'"Do you know something?" he [Rev. Henry Gerecke] asked brightly, "I got the idea today I’d like to join the Chaplains Corps." More silence. Henry kept eating. Still nothing from his wife. "I have asked you something," he said. "I heard you," Alma said finally."'
I’m Mark Martin with Martin’s Must Reads. Tim Townsend, in his marvelous book Mission at Nuremberg: An American Army Chaplain and the Trial of the Nazis, tells us the story of one man’s humble service in a horrible situation.
In the summer of 1943, with all branches of the service in desperate need of chaplains, Rev. Gerecke volunteered for the Army. (The name Gerecke may ring a bell with some in Cape Girardeau as his son, Hank, was police chief for many years.)
In November of 1945, Rev. Gerecke was stationed in Europe and was asked to serve as the protestant chaplain to the Nazi prisoners about to be tried in Nuremberg for war crimes. The book describes his ministry to the Nazis and their acceptance of this humble pastor from Gordonville, Missouri.
When a rumor circulated that Rev. Gerecke was to be rotated home before the end of the trial, the prisoners sent a letter to Mrs. Gerecke requesting her husband be permitted to remain and minister to them. Such was his impact on them. Rev. Gerecke was with the prisoners daily and accompanied them on their long walk to the gallows as the punishments were carried out.
Our society today struggles with the concept of forgiveness, especially for heinous crimes such as what the Nazis perpetrated. Struggles aside, Tim Townsend’s book Mission at Nuremberg is the story of one man and how grace, gentleness and humility can change even the darkest lives.