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Pacifists in Chains

The Persecution of Hutterites during the Great War

Duane C. S. Stoltzfus

Publication Year: 2013

To Hutterites and members of other peace churches, serving the military in any way goes against the biblical commandment “thou shalt not kill” and Jesus’s admonition to turn the other cheek when confronted with violence. Pacifists in Chains tells the story of four young men—Joseph Hofer, Michael Hofer, David Hofer, and Jacob Wipf—who followed these beliefs and refused to perform military service in World War I. The men paid a steep price for their resistance, imprisoned in Alcatraz and Fort Leavenworth, where the two youngest died. The Hutterites buried the men as martyrs, citing mistreatment. Using archival material, letters from the four men and others imprisoned during the war, and interviews with their descendants, Duane C. S. Stoltzfus explores the tension between a country preparing to enter into a world war and a people whose history of martyrdom for their pacifist beliefs goes back to their sixteenth-century Reformation beginnings.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 2-5


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pp. 6-7

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pp. vii-xiv

...On July 27, 1918, while American and Allied soldiers fought German forces along the Western Front in Europe, four young Hutterite farmers from South Dakota arrived at the prison on Alcatraz Island. Weeks earlier they had been found guilty of failure to obey military orders. The farmers had refused to line up and drill alongside other recruits who were training as infantrymen at Camp Lewis in Washington State...

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pp. xv-xviii

...A book more than five years in the making can still lay claim to a touch of research drama. The most suspenseful moment in the writing of this book happened at a Hutterite colony in Choteau, Montana, in 2009. I had traveled more than 1,500 miles to the Miller Colony to ask whether I might see copies of the unpublished letters written by four Hutterite men, all conscientious objectors who had been imprisoned at Alcatraz during World War I...


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pp. xix-xxiv

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Chapter One: Called to Duty

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pp. 1-22

...The wonder is that the United States Army even wanted four young Hutterite farmers from the Rockport Colony in South Dakota. The communal church to which they belonged had been resolutely set against all warfare since its inception during the Protestant Reformation nearly four hundred years earlier. And, when their grandparents immigrated to the United States in the 1870s, they did so by traveling thousands...

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Chapter Two: Forced Migrations

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pp. 23-48

...The best way to picture the importance of Camp Lewis to the nation during World War I, according to a correspondent for Collier’s Weekly, was to stand in the Texas Panhandle and face north, drawing an imaginary line through the middle of the country—through Oklahoma, then Kansas, and Nebraska and the Dakotas, right up to the Canadian border. If you looked east from that line, you would have seen fifteen national army training camps. If you looked west, you would have seen...

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Chapter Three: A Nation Rises Up

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pp. 49-76

...launched a campaign to plant the largest American flag in the world on the grounds of Camp Lewis. As donations from readers poured in to the paper’s offices at the Perkins Building, the publisher contracted with the American Flag Company of New York to build a champion banner, measuring sixty feet by ninety feet and weighing in at 257 pounds. Each of the thirteen stripes, made of the finest grade bunting, was nearly five feet wide. The paper announced the flag’s arrival in a photo...

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Chapter Four: Standing Trial

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pp. 77-103

...In the summer of 1918, the Hofer brothers and Jacob Wipf awaited their trial for refusing to follow even the most basic of orders that they saw as military service. They had no access to independent legal counsel, putting their trust in a higher power. The military code had permitted the men to hire an outside lawyer of their choosing, if one were available, and to assemble, as they were able, the most robust of defenses...

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Chapter Five: The Dungeons of Alcatraz

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pp. 104-137

...During the two months that the Hofer brothers and Jacob Wipf spent at Camp Lewis, records show, they never threatened an officer or attempted to escape. On the contrary, they appeared to be the most cooperative of prisoners, inclined to obey their superiors in every way that they in good conscience could (except, of course, by serving as soldiers). But when it came time to leave the camp on July 25, two months to the day after their induction into the army, they looked the part of hardened criminals...

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Chapter Six: Enemy on the Home Front

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pp. 138-155

...The writer, Mannasses E. Bontrager, an Amish bishop with a 106-acre farm near Dodge City, Kansas, apparently wanted nothing more than to shore up the faith of the 3,600 subscribers to the newspaper. In the letter, which was published on May 15, 1918, a week before the Hutterites left for Camp Lewis, Bontrager expressed both regret that some Mennonites were compromising by buying war bonds and an implicit fear that Amish...

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Chapter Seven: Midnight at Leavenworth

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pp. 156-183

...San Francisco celebrated the armistice with a human chain of five thousand people, who gathered at the Civic Center, still wearing flu masks as a precaution. Like so much of the rest of the country, the city was just emerging from the worst of an influenza epidemic when war, at least on paper, came to end on November 11, 1918. So the people of San Francisco offered up a muffled rendition of “Auld Lang Syne” in an impromptu...

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Chapter Eight: Outside Advocates

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pp. 184-210

...Though government officials were determined to sideline the National Civil Liberties Bureau, if not put it out of business entirely, the little organization in New York City remained a tireless advocate for conscientious objectors. The year 1918 was especially challenging, beginning with the War Department’s blunt notice (around the time that the Hofer...

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Chapter Nine: Official Misjudgment

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pp. 211-219

...When he finally returned to South Dakota, Jacob Wipf found a Hutterite homeland transformed. Many of the colonies had abandoned their farms and moved to Canada, having purchased land in Manitoba and Alberta where they looked forward to a warmer reception. While the treatment of the Hofer brothers and Jacob Wipf confirmed the rightness of the decision to move, the Hutterites had begun exploring land options...

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pp. 220-228

...At the onset of World War II, it appeared as if the United States had failed to learn from its mishandling of conscientious objectors in World War I. When the Germans invaded Paris on June 20, 1940, Congress began deliberating a draft measure. Lawmakers assumed that pacifists would serve in the military as noncombatant soldiers. But the pacifist denominations lobbied with a more unified voice than they had managed...


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pp. 229-248


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pp. 249-260


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pp. 261-272

E-ISBN-13: 9781421411286
E-ISBN-10: 1421411288
Print-ISBN-13: 9781421411279
Print-ISBN-10: 142141127X

Page Count: 256
Illustrations: 20 halftones
Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 868223136
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Pacifists in Chains

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Pacifism -- Religious aspects -- Bruderhof Communities.
  • Persecution.
  • World War, 1914-1918.
  • Bruderhof Communities -- History.
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