The Nazi Spy Pastor
Carl Krepper and the War in America
by J. Francis Watson
September 2014, 208pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-2807-2
$53, £40, 46€, A72
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-2808-9
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

Could one resident of America—the Nazi spy pastor—have changed the outcome of WWII?

One man could have enabled the most audacious terrorist threat against America prior to 9/11 and helped the Nazis win World War II—the Nazi spy pastor, Carl Krepper. His riveting story brings to light a forgotten chapter in the history of the Second World War.

As America continues to wrestle with issues surrounding the threat of sabotage and terrorism, this eye-opening work details a very real threat faced by our country in the Second World War, and the key aspects of the underground war that was fought in this country by Nazi agents. The Nazi Spy Pastor: Carl Krepper and the War in America presents the fascinating true story of a secret plot to be executed on American soil—a German sabotage operation with intended targets in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Illinois. This book chronicles, for the first time, the remarkable life of Carl Krepper—naturalized American citizen, Lutheran pastor, and the Nazi deep-cover operative who could have made possible the greatest terrorist threat on American soil prior to the attacks on September 11th.

Historian J. Francis Watson draws on newly declassified archival and documentary materials to tell the full story of how a devoted clergyman lost his way and betrayed his calling, instead advocating an ideology that supported genocide and the deaths of innocent victims in America, and how he came to play a key role in the Pastorius sabotage plot. The book covers fascinating cloak-and-dagger details of submarine infiltrations, safe houses, and secret codes, detailing Krepper’s life, his work as a Nazi agent, and the FBI sting operation that finally brought about his arrest in December of 1944. This little-known, real-life espionage story will serve students of World War II history and appeal to readers interested in immigration and the integration of immigrant populations as well as the histories of New York and New Jersey.


  • Offers a compelling view into "the mind of a spy," identifying the elements and events that motivated Carl Krepper and led him to his treasonous work
  • Utilizes newly declassified material from the FBI as well as other archival materials from the United States and Germany to provide a more accurate and complete portrayal of Krepper's actions and intentions than previously possible
  • Draws connections between what happened to America during World War II and current national security challenges and threats of terrorism facing the United States in the modern context
  • Documents how Krepper's arrest and trial were used as a basis for the arrest and trial of some of the prisoners at Guantanamo following the events of September 11, 2001
J. Francis Watson, PhD, is a Lutheran clergyman, historian, and ecclesiastical archivist. His published works include Praeger's The Ghosts of Duffy's Cut: The Irish Who Died Building America's Most Dangerous Stretch of Railroad and many articles in journals, books, and magazines. Watson holds a doctorate in theological and religious studies from Drew University.


Award of Commendation —Concordia Historical Institute, January 1, 2014


"Through years of painstaking research, the [author and] pastor-turned-detective pieced together a full picture of the pastor-turned-spy. . . . [T]he riveting tale is worth revisiting."—USA Today, December 10, 2015

"The fact Lutheran Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer opposed the Nazi regime is well known, including his New York studies and his eventual conspiracy against Hitler; the fact another Lutheran pastor named Carl Krepper supported the Nazi war effort even to the point of espionage, conspiracy, and sabotage on U.S. soil, only blocks from Bonhoeffer’s New York base, wasn't known until Frank Watson started digging into church archives and FBI records. Part religious character study and part espionage exposé, The Nazi Spy Pastor is an eye-opening glimpse into the other side of German-American loyalties during World War II."—Dr. Paul Rorem, Benjamin B. Warfield Professor of Ecclesiastical History, Princeton Theological Seminary and Editor of Lutheran Quarterly

"This meticulously researched and illuminating book could find a home on the shelves alongside the best spy novels, with the exception being this story is true. Told here for the first time is the incredible story of an American citizen and Lutheran pastor who served as the contact for Nazi saboteurs intent on blowing up war plants in the United States; and the FBI’s two-year quest to bring him to justice. Watson is to be congratulated for revealing this virtually unknown dark underbelly of Nazi Germany’s attempt to bring the war to America and for telling it in such an exciting way. Had Carl Krepper succeeded, his efforts could have resulted in the worst terrorist attack in the United States prior to 9/11. This is a must-read for anyone interested in the history of World War II." —James P. Duffy, Author of Target America: Hitler's Plan to Attack the United States

"Frank Watson's intriguing book about the mysterious Carl Krepper—who came to America ostensibly as a Lutheran minister, but who was, in reality, a Nazi operative—reads like a detective novel while offering insights into how to confront espionage in a post 9/11 world. During World War II, Krepper took part in one of the most wide-ranging terrorist attempts on American soil. Well-educated, with a gift for dissimulation, Krepper was able to keep three mistresses at the same time. True spy story aficionados and World War II buffs will find much to engross them in this well-written and researched work."—Warren Grover, Author of Nazis in Newark

"New Jersey Lutheran Pastor Carl Krepper was a little man with large aspirations and appetites, neither of which had much to do with the service of the Gospel. Watson’s meticulous examination of FBI and Lutheran Church archival sources gives us a profile of this sad figure, but also of the wise leadership of an immigrant religious community determined to demonstrate its loyalty to America by distancing itself from Krepper and his affiliates in the German-American Bund. Watson’s study, accessible to the general reader but solidly documented, raises important questions and perhaps will open some new vistas of research on an American dimension of the German ‘Church Struggle’ under National Socialism."—Guy C. Carter, PhD, Retired Assistant Professor of Historical Theology, Saint Peter’s University, Jersey City, NJ
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