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Uncertainty before the Judge

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As George Groening explains though, the judges were not harsh with every CO. Everything depended on the mood of the judge and the responses of the CO.


“In November 1940 I received notice to appear before the Honourable Justice Adamson on December 10, 10:00 a.m. in Morden, Manitoba . I had been taught to believe that the judge and judicial system were always fair and impartial to all. As I watched the proceedings, it seemed that this was not always the case. It seemed that when the judge either grew weary or bored with the repeated hearings, he would single out one person and ask him some really difficult questions. [ASP, 95-96]


  Listen to Henry Gerbrandt tell his story before the judge.

For many COs, this was the first time that they would have to defend their beliefs before an strange authority figure. Jake Krueger was typical of the young CO. Although he was sincere in his beliefs, the pressure of the situation was very intimidating. Some COs believed sincerely in pacifism, but didn't know how to express it. In cases like this, some used a booklet called "Katechism on Non-Resistance" to prepare for the judge.


“When I appeared before Judge Adams [sic] in the Morden Courthouse, I was actually visibly shaking with apprehension and fear, as this imposing, white haired, walrus-moustached ogre glared down at me from his raised podium firing questions at me.”


“Never having been very robust, barely weighing 138 lbs. after a hearty meal, my slight frame fluttered as I desperately looked around for moral support to my father and a minister who accompanied me.”


“I was so intimidated by the judge and his questions, it totally escapes me how I answered them, but I'm sure if he had accused me of starting the war, I would have acknowledged guilt.” [ASM, 234]


Not every CO had such a negative experience. Henry Poettcker, for example, had an easier route. For one thing, he was one of the fortunate ones who avoided the judge.


“The man before whom I appeared was a provincial representative, not a judge…. In appearing before him, I was simply asked whether I was a conscientious objector. When I answered ‘yes', he asked no further questions.” [MHC, 1015-2]


Jacob A. Klassen doesn't recall any problems either.


“We were a group of young men waiting in the corridor. Then one by one were asked into the courtroom. Separately interviewed. Questions – Are you a CO? Why? Are you opposed to our country? Would you be willing to do any alternative service? I was treated with respect, and my word was honoured. I did not have to take an oath, but an affirmation was sufficient.” [MHC, 1015-62]

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