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Letter November 10, 1918 from David Eichel to Parents
Letter November 10, 1918 from David Eichel to Parents
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.
[November 10, 1918]
- P.O. Box No. 60
- Dear Folks:
I am aware that I need no explanations. You have already become familiar with this paper and hence know where I am confined. I also did all in my power to prepare you for my eventual transfer here. I received word to get ready for the trip to Leavenworth on the 3rd and reached here on the 4th. I had a most delightful reunion with Julius and I must say that he is looking fine. He will probably send you a similar compliment about me. I came here with the avowed determination not to work but I wanted to be fair both to myself and also to the authorities here. I felt that perhaps my resolution was unreasonable so in my interview with the Executive Officer, I agreed to work. But I felt perfectly miserable while at work; every moment was one of intense suffering to me. Work under these conditions was absolutely nauseating and revolting to me. I saw myself losing everything in a few days, -- everything that I had stood and suffered for during my 11 months at camp. Hence I have decided to do the only thing left me and that is to discontinue work. I realize too well that such course may result in a good deal of physical discomfort to me -- but my conscience will be at ease -- and in my opinion, the greatest torment one can suffer is an outraged and violated conscience. I further feel that compulsory prison labor is the most contemptible type of scab. I hold that I am held here, despite the fact that I have committed no crime. I might concede to the government the right to restrain me for my views may be detrimental to their present interests, but I will never concede to them the right to work me. If they choose to hold me here it behooves them to care for me. I won't aid in keeping myself in prison where I am thrown in promiscuously, with men of vilest tongues, filthiest mouths and most degrading morals. This, despite the fact that I have been told that I have been brought here in order to be returned to civil life, "more fit and a better man."
My sentence calls for 25 years at hard labor. The thought of spending so long a time in this place is hardly calculated to fill one with joyful anticipation. I contemplate with dread, living in this place so long and subsisting on its course and poor food.
You are probably fully aware of my horrible experience at Funston. Phil ought to receive a copy of all the brutalities to which we were subject -- taken from my diary. I desire that he have a type-written copy made of it and mail it to Theo. H. Lundis, Edison Park, Chicago, Ill. I wish him to please give immediate attention to this, as I am extremely anxious to have this done promptly.
Phil should also receive a copy of my court-martial. Though the stenographer garbled and mutilated my statements wonderfully well, yet it still makes interesting instructive reading. I wish you to carefully preserve both the records of atrocities perpetrated upon us at Funston and also my court-martial record.
Your letter dated Nov. 3 was forwarded to me from Funston. Since you last heard from Julius, conditions here have changed somewhat. Wortsman[n] and Evan Thomas have had their fill of prison
work and have quite and are now suffering the consequences. With them suffering similar treatment, are Monsky, Block, Shotkin, Franklin who were with me at Funston, Uren another Russian, Clave and Buck from Camp Meade and one or two others whom I do not know. Everyday brings it additional quote of C.O's and most of those coming now are of the real absolute and consistent type and will stand out against the inconsistent policy set by those who preceeded them here. Mind you, I do not desire to censure the actions of men like Julius, Sterenstin, Robinson who made their valient fight at Jay but it certainly is highly disappointing to me to find that out of so great a number of C.O's confined there, there are so few absolutists.
Today I went through the novel experience of being placed on record with criminals and other offenders, now serving -- previously quartered here. I was measured, had my finger prints taken, my handsome and angellic face was snapped for the rogues gallery and my blood was tested for venereal disease. I tell you folks, its a sensation that comes once in a life time, that of being treated like a real and dangerous criminal. Really its a divine comedy.
I received letters from Mr. Harry Langman, 34 West 61st Street, Mr. George Robinson, 112 West 141st Street and Miss Sibyl Minster, 656 Crotona Park South, Bronx, N.Y. You will please thank them for writing me and tell them that I am now confined in Ft. Leavenworth. You might tell them of my general attitude and my intended conduct will at this place. You will please write to Henry Klein, Met. Life Ins. Co. 11 East 24th St. and give him a similar description. I wrote Langman and Klein from Funston but I have grave and serious doubts whether they ever received my letters.
The newspaper reports of the New York election are woefully disappointing, though the Socialist vote in itself is very encouraging. It appears that the combination of the old parties was highly effective. But the issue here after will be clear cut.
On the other hand, the World affairs are indeed bright and glorious. The Hohenzollern dynasty is apparently so badly shot to pieces, that its death, buriel and obituary is being expected every day. With it will come peace. It is extremely interesting to note* * * * *etc.
To complete this letter I'll return and describe my trip here. We left Funston at 5:30 p.m. and travelled until about 10. Our guards left us overnight at a jail in Kansas City, Mo. The jail building was apparently a recent structure, yet the cell tier was an atrocity, a most henious crime against humanity. It had been constructed to house human beings yet it was intolerably stuffy and foul smelling. I looked all around for a window but could find none. I cannot believe that the place contained no windows at all but I do assert that they were so effectively hidden that the human eye could not see them. Roaches and bugs were thorougly at home and gave my two companions and me a royal welcome. I can't say I enjoyed their society much.
Well folks I may not be in a position to write you for some time now but I hope you will remember that failure to receive mail from me is not due to careless neglect on my part. However, keep writing me and Julius, all the time. Don't be surprised to see Julius take the absolute stand again. I know he is not deriving much pleasure out of his compromise and he reserves the right to quite whenever he feels that he can no longer continue.
I hope you won't worry unnecessarily over the contents of this letter. I know some of the information I impart is not pleasureable, but then you've asked me repeatedly to be frank and tell you every think and I am doing that.
- P.S.. I see Julius frequently but we are not quartered together.
Eichel, David, “Letter November 10, 1918 from David Eichel to Parents ,” Conscientious Objection & the Great War: 1914-1920, accessed August 1, 2021, https://cosandgreatwar.swarthmore.edu/items/show/40.