Conscientious Objectors and the Second World War: Moral and Religious Arguments in Support of Pacifism

Was pacifism an acceptable response to Hitler’s military and moral assault? This volume analyzes the moral and religious arguments justifying an individual’s opposition to war while answering this question. Drawing largely on interviews with sixty World War II conscientious objectors, including those who served in military non-combatant or civilian roles and those who were jailed as violators of the Selective Service law, this study provides an oral history of the difficulties encountered as a conscientious objector in the Last Good War, and uses World War II as a case study for examining how people arrive at the moral decisions they act upon.


Faced with the moral certainty of the Allied position in World War II, pacifism was clearly an unpopular position at that time. This work provides a thorough description of the political and social history of pacifism prior to and including World War II and describes the wide variety of theological, political, and moral beliefs on which pacifism is grounded. The discussion focuses on the factors that defining the pacifist attitude and actions, and also considers the consequences of those actions. Contrary to generally accepted views, the pacifist’s concern with the future ramifications of his or her decisions is affirmed. Careful documentation and an interdisciplinary scope offer oral historians, historians of World War II, World War II conscientious objectors, pacifists, and the general public a solid and scholarly look at pacifism.