Pacifists in Chains: The Persecution of Hutterites during the Great War

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Hutterite leaders had agreed that their young men would register, but if drafted and required to report for military service, their cooperation would end.

M. Kazin, Pacifists in Chains: The Persecution of Hutterites during the Great War - PhilPapers

They would refuse any orders making them complicit in war. Duane C. Stoltzfus, a professor at Goshen College in Indiana, was given access to previously unpublished letters from these men to their wives and families; the book is built around those letters. Upon being drafted, the four reported in May and were sent to Fort Lewis, Wash. When they arrived, they immediately faced the test. Following a brief court-martial, they were found guilty and sentenced to 20 years.

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The cells seeped water and were infested with rats; the men were given bread and water to eat and subjected to beatings. Skip to main content. By using sojo. Magazine Current Issue Write for Sojourners. Subscribe Magazine Preaching the Word Newsletters. In the court-martial trial, officers recounted their efforts to persuade the men to line up and fill out the requisite forms.

Jacob Wipf was the first defendant to take the stand. An untraveled farmer whose mother tongue was German and who had only a grade-school education, he now had to face a panel of officers. The prosecutor wanted to know exactly why the men would not serve in the armed forces in any capacity. A: Well, it is all for war. The only thing we can do is work on a farm for the poor and needy ones of the United States. Q: If you were in the service, such as the Medical Corps, where you would attend the wounded soldiers, would your conscience and the teachings of the church permit that?

A: Well, in a way, if I could get her away, I might hold him. If I was man enough, I would do that. That is strictly against our religion. The Hofer brothers, in turn, testified as well, and then the four waited for the decision. David Hofer wrote to tell Anna about the trial:. That was a difficult test. Dear spouse, that is something our dear brothers, fathers, and patriarchs never had to do, what we young brothers in faith had to do. We had to defend our beliefs in front of the twelve jurors.

But God stood at our side, and gave us voice and wisdom and a calm heart. I had no more fear than I would have if I were at home. Dear spouse, if only our heavenly Father could lead us out of this misery, no matter where, even if into dire poverty. The verdict arrived five days after the trial, less than three weeks after the men had arrived at Camp Lewis. All four men were found guilty of all charges; the sentence was dishonorable discharge, loss of all pay, and prison.

Michael Hofer shared the news with Maria:. On Saturday they came and announced to us our punishment, namely, twenty years of hard labor in the prison at Alcatraz, California. God the heavenly Father knows what still awaits us. But we must put our trust in him and accept with patience whatever he allows to happen to us.

ISBN 13: 9781421411279

We are completely yielded to the Lord. Whatever burdens he gives, he also provides a way out so that we can endure it.

We only make our cross and suffering more difficult if we are sad. For God will also be with us there that is, in Alcatraz. He has promised to his own, that when they pass through the fire, he will stand beside them so that the flames do not burn them. The Hofer brothers and Jacob Wipf were among conscientious objectors who were court-martialed during the war, resulting in convictions and a single acquittal. Of the men who were court-martialed, about were believed to be Mennonite, Amish, or Hutterite.

Meanwhile, Andrew Wurtz, who had been separated from the Hofer brothers and Jacob Wipf after their arrival at Camp Lewis, faced his own trial.

Pacifists in Chains: The Persecution of Hutterites during the Great War

He described extreme physical measures applied to persuade him to work: being forcibly dunked in cold water, being pulled across floor boards to drive splinters into his skin, and more. Eventually he agreed to work in the camp garden, but only alone, not in the company of men in uniform.

Jack W. They were chained together in pairs and traveled in the escort of four armed lieutenants, arriving two days later at the notorious island in San Francisco Bay. It was known for its liberal management. On arrival, the four men climbed a series of switchbacks to reach the cell house on top of the island. Once inside they were unwilling to put on uniforms or to work.


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Some years later the bars were removed. The cells were cold and wet, but the men declined to put on the uniforms that lay on the floor beside them. In the early days, the men received half a glass of water each day but no food. Days after their arrival the men found themselves chained to the bars in their respective doors, one hand crossed over the other.

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Living in darkness by day and by night, the men received periodic visits from guards. At least once the guards reportedly came with knotted lashes and hit the men on the arms and back. When the guards led the men to an outside yard after the first five days in solitary confinement, the four men tried without success to put on their jackets; their arms were too swollen.

From Alcatraz, Joseph Hofer shared only a sense of general hardship in writing to his wife, Maria. Like his brothers, Joseph omitted details of their solitary imprisonment; or it may be that prison officials excised any unpleasant or incriminating details from the outgoing letters. I am still in good health, both physically and spiritually. My precious and dear wife, I am still in prison and I do not know if we will ever see each other again.

Let us hope that we will; but if not in this world, then in that yonder place where no one will separate us from each other. But in order to get there we must put off all desires of the flesh, and take the cross upon ourselves, along with the hatred and taunting of the world, and look up to Jesus our Savior and to his apostles, and to our forefathers, as Paul says in Hebrews For we have a cloud of witnesses before us. And you will find there that all those who found pleasure with God had to suffer affliction.

Now, my best wishes to you and to all those who read this letter. Here everything is militaristic, as it was in the camp.

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The Hofer brothers or, as they were known here, Nos. There is no mention in the letters of sleeping on wet concrete in their underwear, of standing for hours in chains, or of being beaten by guards. Instead, Michael Hofer wrote home:.


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  4. My dear spouse, if we no longer see each other in this world, then it is my hope in God that it will happen in the next world where no one will be able to separate us — where we will remain forever in joy. But this was a time to revel in the news. Three days after the armistice, the Hutterites left for Fort Leavenworth, once more in chains and escorted by armed officers.