Osker Ender was born in Germany in 1925. He joined Hitler’s Youth over his parents’ strenuous objections. Later, with war ravaging Europe and the tide turning against Germany, Ender began training as a Luftwaffe pilot. Fortunately, the war ended before he was thrown into combat. After completing his higher education he briefly practiced law. After becoming disillusioned with law, he entered banking and after a short while found himself on the road to a successful career.
But to Osker, something always felt wrong. Osker kept asking questions he could never answer. How could such a civilized country like German worship Hitler and follow his twisted orders, inflicting unprecedented horrors on the peoples of Europe? How could a loving Christian Church be so tolerant of antisemitism? If Christianity isn’t the only true religion, then what is? In hopes of answering questions like these his quest took him from Germany across West Asia to India. Along the way he explored various Eastern religions and Islam (both the Sufi and Ahmadiyyan versions) and sought the advice of holy men and humanitarians. After leaving India, he slowly make his way across the Arab world to Israel. Only living in Israel did he begin finding answers to his nagging questions. Eventually the former Luftwaffe pilot turned religious seeker would convert to Judaism, change his name to Asher Eder, marry a Holocaust survivor and find employment as travel guide in Israel.
With an amazing story like that, how could I not enjoy reading Pilgrimage to Darkness: Nuremberg to Jerusalem? Like many books I find at the library, I grabbed Pilgrimage to Darkness not knowing a thing about it. By the time I was done I couldn’t get enough of it. Feldman’s portrayal of Ender as a sensitive, sincere and almost saintly religious seeker sucked me in and kept me reading. I also think from an existential standpoint, Ender probably represents how many in the West felt during much of the post-war era: hopeless after the horrors of the Second World War and the Holocaust; disillusioned with the answers and comforts provided by traditional religion; and lastly, understanding that because of modern warfare’s extreme lethality, we somehow, despite our differences must find a way to coexist.
This is an overlooked gem of a book and I feel very lucky to have stumbled upon it. I found it inspiring and entertaining. Trust me, I have no problems recommending David Feldman’s Pilgrimage to Darkness.