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How far did attitudes towards conscientious objectors change between WW1 and WW2?

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Introduction

How far did attitudes towards conscientious objectors change between WW1 and WW2? At the beginning of WW1, signing up for the army was voluntary, however, in 1916 it was made law that all men were required to join in the war effort. This was due to the lack of men volunteering and the rate of which men were being killed in the war. However, there were some people who didn't want to fight, they were called conscientious objectors. There were various reasons why men and women became conscientious objectors. Some of the reasons included: religion, such as Quakers, pacifists, socialists, emotional experience and medical reasons. Government attitudes could be seen to have changes between WW1 and WW2. Although people were given the right to be a conscientious objector in the 1916 conscription Act due to pressure from the Quaker MP's, in practise they were very unsympathetic. In WW1 people who refused to work were severely punished. ...read more.

Middle

Although men were given exemption they were expected to find other ways in which they could help with war effort such as working in a munitions factory. Men who refused to have anything to do with the war effort were called absolutists. If the Military Tribunal found no reason for you to be given exemption you would then be punished. In WW2 government attitudes were very different. Neville Chamberlain, the Prime Minister, was sympathetic and respected conscientious objectors' and saw them as 'scruples'. One reason to why he felt like this could be because it would be seen as hypocritical if he were to force people to do things they did not want to do. This was one of his primary reasons for fighting the war against Adolph Hitler. The number of conscientious objectors had increased from WW1. People saw and knew the horrors from WW1 and did not want to experience them again. ...read more.

Conclusion

People were opposed to conscientious objectors because they saw them as cowards. People were feeling patriotic so thought it an insult that people did not want to fight for their country. Mothers and wives that had their sons and husbands at war were angry that those who did not want to fight were safe. In conclusion, I believe that attitudes towards the conscientious objectors did change. However, the only dramatic change in attitudes came from the government. They were sympathetic and respectful and a lot more people were given exemption than in WW1. The fact that the Prime Minister himself said he saw them as scruples shows how much the attitude had changed. On the other hand, the attitudes towards conscientious objectors could be seen to not have changed much as the public were still very hostile towards them as they had been in WW1. So overall I do not think attitudes towards conscientious objectors had changed that far from WW1 because although the government were very sympathetic the public out numbers those in parliament and the public were still very much against conscientious objectors'. ...read more.

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