Thursday, April 14, 2005

The Passion Of Reverend Viktor Koch.........

WWII has no shortage of heroic stories, and one need not look very far to find one. However, I stumbled through the blogosphere today and came across one that combines many of the aspects of the horrors of Nazi Germany with a truly sensational display of courage and honor from a single individual. My thanks to the soon-to-be-included-on-the-Blog-roll Silflay Hraka for presenting pictures and links to this awe-inspiring story.

For the full story, visit the following site-

-The True Story of a Passionist Hero

Here is an excerpt,

According to research obtained from the 11th Armored Division [12], "Division Artillery, supporting [Combat Command] B, continuously flew liaison plane missions ahead of the column, dropping surrender leaflets in towns along the route to advance. These leaflets admonished the [German] civilians to fly white flags and surrender their towns without resistance to avoid total destruction and produced excellent results."

Joe Koch’s letter states that American troops arrived the following Sunday (April 22). Sources indicate that this may have been the 11th Armored Division, Combat Command B. While American troops are scouting near Schwarzenfeld, they discover the mass grave, the remains of 133 victims murdered by the SS on Thursday. Enraged by this discovery, they locate a citizen of Schwarzenfeld and ask who is responsible for the atrocity. This person informs them that the townspeople were involved.

Schwarzenfeld's population obeyed orders stipulated in the surrender leaflets, draping white sheets, towels, and flags in their windows, though to their horror, the Nazi soldiers who remained in Schwarzenfeld proceeded to fire upon the American tanks advancing toward the town. Enraged by the ghastly Nazi atrocity--and further embittered by resistance encountered from a town flying white flags--American forces prepared to deliver the dire consequences promised in their surrender leaflets. Unable to speak English, the citizens quickly arrived at one conclusion: only Father Viktor could help them communicate the truth to the Americans. At least one person knew Father Viktor’s hiding place, and he/she sprinted into the woods outside Schwarzenfeld and quickly informed him of events. Father Viktor emerged from the monastery, trudging through deserted streets. Protected only by the white flag in his hand, the Passionist badge on his chest, and his abiding faith in God's will, he approached the American forces intent on leveling the town.

Sources indicate that Father Viktor argued with the American commander for no less than three hours. Eventually, he succeeded in convincing him that Schwarzenfeld’s citizens were innocent of this atrocity. He agreed to spare the town under one condition. He ordered Schwarzenfeld's citizens to exhume corpses buried on the town's outskirts, wash them, clothe them in donated garments, construct caskets, and give each victim a proper burial, all in 48 hours. If the townspeople failed to achieve this task, he intended to re-issue orders for Schwarzenfeld's destruction. To complicate matters, wood and nails--the construction materials needed to construct caskets--were scarce. However, the people of Schwarzenfeld were resourceful. The children knew of a local barn where old horseshoes were in plentiful supply, and they quickly proceeded to gather as many as they could find. Later, the nails were hammered back into shape, and then used to construct the coffins. Every man, woman, and child in the town participated in this effort, and with Father Viktor's help, they succeeded in completing this monumental task.

The site listed above has a gallery of many of the events of the story. Needless to say, the town has a plaque in his honor commemorating his heroism. If it wasn't for Friar Koch, Shwarzenfeld would have ceased to exist on that fateful day.

Silflay has another post here-Unseen History: Schwarzenfeld where it appears a relative of Friar Koch wrote some more information in the comments which are worth reading.

The blogosphere truly makes the world a much smaller place.

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