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Letter March 30, 1920 from David Eichel to Julius Eichel
Letter March 30, 1920 from David Eichel to Julius Eichel
WWI conscientious objection / objectors
Swarthmore College Peace Collection
Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
Letter [#12] to Julius Eichel from David Eichel, U.S.D.B., Fort Douglas, Utah
[March 30, 1920]
I have your letter #17, in which you say you received my letter of the 5th. You say nothing of letter #8 of March 10th. I have no record of your having acknowledged it in any previous letter.
I was finally "psyched", Saturday morning, March 27. As I have already remarked, only four or five men are examined each day. The subject is closeted with the inquisitor for a period lasting anywhere from 3/4 to 1 1/2 hours. This would tend to create the impression that the situation was of grave consequence, and the test of supreme thoroughness. In reality, they differ in no particular from the many tests of similar nature that we have been subjected to in the past.
Dr. Casey examined me. As I entered the office he beckoned to me and invited me to be seated. I complied with a "thank you" and settled back comfortably for the business at hand. He perused my records and turned at me abruptly with "Do you know Helfer?" I had no trouble whatever answering so simple a question that required so simple an answer. Then there was a few moments of what might have been, under more tense circumstances, awful silence, wherein he again ran thru my records, while I glanced serenely about me. There was a civilian clerk, who cast furtive glances in my direction, but was otherwise busily engaged sorting and filing records. Then the Dr. queried "Do you know Morris?" I was stumped right at the start. "Morris? Morris?" I asked myself, and regarded the Dr. in surprise. "Why I do know a Morris but I cannot imagine how he is connected with the business. it isn't Ed Morris that you are asking about? I asked him. He answered quite engagingly that he was the fellow. This was the one interesting and perplexing moment of the interview. Later when I was asked whether the other members of the family outside of you, we had spoken of you too, agreed with my views. I responded that while I could not say definitely that they did, I could assure him that they
never were in any way opposed to me. "But your uncle is not in support with your views, he said quite emphatically. My curiosity was fully aroused. "How do you know that?" I asked. He replied that he made that inference quite logically from uncle's communication. When I asked for particulars, he replied simply that Uncle was a sensible old soul, to which I agreed, and that he knew more about my history than the folks themselves, to which I said nothing. I then quite naturally asked whether Eddie was connected with my case, in a similar capacity, and I was then given the illuminating information that Eddie was an officer in the Aviation Corp. So Eddie's part in my case shall remain a mystery until I need Eddie in New York.
I was asked whether I knew Dr. Frankel, and I was asked to name some of the executive members of the Stats bureau, all of which was unmistakable evidence that the Met.[?] was more closely questioned about its lone C.O. than about its 700 or 1000 soldiers.
I was then asked about my associates at College, was asked to give an idea of what type of men they were. I told him that they were quite normal human beings, not to serious minded nor too frivolous, and I might have added quite truthfully that they voted the Democratic and Republican ticket. My reply was too vague and general to answer his purpose. "Weren't they particularly interested in matters of socialogical [sic] purpose, reform and settlement work, etc." "Oh," I answered "some of them were interested in settlements but that was simply because they offered an opportunity for recreation. You know College men as a rule care little for anything else?" Then he asked me whether I wasn't of a retiring and reclusive type? I assured him that I cherished company of a certain type; that while I did not make friends with everybody, yet I had my share of companions. This again brought forth the query of the type of friends I had. I pointed to Eddie as an example. "Yes, he comments but Morris is your exact opposite. He differs so absolutely from you. I can't see how you ever got along together." Yes I agreed it was strange, but Eddie and I, despite all, were yet good friends.
He had very little to ask about my views. I did tell him that I was a pacifist, and he asked whether I was not also a Humanitarian, but beyond that I was not asked to explain myself. During our interview, the Dr. opened his drawer, drew forth a package of tailor
-mades, extracted one for himself, and quite naturally offered me another. I thanked him heartily and told him I did not smoke.
He got to questioning me, in a most irregular fashion, about my mentality, asked me how I got along at College, and in my studies. I told him I got along quite easily, and was generally average in my studies. "How's your memory? Is it as good as ever?" Yes I believe so, I answered. "Did you experience any difficulty in memorizing your lines for the play? None whatever, I responded. He then asked me whether I had ever had experience in dramatics, and when I told him that this was my first attempt he insisted that I did quite well. Then there were a lot of questions about insanity in the family, illness etc. Did I have peculiar ideas? "No, my ideas were generally quite ordinary. I was not a genius? Did I dream? "Yes, I was addicted to that fault." The nature of those dreams? "Dreams of quite a normal character." Was I suspicious? Did I feel that people were after me? That someone was seeking to steal my belongings? "No I had no such fears." How did I feel generally? Was I depressed or cheerful? I told him that I was an incorrigible optimist; that I had more reason to be cheerful now than ever before since the end of my sentence was so near. He asked how I had been treated in camp. I told him that I had had some pretty rough sledding, but I had expected that. On the whole my treatment was pretty good. I was asked to give an account of how I happened to be drafted and how I acted; when I was court-martialed etc. How it happened that you were released before me? Oh yes, and once during the questioning I was asked whether I had ever voted the Socialist ticket. I confessed that I had. And he wanted to know why I was an Agnostic. I explained that I considered that the safest course was to doubt. I quoted Charles Nodier that "of all things most sure, the surest was to doubt." "You'll get into no end of trouble with such a mental attitude," he cautioned me. Again I had to admit his infinite wisdom, for was I not in trouble at the moment?
Well, this is the substance of the examination. I made no attempt at sequence, for there was none in the actual questioning. The questions came in any order, without any semblance of coherence. He asked anything that seemed to occur to him, very often going over ground that had already been covered. There may
be a furtive purpose in this aimlessness, in this apparent disorder. Who knows?
My examination is typical of that given to all. Some of the men have been asked to give answers to 7x9, the capital of Missouri, etc.
We had a heavy snow-fall last week. We were surprised Friday morning to find a heavy mantel, 15 inches deep by actual measurement, covering the ground. Before the day was over, it measured 18 inches. Since then until today, it has been snowing intermittently. Today we are having a return of ideal weather. And you know the Sunday before last, we had our shirts off, and were sun-bathing.
I finally wrote Rebecca. I sent her and Miss Schneur as complete a set of theatrical pictures as it was possible to procure. I also wrote her that I am about to send her dresses to N.Y. to be fixed up to be returned to her;. There was talk of abandoning the stage. The matter has been broached to us by camp officials, who were planning a stage for soldiers. We put the matter to Graham, and h felt we ought to hold on to it, for the time being. I shall therefore wait a while before shipping the dresses, altho I have them packed & ready for shipment.
About 3[32?] Germans have already been paroled, Rall among them. Apparently there was no truth in the talk about his possible deportation. There were reports that releases are in for all the Germans and they are to be paroled as fast as the Department of Justice, who is looking after the Internees, can handle their cases.
I am feeling fine. You know it's thirty days and "a flop."
With love and regards to all, I am
Eichel, David, “Letter March 30, 1920 from David Eichel to Julius Eichel ,” Conscientious Objection & the Great War: 1914-1920, accessed October 26, 2021, https://cosandgreatwar.swarthmore.edu/items/show/100.