~ from Rohrbach Prison, Germany – Prison reflections by Susan Crane and Susan van der Hijden

Vigil behind Bars – For a Disarmed World 

JVA Rohrbach 

June 2024

Here in Rohrbach prison we are awakened by the sounds of doves and other birds, giving the illusion that all is well in the world, until other sounds, keys rattling, doors being shut, and guards doing the morning body check, bring us back to reality.

We are sitting in a prison cell, 123 km from Büchel Air Force Base, where ~20 U.S. nuclear bombs are deployed. At the moment, the runway at Büchel is being rebuilt to accomodate the new F-35 fighter jets that will carry the new B61-12 nuclear bombs that were designed and built in the U.S. 

The planning, preparation, possession, deployment, threat or use of these B61-bombs is illegal and criminal. The U.S., Germany and NATO know that each B61 nuclear bomb would inflict unnecessary suffering and casualties on combatants and civilians and induce cancers, keloid growth and leukemia in large numbers, inflict congenital deformities in unborn children and poison food supplies.

“We have no right to obey,” says Hannah Arendt. 

Although our actions might seem futile, we understand that it is our right, duty and responsibility to stand against the planning and preparation for the use of these weapons. They are illegal under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which both Germany and the U.S. have signed and ratified, and under the the Hague Convention, the Geneva Convention and the Nuremberg Charter.

During the international peace camps in Büchel (organized by the G.A.A.A. which consists of, among others, IPPNW, ICAN and DFG-VK; the German War Resisters League), we, together with other war resisters, and with the help of many supporters, went onto Büchel Air Force Base to communicate with the military personnel about the illegality and immorality of the nuclear bombs. We also wanted to withdraw our consent and complicity to their use.

The judges who sentenced us for these actions made a decision to follow some laws and ignore others. It is common sense, and we all know, that even the law against trespass can be broken when life is endangered.

The judges and prosecutors, as well as the guards in prison, treat us respectfully and politely while at the same time sticking to laws and rules that are unjust and cause suffering. The biggest crime in their eyes is to upset the “order”, even though the order is set up to be criminal. 

We wake up every day with determined joy to continue our “vigil behind bars”. A joy constrained by knowing that the other women here have pain, from being separated from their family and children or from constant physical or psychological difficulties or from being locked in a cell all day with nothing to do. 

We are only able to “vigil behind bars” through the immense support of people making sure our Catholic Worker houses can continue, people sending us cards and stamps, organizing visits and money for phone calls, remembering us in their prayers, doing press work and those that continue fighting the death dealing warmakers in the world. 

Blessings to you all! 
Susan Crane and Susan van der Hijden 

[Susan Crane is serving a 229 day sentence, and Susan van der Hijden a 115 day sentence, for their nonviolent nuclear disarmament actions at Büchel air base. You can write cards and letters to them, individually addressed to each at JVA Rohrbach, Peter-Caesar-Allee 1, 55597 Wöllstein, Germany. Updates can be found at https://noelhuis.nl/acties/kernwapensweg/ and http://www.nukeresister.org/2024/06/04/three-more-to-prison-for-nonviolent-anti-nuclear-actions-at-germanys-buchel-airbase/]