Christian Themes

(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Konrad Reichmann and Neff Kessel form a well-trained sniper team assigned to a Nazi Waffen Schutzstaffel (SS) battalion on the Russian front during World War II. Their assignment is to eliminate selected Russian military officers as the German army is being forced to retreat from the eastern front. Konrad and Neff perform their assigned tasks flawlessly, but they are horrified by the brutality with which their SS commander, Gunther Kral, terrorizes the Russian civilian population during the retreat. Neff, who has fallen in love with a Russian peasant girl, is overcome by the carnage that is heaped upon a peasant village. He challenges his commander’s tactics, and he is murdered by the very hand of his own commander, Kral. Witnessing the murder of his best friend and partner, Konrad is pushed over the edge of moral nausea, deserts from the army, and hatches a plan to use his training as a sniper to change the course of German political power single-handedly.

Konrad decides to return to the outskirts of Berlin, where he was reared, and looks up his spiritual mentor, Pastor Josef Schumacher, who has gone underground as a rescuer of disabled children—castoffs from the “master” race. Konrad encounters several of his old friends from the Hitler Youth movement; among them is Lisette, a young woman for whom Konrad has always had strong romantic feelings. She is working with Pastor Schumacher and his wife, Mady, caring for the children. Lisette also works...

(The entire section is 483 words.)

Christian Themes

(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

The sequel to While Mortals Sleep, Cavanaugh’s first novel in the Songs of the Night series and winner of the 2002 Christy Award in the international historical category, His Watchful Eye also won a Christy Award, in the same category, for 2003. The plot captures life in war-torn Europe without romanticizing the religiosity of the theological content or compromising the realism of the characters. This is the tale of a very real group of young people who grow up in a world exploding with physical as well as moral destruction. It is a story of heroic acts, and it is also a story of tragic failure. In the same group of people, taught by the same mentor, some are true to their master and some fall prey to the lure of the dark side. It is a story of people who not only are willing to pay the ultimate sacrifice for what they believe but actually do pay this price. It is also a story of those who persevere to the end and overcome evil. Most of all, His Watchful Eye tells the story of how God truly watches over those he has chosen and how his true servants give up their lives as his to use as he sees fit.

Konrad’s character places before the reader a study in human transformation. He is a man of virtue seeking to overcome evil on the natural plane, but he encounters the Spirit of God and must decide whether to fight for the right in his own way or in God’s way. He is faced with the choice of doing something good that he knows he...

(The entire section is 516 words.)


(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Sources for Further Study

Cavanaugh, Jack. While Mortals Sleep. Minneapolis, Minn.: Bethany House, 2001. The first in the Songs of the Night series and winner of the 2002 Christy Award in the international historical category, also featuring Pastor Josef Schumacher.

Haffner, Sebastian. Defying Hitler: A Memoir. Translated by Oliver Pretzel. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002. Written by a respected historian, this account combines Haffner’s analytical perspective with the emotion of an eyewitness to Nazi atrocities, presenting a view of pre-World War II Germany that few Americans ever see.

Kater, Michael H. Hitler Youth. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2004. Documents, from firsthand accounts, the activity, development, and impact of the Hitler-Junge (Hitler Youth) movement: the secular combination of Sunday School and a paramilitary club for German children in a well-designed effort by the Nazis to condition children for the purposes of the state. The book delves into the history of the activity of the Hitler Youth as well as the psychological bases for the group’s methodology.

Klemperer, Victor. I Will Bear Witness: A Diary of the Nazi Years, 1942-1945. Translated by Martin Chalmers. New York: Random House, 1999. The firsthand account of a German Jew who survived much of the persecution of his fellows because he was married to an “Aryan” woman. Klemperer’s account details the gradual descent into racial depravity experienced by the ordinary German population during the Nazi years.

Ross, Robert W. So It Was True: The American Protestant Press and the Nazi Persecution of the Jews. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1980. A chronicle of the activity of the American Protestant press as it relates to the Nazi persecution of the Jews, this book is well researched and contains surprising insights. For example, commenting on the accuracy with which the American Protestant press reported on the Jewish Holocaust, Ross notes that “virtually no detail discovered in 1945 had not been already reported in the American Protestant press by 1943, with the one exception of the total number of death camps, and perhaps the more refined methods used in the death camps, such as the crematoria and the brutality of the SS guards and the Kapo system.”