Three more to prison for nonviolent anti-nuclear actions at Germany’s Büchel airbase

Susan van der Hijden, Susan Crane and Gerd Büntzly at Rohrbach prison on June 4 (Peace Walk Büchel 2024 photo)

from Nukewatch

On Tuesday, June 4, the first ever female U.S. peace activist sentenced to prison in Germany in the 25-year-long campaign demanding the withdrawal of the U.S. nuclear weapons stationed at Germany’s Büchel Air Force base, began her sentence of 229 days, the longest ever imposed in the campaign.

Susan Crane, 80, from Redwood City, California, along with Dutch citizen Susan van der Hijden from Amsterdam, both began serving “substitute” sentences Tuesday  — for nonpayment of financial penalties — at the Wöllstein-Rohrbach prison in Rhineland-Palatinate. Susan van der Hijden was given a 115 day sentence, resulting from Büchel actions in 2018 and 2019.

Crane was convicted September 20, 2021 in Koblenz Regional Court in Germany on six counts of trespass stemming from repeated protests against the nuclear weapons “forward deployed” by the United States at Büchel, 80 miles southeast of Cologne.

[UPDATE: Gerd will start his prison sentence at a later time. Don’t send him mail at JVA Senne now!] A third anti-nuclear activist, Gerd Büntzly of Herford, is set to begin a prison sentence June 15 at JVA Senne near Bielefel. Sentenced to 90 days, Büntzly expects to serve 45, under a new sentencing law regarding nonviolent offenses. It will be Büntzly’s fifth incarceration for actions at the Büchel NATO base, and stems from his participation in a May 8, 2023 occupation of Büchel together with six others.

Büchel air base houses approximately 20 U.S. unguided, thermonuclear gravity bombs known as B61-3s and B61-4s, which have been transferred to Germany by the U.S. Air Force. Any such transfer, or so-called “nuclear sharing,” is unlawful — as Crane and others have argued in German trial courts — under the explicit prohibitions of Articles I and II of the 1970 Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

The public prosecutor in Koblenz objected that even if “nuclear sharing” were illegal, the only relevant facts at trial were related to trespassing and the damage to the fence. In spite of the controlling status of international treaty law over federal statutes, the Koblenz court ruled that there was no excuse for clipping the chain-link fence and trespassing, and sentenced Crane to either pay 1,150 euros ($1,119), or serve 229 days in prison. Crane’s appeal to Germany’s Constitutional Court was rejected.

Crane has worked for decades at the Redwood City, California Catholic Worker, where she supports people in poverty who are often homeless. She said in a statement, “When I look at Büchel air base, I see nothing but the organization of death, and more and more horrendous ways of killing people. At the same time, I see the suffering of people around the world who lack basic needs that could be available if our economies weren’t based on war-making.”

Last year, the first ever U.S. citizens sentenced to prison in the German long campaign — Dennis DuVall, formerly of Prescott, Arizona, and John LaForge, of Luck, Wisconsin — were incarcerated in Germany for several months each, after they likewise refused to pay fines imposed for Büchel protest convictions.

Walking to the prison (Peace Walk Büchel 2024 photo)

Beginning last Thursday, May 30, about 20 nuclear weapons opponents from Germany, the United States and the Netherlands conducted a five-day solidarity walk with the prison-goers from the Büchel Air Base to the prison in Rohrbach. Local activists have promised to hold a weekly vigil in front of prison while the peace activists are inside.

The military runways at Büchel, and the five other NATO air bases hosting U.S. B61s, are currently being extended and their nuclear bomb hangers upgraded, to allow for the imminent arrival of both U.S. FA-35 jet fighters, which are set to replace Tornado PA-200 fighter jets currently in use, and new nuclear bombs — so-called B61-12s — that are set to be transferred from the United States to the NATO bases in the coming months.

Cards or letters can be sent from June 4: Susan Crane, JVA Rohrbach, Peter-Caesar-Allee 1, 55597 Wöllstein, Germany; Susan van der Hijden, JVA Rohrbach, Peter-Caesar-Allee 1, 55597 Wöllstein, Germany.  (See Inside and Out to check for any possible address changes. If they are no longer listed, they have been released.)

David Hartsough’s interview with Susan Crane here.

Outside the prison (Peace Walk Büchel 2024 photo)

Two Catholic Worker women (from the Netherlands and U.S.) go to prison

from Peace Walk Büchel 2024

Rohrbach (Rhineland-Palatinate), June 4, 2024: For the 18th time, a peace activist is going to prison for civil disobedience at the Büchel nuclear weapons site. Susan Crane from California (80) began her substitute prison sentence on June 4, 2024 for 229 days for several go-in actions. This makes her the first woman from the U.S. to go to prison in Germany in protest against the U.S. nuclear weapons stationed here. She followed the summons to begin her prison sentence following a six-day pilgrimage that symbolically covered 130 km and thus connected the Büchel air base with the Rohrbach correctional facility. She was accompanied on this journey by around 30 peace activists. Susan Crane sees this imprisonment as a vigil behind bars. “Peace, disarm, B61 nukes = immoral!” was written on the banner she carried on her peace walk. Another anti-nuclear weapons activist began her alternative prison sentence for the same offense today. Susan van der Hijden from Amsterdam had already received her summons for an alternative prison sentence of 115 daily rates at the end of April and reported to Rohrbach Prison today together with Susan Crane.

Especially now, when the danger of nuclear war has increased immensely in view of the war in Ukraine and all diplomatic solutions are repeatedly blocked, a clear message is needed, says Susan Crane. The former teacher lives in a “house of hospitality” run by the Catholic Worker movement, which has been supporting disadvantaged people for over a hundred years.

With supporters outside the prison (Peace Walk Büchel 2024 photo)

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/]

Photo of Susan Crane (left) and Susan van der Hijden at a past peace camp at Büchel air base