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Morning Sun
  • PATRICK'S PEOPLE: Terry Drake writes series on Italian priest in WWII

  • The final days of World War II in Italy were a time of horror as departing Germans murdered Italians and stole all the art treasures and valuables they could find.

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  • The final days of World War II in Italy were a time of horror as departing Germans murdered Italians and stole all the art treasures and valuables they could find.
    Many take refuge in churches, and a heroic priest, Father Damien, seeks to protect those who have sought sanctuary in his church, while standing against a sadistic renegade German officer wanted both by Allied Forces and his own German army.
    That’s the premise of “Sanctuary,”  first of a trilogy created by Terry Drake, Kansas City, Kan.
    A Pittsburg native, he said he lived in town from his birth in 1948 until 1957.
    “There were eight of us children in the family, and we lived on Smelter,” Drake said. “I went to St. Mary’s Grade school and my father, Merrill Drake, was a plumber. It was his dream to start his own business, so we moved to Independence, Mo.”
    He said that he was an altar boy and, later on in his career, an Eagle Scout. Sadly, his father died when he was 14. Drake joined the U.S. Air Force when he was of age, and after his service worked his way through college at the University of Missouri in Kansas City, where he earned a master’s in business administration in 1975.
    Drake turned to writing following his retirement from a career in accounting that included 16 years as general manager for the Board of Public Utility in Kansas City and several years as chief financial officer for the Water and Power Authority in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.
    “I did a poetry book, ‘First Impressions,’ and some short stories, mostly of the adventure type,” Drake said in a telephone interview. “The Father Damien books are my first stab at real novels.”
    He said that he did extensive research for these novels, and that about 90 percent of the material in theme is historical fact. The remaining 10 percent, including the character of Father Damien, was created by the author.
    “As the war was ending in the rest of Europe, Italy was holding out,” Drake said. “Italy had been an ally of the German army, but surrendered when the Allies landed. The Germans were punishing the Italians as they left, and there were a lot of opportunities for people to hide out in churches.”
    So he wrote “Sanctuary,” which was published by Xlibris in February, 2012.
    “I thought it would just be one book, but then I decided it would be a good trilogy,” Drake said.
    The second book in the “Father Damien’s War” series was “Restitution,” which was released in May, 2012.
    “The second book delves into how the Germans stole all the art and wealth they could find, even robbing banks as they withdrew on their escape into Switzerland,” Drake said.
    Page 2 of 2 - In the book, Father Damien learns that the Vatican has helped German war criminals escape by providing them with Red Cross passports. Many fled to South America, with Argentina a refuge for many Nazis.
    The priest is so distressed by what he learns that he resigns in front of the Vatican, then proceeds to help return stolen art to its rightful owners.
    The claim that the Vatican aided fleeing Nazi war criminals has been made before, and strongly denied. However, it seems to be a fact that these criminals took advantage of the confusion following the war to get out of Europe.
    “There were some legitimate German refugees at the end of the war,” Drake said. “The Russians got to Germany first and were punishing the German citizens.”
    In 1999 the International Committee of the Red Cross acknowledged that it had unwittingly provided travel papers to at least 10 Nazis who were among the thousands in refugee camps. Included were Josef Mengele, notorious as the “Angel of Death” who performed sadistic experiments on prisoners at Auschwitz, Adolf Eichmann and Klaus Barbie.
    Third book in the series is “The Dark Society.” In this book, Farther Damien learns that sanctuaries have been set up for Nazi war criminals, who are being housed in monasteries.
    “He regains his priestly robes and goes underground in the monasteries, then gets the information to the Italian secret police,” Drake said.
    He had thought that this would be the final book of the series, but maybe it’s not.
    “Something was running around in my head last night,” Drake said. “What if Father Damien became involved with the Jews who were hunting down Nazi war criminals? There just might be a fourth book. I can’t wait until the movie comes out!”
    “Father Damien’s War” novels are available at Amazon.com, Xlibris.com and from the author’s web site, terrydrake.com.
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