Film chronicling the plight of conscientious objectors airs at Goshen College

Film chronicling the plight of conscientious objectors airs at Goshen College

GOSHEN, Ind. – A part of the Greatest Generation often ignored are those who refused to fight in World War II. Appropriate, then, that an award-winning documentary that examines the experiences of those who felt called to alternative service should be shown at Goshen College, an institution known for its peace and justice program.

The film “The Good War and Those Who Refused to Fight It,” which won best documentary at the Ojai Film Festival, Special Jury Award at the Canyonlands Film Festival and various honors at the Ann Arbor and Columbus international film festivals, will be shown at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 7 in the Church-Chapel sanctuary. The college is particularly pleased to welcome the film’s director and co-producer, Judith Ehrlich, as part of the presentation.

Prior to the screening of the documentary will be a reception beginning at 6:15 p.m. for Sam Yoder, Goshen College professor emeritus of education, who is interviewed in the film about his experiences as a conscientious objector. Following the filming, audience members will have an opportunity to engage in a question-and-answer period with Yoder and director Ehrlich.

The Public Broadcasting Station says the documentary tells an important story – one often omitted from history books. The PBS Web site states that the men who didn’t fight were not cowardly, but were brave and patriotic in their own way. “It is the story of personal courage, idealism and nonconformity based on both ethical and religious beliefs – about men whose love of country could not extend to killing their fellow man,” continues the Web site’s description of those who engaged in an alternative to military conscription.

Many conscientious objectors worked in Civilian Public Service camps, programs created through a collaboration by the U.S. government and the historic peace churches, the Mennonites, Quakers and Brethren. Here they assisted with dangerous experiments, attacked blazes as fire jumpers and counseled handicapped individuals in mental institutions. According to the film, conscientious objectors lived by their beliefs, but at the cost of alienating themselves from friends, family and much of the country.

Sam Yoder was drafted the day after Pearl Harbor in 1941 and left CPS a week before Christmas in 1945. While in CPS, he fought fires in California, worked on a soil conservation project in Illinois and worked in mental hospitals in Utah, New York and Rhode Island.

Yoder said he has heard mostly positive reviews of the film from friends, yet one of the most moving responses was that of the film’s editor. As a practicing Jew, editing a film about World War II was particularly difficult, but as he worked with the film, it began to change his life. He wrote a letter of thanks to Yoder, disclosing his new feelings.

“He more or less indicated that it took the hate out of his own life for what had been done to his people in Germany, Poland,” said Yoder. “He was simply writing a letter of thanks for the privilege of working with the film and editing it and what it has done for him in his life.”

Ehrlich has produced various multimedia projects since 1983 on issues of nonviolence, education, social justice, human rights, health disability, housing and voting rights. The idea for this film blossomed out of a three-part public radio series on the history of conscientious objection called, “Against the Tide.” After producing the radio documentary, she decided to make a film that focused on those who refused to fight during World War II.

Ruth Krall, professor of peace, justice and conflict studies, said Goshen College is proud the film highlights Professor Emeritus Yoder, adding the subject matter is especially appropriate with the impending war with Iraq.

“As the U.S. government considers taking military action that could escalate into a major war in the Middle East, it is important for all citizens to consider their perspectives on participation in war,” Krall said.

Goshen College is a national liberal arts college known for leadership in international education, service-learning and peace and justice issues in the Anabaptist Mennonite tradition. Recognized for its unique Study-Service Term program and exceptional educational value, GC serves more than 1,000 students in both traditional and nontraditional programs. The college earned citations of excellence among U.S.News & World Reportand Barron’s Best Buys in Higher Education. For more information, visit the college‘s Web site at

– Andrew Clouse

Editors: For more information about this release, to arrange an interview or request a photo, contact Goshen College News Bureau Director Jodi H. Beyeler at (574) 535-7572 or


Goshen College, established in 1894, is a residential Christian liberal arts college rooted in the Anabaptist-Mennonite tradition. The college’s Christ-centered core values – passionate learning, global citizenship, compassionate peacemaking and servant-leadership – prepare students as leaders for the church and world. Recognized for its unique Study-Service Term program, Goshen has earned citations of excellence in Barron’s Best Buys in Education, “Colleges of Distinction,” “Making a Difference College Guide” and U.S. News & World Report’s “America’s Best Colleges” edition, which named Goshen a “least debt college.” Visit