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Gordon Zahn (born Gordon Charles Paul Roach; 7 August 1918 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin – 9 December 2007 in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin) was an American sociologist, pacifist, professor, and author.

Gordon Zahn
Gordon Charles Paul Roach

(1918-08-07)7 August 1918
Died9 December 2007(2007-12-09) (aged 89)
Known forPeace activist
Titleprofessor emeritus University of Massachusetts Amherst

Early lifeEdit

Born out of wedlock, Zahn took his stepfather's last name. During World War II, he was a conscientious objector, and served in a Civilian Public Service camp established by the Catholic Worker Movement.[1] Zahn later transferred to Rosewood State Training School in Maryland, a school for the developmentally disabled. He worked there as a conscientious objector until April 1946. His experiences at Rosewood were published in the Catholic Worker in the July and October 1946 issues, as a continuation of his attempt to reform Rosewood.

Education and careerEdit

In 1946 Zahn and a friend went to Saint John's University in Collegeville, Minnesota. There they met Eugene McCarthy, who hired them when he became a U.S. Senator. Zahn received a Ph.D. from The Catholic University of America and then a job at Loyola University Chicago. Cardinal Bea pressured Loyola and a German publisher to stop Zahn's book German Catholics and Hitler's Wars, but it did not work. Zahn was later hired away by the University of Massachusetts Amherst.[2]

Second Vatican CouncilEdit

Zahn was important in the debate over warfare in the Second Vatican Council, specifically Schema 13. Through Richard Carbray and archbishop Thomas Roberts, Zahn was introduced to Abbot Christopher Butler.[citation needed] Zahn gave talks and wrote a speech for Butler. Gallagher implies this all led to Schema 13 supporting conscientious objectors and denouncing 'weapons of mass destruction'.[2]

Authored worksEdit

Zahn was the author of several books and articles, often focusing on the topics of conscience and war. He wrote Military Chaplains, based on interviews he did with RAF Chaplains who had served in the war. He then wrote German Catholics and Hitler's Wars, in which he argued priests had aided Hitler by telling Germans it was their religious duty to fight. He later wrote In Solitary Witness: The Life and Death of Franz Jägerstätter, about the Austrian conscientious objector who refused to fight in Hitler's army.[2][3] He was also the co-founder of Pax Christi USA.

In 1968, he signed the “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” pledge, vowing to refuse tax payments in protest against the Vietnam War.[4]

In 1982 he received the Pax Christi award from St John's.[2][5]


  • Zahn, Gordon. German Catholics and Hitler's Wars: A Study in Social Control 1964. ISBN 9780268010171[6]
  • Zahn, Gordon. In Solitary Witness: The Life and Death of Franz Jägerstätter 1964. ISBN 0-87243-141-X
  • Zahn, Gordon. What is Society? 1964 Hawthorn Books.


  1. ^ Hovey, Michael W. (2008). "Gordon Zahn, 1918-2007". The Catholic Worker. LXXV (1) (Jan.–Feb): 1, 4.
  2. ^ a b c d Michael Gallagher (2007-06-14). "Let us now praise Gordon Zahn" (PDF). Retrieved 2009-11-10.
  3. ^ "Gordon Zahn Papers (ZHN 028), University of Notre Dame Archives (UNDA), Notre Dame, IN 46556". University of Notre Dame. Retrieved 2009-11-10. Finding aid, ZHN 028
  4. ^ “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” January 30, 1968 New York Post
  5. ^ In 1992, Zahn was honored at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston with the Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience Award for his lifelong commitment to the ideals of non-violence and conscientious objection and for his work with the Second Vatican Council to make the Catholic Church a church of peace. "Pax Christi Award Recipients - Saint John's University Archives - CSB/SJU". 2009-10-31. Archived from the original on 2009-05-17. Retrieved 2009-11-10.
  6. ^ "Reviews of German Catholics and Hitler's Wars". Retrieved 2008-03-03.

External linksEdit