Tag Archives: paul kengor

On the wings of prayer: Frank Kravetz’s Nazi “hell-hole” survival

“That was now my rosary that I used to ask the Lord to help me,” said Frank Kravetz, resident of a Nuremberg prison camp he called simply the Nazi “hell-hole.”

“My bed stopped shaking … and my anxiety lifted.”

Frank was a POW of Stalag 13-D. Life was scary inside, and among the worst moments were the bombing campaigns by U.S. aircraft soaring overhead. The Nazi camp leaders would head underground into bunkers, leaving American POWs in their barracks as inadvertent targets of their own airmen. Frank feared he might ultimately be killed not by hostile Germans but by friendly Americans seeking his liberation.

One frightening evening Frank gripped both sides of his mattress. He felt some loose string. He broke off about 20 inches and began tying 10 little knots. He created a rosary. He worked the threaded beads and prayed. It helped, especially given that “just existing became what was important.”

A resident of a Nazi camp scratching for survival wasn’t what Frank Kravetz had in mind when he signed up to serve his country in World War II. The kid from smoky East Pittsburgh enlisted in the Army Air Corps. He became a tail-gunner.

Frank’s life took a dramatic turn on November 2, 1944 in a bomb-run over Germany. He crammed into the tail of a B-17, wedged inside a flak jacket. The target was Merseberg, a major industrial area. He flew amid an air armada of 500 heavy bombers, each carrying 18 250-pound “general purpose” bombs.

Frank’s plane came under hot pursuit by German fighters. Frank took them on with a twin .50 caliber machine gun. It was a dogfight, and Frank was badly wounded. His B-17 was filled with holes. The crew had to bail, quickly.

Frank was bleeding profusely and could barely move. His buddies tried to get a parachute on him, but it opened inside the plane. They wrapped it around him, taking care not to cross the cords, and tossed him out. To Frank’s great relief, the chute opened, and Frank said he floated like he was on the wings of angels.

The tranquility halted with a rude thump as Frank hit the ground. German soldiers immediately seized him.

Thus began “hell’s journey,” as Frank dubbed it.

Liberation finally came April 29, 1945, by General George Patton’s Third Army. Frank described the jubilant scene: Thousands of emaciated, ecstatic POWs chanted Patton’s name. Some fell to their knees, overcome with emotion. Patton seized a bullhorn: “Gentlemen— you’re now liberated and under Allied control… We’re going to get you out of here.”

It finally hit Frank and his remaining 125 pounds of flesh: “I’m going home.”

Frank eventually arrived in New York City and hitchhiked all the way to Pittsburgh. He unceremoniously arrived at his folks’ front door—no trumpets, no dramatic music, no parade. He hugged his mom and dad and sat down. He found and married his sweetheart, Anne.

How did he survive? I asked that to Frank several times. With me and especially with younger folks he spoke to, he didn’t shy from sharing his secret: “Pray. It helps.”

As Frank prayed, he promised God he would never complain about anything again if he survived. Our blessings are so bountiful that we need to be grateful, especially compared to deprivations others have faced—like a Nazi prison camp. Frank cited 2nd Corinthians 1:8-10, which speaks of dealing with hardship, despair, and relying not on ourselves but God.

That’s what Frank Kravetz did, right up until his death in August 2015, at age 91, joining his beloved wife of 68 years, who died only four months prior.

To Frank, who was too humble to consider himself a hero, we might say: Well done, faithful servant.

DR. PAUL KENGOR is professor of political science at Grove City College. His latest book is A Pope and a President: John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and the Extraordinary Untold Story of the 20th Century.

Reagan, the Pope, America and the USSR

On March 30, 1981, just outside the Washington Hilton, right down the street from
the White House, Ronald Reagan, the 40th president of the United States, leader of the free world, was shot by a would-be assassin.

Dr. Paul Kengor

On May 13, 1981, just outside the Vatican, in the heart of St. Peter’s Square, Pope John Paul II, 264th occupant of the chair of St. Peter, leader of the world’s largest group of Christians, was shot by a would-be assassin. It was the feast day of Our Lady of Fatima.

These were, of course, shocking moments that rocked international headlines. We know today what an anxious world did not know then — that both men came perilously close to dying. Had they perished, the 20th century would not have ended as it did.

For Americans, for Europeans, for Protestants and Catholics, and for many others worldwide, the momentous and tranquil termination of the Cold War was the most remarkable event of the 20th century — a century in which more than 100 million people were killed by communist governments.

The American public got a taste of John Paul’s significance to Ronald Reagan when the nation’s new president, still recovering from the shooting, stepped to the podium to speak at Notre Dame University on May 17, 1981, only days after the pontiff had been shot. Reagan began his remarks by acknowledging not his own health but that of the Pope.

Next came a stunning statement in the president’s prepared text: “The years ahead are great ones for this country, for the cause of freedom and the spread of civilization,” Reagan said. “The West won’t contain communism; it will transcend communism…. It will dismiss it as some bizarre chapter in human history whose last pages are even now being written.”

Ronald Reagan saw Pope John Paul II as his partner in a battle that was spiritual as much as political. He also saw Poland as the crucible where the battle would be fought and could be won — and with the indispensable help of the Polish pontiff.

The Pope and the president would meet to discuss that joint mission on June 7, 1982. “It was always assumed the president would meet with the Holy Father as soon as feasible,” said Bill Clark, Reagan’s closest aide and a devout Catholic. “Because of their mutual interests, the two men would come together and form some sort of collaboration.”

Reagan had long coveted such an idea. Not only had he recognized as early as June 1979 that the Pope was key to Poland’s fate, but among his earliest goals as president was to make the Vatican an ally. The Reagan administration was the first to diplomatically recognize the Holy See.

The two men talked alone for 50 minutes in the Vatican Library. The attempted assassinations were raised right away. Cardinal Pio Laghi, the apostolic nuncio in Washington, later recounted that Reagan told John Paul: “Look how the evil forces were put in our way and how Providence intervened.” Clark confirmed that sentiment, saying that both men referred to the “miraculous” fact that they had survived. The two men, Clark said, shared a “unity” in spiritual views and in their “vision on the Soviet empire,” namely “that right or correctness would ultimately prevail in the divine plan.”

The June 1982 meeting was the first of many. A substantial effort and collaboration thus ensued. The major players included Clark, CIA director Bill Casey, Ambassador Vernon Walters and Cardinal Pio Laghi. That collaboration helped bring about the historic events of 1989. That year is remembered for the fall of the Berlin Wall. In truth, however, the collapse began earlier that year, in June, with elections in Poland — the first free and fair elections in the Communist Bloc. The communists did not win a single seat. Just a few months later, in November, the Berlin Wall fell.

The Cold War was over without a missile fired, without the nuclear Armageddon that everyone feared for so long. Extraordinarily, that entire totalitarian system, which destroyed so much and so many, went down peacefully. It was a testimony to the work of names like Thatcher, Gorbachev, Yeltsin, Walesa, Havel — and Reagan and John Paul II.

These two men, a Catholic and a Protestant, a Pole and an American, at the Vatican and at the White House, stood out and stood together. They together resolved to stop the atheistic Soviet empire. It was a historic partnership and a historic victory.

DR. PAUL KENGOR is professor of political science and executive director of The Center for Vision and Values at Grove City College. His latest book is A Pope and a President: John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and the Extraordinary Untold Story of the 20th Century.

The Catholic Church’s long, good fight for family and marriage

I recently heard from an evangelical pastor desperate for allies in a culture where modern citizens render unto themselves the right to redefine the laws of nature and nature’s God.

Paul Kengor

Paul Kengor

Like many faithful Christians, this pastor stands speechless at his fellow Americans’ willingness to fundamentally transform the multi-millennia standard of male-female marriage. Having just released a book on this subject, he wanted my advice. In an offer of Christian solidarity, I told him that evangelical churches could and should take example from the Roman Catholic Church on these questions. He was all ears as I shared the instructive Catholic example on marriage and family from the mid-1800s to the 21st century.

My new book, Takedown: From Communists to Progressives, How the Left Has Sabotaged Family and Marriage, details a two-century-long attack on family and marriage by extremist forces ranging from socialist utopians to orthodox communists to “cultural Marxists” to the 1960s New Left to modern secular progressives — all culminating in the great takedown that is same-sex “marriage.” This completely new configuration of marriage succeeds in repudiating the natural, traditional, biblical, Judeo-Christian standard of male-female marriage. All along, the one organization that most consistently resisted these efforts was the Church of Rome.

Beginning in the 1800s, rabidly atheistic leftists — from socialist utopians like Robert Owen and Charles Fourier to communists like Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels — sought to tear down religion and traditional family and marriage. Marx wrote to Engels: “Blessed is he who has no family.” In their Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels wrote openly of “the abolition of the family,” which, even then (in 1848), they could refer to as “an infamous proposal of the communists.”

It was infamous enough that in Rome two years earlier, Pope Pius IX began his long pontificate with the encyclical Qui pluribus (On Faith and Religion), released in 1846. The first of many Pius IX statements, it eviscerated “the unspeakable doctrine of communism, as it is called, a doctrine most opposed to the very natural law.” Pius IX predicted severe destruction, including moral damage, and specifically warned that communism would violate “the sanctity of marriage.”

Pius IX was succeeded by another long-serving pope, Leo XIII. Likewise, in the first year of his pontificate, this pope zeroed in on the secular left’s burgeoning moral wreckage. In 1878, he released Inscrutabili Dei Consilio (On the Evils of Society), followed by Quod Apostolici muneris (On Socialism). The first encyclical identified the evils being perpetrated by “socialists, communists, nihilists” and others who “strive to bring to a head what they have long been planning — the overthrow of all civil society.” He continued: “They debase the natural union of man and woman, which is held sacred even among barbarous peoples.”

After Leo XIII, a succession of popes echoed these warnings in major pronouncements in 1924, 1928, 1930, 1931, 1932, 1933, and with the harshest still yet to come: In 1937, in the encyclical Divini Redemptoris, Pius XI issued the Church’s most scathing attack on ascendant communist ideology, which it called a “satanic scourge.”

Pius XI instructed the flock that holy “matrimony” is of “divine origin” and was “fundamental” and “fixed” by the Creator. He decried the efforts to make “marriage and the family a purely artificial and civil institution.” Divini Redemptoris was focused here mainly on the forces of atheistic communism, but it also applies to family/marriage redefiners today.

This consistency in defending Christian marriage against its enemies continues in Rome today, without references to communism but instead to radical individualism, to what Popes Francis and Benedict XVI have both called the “dictatorship of relativism.” In January, Francis explicitly warned against “forms of ideological colonization which are out to destroy the family” and that seek to “redefine the very institution of marriage, by relativism.” He has asserted that marriage must remain between one man and one woman, and that every child has a “right” to a mother and a father.

There is, in short, a lesson here not only for evangelicals, but for Christians of all stripes, including Catholic priests reticent about addressing such hot-button issues. Priests should not shrink from that obligation. After all, in the Roman Catholic Church, marriage is not a cultural issue, it’s a sacramental issue.

From Pope Francis today, way back to Pope Pius IX two centuries ago, there has been a striking moral and institutional consistency from Rome on marriage, with the only adaptation being not core teaching but a merciful tone that preaches and reaches. Will it work in repelling the gay “marriage” in modern Western culture? Either way, it has to be tried. This must be part of the New Evangelization not just for Christians, but for all the culture, country, and world.

DR. PAUL KENGOR is a professor of political science at Grove City College. His latest book is Takedown: From Communists to Progressives, How the Left Has Sabotaged Family and Marriage.


Paul Kengor
WND Books, 2015
256 pages, paperback $18.95

If you’re looking for a humorous read, this book isn’t for you. Subtitled From Communists to Progressives, How the Left Has Sabotaged Family and Marriage, Kengor’s latest is important and timely stuff. We are witnessing a watershed moment in American history: the sabotaging of family and marriage. As the legal definition of marriage changes, the floodgates are open for the fundamental transformation of the American family.

Kengor exposes exposes how gay “marriage” is a Trojan horse for the far left to secure the final takedown of the family. Most Americans are oblivious as they reject God’s design for natural marriage and the family.

Order: Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Pope Francis’ Muslim outreach

Paul Kengor gives a nod to the Pope’s remarkable, successful outreach to Muslims . . .

Paul Kengor

Paul Kengor

If you listen to the media, you’ll catch takes on Pope Francis on everything from reforming the Curia to analyses of his comments and interviews. Look deeper and you’ll also find a surprising amount of material on his outreach to Muslims.

This openness is something that few expected, but given the pontiff’s past — as well as the papal name he chose — it shouldn’t be a shock. In retrospect, we had some hints to this outreach seven years ago, back in 2006. Recall Pope Benedict XVI’s “controversial” Regensburg address. Benedict quoted a learned 14th century Byzantine emperor: “Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.”

Benedict was speaking in a scholarly forum and didn’t openly endorse this particular observation. Nonetheless, there was significant worldwide backlash — and not just the Islamic world.

In Argentina, a cardinal named Jorge Mario Bergoglio was notably displeased. “Pope Benedict’s statements don’t reflect my own opinions,” said the then-archbishop of Buenos Aires. “These statements will serve to destroy in 20 seconds the careful construction of a relationship with Islam that Pope John Paul II built over the last 20 years.”

Upon assuming the reins of the papacy, Bergoglio has sought a decidedly different tone. Pope Francis has consistently and repeatedly reached out to Muslims. Here are just a few examples:

• In one of his first papal speeches, given on March 22, Francis announced he wanted to “intensify dialogue among the various religions. And I am thinking particularly of dialogue with Islam.” • Just days later, celebrating his first Holy Thursday Mass, Francis broke with tradition, washing the feet of a Serbian Muslim woman — an inmate from a prison in Rome. • In an Aug. 2 message, Francis took the rare step of extending a personal message to Muslims preparing to celebrate Ramadan. In the past, such ecumenical greetings came from the Vatican’s office of interfaith dialogue. This time, the Bishop of Rome took the personal initiative, extending his “esteem and friendship” to Muslims. • Francis again reached out at the end of Ramadan. In an Angelus message, he urged Christians and Muslims to strive together to “promote mutual respect.” • Two weeks later, the Holy Father made another eye-opening move when he bowed to a smiling Queen Rania of Jordan who was visiting the Vatican. Rania, wife of King Abdullah II, presides over the largest Palestinian population of any country. Why Francis chose to bow to her isn’t entirely clear, but it certainly was noticed.

Amid the many such gestures in such a short period, Francis has also been staunch in his calls for peace in the conflict in Syria, which is a matter of Muslims killing Muslims in a terrible civil war. He opposed President Barack Obama’s desire for a military strike against the Assad regime. Then he went further, calling for an international day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria on Sept. 7.

Ahmad Badreddin Hassoun, the Grand Mufti of Syria, who is the spiritual leader of Syrian Sunni Muslims, was so affected by Francis’ appeal that he publicly expressed his wish to join the pope in St. Peter’s for the vigil. The mufti asked his fellow Muslims to “welcome the appeal to pray for peace.” He invited them to pray on Sept. 7, simultaneously and in communion with Pope Francis, and to do so in mosques throughout Syria. In striking language, speaking of the Pope as a “father,” the mufti said that Syrian Muslims view the Holy Father as a “true spiritual leader … who speaks for the true good of the Syrian people.”

In all, this is quite remarkable. Should we be surprised at this outreach to Muslims by Pope Francis? I don’t think so.

When Cardinal Bergoglio looked to St. Francis for his papal name, it wasn’t to witness to birds and trees. Many forget that the 13th century saint stepped off the battlefield of the crusades to reach out to Muslims. In 1219 AD, a time of terrible religious strife, Francis headed by foot and horse to Egypt where he hoped to win over the world’s most powerful Muslim: Sultan Malik al-Kamil.

For the record, that voyage did not convert the sultan, but it impressed him greatly, giving him a much more positive view of Christians and their faith — and their representative. Pope Francis has thus far done the same. Here’s hoping he has even greater success over the months and years ahead.

PAUL KENGOR is professor of political science at Grove City College. His books include “The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan’s Top Hand” and “The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism.”