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Letter April 22, 1919 and Letter April 26, 1919 from Jacob Wortsman [Wortsmann] (extracts)

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Post Guard House

Fort Leavenworth, Kansas

Saturday, April 26th, 1919

Dear folks:

Yesterday evening Major Dewan announced that an inspector from the War Department (Colonel Williams) has been sent here from Washington to listen to such complaints as prisoners in the Disciplinary Barracks may have to make. The Major read an order, the gist of which was that Colonel Williams will devote this evening to the prisoners in the Guard House. He will listen to all complaints, such as poor food, sanitary conditions or mistreatment. He asked us to submit our grievances to him, (the Major) first, for his approval, so that the Colonel may not be bothered with trivial matters.

We told him that we intend to complain about sanitary conditions, ask for exercise and make a report of Wednesday’s episode. The Major thought this important enough to be brought to the attention of the Colonel. But since it affects the entire group, he suggests that we appoint 3 or 4 men to represent us.

Bernstein who still suffers from a severe cold, told the Major that he has been ill for several days, but has not had proper medical attention. The doctor who visits us daily gave him pills repeatedly which however, brought no relief.

The major also approved of this. Moore, Seidenberg, and I immediately got busy on a statement of Wednesday’s affairs but before we finished the arrival of the Colonel was announced and Bernstein and the committee (Seidenberg, Moore and James) was sent for.

They went upstairs and were called into the office separately and interviewed individually.

Moore’s interview with the Colonel as Howard relates it, is as follows: After the preliminary formalities, given his prison number 15122, Howard mentioned the fact that we have but two wash basins and water closet for 52 men. The Colonel asked Moore if he is a conscientious objector. Moore replied in the affirmative to which the Colonel said, “Well, go to work and you’ll have sanitary conditions.” Moore replied that he did not come up to discuss his C O stand, but that he was under the impression that the Colonel came here solely to listen to complaints. “Well” said the Colonel, “this is a part of our disciplinary measures” and with a curt “get out”, he ended the interview.

James asked the Colonel if it would be possible to get some outdoor exercise or at least permission to walk around the corridor in this guard house. To this the Colonel replied “Why don’t you go to work and you will then be able to breathe God’s fresh air. The weather is very pleasant now. Perhaps you would like to ride around in a Senator’s car or would you prefer to have me send around the Colonel’s horse?” This was about all of James’ interview.

Seidenberg told the Colonel that he came to speak for the group in reference to Wednesday’s deluge. Colonel Williams told him that he does not want anyone to speak in a representative capacity, but is willing to listen to his personal grievance. Seidenberg suggested that he wished a written statement of his experience. The Colonel insisted on a verbal statement. Seidenberg insisted on a written one -----

Col – Do you refuse to testify?

Seidenberg – I’ll testify in writing only.

Col – Well, I’ll not take a written statement. – Seidenberg got up and walked out.

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