • Helga Kuhlmann (Ed.): More an art than a science. Resonances from Dorothee Sölle's theology . Kreuz-Verlag, Stuttgart 2007, ISBN 978-3-7831-2968-7 .
  • Ralph Ludwig: The prophetess. How Dorothee Sölle became a mystic. Wichern, Berlin 2008, ISBN 978-3-88981-239-1 ( wichern portraits ).
  • Otto Reidinger: God's death and Hegel's resurrection. Answer to Dorothee Sölle. Lutherisches Verlagshaus, Berlin and Hamburg 1969.
  • Anselm Weyer: Liturgy from the left. Dorothee Sölle and the Political Night Prayer in the Antoniterkirche. Edited for the Evangelical Congregation in Cologne by Markus Herzberg and Annette Scholl. Greven Verlag, Cologne 2016, ISBN 978-3-7743-0670-7 .
  • Renate Wind: Dorothee Sölle. Rebel and mystic. The biography. Kreuz, Stuttgart 2008, ISBN 978-3-7831-3137-6 .
  • Renate Wind: Dorothee Sölle. In: Annegret Brauch (ed.): In the name of a better world. Rosa Luxemburg , Hannah Arendt , Simone Weil , Dorothee Sölle . Contributions to conferences of the Evangelical Academy Baden 8. – 10. October 2004 and 8-10 April 2005 in Bad Herrenalb. Evangelical Academy Baden, Karlsruhe 2006, ISBN 3-89674-548-4 ( Herrenalber Forum 47).
  • Peter Zimmerling : Evangelical mysticism : Dorothee Sölle (1929-2003): Mysticism is resistance , Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2015, ISBN 978-3-525-57041-8 , pp. 188-201.

Documentary film

Web links


  1. ^ Speech by Dorothee Sölle on the demonstration on October 26, 2002 in Hamburg
  2. CBG Advisory Board
  3. ^ Grave of Dorothee Sölle
  4. Alex Rühle: I am what I do. Atheist creed: On the death of the theological writer Dorothee Sölle ; Süddeutsche Zeitung, April 28, 2003. Quoted from , accessed on March 2, 2010.
  5. ^ A b Margot Käßmann : Dorothee Sölle advanced the church with her provocations ; NDR on April 28, 2003. Quoted from , accessed on March 2, 2010.
  6. ^ Creed of Dorothee Sölle, 1985. In: Dorothee Sölle, Luise Schottroff: The earth belongs to God. Rowohlt Hamburg 1985, p. 137 f.
  8. Edgar S. Hasse: A true prophet of our time , Welt Online, May 6, 2003.
  9. ^ Inauguration of the Dorothee-Sölle-Platz in Cologne. Remembering a powerful woman. Article in the Kölnische Rundschau, published on June 6, 2016, accessed on August 12, 2016
  10. Dorothee Sölle on the website of Grupo Sal ( Memento from March 2, 2016 in the Internet Archive )