MISSION AT NUREMBERG tells the gripping story of St. Louis Lutheran minister Henry Gerecke, who in 1943 at the age of fifty, informed his wife that he planned to enlist as an Army chaplain. As two of his three sons faced danger and death on the battlefield during the height of World War II, Gerecke tended to 2,000 battered bodies and souls of wounded and dying GIs each month in the war hospitals just outside of London. At the war’s end, when other soldiers were coming home, Gerecke was recruited for the most difficult job of his life: ministering to twenty-one Nazis leaders awaiting trial at Nuremberg.
Charting the complex relationships Gerecke came to develop with prominent Nazi leaders including Hermann Goering (a chief architect of Hitler’s “Final Solution”), Albert Speer (Minister of Armaments and War Production for the Third Reich), Wilhelm Keitel (general field marshal, second only to Adolf Hitler in Germany’s military hierarchy), and Joachim von Ribbentrop (Foreign Minister of Nazi Germany), Townsend shares the stunning conversations and confessions shared with the former elite of the Third Reich as they neared the court’s final judgment and their executions.
Crafted from meticulous research and firsthand accounts with key individuals who were present at the trials, MISSION AT NUREMBERG is a thought-provoking look at one most horrifying times in human history. Approaching the trial from a complex angle never taken before, Townsend probes difficult spiritual and ethical issues that continue to hold meaning, and compels readers to rethink what they know about the power of forgiveness. As Townsend reveals in the book, Nuremberg chaplains, such as Gerecke and his assistant chaplain, Father Sixtus O’Connor of New York, “were not judging the members of their flocks, nor were they forgiving their crimes against humanity. Instead, they were trying to lead those Nazis who were willing to follow toward a deeper insight into what they had done.”