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In Solitary Witness: The Life and Death of Franz Jagerstatter Paperback – 1 Jan 2007

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Looks at the life of Franz J agerst atter, an Austrian farmer who was imprisoned and eventually executed for refusing to serve in the Nazi army.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 10 reviews
30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
An important book for those in search of heroes today. 4 Dec. 1998
By Michael Hovey ( - Published on
Format: Paperback
Most of the well-known heroes of World War II are military figures. This book tells the story of another sort of hero, Franz Jaegerstaetter, an Austrian peasant farmer and husband and father of three daughters, who refused to perform his military service in the Nazi army on grounds of conscience. He was executed in Berlin on August 9, 1943 by the Nazis for his conscientious objection, "in solitary witness" to peace. The author, Gordon Zahn, an American conscientious objector during World War II and a sociologist, does a masterful job of capturing the social and religious context in which Jaegerstaetter's refusal to fight became possible. Zahn interviewed a number of villagers in St. Radegund -- including the widow and children of Jaegerstaetter -- to gain an understanding of the development of this uneducated farmer's faith in God and his convictions against war. The author is able to unravel the mystery of how such a simple man could have withstood the criticism and ostracization of his neighbors, the disapproval of his family, and the unwillingness of his Catholic church leaders (with the exception of his parish priest) to support his objection. In telling the story of a single brave man, the author is able to illustrate the possibility for any of us to stand against the social pressure citizens of every nation feel to support their government's involvement in wars, be they just or unjust. In the Preface, Zahn notes that Daniel Ellsberg has often acknowledged that it was the inspiration he felt after reading this book that led him to release the Pentagon Papers to the media in his effort to end the Vietnam War. It is also interesting to note that this book brought Jaegerstaetter's story to the attention of later Church authorities in Austria, who have begun an "investigation" of Franz's life and death in a first step toward his possible canonization as a saint in the Catholic Church. This story told in this book has moved government and church authorities to rethink their understanding and acceptance of war; it will move any reader to do the same.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
When simple faith said no to oppression 2 Nov. 2005
By A. Calabrese - Published on
Format: Unknown Binding
I first read In solitary witness: The life and death of Franz Jägerstätter by Gordon Charles Zahn about 15 years ago. In this fascinating biography of the Austrian peasant who refused to serve in the Nazi armies Gordon Zahn takes the reader into the heart of this Austrian peasant farmer who was the sexton of his small village Catholic church. Through his own spiritual conversion Jägerstätter learned that to be a radical Christian meant one could not cooperate with evil, even at its most innocuous level. We learn how Jägerstätter refused all Nazi family and farm aid that, by law, he was entitled. The author also explains how Jägerstätter inacted with those of other faiths, like Jehovah Witnesses, when he was finally arrested for refusing to be drafted into the German army. After being transferred from Nazi prison to prison Jägerstätter finally is sent to Berlin. And, even though Jägerstätter knew it would probably not make much of a difference like Christian martyrs before him he accepted execution quietly. Franz Jägerstätter is an inspiration to Catholics and non-Catholics. His life showed that with faith in Christ one can make the tough choices, even when those choice mean forfitting one's life. Finally, In solitary witness: The life and death of Franz Jägerstätter by Gordon Charles Zahn does a wonderful job of telling us the story of this almost forgotten Christian martyr. This is an inspiring and wonderful book.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
A Witness Who Still Testifies 8 Sept. 2005
By K. Borsch - Published on
Format: Paperback
Zahn's meticulous investigation of the thoughts and conscience of an Austrian farmer over 60 years ago caused me to do some heavy thinking. I realized the basic ethical questions dealt with still apply today. The convictions of this simple man Jaegerstaetter have unexplainedly and very deeply stirred my heart. Whether you agree with him or not, you can't help but admire him for standing by what he believed in the face of the Nazi regime.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Update: Franz Beatified 6 Jun. 2007
By Michael W. Hovey - Published on
Format: Paperback
I had written a review previously (see above). On June 4, 2007, the Vatican announced that the subject of this excellent book, Franz Jaegerstaetter, will be beatified -- i.e., declared "Blessed" -- and the normal requirement of one miracle attributed to him will be waived, because he died as a "martyr of the faith". This is the penultimate step before being canonized, or declared to be a saint in the Roman Catholic Church. It was Zahn's book that brought the public's attention to Franz's "solitary witness."
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
When Radical Faith Says No To Oppression 2 Nov. 2005
By A. Calabrese - Published on
Format: Paperback
In Solitary Witness by Gordon Zahn tells the story of Franz Jagerstatter. Jagerstatter was an Austrian peasant who, as a result of radical conversion, livedhis Catholic faith and put his own life on the line. The book tells the story of how Jagerstatter refused to cooperate with the Nazi Regime in Austria, even in the most innocuous of circumstances. He refused family aid and after suffering crop losses refused farm aid from the government. Gordon Zahn does a fine job of telling how Catholics and other Christians, who refused to cooperate, with the Nazis were seen. And how the Nazis treated those individuals who resisted the state. The book not only tells Jagerstatter's story, but about others who resisted because of their own beliefs, like Jehovah Witnesses. While many know the story of other Christian martyrs to the Nazi regime, like Deitrich Bonhoffer In Solitary Witness by Gordon Zahn fills in the blanks of that story of our Christian faith. This is a book that should be read by Catholics and others. It shows how one can and should live their life if they are committed to Christ.
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