As a blogger for booksneeze.com, I had the opportunity to review the historical fiction/ inspirational book, the HEART MENDER by the NYT best selling Author, Andy Andrews. Based on "actual" events, the story begins with the mysterious WWII German artifacts stuffed in a rusty tin can that Andy accidently unearths when doing some yard work. These historical objects propel Andy into a fact finding mission that leads to the discovery of the monumental lives of an actual living couple. During this journey he learns the lessons of the power of forgivness and love and its ability to "mend hearts" in overcoming deep rooted personal and historical anger and revenge. The lessons learned in the journey of healing can also be applied to our own lives as well.
A few points I wish to focus on are some of the political/ historical assumptions that Andy puts forth in his book. Andy points out that just as all Americans can not be considered racist members of the Klu Klux clan, it would also be wrong to assume that all Germans/ German military were Nazis. Ok, perhaps I will grant that assumption may be true, in part, but it is NOT a justification for being being passive and following orders when it results in the murderous atrocities of the concentration camps. It is clear that Andy writes with a sympathetic tone towards the Germans. His hero Josef, (a main character of the story) a German U-boat captain, makes a distinction between war and murder in order to justify his attack on an unarmed American cargo ship in American waters which was carrying vegitables. Because he only destroyed the unarmed ship, yet left the unarmed civilian crew alive, floundering in the water, he considered himself innocent of murder, and therfore felt exonerated of wrong doing as he just chalked it up to an action of war. In page 53, the character states, "I must live with myself after the war...I fight for my country- not for the psycopath who has kidnapped her....". For me this raises some questions. These are simply words, which are easy to say, but still words, nevertheless and nothing more. This does not justify following orders. I must admit my sympathies are strongly in favor of the Jews and other victims of Hitler and the concentration camps. Is this distinction to classify an action as just one of war vs murder possible when talking about Nazis and the German military and civillian victims? Nevertheless, would this be possible for anyone who actually had suffered under the atrocities of the concentration
camps to understand and agree with? The humanity of the German military is the focus through the character of Josef, who apparently feels embarrased by the Nazis and the Nazi atrocities. Andy commends Josef for his passive resistance to Hitler, by "hiding" the Nazi medals rather than wearing them. Germans and the German military, in large part are depicted as victims of Hitler, who reluctantly participated in the war and followed orders, when josef declares on page 137, "I did not choose to fight for my country and never wanted to fight yours. I was forced to do so. God forbid that you and your countrymen be placed in the positionj to do the bidding of a madman." Can this argument also apply to those military that gassed men, women and children in the gas chambers? I am not claiming that Andy would go so far as to stretch this logic to explain away the actions of the military who fascilitated/ murdered victims in the concentration camps, but how far can this analogy go? Where is the line drawn? When should one be subjected to take responability for his or her own actions? Even in military, men and women have free will- is this not so? Or are the military completely devoid of free will choice and not responsible for any of their actions? In response to Josef, I would respond, "God forbit that you or anyone you love be gassed/ murdered/ tortured in a Nazi concentration camp".
Perhaps my response is a bit strong, but after reading this book, many feelings surfaced concerning the atrocities of the concentration camps during WWII. In the end, I commend Andy Andrews for writing this book about the power of love and forgiveness, nevertheless I can not help but feel that to take this a step further in order to transcend the deep rooted pain of a victim of the concentration camp to forgive a Nazi, would be quite difficult. Some crimes are unforgivable, in my opinion. I would like to see Andy write another fictional book with concentration camp victims and perhaps Nazis- addressing the feelings of pain and reconcilliation, if it is at all possible.
My views in this blog are my own and I rceieved this book by Thomas Nelson publishers. I recieved two copies, and have one copy available to give away to the first reader of this blog that contacts me and wishes to pick it up.