One of the fascinations of writing Amish fiction is delving into new aspects of Amish life. One such idea came from a series of letters that had been written by a then-young Amish man who’d been in a Civilian Public Service camp during World War II. Since my books are contemporary, I reluctantly passed by the idea, but it wouldn’t leave me alone! So the idea was born that would become three books, each of which will include both a contemporary romance and an historical aspect which focuses on important moments in Amish life. I was immersed in the relatively little-known story of the Amish during World War II.
Why are the Amish so dedicated to peace? During the early years of the church, they were persecuted as heretics because of their beliefs, but they clung tightly to turning the other cheek, no matter what happened to them. The stories of those martyrs are told in every Amish family as a reminder of their absolute commitment to non-violence.
When the United States was swept into World War I, young Amish men were forced into the military, with many beaten or jailed because of their refusal to take up arms. As the shadows of another world war began to loom in the 1930s, members of the historic peace churches in the United States became determined to ensure that pacifists would be able to serve their country without committing violence. After an extended struggle, Civilian Public Service camps were set up as an alternative service.
One provision of the law was that the young men must be sent away from their home states. For some young Amish, the chance to see more of the world was welcome. The men worked as groundskeepers in national parks and forests, forest firefighters, workers on farms, and hospital workers. Some even volunteered for medical experiments which jeopardized their health and lives. For those assigned to mental hospitals, their commitment to caring for the patients humanely had a lasting impact and eventually led to profound changes in the mental health field.
Of course, for the fiction writer, it’s crucial to absorb all the research and then incorporate it into a love story. So in the end, the important factor in all my research for my new book, The Forgiven, was the way the events of the war impacted the love of Anna and Jacob, who lived it, and through their story, the love of Rebecca and Matthew in the present day.
Marta Perry’s lifetime spent in rural Pennsylvania and her own Pennsylvania Dutch roots led her to write about the Plain People who add to the rich heritage of her home state. She is the author of more than fifty inspirational romance novels, including the Pleasant Valley, Three Sisters, and Watcher in the Dark series, among others. Her latest novel is The Forgiven, which releases Tuesday, October 7, 2014.She lives with her husband in a century-old farmhouse.
Purchase Marta’s books here.
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