Swarthmore College Peace Collection

Eichel Family Papers, 1916-

Collection: DG 131

Contact Information
Swarthmore College Peace Collection
500 College Avenue, Swarthmore, PA 19081-1399 U.S.A.
Telephone: (610) 328-8557 (Curator); Fax: (610) 328-8544
Email: wchmiel1@swarthmore.edu (Curator)
URL: http://www.swarthmore.edu/Library/peace/

Descriptive Summary
Swarthmore College Peace Collection
Eichel Family
Eichel Family Papers
Inclusive Dates
Call Number
DG 131

Language of Materials
Materials in English
3.6 linear feet [papers only]
The Eichel Family papers provide a unique glimpse into the lives of conscientious objectors and peace activists from one family over two generations, from 1916 onward. Julius Eichel, David Eichel and Albert Eichel were all C.O.s during WWI. Julius Eichel and his wife Esther Eichel protested WWII. Their son Seymour Eichel also served time in prison for his refusal to serve in the military in the 1950s.

Administrative Information
Restrictions to Access
Usage Restrictions
Alternate Form of Material
Acquisitions Information
Gifts of Julius Eichel and Seymour Eichel, 1944 [acc. 44-080]; 1977 [acc. 77A-089]; 1981 [acc. 81A-071]; 1982 [acc. 82A-025]; 1989 [acc. 89A-059]; 2000 [acc. 00A-009; acc. 00A-018]; 2013 [acc. 2013-006; acc. 2013-018]
Processing Information
Processed by Martha P. Shane, March 1982; revised and updated by Anne Yoder, May 2001, January 2013
Preferred Citation
[Identification of item], in the Eichel Family Papers (DG 131), Swarthmore College Peace Collection
Copyright Notice
Copyright owned by Seymour Eichel has been transferred to the Swarthmore College Peace Collection. Copy right to some material in this collection has retained by the authors, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law

Online Catalog Headings
These and related materials may be found under the following headings in online library/archival catalogs.
See tripod record

Related Collections

Historical Background
The Eichel Family papers provide a unique glimpse into the lives of conscientious objectors from one family over two generations. Brothers Julius, David and Albert were all absolutists who went to prison for their convictions; Julius' son did the same. Other family members provided emotional support and lobbied for the rights of the C.O.s. Daily letters passed back and forth between the C.O.s and their family and friends, many of which have been preserved in this collection. Diaries show what details of life as a C.O. were important enough to be recorded.

Raised in the Jewish faith, but grounding their convictions in Socialism, David and Julius spent time alone and together in U.S. Disciplinary Barracks during WWI. Their Socialist outlook contributed to their unwillingness to remain silent about the treatment of conscientious objectors during that time. Many C.O.s, including the Eichel brothers, were mistreated by army personnel, enduring beatings, soaking by water hoses, shackling to prison doors, lack of mattresses or blankets, lack of exercise, or solitary confinement on bread and water. David and Julius were instrumental in making sure that the public found out about the abuses being visited upon C.O.s in army prisons.

Little is known about David Eichel. He was probably born in 1894 in Austria, son of Isaac and Kate Eichel, and emigrated to the United States with his family in 1899. He refused to comply with the Conscription Act in 1917, and was sentenced to 30 years of hard labor for this stance. He served time at Camp Upton, Camp Funston, Ft. Riley, Ft. Leavenworth and Ft. Douglas, from 1917 to May 1920 when he was parolled. He died in Los Angeles (CA) in 1956, leaving behind his wife, Celia Kleinfield Eichel, and sons, Robert and Berkeley.

The bulk of this collection is about Julius Eichel who was born in 1896 in Austria. Like his brother David, he too refused to comply with the Conscription Act, was arrested in 1917, and sentenced to 20 years of hard labor. Julius Eichel spent the next 18 months in the Tombs in New York City and in internment camps and disciplinary barracks in Ft, Jay, Camp Upton, Governor's Island, Ft. Leavenworth, and Ft. Douglas. During these years he refused to cooperate with any compulsory actions other than those required to fulfill his own personal needs. Eichel was sometimes sentenced to solitary confinement and bread and water rations. He was "a conscientious objector not only to war, but to the extension of the Government's control over the convictions of the individual." He opposed the "crushing of individual conscience by majority rule or legal interpretation" and believed that "conscience without individuals sacrificing for it simply cannot exist."

In 1928, Julius Eichel married Esther _____. The Eichels ran a small chemists business in New York City (after 28 years at 188 Oakland Street in Brooklyn, the business had to be moved -- because of a street widening project -- to 58 Clymer Street in Brooklyn. In 1969, that area was to be taken over by a housing development, so the business was sold to a competitor rather than find another new location for it). In 1942, Julius Eichel again refused to register for the draft, was tried in a civilian court, and sent to prison for two weeks. During World War II, Julius Eichel started the Absolutist War Objectors Association. This organization was founded on the principle of total opposition to war, conscription and regimentation. Eichel edited its newspaper The Absolutist whose motto read "The health of the nation is periled if one man be oppressed." Together Julius and Esther founded Friends and Families of Imprisoned Conscientious Objectors. Both of these organizations repeatedly urged immediate and unconditional release of all imprisoned objectors and attempted to help and encourage C.O.s in prison.

Julius Eichel was also very active in and wrote for the War Resisters League (DG 40) and other peace-related organizations. He continued to champion the rights of the individual from government oppression both in the United States and abroad by writing to officials, writing editorials, speaking, and taking part in peace marches.

In 1947, both Julius and Esther Eichel were honored by the Friends and Families of Imprisoned Conscientious Objectors. In 1976, Julius Eichel was given the War Resisters League Sixteenth Annual Peace Award. Julius died in 1989.

Albert Eichel was a younger brother of David and Julius, probably a schoolboy when they were in prison in WWI. Albert went to prison in WWII as a C.O. Nothing more is known about him. Other siblings were Philip, William, and Rose (Dorsch).

Seymour Eichel, son of Julius and Esther, was born on June 14, 1930 in Brooklyn (New York). He received a BA from the New School for Social Research in 1953, and a Master of Arts from Columbia University in 1954. He later earned a PhD and taught at New Jersey State College. In June 1956, he was arrested by the FBI, indicted by a grand jury in July for non-registration for the draft, and sentenced on December 27, 1956 to a year and a day in prison. He was sent first to the West Street House of Detention, where he undertook a hunger strike that lasted nearly a month, and then to the Federal Correctional Institution Danbury (Connecticut). He was released after serving nine months and eighteen days of his sentence. He and his parents wrote letters nearly every day; some of the letters written by Seymour have been transcribed for easier reading. Seymour was still living as of 2013.

The collection also includes extensive correspondence between Julius Eichel and William J. Sidis, the reclusive, mathematical genius. Sidis claimed to have been a CO during WWI and was interested in the issue.

Collection Overview
The Eichel Family Collection is comprised of much correspondence, several diaries, published and unpublished reminiscences and other writings, and reference material. It also contains one box of material about William J. Sidis, who collaborated with Julius Eichel on various projects [click here for more information about Sidis]. The Sidis material was originally collected by Julius Eichel. The entire Eichel Family Collection was rearranged and and refoldered in 2001. Material received in 2013 may be found in box 10; note that it may duplicate what is in boxes from previous accessions but that there are also important primary documents.

Correspondents include Corbett Bishop, Ernest and Marion Bromley, David and Betty Dellinger, William N. Doty, Eichel family members, Harold Fackert, Paul Comly French, Larry Gara, Anna Melissa Graves, John Haynes Holmes, William M. Kantor, Erling Lunde, Alice Niles Lynd, Albon Man, William James Sidis, Abraham Sperling, Lyle Tatum, and Evan W. Thomas.

Items removed:
Copies of The Absolutist and the Weekly Prison News Letter were removed to the Peace Collection's periodical collection.
Photographs [see some of the Eichel Family photographs at: Photograph Exhibit [added to in January 2013]

Arrangement of Collection
This collection was originally called the Julius Eichel Collection. Because of the material donated by Seymour Eichel in 2000, this name has been expanded to include other persons in the family. The papers were rearranged as well to reflect the material that exists by or about various family members, and are in the following order: Albert, David, Esther, Isaac (et.al.), Julius, and Seymour.
For the most part, material in folders is not in chronological order. Newspaper clippings have been photocopied for better preservation.

Detailed Description of the Collection

Box 1
Albert Eichel
--Biographical information
--Letter to Julius, 1944 (June 29); letter from U.S. Justice Department,1956 (July 30)
David Eichel
--Biographical information
--Items from time as C.O. in WWI: miscellaneous
--Items from time as C.O. in WWI: diary kept while at Camp Upton as C.O., 1917 (October 6)- 1918 (May 31)
--Items from time as C.O. in WWI: correspondence, 1916, 1918-1920
--Items from time as C.O. in WWI: letters to parents while in prison, 1918-1920
--Items from time as C.O. in WWI: letters to/from brother Julius [see below under Julius]
--Items from time as C.O. in WWI: co-authorship of "Report of Treatment of Conscientious Objectors at the Camp Funston Guard House," December 1918
--Items from time as C.O. in WWI: miscellaneous notes [diary notes?]
Esther (Mrs. Julius) Eichel
--Correspondence Isaac Eichel [and other family members: Kate (mother); Rose (sister), Philip, William]
Julius Eichel
--Biographical information: miscellaneous
--Biographical information: MS "Personal History of a Conscientious Objector," 1942 (August)
--Biographical information: C.O. gathering at Eichel home, 1941 (March 6)
--Biographical information: C.O. gathering at Eichel home, March 1942
--Biographical information: dinner in honor of Julius and Esther, New York (New York), 1947 (March 28)
--Biographical information: War Resisters League dinner in honor of Julius and awarding of 16th Annual War Resisters League peace award, 1976
--Biographical information: 80th birthday celebration, 1976
--Items from time as C.O. in WWI: miscellaneous
--Items from time as C.O. in WWI: diary,1918 -1918 (June 16 - August 2); 1919 (July 30 - September 30)
--Items from time as C.O. in WWI: letters to parents while in prison, 1918-1919
--Items from time as C.O. in WWI: letters to/from brother David, 1918, 1920
--Items from time as C.O. in WWI: report on meal conditions at Ft. Leavenworth(?), 1918
--Items from time as C.O. in WWI: Ft. Leavenworth mutiny
--Items from time as C.O. in WWI: speech for send-off of three C.O.s from Ft. Douglas,1919 (August 17)
--Notes re: books [done in prison ca. 1919? some by David?]

Box 2
Julius Eichel (continued)
--WWII era: letters to/from wife Esther, 1945 (October 17-18)
--WWII era: diary?, 1942
--WWII era: diary, 1941 (February 7)- 1942 (March 1)
--WWII era: statements etc. re: arrest (1942) and hearing, 1940s
--WWII era: letters to son Seymour, 1943-1946, 1948
--General correspondence
--With Roderick Seidenberg, 1940-1943
--General correspondence
-1942 [2 folders]
-1943 [2 folders]

Box 3
Julius Eichel (continued)
--General correspondence (continued)
- 1945 [2 folders]
--Controversy with Julien Cornell over American Civil Liberties Union actions re: C.O.s, 1945
--General correspondence
-1946 [2 folders]
-1950s [2 folders]

Box 4
Julius Eichel (continued)
--General correspondence (continued) 1970s [2 folders]
--With Michael Young (history student), 1974-1975 [includes Young's MS article "Facing a Test of Faith: Jewish Pacifists During the Second World War"]
-- General correspondence

-Undated [ca. 1940- ]
-- Letters to government officials / letters to the Editor / statements
--Published writings
--Published writings: book The Judge Said "20 Years", 1981
--Unpublished writings / notes / speeches?
--Unpublished writings (continued)
--Dated notes/writings re: observations on current events, 1941-1943 [removed from 1942 diary]
--Corbett Bishop fund
--Absolutist War Objectors Association
--Mailing list for The Absolutist
--Attendance at / co-sponsorship / speaking at events

Box 5
Julius Eichel (continued)
--Involvement / collaboration with William J. Sidis
- Correspondence with Sidis, 1933-1942
- Correspondence with Sidis, 1943-1944
- Correspondence re: Sidis, 1945-1946
- Reference material re: Sidis: biographical material
- Reference material re: Sidis: C.O. experiences in WWI
- Reference material re: Sidis: writings; perpetual calendar developed [facsimile only available]
- Reference material re: Sidis: American Independence Society; Liberty War Objectors' Association; Privacy Defense Committee
- Reference material re: Sidis: Geprodis Association
- Reference material re: Sidis: Successors of Shays; editing of Continuity News, 1938-1939
- Reference material re: Sidis: VUSP (Volunteer Urban Self-Supporting Projects), ca. 1943-1944
- Reference material re: Sidis: editing of The Orach, 1939-1943
- Reference material re: Sidis: editing of Penacook Courier, 1936-1938
- Reference material re: Sidis: miscellaneous

Box 6
Julius Eichel (continued)
--Reference / reading material
- Removal forms
- Re: capitol punishment
- Re: Zionism
- Pamphlet "Two Agitators: Peter Maurin -- Ammon Hennacy"
- Re: conscientious objection in WWI
- Letter from 19 C.O.s at Camp Upton to The Bureau of Legal Aid, 1918 (June 14)
- Re: conscientious objection in WWII [2 folders]
- General, 1915-1939
- Mss. by the American Independence Society "America's Search for Liberty in Song and Poem, 1935"
- General, 1940s
- Committee for Amnesty, 1946-1947
- General, 1950s

Box 7 (1/2 box)
Julius Eichel (continued)
--Reference / reading material
- Appeal by James Peck and 18 others re: arrest for not entering air raid shelter during drill, 1958
- General, 1960s
- General, 1970s-1980s
- General, undated

Box 8
Seymour Eichel
--Biographical information
--Letters to parents from prison, 1956 (December 29) - 1957 (April 30) [transcription included]
--Letters to parents from prison, 1957 (May 1) - 1957 (December 12)
--Letters from father Julius, 1957
--Letters from mother Esther, 1957
--Picketing of White House by Esther on behalf of Seymour, 1957, etc.
--Letters sent and received by Julius and Esther re: Seymour, 1957
--Letters / actions / visits of support while in prison
--Letters to government officials re: case
--Court case
--Publicity / statements
--Media coverage
--War Resisters League reception in honor of Seymour, 1957 (October 29)

Box 9 (1/2 box)
Seymour Eichel
--General correspondence: incoming
--General correspondence: outgoing
--Letters and statements re: loyalty oath in schools, 1960
--Miscellaneous notes, etc.

Box 10 [acc. 2013-006]
Julius, Esther and Seymour Eichel
--Biographical information; miscellaneous material
--Letters to/from Julius and Esther with Seymour, 1940-1967
--Letters to/from Julius and Esther, 1942-1947 [includes William Doty, Julian Cornell, etc.]
--Letters to/from Julius and Esther with Corbett Bishop, 1946-1947
--Letters to/from Julius and Esther, 1961-1984, undated [includes Tracy Mygatt, Frances Witherspoon, Igal Roodenko, Evan Thomas?, etc.]
--Letters to/from Seymour, 1947-1959 [includes Ernest Bromley, Louis Taylor, Roy Finch, John Haynes Holmes, etc.]
--Letters to/from Seymour, 1973-2008
--Tributes [two removed to Oversized Items Collection: Documents] and gifts of pamphlets/books (from Gustav Zeidler Jr. in 1918, Julian Cornell in 1943, Ralph Templin ca. 1965, and James Peck ca. 1980)
--Reference material

Box 10 (continued) [acc. 2013-018]
Seymour Eichel
-- Correspondence, etc., 1948-2012
-- Letter to/from Seymour from Joyce Carol Oates (and signed pamphlet), 1977

This file was last updated on March 2, 2015.