For Union College Library’s final Great War presentation for 2014-2015, Dr. Thomas Berg, lecturer, Department of History at University of Nebraska-Lincoln will present “Conscientious Objectors in World War I” on Tuesday, April 14, 2015 at 7 p.m. in library room 121.
This topic is of special significant to Seventh-day Adventists who have traditionally maintained conscientious objector status in times of national conscription. During World War I in particular, conscientious objectors were misunderstood and largely not respected. Conscientious objectors came largely from denominations such as Mennonites, Brethren, Amish, Hutterite, Quakers, and Adventists, but some chose this status for non-religious reasons. While the draft law made allowances for conscientious objectors, it was the individual’s responsibility to prove his sincerity to officers and fellow soldiers. This led to harassment and persecution. An estimated 450 conscientious objectors were court martialed during the war and at war’s end it is believed about 36 Adventists were imprisoned in Fort Leavenworth’s disciplinary barracks.
Dr. Berg’s presentation will discuss the use of draft/conscription as part of the social contract (that shifted from divine right of kings to modern states of Europe and the United States); the manpower crises of World War I and the challenges to European conscription policies; the unique American way of war using the “citizen-soldier”; specific issues relating to the American draft; and America’s future regarding conscription.
By Sabrina Riley, library director