Hofer Brothers

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Joseph and Michael Hofer were two young married brothers of the Hutterian faith in South Dakota, who were drafted in World War I and sent to Camp Lewis in 1918. Because they refused to wear the military uniform and to obey other military orders they were court-martialed and sentenced to 20 years in Alcatraz (California) prison. In November, after suffering terrible mistreatment for four months at Alcatraz, they with two other Hutterites who had endured the same kind of punishment were sent to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Forced to stand in the cold air for several hours without their outer clothing while waiting for their prison garb, the two men became ill and died a few days later. In the meantime their two friends had to stand for nine hours a day with their hands manacled through the prison bars on a diet of bread and water. Fourteen days of this treatment were alternated with fourteen days of regular diet. Eventually an order from U.S.A. Secretary of War Baker ended this kind of treatment of conscientious objectors. David Hofer was released from prison that winter, but his friend Jacob Wipf was not released until 13 April 1919.

"This moving story," wrote C. Henry Smith, "reads more like a page from the martyrology of the European Mennonites in the sixteenth century, than like an actual experience in America in the twentieth." Although this was the most extreme case of mistreatment given conscientious objectors in America during World War I, hundreds of Mennonites and other objectors suffered various forms of indignities and cruelties in camp guardhouses and military prisons during those years, usually, to be sure, at the hands of local camp officials and lower military officers without the full knowledge of the War Department in Washington. Both the President and the Secretary of War showed a sympathetic spirit toward sincere objectors.


Hartzler, J. S. Mennonites in the World War. Scottdale, PA, 1922.

Smith, C. H. The Coming of the Russian Mennonites. Berne, IN, 1927: 276-83.

Author(s) Melvin Gingerich
Date Published 1959

Cite This Article

MLA style

Gingerich, Melvin. "Hofer Brothers." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 22 Sep 2018. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Hofer_Brothers&oldid=82131.

APA style

Gingerich, Melvin. (1959). Hofer Brothers. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 22 September 2018, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Hofer_Brothers&oldid=82131.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, pp. 1092-1093. All rights reserved.

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