In The Twilight of Courage, the husband-and-wife team of Brock and Bodie Thoene explore the interplay of political events in Europe at the start of World War II as they imprinted themselves upon the lives of the novel’s principal characters and how the frayed moral fabric of the time brought people to personal crises just as it brought the continent to war. The novel begins with Rabbi Lebowitz, in Jerusalem, praying for the safety of his granddaughter, Etta Lubetkin, and her family in Warsaw, Poland. Rabbi Lebowitz’s granddaughter, Etta, her husband, Aaron Lubetkin, and their children—the smallest of whom is the infant Yacov—have been arrested for trying to leave Warsaw’s Jewish ghetto without permission. They are taken captive by the Nazis to be incarcerated. Etta is able to hide Yacov with a Christian Polish woman just before the Lubetkin family is herded aboard a train for the slave camps.
Josephine Marlow, an American news correspondent assigned to Europe, realizes that she has waited too long to leave Warsaw. She finds herself working as an emergency relief worker for the wounded in a Warsaw’s bombed-out St. John’s Cathedral. Just before Poland surrenders to Germany, Marlow is placed in German custody as an American press neutral to be questioned and shipped to the Netherlands; from there she ultimately finds her way to London.
Horst von Brockman, a German army officer who is not an official member of the Nazi Party and does not agree with all Nazi political positions, witnesses the brutality of the Nazis’ methods of dealing with enemy prisoners in Warsaw. Von Brockman is aghast at what he sees, but he is warned to suppress his moral outrage for the sake of his career and the personal safety of his family as well as himself.
Meanwhile, the entire world sits on its hands as Nazi Germany and Russia both attack and virtually destroy the national identity of Poland. The nation’s leaders are either imprisoned or killed, and the country is carved into pieces as spoils for the aggressors. England and France are afraid to confront German chancellor Adolf Hitler, not because they are not powerful enough to engage the Nazi army but simply because they are willing to sacrifice Poland and other Eastern European countries to appease the aggressor and, they hope, avoid war altogether. The United States sees the struggle as a purely European matter, choosing neutrality as the economically prudent course.
David Meyer, a young American crop duster, disagrees with his country’s...
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