Title: A Thousand Shall Fall
Author: Susi Hasel Mundy
Major Themes: Courage, Faith, Pacifism, World War II
Synopsis: When Franz Hasel, a Sabbath-keeping Pacifist, was drafted into the Nazi army, could he hold to his convictions and still manage to do the tasks he was given? And could his family at home survive, and hold to their convictions?
I find that as I go through life, I become more and more interested in history. Whether it’s because of my mother’s wonderful training by example, or something else, I don’t know—but I’ve found that history is one of my favorite subjects. And when books like A Thousand Shall Fall comes along, I’m always hopeful that I’ll have a chance to read it! For this book in particular, my aunt graciously let me borrow it for a year and a half, and recently when I realized I still hadn’t read it, I pulled it out. What a gripping story! Don’t ever believe history is boring—because, told the right way, it comes to life in a wonderfully unique way. This book was a prime example of that being done right.
Susi’s father, Franz, didn’t want to go to war. However, war came to him and he was drafted into the army. When he asked for a non-combat position, citing his religious beliefs, the commander laughed at him and put him in the bridge-building unit—the one that was in the most dangerous position, as they went in front of the army to place bridges for the army to cross over. Would God protect him in this situation? And what happened when he realized he must carry a gun at all times, and he was the one of the company’s best sharp-shooters? Would he be forced to take a life while he served in the army?
With Franz gone, Helene had to take care of the family. Being Sabbath keepers, it was difficult for her children when they were going to school to know what to do when school was mandatory on Saturdays as well. Beyond the education problem, how does one provide for a family when the whole city is starving? And what about when air raids start, and more often than not you find yourself in an air raid shelter overnight?
The most interesting part of A Thousand Shall Fall, for me, was the fact that the Lord really blessed this family in a unique way, seemingly because they tried to honor Him in everything. I don’t know if that was the case or not, but that’s how it seems, and it was quite impressive to see over and over how He fulfilled each need.
WARNING: In chapter 4, page 39, a man uses God’s name wrongly (in German). At the end of chapter 5, pages 47-48, it tells how an army invaded a village, raped all the women and girls in a village, and later how the hospital was offering free abortions. In chapter 6, page 50, a character witnesses a battle-site with quite a few dead bodies. On page 51, it talks about men left behind to be captured or killed by the enemy army, and how a man developed bad blisters on his feet. Later in chapter 6, page 55, a battle is described, and at the very end of the chapter, on page 56, it describes a man who had stepped on a landmine and what he looked like when it exploded. In chapter 8, page 69, a man is killed, on pages 71-72, the SS come and round up and kill Jews (first described, then near the end of the chapter on page 73, the main character actually witnesses it happening), and a Jewish man is brutally killed on page 74. In chapter 9, page 76, there is a description of what people had to do to keep from being bodily harmed while there was bombing all around them, there is a fire after a bomb, and near the end of the chapter, page 82, an attack on a train is described where quite a few women and children were hurt. In chapter 10, page 87, a man punches another man unconscious, on page 90, a man lies to protect some important documents, and on page 91, a man’s head is almost crushed by a trailer wheel. In chapter 11, page 100, a mention is made of an SS camp where lots of girls acting as “secretaries” lived, who were helping to create a new Aryan super race—and what happened to them at the end of the war. In chapter 12, pages 101 and 103, the word “hell” is used twice (although I believe they are the right connotations). In chapter 13, page 112, a mention is made of what happened to people who were burned by phosphorous bombs. In chapter 15, page 122, someone witnesses a pig being killed. Later, on page 127, it mentions women who were raped by a unit of men who came through, on page 128, it talks about the murder of an SS man, and on page 132, it talks about a group of women and children who came very close to being executed to provide an “example” for others. In chapter 16, page 134, the word “hell” is used and several men almost shoot another man.
Reading Independently—Ages 12 – 15, 15 and Above, Adults