Detailed, harrowing, and emotionally charged, MISSION AT NUREMBERG is the story of Lutheran minister Henry Gerecke, a farm kid from Missouri who at age 50 volunteered to be a World War II chaplain. His most challenging assignment came after the war ended. Sent to Nuremberg, Gerecke was asked to minister to the twenty-one imprisoned Nazi leaders awaiting trial for crimes against humanity. MISSION AT NUREMBERG is an incisive new history of the Nuremberg trials as well as a nuanced reflection on the nature of morality and sin, the price of empathy, and the limits of forgiveness.
“For Gerecke, the decision to accept the assignment wasn’t easy. He wondered how a preacher from St. Louis could make any impression on the disciples of Adolf Hitler. Would his considerable faith in the core principles of Christianity sustain him as he ministered to monsters? During his months stationed in Munich after the war, Gerecke had taken several trips to Dachau. He’d seen the raw aftermath of the Holocaust. He’d touched the inside of the camp’s walls, and his hands had come away smeared with blood. The U.S. Army was asking one of its chaplains to kneel down with the architects of the Holocaust and calm their spirits as they answered for their crimes in front of the world. With those images of Dachau fresh in his memory, Gerecke had to decide if he could share his faith, the thing he held most dear in life, with the men who had given the orders to construct such a place.”
“Townsend authoritatively addresses the excruciating moral and religious issues confronting wartime chaplains and deftly explains the role of a spiritual adviser in bringing the wrongdoer, even one seemingly beyond redemption, back to ‘a place of restoration.’”
“Full of surreal moments,” Townsend’s “accessible account captures the strangeness and horror of Gerecke’s assignment…”
“In a clear, gripping, and extensively researched narrative, Townsend raises the hard questions of good and evil, forgiveness and retribution; and, also, whether these killers, obeying orders and ignoring morality, deserved spiritual succor in what were, for many of them, their final days”