Letter February 29, 1920 from David Eichel to Julius Eichel




Letter February 29, 1920 from David Eichel to Julius Eichel




WWI conscientious objection / objectors


Eichel, David


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.






Feb. 29, 1920 Letter [#6] by David Eichel, Fort Douglas, Utah

Dear Juluis [sic] [Eichel]:

I received letter #7, dated Feb. 21, and feel quite relieved to learn that my letter at last reached you. I have written quite a few letters to people who generally answer promptly, but while sufficient time has elapsed to enable them to answer me, I haven't heard from any of them. This together with the fact that my mail to you and the folks has been delayed so, was beginning to exasperate me, and I was on the verge of voicing a complaint. But now that the first one has reached you, perhaps the others will follow regularly.

On the afternoon of Feb. 25, the day I wrote my last letter to you, Lassen, O'Hilco, and Schmidt were again called -- this time by Col. Byram -- and the question of work was again put to them. The Colonel, laughingly said that he wants to help us out of here; that he is just as sick of us, as we are of him; that he wants very much to get away from here, but our refusal to leave keeps him here. "I want to help you out, but you must help me.

O'Hilco asked to be permitted to think it over, for a day or two. Lassen again had the opportunity to explain that cleaning the parade grounds, the thing he had refused to do and which resulted in his court-martial, was in no wise different from that which he is asked to do now.

The Colonel showed it was not the same thing by proving that we were thru with the draft act, and were now confined to hard labor as a result of a duly authorized court-martial, and that by refusing to do the hard labor called for by our sentence, we were disobeying a law of the land, and that if we did not obey this law, we might not obey other laws in civil life. Lassen told him that if that was the basis of all their fears, they need only look at our civil records, to be set at ease.

The Colonel also pointed out that we might have been sent to a Federal Penitentiary for our offense, and if we had refused to work there we would have received additional punishments. Lassen assured him that that would hardly have made any differences in our attitudes. What is more we did receive additional punishments at Leavenworth.

The Colonel knew of a way in which to solve the C.O. problem. He would have sent us to France. We wouldn't have to take a gun and kill but we'd take a chance at being killed. Lassen approved of the idea.

During the conversation Lassen told him that in sending us to jail the government worked on the assumption that all you have to do with men who refuse, because of personal convictions to follow the crowd, is to send them to jail, and the problem is solved. it was this assumption that we were combatting [sic].

In his conversation with Schmidt, the Colonel, among other things said that he did not blame us for not wanting to get out, with the splendid conditions and the fine government grub, we are receiving. Schmidt assured that he'd rather eat grass on the outside, than stay here with all these ideal conditions.

O'Hilco made up his mind that the best thing he could do was to go to work, and put his thoughts into execution Friday.

The alienists, I spoke of in my last letter, have not arrived as yet, or if they have, they have secreted themselves somewhere, for we have heard nothing about them. We are anxiously awaiting some news from them.

We notice by the papers that the American Federation of Labor

has sent a committee to Washington to demand a reopening of the cases of the two thousand political prisoners in this country. Their request was favorably received, according to the paper, but the war department is very emphatic in its determination to give no consideration to those who refuse to obey the reasonable? and lawful? orders of the war department. I can't be worried.

We read a good deal about the government rounding up slackers all over the country. This state had 1600 or more. Of course they were all foreigners; none permanent residents of the state; they just drifted in, you know. But of all the thousands of slackers in the country, the government only has about 64 in jail. And then some people say that this is not a liberal government.

Joe Beginsky, the fighting C.O. was released yesterday.

I learn thru someone, I can't recal [sic] whom, that a mutual friend, whose importance to us amounts to exactly $15. in actual money, is teaching the theory of economics at the Rand School. Do you know anything about it? I wonder if he could explain the economics of $15, the principles involved, the depreciation or interest accrued, etc., or doesn't he bother with the practical side of economics? Does he feel it beneath his dignity to dabble in anything but theory?

Say, now tell quite frankly why you display such eagerness to dispell [sic] any so-called delusions Rebecca may have innocently harbored concerning me. The motive seems peculiarly sinister, to say the least. It seems to suggest a selfish interest, that is far from flattering. What is more I know, and I say this with my customary modesty and reticence, Rebecca is in no wise deceived; it is you that is in error. I agree with her absolutely.

I just received your card of Feb. 23d and a letter from Anna Fruchtman. Please thank her for the letter, and put her right about my rank in the picture. Inform her that I was only a Colonel in that picture, but that I felt so much at home in that rank, that the next time I attempt anything of a military nature I shall be nothing less than a general.

Have you made any attempt to get into communication with Ben Schatz or Henry Klein?

I delivered your message to Caplovitz but I don't know whether he will act upon your request. I also told Harry Clave that his friend expected to go to New York soon. He already knew about it.

Well, nothing more. Give my love to the folks, Rose, Will and Abe; Phil Clara and Baby. My fondest regards to my friends and relatives.


If you tell me precisely what pictures are most in demand, I'll place a liberal order on them, just as soon as Bruno gets his printing staff together once more. In the meanwhile, I'll confine my order to group pictures.

In the meanwhile, I am enclosing seven snaps. I had in my possession.

David Eichel (84)



Eichel, David, “Letter February 29, 1920 from David Eichel to Julius Eichel ,” Conscientious Objection & the Great War: 1914-1920, accessed June 25, 2021, https://cosandgreatwar.swarthmore.edu/items/show/96.

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