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Pacifists in Chains

, 296 pages

20 halftones

November 2013



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Pacifists in Chains

The Persecution of Hutterites during the Great War

To Hutterites and members of other pacifist sects, 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.

Duane C. S. Stoltzfus is a professor of communication at Goshen College and the copy editor of The Mennonite Quarterly Review.

"Duane Stoltzfus... presents a well-written and moving case study of the Hutterites' imprisonment, as well as a more extensive examination of violations of American religious and political dissenters' civil rights during the Great War... Engaging with history in works like this one reminds us of the richness of our immigrant history, the fragility of the rights that immigrants come to this country to enjoy, and the obligation to defend those rights, even under exigent circumstances."

" Pacifists in Chains is a well-told and carefully documented account... Stoltzfus's book shows how religious faith may substantively inform not only the opinions but also the practices of persons who choose to express their love of country in nonviolent ways during times of war. The study is particularly relevant in pointing out that even democratic governments often punish those who hold divergent perspectives."

"Duane Stoltzfus has written a powerful account of four Hutterite conscientious objectors during World War I. The way the men lived—and died—posed difficult challenges to the country's commitment to freedom, challenges that resonate still. Stoltzfus has done the men justice."

" Pacifists in Chains is a first-rate contribution to the understudied history of conscientious objection and religious persecution in the United States. Duane Stoltzfus’s scholarship is excellent, his writing is beautiful, and his narrative of Hutterites bearing witness to their nonviolence is poignant. A learned study and an inspiring read."

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