Because Mission at Nuremberg is a biography of Henry Gerecke, it is not surprising that Father O'Connor is given relatively little space compared to his Lutheran counterpart. Nevertheless, both men clearly emerge as courageous pastors who finally chose allegiance to Christ despite strong opposition. Like their Master, who had called them to "feed my sheep," these men were shepherds who were willing to be found in bad company in order to help some loathsome and notorious men find forgiveness and new life in Christ.
In the final analysis, 21 men went to trial. Three were acquitted, four received prison sentences ranging from 10 to 20 years, and three were given life sentences. Of the 11 remaining who were sentenced to death, Herman Goering committed suicide before his execution, and the other 10 went to the gallows. Of the men who were tried, 13 were Lutherans. Chaplain Gerecke's final report recorded that only four of them "died as penitent sinners trusting God's mercy for forgiveness. They believed in Jesus who shed his blood for their sins."
During the trial and for months after, both Pastor Gerecke and Father O'Connor ministered to the wives and children of the prisoners. Pastoral visits, as well as parcels of food and clothing, were given to the families. They heeded Jesus' words in Matthew 25: "In as much as you did it to the least of these you did it to me."
Pastor Gerecke finally reunited with his wife in late 1946. They had been apart for three and a half years. He resumed pastoral ministry, serving a small Lutheran church in southern Missouri. This man, who always said his duty "is the care souls," lovingly supported his little congregation and all the marginalized folks in the county. He also volunteered as the chaplain to the men in a nearby maximum security prison. It was said that the poor were sorry when he died.
Tim Townsend has written an important book. It deserves a wide audience.
Lyle Dorsett is Billy Graham professor of evangelism at Beeson Divinity School and the author of Serving God and Country: United States Military Chaplains in World War II (Berkley).