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The Sower of
Black Field

An American missionary fights to protect his flock from Nazism. His greatest challenge―defending them from his own countrymen.

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INSPIRED BY TRUE EVENTS

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.

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Characters

The Core Cast

  • Character from The Sower of Black Field - Fr. Viktor Koch, C.P., founder of the German-Austrian Passionist Foundation
    American missionary, founder of the German-Austrian branch of the Passionist Order.

    Fr. Viktor Koch, C.P.

    To the Nazis he is an enemy. To the Catholics of Schwarzenfeld, this American citizen is their "Provinsche," the one who saved them from absolute destitution during the Great Depression.

    Far from a mild-mannered priest, he is a shrewd leader with a steel backbone, capable of outmaneuvering Nazis who are hellbent upon dismantling the religious province he has fought to establish. He is warm and fatherly with his German parishioners, projecting a strength that makes them say “Yes, Pater!” and follow him without hesitation. He will defend them to the hilt—and finds himself doing exactly that. His only weapon is his adamant faith.

  • Character from The Sower of Black Field - Wilhelm Seiz, Amtsleiter of the NSV.
    Office director (Amtsleiter) of the local NSV (National Socialist People’s Welfare Department).

    Wilhelm Seiz

    A Party official and a humanitarian, he is a split character—good and evil, two personas in one. As the Party member he has a cold jewel stare and a frightening talent for subterfuge. Yet, snap your fingers and he’ll shift into the charity worker—a man deeply moved by the pain of others, ready to deplete himself to alleviate suffering. He takes extreme care to save the wine of empathy for his own people.

    Eventually Fr. Viktor sees Wilhelm Seiz for what he is—Heaven’s highest virtue with a swastika on his sleeve. As a man of God, the priest cannot abide a tragedy of such magnitude. He fights to turn this wayward son around. Will Seiz ever listen? Heaven only knows.

  • Character from The Sower of Black Field - Helene Heidl
    A follower of Fr. Viktor, widow and mother of two boys, Klaus and Hans.

    Helene Heidl

    Despite prayers for her soul mate to return from war, he lies dead on enemy soil. Her eldest son is suffering in the Hitler Youth, but refuses to let her intervene. Her close friend Norbert Gindele—also her employer—teeters on the verge of arrest, increasing her responsibilities at work. It takes all of Helene’s strength to function.

    Inspired by Fr. Viktor's vision of the Framework—the mysterious ways in which God works through the good of the world—Helene's sense of hope is renewed. She courageously seeks out every opportunity to help and heal suffering in her midst. Her most poignant moment occurs when SS guards lead a death march of Jews through Schwarzenfeld.

  • Character from The Sower of Black Field - Klaus Heidl
    Eldest son of Helene Heidl

    Klaus Heidl

    The willow-thin boy revels in daydreams to escape realities he cannot bear—especially his father’s death. Proof of God’s existence rests upon prayers made for Papa’s return, and they will never be answered.

    At the darkest moment of his young life, Klaus crosses paths with another character on this list. First the man saves Klaus from an abusive Hitler Youth leader, then he crouches to the boy’s level and speaks in a paternal manner. Klaus is strongly reminded of his beloved Papa. Later in the story, Fr. Viktor compels Klaus to reflect upon the sorrows of his life. The boy is struck by a stunning revelation. There was an answer to his desperate prayer—but God responded in a way that Klaus least expected, through a person that the boy would never suspect.

  • Character from The Sower of Black Field - Norbert Gindele
    Devout follower of Fr. Viktor and Wehrmacht veteran.

    Norbert Gindele

    He is a striking man, naturally charming, a devout Catholic with a fierce moral fiber—and a spirit kindled by a righteous fury against Reich and Party. A Wehrmacht veteran discharged from duty on account of wounds and age, he fought in France and Poland and witnessed atrocities that make him feel consumed by sin simply for having observed them.

    Now at home, he owns and operates one of Schwarzenfeld’s four bakeries and the townspeople heavily depend upon him to provide their most essential staples. When the Catholics of Schwarzenfeld rise up in acts of resistance against the Reich, Norbert Gindele is certain to be at the center of it. Only Fr. Viktor can give him peace through faith, prayer—and a plan that lets him secretly defy a government he loathes beyond words.

  • Character from The Sower of Black Field - Maria Gindele
    Wife of Norbert Gindele, devout follower of Fr. Viktor

    Maria Gindele

    This gentle soul with the buttercream voice is a living angel. When patrons step through the doors of the Gindele Bakery, she aims the same bright smile at Party members and Slavic laborers alike. She is such a benign creature that no one complains about her greeting people in God’s name rather than Hitler’s.

    When a Russian laborer stumbles into the Gindele bakery and begs for bread with an empty ration card, Maria stuns Helene by tucking his papers into her lap and pretending to cut invisible stamps. In her warm, kindly voice, she tells Helene to give the man bread for free. From that day forward, they find an abundance of Slavic laborers patronizing the bakery.

  • Character from The Sower of Black Field - Paul Boeminghaus, C.P.
    Fellow religious and confidant of Fr. Viktor

    Fr. Paul Böhminghaus, C.P.

    A softspoken Austrian with a velvet voice, he is quietly courageous, Fr. Viktor’s confidant through trial and tribulation. When the tides of fortune shift out of their favor, Fr. Paul remains staunchly supportive. He stands ready to help Fr. Viktor ponder their next move, so they can regain the upper hand.

  • Character from The Sower of Black Field - Hans Heidl
    Youngest son of Helene Heidl

    Hans Heidl

    The most adorable boy ever born on German soil. Enough said!

    He is Helene’s youngest son, the one who always makes her smile—even through tears. When Klaus slips into dreams of being Leutnant Heidl, little Hans is the Altar Boy Adjutant, a mixture of youthful wisdom and eye-rolling naivety, but always a trusty sidekick. His innocence sharply contrasts with the horrors of war. During the darkest moments, little Hans brings introspection and light.

  • Character from The Sower of Black Field - Zizi, a Russian laborer in Schwarzenfeld
    Russian laborer in Schwarzenfeld

    Zizi

    A soldier captured on the Eastern front in 1941, he is brought to Schwarzenfeld and subjected to heavy labor in the town’s ceramics factory. He is the first to receive free bread from Maria and Helene, which compels him to befriend both women through the course of the story. When American liberators roll into town in the latter chapters, he stands with fellow laborers in front of the Gindele Bakery and announces to American GIs, “Here there are good people living! You got no trouble here!”

The Inspiration

The True Story

Photo of Fr. Viktor Koch, C.P., Provincial of the German-Austrian Passionist Foundation.
Photo of coffins from atrocity in Schwarzenfeld, Germany, April 1945.
Photo of funeral for atrocity victims in Schwarzenfeld, Germany, April 1945.

This novel is inspired by real events, a real time, a real place, and real people.

Why would an American defend a German town — from Americans? This single question has fueled a twenty-year research project for Gary and Katherine Koch, the grandnephew and great-grandneice of Fr. Viktor Koch, C.P. Our desire to learn the narrative has taken us from the Passionist Archives in Union City, New Jersey, to the National Archives in Washington, D.C., and finally to the town of Schwarzenfeld, Germany.

Prefer bare-bone facts to historical fiction? Visit the project website at viktorkoch.com for the historical backbone that supports the novel.

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The Sower of Black Field - Inspired by the True Story of an American in Nazi Germany