Tuesday, March 3, 2015

MISSION AT NUREMBERG: AN AMERICAN ARMY CHAPLAIN AND THE TRIAL OF THE NAZIS by Tim Townsend

Gifted to me by my daughter and son-in-law at Christmas, this was my first book of the new year.  Given that my father was a WWII veteran, and possibly present at the Nuremberg War Trials as an MP, this book held special interest for me from the beginning.  However, what captivated me most was the central character of the story: Pastor Henry Gerecke.  Pastor Gereke, a product of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, became one of the chaplains assigned to minister to high ranking Nazi war criminals, chief among them being Herman Goering (who later committed suicide before being executed.)  Reaction to the Nazis even today is often one of revulsion and disgust, and for good reason.  They were responsible for the systematic execution and slaughter of countless people, primarily a significant numbers of Jews.  Their brutality ranks as among the highest in history.  One can only imagine the challenge of a man sent to be the pastor of those responsible for such horrific crimes.  However, as a Lutheran Gereke understood the Gospel well.  He ministered to them as one who understood that none are beyond the grace of God.  His faith in the power of the Means of Grace to convert and reconvert hardened sinners allowed him to do what lesser men would resist.  It may upset some to think that there were Nazi war criminals who actually communed on the body and blood of the Savior.  However, were these men fundamentally any different than the thief on the cross who was welcomed by Jesus into Paradise?  Chaplain Gereke faithfully led worship for all who would attend, preaching the Word without compromise.  He walked with each of his condemned flock to the gallows.  The experience nearly broke him, and as a Lutheran pastor for over 25 years I could only marvel at his ability to endure.  Townsend's book was a fascinating read with regard to this famous trial by someone closest to the defendants.  That said, for me the most engaging story was that of the man God used to bring the good news of salvation in Christ to the most unlikely candidates.  In some ways Gereke was a far more courageous servant than the prophet Jonah who ran away when called to minister to those who opposed God's plans.  I highly recommend this book to WWII enthusiasts as well as those interested in seeing the heart of Lutheran ministry at its best.

SALT, LIGHT, AND SIGNS OF THE TIMES by Ronald W. Stelzer

I just finished reading a fascinating biography of a great Lutheran teacher: SALT, LIGHT, AND THE SIGNS OF THE TIMES: AN INTIMATE LOOK AT THE LIFE AND TIMES OF ALFRED (RIP) REHWINKEL by Ronald W. Stelzer. Again, a book I picked up for a steal at a mere $5 at the recent Symposia in Ft. Wayne. It is published by Christian News and can be found here if you would like to order and read for yourself: http://www.christiannewsmo.com/Salt_Light_an…/4010000350.htm.
Rehwinkel, as some will remember, was the author of the very popular book THE FLOOD, originally published in 1951 by CPH, but has been reprinted many times over the decades (17 times when I purchased my copy several years ago.) In fact, it is still offered by CPH both in paperback and as an ebook: https://www.cph.org/p-261-the-flood.aspx.
Dr. Rehwinkel (1887-1979) lived well into his 90's. Ordained in 1910 he lived through a history of the LCMS that stretched from the early frontier days, when we were still establishing ourself in the U.S. and Canada to the turmoil of the 'Walk Out' in St. Louis in the 70's. Until I finished the book I had no idea of the connection between this man and the Rev. Dr. Gerhardt Hyatt, the president of my alma mater, Concordia College, St. Paul, who preached at his funeral (and was a graduate of Concordia-Edmonton). This book recounts the experiences of a man who lived in very primitive conditions in his early ministry in western Canada, rising to help found Concordia College in Edmonton (Now Concordia University College of Alberta,) to serving as president of St. John's College in Winfield, KS (which closed in 1986), to finally teaching at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis.
Again, a good read that I would heartily recommend!
(Note: I wanted to add a picture of the book's cover, but discovered that it is copyrighted.)