Thursday, April 18, 2024

The Sower of Black Field - Book Tour



Inspired by the True Story of an American in Nazi Germany

Historical Fiction

Date Published: April 15, 2024


Throughout the Third Reich, millions of Germans pledged allegiance to Adolf Hitler. In the Bavarian village of Schwarzenfeld, they followed an American citizen.

As he struggles to rekindle the faith of a guilt-ridden Wehrmacht veteran, a morose widow, and her grieving teenage son, Fr. Viktor Koch, C.P. is haunted by self-doubt. What is driving him to stay in the Third Reich? Is he following a higher plan, or the mystic compulsion of his German heritage? Exposed to American ideals, his parishioners grow restless under Nazi rule. Relying upon his ingenuity to keep them out of prison, Fr. Viktor solicits aid from an unlikely intercessor—the Nazi charity worker who confiscated his monastery for state purposes.

In April 1945, American liberators make a gruesome discovery: the SS have left a mass grave of concentration camp victims on Schwarzenfeld’s borders. Enraged by the sight, the infantry commander orders the townspeople to disinter 140 corpses, construct coffins despite material shortages, dig a grave trench, and hold a funeral ceremony—all in 24 hours. If they fail to fulfill this ultimatum, he vows to execute all German men in town.

Fr. Viktor has to pull off a miracle: he must convince his countrymen that his followers are not the enemy. Their humanity is intact. And most of all, they are innocent.


Read an excerpt below...

About the Author

Katherine Koch is a renaissance woman from San Antonio, Texas. By day she is a professional web administrator, digital marketing specialist, and graphic designer. By night she is an independent scholar, historian, and writer. She is captivated by stories of the Passionist missionaries in her family, all of whom have a peculiar knack for tumbling into harm’s way during history’s most fascinating time periods.


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Excerpt from "The Sower of Black Field"



Schwarzenfeld is a backwater village nestled in the rambling, pinecovered

hills of southeast Germany. To an observer in the 1940s,

it is a typical Bavarian farm town. The houses are austere plaster,

topped by red-tiled roofs. A stately, white-walled castle broods

overhead like a relic from a bygone age, its presence whispering of a

history that stretches back to the medieval era. Only a far-flung train

station hints at a connection to modern times. For centuries, two

sharp gray steeples have dominated the skyline—one belonging to a

rococo parish church, the other to a hilltop shrine—and both stand

as a testament to the Catholic fervor that burns deep in Bavarian

culture. Months have passed since a car rolled along the dirt-paved

roads, for automobiles are a rarity here. A pedestrian ambling along

Schwarzenfeld’s main thoroughfare, the Hauptstrasse, is far more

likely to encounter a cattle herd lazing about the street, or farmers

hauling their wares by wagon. However, one fact makes this nondescript

village the most remarkable place in the Third Reich: in this

town, Germans have given their loyalty to an American.


This U.S. citizen is Fr. Viktor Koch, C.P., a missionary and

Pennsylvania native who left America to found a new province for

his religious order, the Passionists. All members of this monastic

community have vowed to sow a novel doctrine—they declare

suffering the great and terrible equalizer of humanity, uniting every

soul on earth regardless of nation, race, or creed. Intuition tells Fr.

Viktor that Germany, the vanquished aggressor of World War I,

needs this far-reaching message more than any other country. He

is a foreigner by birth, but not by culture or language. A son of

German immigrants, he speaks fluent Hochdeutsch with a round,

downy American accent.


Appointed to lead the new European province, he departs for

Bavaria in 1922, at age fifty. From the start he proves his mettle.

Accompanied by Fr. Valentin Lenherd, C.P., his closest friend

and fellow Passionist, he bears witness to the turmoil that wracks

his ancestral homeland. Inflation and unemployment ravage the

country like twin plagues. Not even a bucketful of German marks

can buy a loaf of bread. The Weimar government forbids new

religious orders from opening institutions in Germany, condemning

the Passionist mission to failure, but Fr. Viktor is undeterred. At

times like this, he is apt to quote his favorite adage: “God provides.”

Instead of conceding defeat, he wheels and deals with Bavarian

cardinals, holds whirlwind fundraisers in America, and opens two

monasteries—one in Munich, Germany, and a second in Maria

Schutz, Austria. He relishes each victory over the German government,

celebrating every triumph with a fine cigar.


In 1933, when he visits Schwarzenfeld and decides to build

a new monastery beside the Miesbergkirche, the hilltop shrine

overlooking their town, the population hails him as a hero. He has

$200,000 in U.S. funds at his disposal—enough to hire every ablebodied

laborer in the impoverished village, plus tradesmen scouring

the countryside for work. Thus, as Adolf Hitler beguiles a desperate

nation with economic miracles, the devout Catholics of Schwarzenfeld

find an American priest ushering them from poverty into plenty.

They reverently call Fr. Viktor “our Provinsche,” a moniker derived

from his official title, provincial.


When the winds of oppression and war sweep through Europe

once again, Fr. Viktor struggles to ignore grim predictions made by

Fr. Stanislaus Grennan, his superior in America: the German province

will prove to be a total failure. In 1937, the Nazis close his monastery

in Munich. Gestapo agents begin hunting down foreign missionaries

and drive them from European shores, including American Passionists

who joined the German mission. Through sheer coincidence,

Fr. Viktor finds a legal loophole that prevents his own deportation.

After the first panzers rage across Poland’s border, German priests of

military age receive call-up notices from the Wehrmacht. A province

forty-one members strong drops to thirteen overnight. The most

devastating event occurs in February 1941: Fr. Valentin Lenherd, his

comrade through tribulation, dies of cancer. Fr. Viktor barely has

time to grieve before the next threat unfolds.


By April 1941, Hitler’s persecution of the German Catholic

Church is entering a new phase. Nazi authorities have confiscated

monasteries throughout Bavaria, evicting their inhabitants and

reallocating the facilities for secular purposes. One organization

that benefits from these mass appropriations is the Nationalsozialistische

Volkswohlfahrt (NSV), the public welfare department

charged with the task of opening rest houses, military hospitals,

and shelters for German citizens fleeing cities plagued by air raids.

In Schwandorf, a town six miles south of Schwarzenfeld, NSV

office director Wilhelm Seiz receives orders from the State to house

one hundred children evacuated from Hamburg. Searching the

Oberpfalz, his attention falls upon a spacious residence that suits

his needs perfectly. Confiscating this building is not a straightforward

matter: a foreigner owns the mortgage, and an international

scandal might erupt if the occupants refuse to leave peacefully, but

the fires of Seiz’s determination are stoked. Though he is only a

minor official, he has cultivated connections in the party. He will

stop at nothing until the property falls into NSV hands.


The building he wants to acquire is Fr. Viktor’s monastery in

Schwarzenfeld, the Miesbergkloster.

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