Letter February 20, 1920 from David Eichel to Parents and Julius Eichel




Letter February 20, 1920 from David Eichel to Parents and Julius Eichel




WWI conscientious objection / objectors


Fort Douglas, Utah


Eichel, David


DG 131: Eichel Family Records


Swarthmore College Peace Collection


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Letter [4] from David Eichel, U.S.D.B., Fort Douglas, Utah

[February 20, 1920]

Dear Folks:-

I am trying to think of something to write, but things have remained so dull and quiet, that I am quite at my wits end trying to get up material for a letter. Everything is fine and peaceful. The weather has been glorious, until yesterday, when it suddenly changed and we had a little snow. Today however, the traces of the snow are rapidly disappearing and we are having a return of the fine weather. It has been so mild and pleasant that the men are all sunburned.

The work issue is still being used as a pretence [sic] for keeping us in confinement. That it is an empty and vain pretence [sic], is very apparent, since there are men like Hessler and others at Alcatraz, who have been working continually, but are nevertheless still in jail. If it isn’t the work question it is something else. One letter from the Adjutant’s office says, that our releases cannot be considered since we have shown by our attitude in camp and in jail, that we are not fit for ordinary civil life; that we would make poor and perhaps troublesome citizens, since we would obey only such laws as pleased us and disobey those that displeased us. Which is very true. But I had always been under the impression that that was the very reason for the existence of laws. I had always thought that laws were intends to keep cranks of my kind in check, and our jails have been made to receive those who broke these laws. The very fact that laws exist at all is an indication that it is expected that someone would commit the offense they cover. But this law, I refer the law which we have broken is a peculiar law. It differs from most laws in that it is a positive law. Most laws are negative, and tell you not to do a thing; this law tells you to do something, and is in in laws of this nature that any decent citizen, who is more than a puppet and an absolute slave, should exercise his judgement [sic], and if he feels that he should not do the positive thing the particular law prescribes, then there is only one honorable course left him, and that is, not to do it. What is more all our progress in human liberties result from just this exercise of choice and judgement [sic] on the part of a few individuals. This letter from the Adjutant implies that we are not being held, not because of what we had done in the past, but because of what we might do in the future. Since when has it become a custom to imprison or keep men in prison on the grounds of offenses they might commit if liberated? The whole thing is such childish quibble, that you marvel how such men ever are trusted in office. Just now our attitude, is summed up in our refusal to work. I am quite certain that if we all went to work, which we certainly don’t intend to do, our attitude would be characterised [sic] by something else that would displease the War Department, and we should still be unfit for release.

Gus Wortsmann came back yesterday, and looks fine. He had very little to tell us of New York that we were not already familiar with. He had hardly had time to go around anywhere, so that he really knew very little.

I am happy to learn through Juluis [sic] that you are getting along so well. Believe me when I say that I am more concerned about you, than about myself, for aside from the fact that I am in confinement, my circumstances are really excellent. They could hardly be better. It is therefore gratifying to learn that you too are in decent circumstances. I have nothing more to write, My love and regards to you all.


Dear Juluis [sic]:-

I received your card of the 9th, and your letter of the 12th. I delivered all your messages to the various boys, and again read some part of it to the group. It is certainly a treat to hear of so many people who have practically been ceased to exist for you.

Your letter of the fourteenth just reached me. I have been writing as often as I had promised to.

You will understand why my letters were delayed when you receive them. Some conscientious but stupidly ignorant post-office clerk, who doesn’t know his business, just held them up for no apparent reason as you will notice.

I received a letter from Montgomery Ward containing a check for $1.14, which was to represent the total amount of the order you placed with them. The order had evidentally [sic] gone lost in the mail. I see that that is 20 cents less than the amount you placed with them. I shall write for the balance.

I have received one grand surprise, and that is in the form of a really splendid letter from Jack Rosenfeld. I was truly surprised at his wholehearted sympathy. If I get a chance I shall certainly answer him. In the meanwhile just tell him that I have received his letter and I am grateful to him for his words of encouragement and sympathy.

I also have a letter from Moe Greenspan. He seems to think that I miss you. How absurd. Just tell him that around May 5, I shall drop in for a straw-hat, providing he still retains his managership of Sarnoff hat store.

Gus brought back practically the same impression of affaires on the outside that you embodied in your letter. He does say however, that everything seems to be abnormal. People are setting a pace that cannot last. Life seems to be too intense for the crash to be far off.

I am happy to learn that you made a success of your first venture as a lecturer (You know I am writing this and at the same time talking dramatics to Howard and Roderick, who want to put on a Freudian comedy entitled “Suppressed Desires”. In between I am listening to Gus telling of his various experiences. He also mentions that you are not master of yourself; that the new life is quite overwhelming you. I understand it was just this distraught frame of mind that compelled Jake to flee to the country. He feels that you will have to do the same thing.)

Bloch was speaking to me of his brother, who expects to provide himself with a staff of one to two hundred men. He is preparing to embark on an educational campaign for the Fox Film Co. Bloch thinks there may be an opportunity for you there and he expects to broach the subject to his brother. I don’t know just what you are doing about a job, but from reports it seems that you ought find very little hardship in procuring something suitable.

Gus brought me regards from Langman. He paid him a visit at the United Hebrew Charities where Langman is conducting a statistical bureau. Have you seen him yet? Nothing more. My kindest regards to my friends.

As ever,


Eichel, David, “Letter February 20, 1920 from David Eichel to Parents and Julius Eichel,” Conscientious Objection & the Great War: 1914-1920, accessed August 9, 2022, https://cosandgreatwar.swarthmore.edu/items/show/77.

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