This is the memoir of a Franciscan priest originally published in 1964, and with an appendix and epilogue that expands and updates the original through his years as a missionary in Tokyo. Gereon Goldmann was drafted in 1939 into the Wehrmacht while a seminarian. What follows is an incredible string of events, close scrapes with death at the hands of the Nazis and Allies, and what to a person of faith will be seen as small miracles.
Goldmann survived the war only to fall into the even deeper abyss of the worst prisoner of war camps in North Africa. Throughout all (the word all cannot convey the challenges he faced), his faith and sense of purpose gave his otherwise miserable existence meaning. The best stories of modern war from the foot-soldier's ground-level perspective (All Quiet on the Western Front and The Forgotten Soldier, for example), convey the horror, misery, chaos, fog, and in the end, meaninglessness of the soldiers' lives and deaths. But Gereon Goldmann shows how faith injects purpose and meaning even onto battlefields and into prison camps. Where all earthly forces worked relentlessly to dehumanize and destroy, Goldmann worked resolutely among his fellow soldiers and jailers to bring them dignity and hope.
The early parts of his story, with his childlike faith, will strike postmodern ears as hopelessly naiive. However, eventually the reader will be rewarded by seeing how Gereon's faith is nothing less than a rod of the steel penetrating his entire life and being. It will be difficult to read another dogfoot's story of war without inevitably contrasting it with Goldmann's. Although no GI is able to view his situation as a Field Marshall does his strategic maps, it is Goldmann, not only protected by the shadow of His wings, but carried very, very high on those same wings, that rises to a vastly higher level yet.