Learn More About:
The Project and Website

Screenshot of the new home page for ViktorKoch.com, the website for the Father Viktor Project.

Viktorkoch.com was designed and coded by Katherine Koch. The first version of the site was launched in 2003, just a year after Katherine and her father Gary heard Father Viktor's story for the first time.

Our family history project was far from inevitable. It started with Mr. Edwin Pancoast, an American World War II veteran whom we had never met. He traveled to Schwarzenfeld in 1997 and visited with Frau Zita Mueller, a longtime friend who lived in the backwater town. On previous occasions, they generally avoided discussing the war out of a tacit understanding that the topic revived painful memories for the Germans. Unlike younger generations who viewed the war through history books and documentaries, Ed and Zita bore personal memories of tragedy and horror. On this occasion, however, they revisited that somber chapter in their lives, and Zita told her visitor about the American Passionist who had defended Schwarzenfeld when U.S. forces stumbled upon a mass grave and threatened to execute the town's male population. Zita was only 13 years old when these dramatic events occurred. She had constructed coffins for the victims and attended the funeral ceremony.

The story entranced Ed. Upon returning to his home in Chevy Chase, Maryland, he made contacts in the Passionist order, visited the National Archives in Washington, D.C., and began researching Zita's hero. It was his fondest wish that Fr. Viktor's story be memorialized in a novel, or even a movie. By 2003, it was clear that he lacked the energy to commit himself to a monumental research project. He packed all of his files into an envelope, addressed it to the Sharon Genealogical Society, and mailed it off in hopes of the city acknowledging its native son. Sharon historians contacted reporters at the Sharon Herald, who published an article titled, "Priest Saved Town From Destruction." Fifty-eight years after Fr. Viktor saved Schwarzenfeld, a new generation of Koch relatives opened the newspaper and learned his story for the first time.

We contacted Ed at once. His dreams of a novel inspired Katherine: they quickly became her own, and he was delighted to pass on the torch. But even more than that, both Katherine and her father Gary were bewildered by the idea of an American citizen defending a German town. When U.S. forces arrived in Schwarzenfeld, was Fr. Viktor simply acting as a moral police officer enforcing the Commandments, or was there more to his story? When your kin is involved in an incident this controversial, the matter becomes personal. To us, those questions demanded answers. We had to know.

This website documents our journey to learn the narrative, and the facts we've pieced together along the way. It also provides the factual background to Katherine's forthcoming historical fiction novel, tentatively titled, The Sower of Blackfield. Keep an eye on our News and Publications section for the latest details on the book's publication.

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