CEDAR RAPIDS — World War I sometimes is referred to as the “forgotten war,” but the Amana Heritage Society wants to make sure the role of the Iowa County community is not overlooked.
As part of that effort, the society is participating in the Walk of Honor commemorative brick program at the National World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, Mo.
This year’s ceremony on Sunday will mark the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day that led to the end of World War I. More than 100 bricks were purchased for dedication from all over the country and around the world.
The society, which collects, preserves and interprets the heritage of the Amana Colonies, bought a 16-inch brick, the largest available “because there are a lot of people to be represented by it,” said Jon Childers, the executive director of the society.
The brick is inscribed “In memory of the 50 Amana Boys and their Iowa County neighbors who served their country during WWI.”
It’s hoped that in addition to commemorating the war, the brick will serve to help heal the wounds from that time between Iowa County communities.
Childers explained that members of the Amana religion, which has its roots in the movement of Pietism and Mysticism that flourished in Germany in the early 1700s, left Germany because they were pacifists who had been forced into military service.
However, during WWI they were denied exemption from military service as pacifists. About 50 “Amana Boys” began shipping out for service beginning in July 1918. A number of them were protected as pacifists by the Amana Society, while others were swept up in the draft and served on the battlefronts of Europe.
“We were this ‘other’ in Germany,” he said, “but in America, you aspire to be best citizen.”
Despite the loyalty to America of members of the colony, which was established in Iowa in 1855, there was resentment over those men who didn’t serve in the military because that meant other Iowa County men were called on to fill the county quota, Childers said. The colony suffered anti-Amana sentiment through ongoing negative press, and an angry mob marched on South Amana, according to Amana history.
A generation later, 15 percent of the Amana population served in World War II, many in non-combat roles, Childers said.
After going through an establishment phase and a collection phase, Childers said the Heritage Society is trying to tell its story by being a part of the national narrative around significant events, such as WWI.
The Heritage Society is preparing for the anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote. Childers said that in some ways, women in the colony had more rights and influence than other women.
Donations for the purchase of the brick will be accepted until Jan. 1. Interested parties may contact the Amana Heritage Museum in Amana at (319) 622-3567 or email@example.com.
For more about the Amana Heritage Society, visit www.amanaheritage.org.
l Comments: (319) 398-8375; firstname.lastname@example.org