Johann Dyck’s resistance in 1872 to the newly instituted draft in the Vistula Delta region of Prussia, modern-day Gdańsk, Poland, provides a documented example of faithfulness in the face of physical coercion. Dyck applied for and received a passport and exit visa valid for six months. Possession of that exit visa meant that he could not be drafted since he had signaled an intention to emigrate. Dyck was not, however, necessarily interested in leaving the country but was attempting to find any legal means to avoid the draft. He attempted to extend his exit visa but that application brought him only a draft notice to serve as a wagon driver in the army, a noncombatant position created in 1868 and available only to Mennonites. As his April 22, 1872, induction date approached, Dyck went into hiding, but the police found him. He was delivered to the military office in Marienburg/Malbork. Since he refused to accept the train ticket to Berlin, where he was to be stationed, he was kept overnight under military arrest. The next morning a military detachment escorted him to Berlin on the train. Once there he refused to put on his uniform. It was put on him by force. He refused to swear the oath of induction and loyalty to the emperor, even in the form prescribed for Mennonites in the Declaration of 1801 that allowed for affirmation instead of the oath. For these offenses he received multiple sentences of several days in confinement. After they had been served, he was asked once more to swear the oath. He refused and was confined again. This cycle repeated itself numerous times with the length of confinement after each refusal reaching seven days. In September the military admitted no progress had been made in breaking Dyck’s will. Church leaders Elder Gerhard Penner and Elder Wilhelm Ewert traveled in November to Berlin on Dyck’s behalf. They petitioned the emperor at least to let Dyck emigrate if he could not be exempted. All their efforts were to no avail. A later report mentioned a Mennonite kept under “close confinement” for refusing to wear a side arm, a requirement for wagon drivers. The report went on to note that his health gave way under this punishment, qualifying him for release as unfit for duty. Although Dyck’s name was not mentioned in this later report, circumstantial evidence suggests this indeed had happened to him.
Source: Mark Jantzen, Mennonite German Soldiers: Nation, Religion and Family in the Prussian East, 1772-1880 (University of Notre Dame Press, 2010), 222-3.
Submitted by Mark Jantzen