These letters & diary entries, written by David & Julius Eichel, were transcribed by Anne Yoder and Jane Laszek. Spelling & grammatical errors from the originals were included in the transcriptions.

Diary of Julius Eichel
June 16, 1918
A report came through today that a C.O. (CODY by name) was beaten up in the guard house. He was in the guard-house for refusing to take the inoculation. A seargent then took it upon himself to terrorize him into submission. Considerably bodily damage was inflicted according to the witness. His jaw was dislocated, his nose broken, his arm twisted, and a bayonet jabbed into his leg while a steady pummeling on the body and arms was carried out.


Letters to/from friends
SOCIALIST PARTY, June 17, 1918
Dearest Comrades,
We all admire your courage and we repeat again that we stand by you to the bitter end in support of your right as conscientious objector. Dearest Comrades is there anything we can do for you to help during this period of storm and stress. Of course we will make you and your brother alright on our books. Please tell us if we can send you books.
We send our love and comradship.
Fraternally yours
Socialist Party
per Rosa M.R. Spanier


Diary of Julius Eichel
June 18 [1918]
A committee composed of Julian W., Mack of the United States Court, Dean Haran F. Stone of Columbia University, and Major Stoddard took over the quarters directly underneath our barracks to interview the C.O.s. General Bell was with them in an advisory capacity, and he called the men in and would make the introductory remarks giving his own opinion on each man as he came before the committee. Most of the men called from our barracks refused to agree to any arrangement short of liberty. I, too, refused on the grounds that as a free man I must be permitted to make my own choice, and that I would refuse to serve in any capacity under military direction. General Bell then turned to the committee and conceded that in his opinion my brother and I were sincere objectors, and he then asked me to call my brother in. Some time before he had asked us to state in writing why we objected to non-combatant service and he had those letters before him, and he read them to the committee with the express purpose of showing them that our convictions were sound. He then informed us that those letters would follow us to Leavenworth, for according to plans all C.O.s were to be concentrated at that place for the greater convenience of the committee which planned to deal further with them, and then we were dismissed.
June 20 [1918]
We walked away without a guard. After we had gone about 100 yards, Private Homstrom got Lieutenant Swobodin after us. Lieutenant Swobodin had orders to prevent our going with out a guard, and after catching up to us argued that he could not permit us to go any further. We of course insisted that we were not dangerous nor mischievous and that our going would harm nobody. But orders were orders for a military man and he tried to tell us very politely that he was there to see that we were constantly under guard. All this took place in front of a company barracks. A strange Lieutenant unaccustomed to seeing civilians or soldiers argue with army officers was so shocked by the proceeding that he stuck his head out of the barracks window and cursed and screamed at us like a fish peddler. From his words you could not tell what he was after, but the situation being what it was, we could tell he was displeased with our insubordination.
June 26 [1918]
A welfare worker, a certain Mr. Roth connected with the Hebrew Welfare Association, paid us a visit with the express purpose of discussing our objections to participating in the war effort. He was determined to show us the error of our ways. He thought we were extremely selfish in questioning a procedure voted upon and carried out by our representatives. He was willing to match his pacifism with any one, and even if we had our doubts as he certainly had, we had no business at such a critical period to pander to our own particular tastes. Right or wrong, everyone must fight when war is declared. He was particularly anxious to show us that the Jew must fight whether he like or not if he was to retain his place in society.


Diary of Julius Eichel
Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, July 16, 1918
Dear Julius:
We reached this place at about 3:30 P.M. yesterday. For a short time, the prevailing atmosphere, the terrible heat and the dark uncertainty had a depressing psychological effect upon us. However when we were comfortably placed in our barracks we gradually regained our spirits are now practically normal.
The C.O's of Camp Dix, Camp Devens, and other camps preceded us. They had established, it appears, a rather inconsistent policy of standing Reveille, and retreat, of cooking their own mess and what is far worse, permitting the non-coms to eat with them. By that I don't mean to reflect upon the attitude of the latter toward us. This far they have treated us royally. But to cook for them is absolutely inconsistent with our stand.
We have compromised in that we go out and answer here at R&R but do not partake of the military exercise connected with these formations.
Our barracks is a red brick building, containing lockers for our clothes, but beyond the fact that it is probably more comfortable in Winter than a Camp Upton barracks, it is hardly as airy and pleasant as our recent home. This may be an erroneous impression, which time and familiarity will correct, but thus far, this is truthfully my view.
The latrine is in the same building. This place is vastly superior to our crude Camp Upton toilet. The floor is slate, partitions between the stools and urinals, and doors to the former. The showers too are divided off, exactly like our public showers in the city. Besides showers, we have a real home luxury and comfort -- bath tubs.
The mess-hall is also in the same building, and here too, the comparison favors this place. The tables are far more presentable in themselves, but the most striking feature is real white porcelain dishes and cups. The food is spread on the table and you help yourself. So far the meals have been excellent, far better in fact than at camp.
We know nothing concerning our privileges. I understand that we are to see the Cap. in charge soon. In the meanwhile I've decided to do nothing that might result in a misunderstanding. I expect to make my position clear when interviewed by the Cap.
It appears to me that the C.O's of other camps have all signified their willingness to accept farm work, that is with slight modifications of the order. The problem, to all intents and purposes, as far as the administration is concerned has been effectually solved. However that does not affect me in any way.
Gordon, Sam's friend his here. I understand that he has signified his willingness to do farm work or Friends' Reconstruction work, but his sincerity is questioned. He wishes to be remembered to Sam.
Write me about yourself. We are all anxious to learn what's happening to you. Numerous regards to all the boys. I hope they'll pardon me for not writing them personally. Regards & good wishes from my friends here.
As ever,
Dave
P.S. Neither Grunzig nor Wortsman[n]'s brother is here.


Diary of Julius Eichel
July 31 [1918]
Still at the guard house. The Polish man is still confined to Solitary. No reading material is allowed in the barracks. We have the following notice on the wall:
Detention Barracks
Camp Upton, N.Y.
Aug. 1 [1918]
Still at the guard house. The Polish man is still in solitary confinement. Today Clody was brought in. He was sentenced to hard labor at Fort Jay for a term of twenty years.
Rothberg was also brought in today. Hear a [rumor?] that we might be going to Leavenworth soon.
Charlie Clodi seems to take his misfortune [illegible word] naturally[?].
Aug. 2 [1918]
Wrote a letter to the Civil Liberties Bureau about the Pole. Another man put in solitary with the Pole because he refused to drill.
Sentence was passed on Sterenstein and myself. Sam received 30 years and I received 20 years to be served at Fort Jay. As we expected something like this from the government we weren't the least bit shocked.

Letters home by David Eichel
P.O. Box No. 60, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, Nov. 10, 1918
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….
P.S.. I see Julius frequently but we are not quartered together.

P.O. Box No. 60, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, Dec. 28, 1918
Dear folks:
I have had extended to me the privilege of writing to you for the second time since my advent to the D.B's. The last few days have been signalized by some very favorable changes. To begin with, we all had our Christmass dinner. Thus our Christmass, tho not entirely to our liking, was comparatively cheerful.
Thursday afternoon all solitary prisoners were unexpectedly ordered to pack their personal belongings and after some minor preliminaries we were marched in a body out of the D.B's to the Post Guard House. Here we were divided into two distinct groups and put into two large cages, similar to the ones at the Riley Guard House. We were given beds, mattresses and pillows and made physically comfortable. We were again restored to regular diet. Thus, all the disadvantages of solitary confinement were effectually removed. We now have each others company and are free to do whatever we please. Julius, of course, is with me, and we are once more in a position to enjoy each others society. Both of us are in excellent health despite our lengthy stay in solitary.
We are now busy planning how best to adjust ourselves to our confinement here & keep ourselves occupied both mentally and physically. we have been assured by the officials here that they would, in so far as possibly, cooperate in making conditions here conducive toward these ends. We will in all probability organize classes in various subjects, similar to those we formerly had at Upton.
I have learned that camp Funston is now being investigated because of our treatment while confined at the M.P. Guard House there. The diary contained a resume of events during that tense period had reached Wash. & an immediate investigation has been ordered. The officials at camp deny mistreatment of C.O's & brand the statements in the diary a pack of lies. I understand that those implicated are facing court-martial & perhaps subsequent dismissal from the army. I sincerely regret that the affair is being solved thus. Personally, I want no one punished for the regretable affairs at Funston. What I am interested in is the establishing of the veracity of the statements in the diary since I wrote it. With no other end in view than the making impossible of the recurrence of such an affair….
Our kindest regards and love to you all.
Dave

Ft. Leavenworth, Kan., March 1, 1919 [#7]
Dear folks:
Just now everything is very smooth here. We are getting along splendidly, because the policy now is "hands off." It is working out excellently in practice, for there is no friction possible between us and the prison officials. We have amply demonstrated that we can care for ourselves, and behave in a commendable fashion.
But the question persistently arises as to what final disposition the administration intends to make of our cases. Just now there are some very disquieting rumors coming to us, which it would be well for you to investigate. First I would write Baker or Koeppel and ask them to please inform you as to whether or not we are classified as sincere conscientious objectors; whether our refusal to accept the proferred farm furlough robs us of our C.O. status and makes us insincere. Ask for our exact classification.
Then ask whether there is any foundation to the following disturbing rumors. Certainly you have a right to know. Is there any truth in the rumor that all C.O's are to be out of the D.B's within two months? that within that time all C.O's will be transfered to the Federal Penitentiary? If this is so does that mean a repitition of medieval barbarism, such as solitary confinement and all its attendent torture, for refusing to work in jails. For refuse, we certainly will. We are not only opposed to militarism but conscription and dictation, and conscription is the same all over. Also is there any foundation to the rumors that naturalized citizens as well as aliens are to be recommended for deportation? If so what is the attitude of the administration towards these recommendation?
The above questions are a matter of deep concern to us just now. We would like to know whether it is going to be necessary for us to go thru again the same excruciating experiences of the past. I would suggest that you also communicate the above to the C.L.B. [Civil Liberties Bureau].
Henceforth Julius and I will write you every other day whether we have anything to write or not. If you do not hear from us for a period greater than ordinary mail complications would warrant take it for granted that something has happened and send a letter or a night telegram to Wash.
Julius and I are both in excellent health. We are improving ourselves as best we can by reading and a little study. If we knew our definite period of confinement we would get any essential text books & study. As it is we don't know where we're at.
Our love and regards to all.
Your loving son,
Dave
David Eichel
P.S. The prisoners have again gone on strike. I cannot explain the trouble now. I think it is a case of general dissatisfaction. The strike started Mon. morning (Mar. 3). The gangs refused to go out when ordered out by the yard sergeant.

Ft. Leavenworth, Ks., Apr. 14, 1919 [#29]
Dear folks:
Your letter of April 9, -- I suppose Martha wrote it since it is excellently written -- was indeed a source of comfort. We are happy to see that you support us so wholeheartedly, especially since we both realize the terrible sacrifice you have made for us, and the pangs of torture, worry and anxiety you have been made to suffer because of us. Believe me, it is only situations like this kind that make one realize the value and worth of his friends, relatives and parents. We have been extremely fortunate in this respect, since all our friends and relatives have stuck to us thru thick and thin, while you have been superb. You can't imagine what this means to us, and I wish to assure you that not all those with us have been so fortunate. We don't feel like brave fellows since we only did what we thought right. It is you that have certainly displayed wonderful spirit in supporting us so faithfully altho at times I am certain you were hardly able to understand what prompted our actions. It requires great courage to be willing to suffer for something you don't feel, and you have certainly suffered greatly in this manner. I don't know just how we'll show our gratitude to you when we return -- perhaps we'll never show it -- but believe me we certainly appreciate you now.
Julius, I believe wrote you about the discharge of the 6 Russian Molochans. You can never realize what they were like unless you saw & lived with them. They were all big healthy robust Russians; their beards gave them an air of dignity and earnestness that was unique and distinguished. One of them, a big tall fellow, 6 ft & some inches of stature, of blond hair and big blowing blond beard reminded you of the Jesus Christ as shown in pictures. In fact in solitary one of the guards used to say, Jesus Christ is praying or some such remark as the occasion called for, but always calling him Jesus Christ. They were fine fellows to associate with. Even the soldiers respected them in the end. Tho we hated to part with them, we were indeed happy to see them go.
In the morning, Jacob Wipf one of the Hutterians I wrote you about some time ago was discharged. He too was a splendid fellow, altho of a widely different type from the Molochans. The latter were very intelligent fellows and rather wordly wise. Wipf tho not stupid, yet as a result of his narrow and restricted life in the Hutterian Colony, was a simple as a child. Religion is narrowing usually and hence we are inclined to hope that it did'nt exist, but Wipf was splendid. Only the most callous and hardened would want to deprive him of his religion, its simplicity was so beautiful. Tho Wipf was discharged there are still 3 more Hutterians, all married, with us.; It seems a same to have discharged Wipf and keep the others. We were just as genuinely pleased to see Wipf go as the Molochans….
Your loving son,
Dave

Ft. Douglas, Utah, Jan. 30, 1920
Dear folks:
Well, it's happened. We finally saw Julius off, and believe me, I was both happy and relieved. The last few days were expectant ones for me. I was just longing for the end. Nothing is certain these days and until the last moment I had my misgivings about Julius' release. It was really too good to be true. I was in constant dread lest some hitch detain him. But he's off, and he'll probably be reading this letter to you, for I expect him to have arrived long before this does.
I said I was happy and relieved. I am doubly so, nay, trebly so. I am happy for your sakes, for Julius' sake and for my sake. I can well understand what this means to you, and what it means to Julius, but I am not so sure that you understand what it means to me. It means briefly, that for the rest of my stay here, I'm to be complete boss of my surroundings, absolute sovereign of my domains. After spending about 9 months of constant close contact with Julius, with him an uncurbed partner to all my possessions, I feel a regeneration now that I am alone. I never could understand the disadvantages of partnership, tho its advantages seemed to be obvious. Now I realize that its one disadvantage offsets all its advantages. No more partnerships for me. It's all for myself or nothing. Don't feel that I am forgetting that I was an equal burden to Julius. That must have added materially to the joy of his release. Yes, when I come home three months from now, now partnerships for me.
Of course I miss Julius. I miss him at meal times. I miss him at bed-times, and I miss him at my walks. But I'm not sorry. I'm not lonesome for him. He will be so much the more interesting when I meet him about 90 days from now….
Now that Julius has gone I shall have to do all the correspondence with you. I shall write as many letters as you had been receiving hitherto which means I'll have none for my friends. But that's my one opportunity for taking it out of Julius. If my friends will only cooperate with me, and write me, I promise to keep Julius busy acknowledging their letters.
I suppose the "Flu" is giving you some concern. I know it is giving us some. But thus far, our record is clean. We have had no cases here. I hope to be able to say so in all my subsequent letters. And I hope just as ardently that you may have similar news for me.
Things are just as dull as ever. This was the most exciting day we've had in months. I know nothing that I can add to this letter which you will not have heard from Julius. When I hear from you, or from Julius, perhaps I shall be able to write at greater length. In the meanwhile, good-bye. With love and regards. I am,
Dave
David Eichel (84)
U.S.D.B.

Fort Douglas, Utah, February 20, 1920 [4]

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 for keeping us in confinement. That it is an empty and vain pretence, 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 intendes 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, 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 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 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 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.
Affectionately
Dave

WESTERN UNION TELEGRAM, 1920 MAY 1, AM 1-59
C24CH 19 NITE
SALTLAKECITY UTAH 30
ISAAC EICHEL
262 STANTON ST NEW(rest of word illegible)
HOMEWARD BOUND AM TRAVELLING VIA CHICAGO GOING RIGHT THRU WILL TELEGRAPH FROM CHICAGO WILL REACH NY VIA GRAND CENTRAL
DAVE




Source: Swarthmore College Peace Collection, Eichel Family Collection (DG 131)




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