Mennonite Historian Vol. 33 No. 1 by morgossi7a6


									                                                    VOL XXXIII, NO. 1 - MARCH 2007
                                                                                               80th Birthday Tribute for
                                                                                               Otto Klassen – Mennonite
                                                                                               by Peter Letkemann (Winnipeg)

                                                                                               O     n 7 April 2007 the well known
                                                                                                     Mennonite filmmaker Otto Klassen
                                                                                               of Winnipeg will celebrate his 80th
                                                                                               birthday. On Sunday, 15 April 2007, his
                                                                                               most recent film “Remembering Russia,
                                                                                               1928-1938: Collectivization and Mass
                                                                                               Arrest” will be premiered at the
                                                                                               Springfield Heights Mennonite Church in
                                                                                               North Kildonan.
                                                                                                  I first got to know Otto Klassen as a
                                                                                               master bricklayer and stone mason – my
                                                                                               father was a building contractor in North
                                                                                               Kildonan and Otto Klassen was his
                                                                                               bricklayer of choice. I watched as Otto
                                                                                               and his crew unloaded the bricks or
                                                                                               limestone blocks, mixed the mortar, and
                                                                                               began constructing the walls and chimney
                                                                                               of the house. In retrospect, it seems to me
                                                                                               that Otto was able to visualize the entire
                                                                                               wall in his mind even before he laid the
                                                                                               first brick – it was all done in his head, it
                                                                                               just required careful and patient work to
                                                                                               complete physically. These walls and
                                                                                               chimneys are still standing all over North
                                                                                               Kildonan, East Kildonan and other parts
                                                                                               of the city, and if you look at them you
                                                                                               will see that all the lines, both horizontal
                                                                                               and vertical, are perfect – Otto is a
Anna Thiessen and young girls outside the North End chapel (Winnipeg) NP045-01-20              perfectionist! One of the best examples of
Pioneering an Urban Environment: The Beginning of the                                          his work is the beautiful white limestone
                                                                                               obelisk standing at the entrance of the
Mennonite Brethren Church in Winnipeg                                                          Steinbach Museum – this monument to
By Abe Dueck                                                                                   Mennonite Victims of Terror and
                                                                                               Repression was designed and built by
Beginning of the 20th Century                                                                  Otto Klassen.

T    he city of Winnipeg was a vibrant and
     growing city at the turn of the 20th
century. The Canadian Pacific Railway
                                              become the third largest city in Canada,
                                              with only Montreal and Toronto
                                              exceeding its population.
                                                                                                  I got to know Otto Klassen the film
                                                                                               director in 1992, when I saw what is
                                                                                               probably his masterpiece, “The Great
had been completed in 1885, making                                                             Trek.” When I read the film credits, I was
Winnipeg a very significant transportation    Note: In 1871 the population of Winnipeg was     amazed, but not surprised, to see that Otto
centre. The grandiose railway station on      about 250, making it the 62nd largest
                                              population centre in Canada. In 1901 the
                                                                                               was not only the producer and director of
Higgins Ave. was completed in 1904 and        population had swollen to 42,000, making it      the film; he also wrote the script, edited
immigrants from many European coun-           the 6th largest city. By 1911 it had more than   the film and even chose the music for the
tries were arriving in the city and the       tripled in 10 years to 136,000 ranking 3rd ,     soundtrack.
population grew rapidly. Most of the          and in 1921 the population stood at 179,000.        As a filmmaker Otto exhibits the same
population was centred on both sides of       At that time Vancouver had a population of
                                              117,000 and Calgary 63,000.                      dedication, hard work, skill, attention to
the railroad tracks, with the area north of                                                    detail, careful preparation, and long-range
the tracks known as the North End. Most         Public transportation was still in its         planning that he had displayed as a master
of the area south of the tracks was           infancy. The Louise Bridge, which then           mason.
considered the West End, whereas the          was a railway bridge, was the first bridge          He has the outline of the story and the
area south of the Assiniboine River,          across the Red River and was built in            entire film worked out in his head before
where the wealthier class lived, was          1881. In 1903 the Winnipeg Electric              he starts filming. Then he goes about the
known as the South End. The area that is      Street Railway had its first run over the        detailed work of researching and writing
now Elmwood was incorporated into the         Louise Bridge. In 1908 the Redwood               the script, compiling and “building” his
city in 1906, with the present Talbot Ave.    Bridge was built and the electric railway        visual resources, recording the soundtrack
then called Central Ave. Winnipeg had                                    (cont’d on p. 8)                                   (cont’d on p. 2)
Page 2
and final editing – being sensitive to            that era, whom I have met and                   nique when he started out on his own film
pacing and mood – making sure the story           interviewed, Otto felt that he had survived     career. When Otto came to Canada, he
gets told and keeps moving.                       for a reason; it was his responsibility to      told me he loved watching the beautiful
   Where did he learn to do this?                 tell the story of the Mennonite people – of     Walt Disney nature documentaries – soon,
Certainly not in school!                          the suffering and hardships they endured,       he started analyzing these films, with a
   Otto, like many other men of his               of their cultural and economic achieve-         stop watch in hand – paying careful
generation never completed more than 6            ments, and above all of their faith. Given      attention to timing, pacing, photography
or 7 grades of formal schooling. But this         his skills and talents, he felt that he could   techniques, etc. He traveled to studios in
does not mean that they were uneducated.          best do this through the medium of film.        Disney World and Hollywood to watch
By the time he was a teenager, in the                As a boy Otto saw his first films in the     film crews in action. He observed closely,
Mennonite village of Schöneberg                   village school or local church in southern      and said to himself: I can do that!
(Chortitza), Otto already spoke four              Ukraine. By the mid-1930s all churches in          And he did! Over the past 30 years,
languages – German, Low German,                   the Soviet Union had been closed, of            Otto has produced over 50 documentary
Russian and Ukrainian. Later he added             course, and converted into granaries,           films, telling the story of his people – the
Spanish and English to the mix. But like          stables, dance clubs or movie theatres.         Mennonite people of Russia, Paraguay,
most young people of that generation, he          The Soviet leadership, beginning with           Mexico and Manitoba – the story of
learned most through keen observation,            Lenin and Stalin, quickly recognized the        ordinary people, living ordinary lives,
self study, experience and the application        propaganda value of the motion picture as       experiencing extraordinary events, and
of common sense.                                  a powerful new medium to reach people,          achieving the extraordinary under the
   Otto was good in all subjects at school,       many of whom could neither read nor             most adverse of conditions. He himself
but his favourites were math and history.         write. The Soviet propaganda films of the       lived through many of these events
The math stood him in good stead later in         1930s showed, for example, smiling              himself, and was able to tell the story with
his business work; but history was his real       happy peasants – working and singing in         a deep and honest conviction.
passion. He did not only read about               the fields – happy to be part of the new           Otto’s films are not made for
history, he personally experienced some           collective farms. Of course the films were      commercial use on television or in
of the most momentous historical events           all lies, but the leaders knew that if you      theatres – they are intended to be shown
of the 20th century – he lived through the        tell the story powerfully enough and            in churches, schools, and community
terrible famine of 1932-33 in Ukraine, he         repeat it often enough, people will             halls. His goal has never been to make
experienced the horrors of war in Europe,         believe; the same thing happened in Nazi        money – in fact he has spent thousands of
and endured the hardships of pioneer              Germany, and the same thing goes on             dollars, of his own money, to finance
work in Paraguay. Hundreds and                    today – a film can be used to tell a            these films. Instead, his goal has been to
thousands around him perished. He                 powerful truth or to cover up the truth.        tell the Mennonite story for succeeding
survived! And like so many others of                 Later, while serving in the German           generations – the generation of his own
                                                  army, Otto observed German camera               children and grand-children on their
Mennonite Historian is published by the           crews in action, filming documentaries for      history. He has donated complimentary
Mennonite Heritage Centre of Mennonite            the weekly newsreels back home; he was          copies of his films to countless Mennonite
Church Canada and the Centre for Mennonite        intrigued! Much later, Otto met a member        schools and churches in Canada, South
Brethren Studies of the Canadian Conference       of one of these film crews working right        America and Europe, so that they in turn
of Mennonite Brethren Churches.
                                                  here in Winnipeg at CBC-TV. This friend         can educate their people, especially their
         Editor: Alf Redekopp (MHC)               was able to offer Otto many suggestions         young people, about their past.
                 Ken Reddig (CMBS)                and tips on the fine points of film tech-
                                                                                                  Peter Letkemann lives in Winnipeg.
Associate Editor: Conrad Stoesz

All correspondence and manuscripts should be
sent to the editorial offices at:
             600 Shaftesbury Blvd.
            Winnipeg, MB R3P 0M4
                P: 204-888-6781
              1310 Taylor Avenue,
            Winnipeg, MB R3M 3Z6
                P: 204-669-6575

Subscription rates: $12.00 per year, $22.00 for
two years, $30.00 for three years. Individual
subscriptions may be ordered from these
ISSB 07008066                                     Otto Klassen making a film
                                                                                                                               Page 3

                                                                                           Wiebe - Searching for ancestors and
          Genealogy and Family History                                                     siblings of Gerhard Wiebe (1858-1921) b.
                                                                                           Halbstadt, Molotschna, migrated to
                                               By Alf Redekopp
                                                                                           Munich, ND in 1907 with wife and 4
                                                                                           children, and d. in Walla Walla, WA. His
Recent Books                                 Les Plett. Family Register of the             wife’s name was Elisabeth Richert. Con-
                                             Descendants of Our Grandparents Peter         tact: Richard Vorwerk at richardvorwerk
David Schroeder. The Family Records of       L. and Agatha (Koop) Susanna (Friesen), 512-750-5562, or 1808 W.
Heinrich and Maria (Kehler) Schroeder        Plett #13 (Calgary, AB: Private               Lake Dr, Taylor,TX 76574.
and The Ancestors of Heinrich and Maria      Publication, 2006) 322 pp.
(Kehler) Schroeder (1888-1974) (Winni-
peg, MB: Private publication, 2006)          T    his book traces the family history of
                                                  the descendants of Peter L. Plett

                                                                                           A Genealogical DNA
T    hese two compilations contain the
     family history for Heinrich Schroeder
(1888-1974) and his wife Maria Kehler
                                             (1859-1944) who first married Aganetha
                                             B. Koop (1859-1883) and then Susanna
                                             R. Friesen (1864-1936), who came to
                                                                                           Project for Low-German
(1890-1978) who were born in                 Canada from Russia in 1875, settling in       Mennonites
Sommerfeld, Manitoba, lived in various       Blumenhof, Manitoba with the Mennonite
places – Blumenthal and Austin in Mani-      Kleinegemeinde. The book includes             by Glenn Penner
toba and in Aldergrove and Clearbrook,       genealogical data, photographs, biograph-
BC and died in Altona, Manitoba. The
compiler has also provided the Mennonite
Heritage Centre with A Tribute of
                                             ical sketches and a comprehensive index.
                                             Contact: Les Plett, 923 Midridge Dr. SE,
                                             Calgary, AB T2X 1H5
                                                                                           I  n the Dec. 2004 issue of the Mennonite
                                                                                              Historian I announced the start of a
                                                                                           genealogical DNA project for Menno-
Thanksgiving by Heinrich and Maria                                                         nites. At that time there was a significant
Schroeder edited and translated from the     A Day of Pilgrimage June 11, 2005: A          cost associated with the testing and the
diaries. Contact: D. Schroeder, 745 Co-      Document commemorating the 75th               project covered all Mennonite/Anabaptist
ventry Road, Winnipeg, MB R3R 1B8.           Anniversary of the Arrival of the David       groups. Since that time a new project has
                                             and Agatha Fast Family in Canada              been started which specializes in the use
Con Hildebrandt. Hildebrandt 1726-2006:      1930-2005 (Winnipeg, MB: Private              of DNA analysis to help genealogical
A Genealogical History of the Descen-        Publication, 2005) 93 pp. and 44 pp.          research among Mennonites of Low-
dants of Heinrich and Maria (Guenther)
Hildebrandt 1866-2006 (No Publication
place given, 2006) 365 pp.
                                             T    he first part of this compilation
                                                  consists of the “Day of Pilgrimage”
                                             which includes the genealogical data for
                                                                                           German background. The good news is
                                                                                           that participation is now free. So far
                                                                                           nearly 500 people of Low-German

T   his book focuses on the family           the family of David Fast (1899-1979) and      Mennonite background from Canada, the
    history of Heinrich Hildebrandt          his wife Agatha Schroeder (1903-1996),        United States, Paraguay, Mexico and
(1866-1945) and his wife Maria Guenther      as well as chronological survey of their      Germany have participated. For more
(1870-1949). The Hildebrandt family          life starting in the Memrick Colony of        information on this project and what kind
have Old Colony Mennonite roots and          Russia to settlement and subsequent           of information it can provide visit the
migrated from Manitoba to Saskatchewan       stages of their life in Manitoba. The         Low-German Mennonite DNA Project
where they lived about half way between      second part of this compilation, entitled     website at You
Hepburn and Hague. Contact: W.               “Appendix” includes interviews, copies of     can also find the Y-DNA results for the
Hildebrandt, 2143 Mayflower Blvd.,           documents, maps, charts and other items       first 91 men on this website. Y-DNA is
Oakville, ON L6H 4E6 or whildebrandt         of interest. The third part which is inclu-   the DNA that is passed on from father to                                ded only in the limited family edition        son and is particularly useful for
                                             consists of the “Elkhorn Tapes” – a series    genealogical research since Mennonite
The Klippenstein Sisters (No publication     of 4 sessions where the children share        family names have also been passed down
place given, 2003) 200 pp.                   memories. Contact: P. Fast, 529-445           from father to son for at least the last 400

T    his compilation comes in a 3-ringed     Stafford St., Winnipeg, MB R3M 3V9            years. Also note that mtDNA is also
     binder prepared for a family reunion                                                  tested for both men and women. This is
which was held August 9 and 10, 2003.
                                             Queries                                       the DNA that is passed from mother to
The purpose of the reunion was to            Schroeder - Looking for the family of         child and follows the maternal ancestry of
maintain family ties with the families of    Cornelius Schroeder, born July 22, 1899       the person who is tested. Those who are
three Klippenstein sisters who came to       married Helena Bergen 5th July 1925.          interested in participating in this project
Canada – Sara (Klippenstein) Isaak           Children from this union were: Kenneth,       are encouraged to contact me at gpenner
(1905-1951) in 1930, Katharina (Klip-        Terence and Winnifred Constance. These or 519-824-4120 ext.
penstein) Letkemann (1907-1982) in 1948      three children are all first cousins of my    52602.
and Anna (Klippenstein) Loewen (1911-)       husband Dennis Schroeder. I am doing
                                                                                           Send inquiries to Alf Redekopp, 600
who also came during the 1920s               genealogy on the family and would             Shaftesbury Blvd., Winnipeg, MB R3P 0M4 or
migration from Russia. Contact: Gwen         appreciate contact. Contact: Esther           e-mail: aredekopp@
Rempel, 2910-51st B Ave., Lloydminister,     Schroeder. Unit 7A, 46354 Brooks Ave.
AB T9V 1M2.                                  Chilliwack B.C. V29 7S9.
Page 4
Encyclopedia on                                Paraguayan personnel, as well as for
                                               persons     interested    in    informing
Mennonites in Paraguay                         themselves on Mennonites in Paraguay.
                                                 The publication of an encyclopedia on

T    he society for the history and culture
     of the Mennonites in Paraguay [Ver-
ein fuer Geschichte und Kultur der
                                               Mennonites in Paraguay requires good
                                               organization, many willing writers and
                                               good financial support. The Historical
Mennoniten in Paraguay] agreed a               Society would value the active partici-
number of years ago to publish a               pation and support of the churches, the        Diary showing water-damaged pages and
reference work on Mennonites in Para-                                                         Gothic hand-writing from edge to edge. Ed
                                               colonies and individual persons. It will be    and Elisabeth Enns worked with
guay. The people appointed to this task        a work by the Mennonites, for the              photocopies from this ledger.
were: Gundolf Niebuhr, Filadelfia, Hans        Mennonites and beyond that, for all of
Theodor Regier, Friesland, Uwe Friesen,        Paraguay.                                      epidemic, he became greatly interested in
Menno, Jakob Warkentin, Neuland and                                                           eschatological topics and was deeply
Gerhard Ratzlaff, Asuncion. Beate Penner       Based on excerpts from an article entitled:    taken in by visiting speakers such as the
from Friesland has also become a part of       “Mennonitishces Lexikon – Paraguay” by         Mennonite Brethren minister Jakob
this group. The goal is to publish this        Gerhard Ratzlaff published in Neuland          Reimer and Enns and others of the
                                               Informiert und Diskutiert, July 2006, pp.16-
work, first in German, then, when it is        17, translated by Linda Huebert Hecht.         Zeltmission (Tent mission). Their strong
possible, in Spanish and finally also in                                                      emphasis on the end-times and on “clear
English. The content need not be the same                 ***********                         conversions” brought on a revival of
in each of the languages. The working          Janzen diary                                   considerable proportions in theirs and
committee for this Mennonite Encyclo-                                                         surrounding villages, and with it the
                                               (cont’d from p. 6)
pedia met on 10 July 2006 in order to                                                         categorizing even of church members into
                                               period, the terror brought on by the war,
consider the task and make plans for the                                                      “saved” and “unsaved”. Janzen appre-
                                               the roving bands and the shortages. To
future. It hopes to have the German                                                           ciated this kind of evangelistic thrust, but
                                               that was added the famine and the typhus
edition complete by 2008 at the latest.                                                       was very distressed and disgusted when
                                               epidemic. Finally relief supplies began to
   The goal is to inform the reader on                                                        some from his church were re-baptized by
                                               trickle in from the Dutch Mennonites and
topics on Mennonites in Paraguay, their                                                       immersion in local ponds by Mennonite
                                               from American Mennonites including
history, institutions, organizations and                                                      Brethren ministers.
                                               seed grain and some tractors. Orie Miller
leading persons. The committee has put                                                           Janzen remained single all his life, but
                                               and Hiebert and others from America
together a list of 700 subjects that should                                                   in the diary he admits that he very much
                                               came on the scene, as well as the effective
be covered, which will be expanded and                                                        wanted to get married. He describes how
                                               coordinating efforts of B.B. Janz in the
edited as needed. Some topics will take a                                                     one or more times he identifies a certain
whole page, for example on the colonies,                                                      young woman as the one and makes some
                                                  The establishment of the Soviet system
and some only a few sentences. In general                                                     approaches, but is turned down each time
                                               of village and regional control continued
it will inform readers quickly and easily                                                     and goes into depression and questioning
                                               to erode the independence of the farmers
about what Mennonites have done in the                                                        as to why his prayers in this regard are
                                               through taxation and exorbitantly high
past and what they are still doing today.                                                     never answered.
                                               levies on literally everything, together
Wherever possible, each topic will also                                                          Since it is a diary and he no doubt wrote
                                               with rampant corruption, impoverished
include a bibliography for further reading.                                                   it primarily for himself, the reader 90
                                               the farmers prior to the establishment of
Such an encyclopedia would be particu-                                                        years later often wishes for more context
                                               the collective system.
larly useful in the school libraries, for                                                     when he alludes to certain problems, or
                                                  Emigration to Canada and Mexico
students and researchers, as a basic and                                                      militia groupings during the fighting, or
                                               eventually became possible and the
valuable source of information.                                                               the various foreign elements involved
                                               Janzen family emigrated to Mexico in
   In the German edition, we naturally                                                        (i.e., Bulgarians. Germans. British fleet,
                                               mid-1923. Pioneering as farmers was very
think of including articles on our                                                            etc.). To the reader today he also seems
                                               difficult and sustained only by MCC relief
Mennonite churches and colonies in Para-                                                      tedious by recording the temperature three
                                               supplies from the USA. The diary ends in
guay, in order to inform ourselves about                                                      times a day, plus the wind direction, or
                                               the midst of that struggle and other
our history and identity. The Spanish                                                         the number of desjatins plowed each day,
                                               records indicate their travel to Canada in
edition will primarily serve the Spanish                                                      the amount of grain threshed daily over
                                               the spring of 1926 and their settling at
population with accurate information. It                                                      three weeks and the price of every item he
would be good if there were the financial                                                     buys or sells. That to him was diary!
                                                  Janzen was a devout Christian and
means to provide each school in Paraguay                                                         On the other hand, in translating him, in
                                               faithful and active member of the
with a copy. The English edition would                                                        seeking to understand him in his time and
                                               kirchliche congregation in Rudnerweide.
have international significance. Menno-                                                       circumstances, one learns to appreciate
                                               He was keenly interested in newer trends
nite researchers, reporters, journalists and                                                  his courage and Christian stance and
                                               such as the establishment of Sunday
other foreigners would value such a work                                                      service to his family and the community -
                                               School, youth programs, choirs and Bible
and the information would benefit the                                                         - - and he becomes a friend.
                                               conferences. As times became more
Mennonites in Paraguay as well. All Para-                                                     Edward and Elisabeth Enns have
                                               difficult and serious due to changes
guayan embassies and consulates world-                                                        translated the Jakob Janzen diary for the
                                               brought on by the revolution and the new
wide could and should be given such a                                                         years 1916-1925 as volunteers of the
                                               system, the famine and the typhus
book, as a source of information of their                                                     Mennonite Heritage Centre.
                                                                                                                                Page 5
Another view of ‘MB/GC’                          With the emergence of the Mennonite        stayed away. Too bad for them. This was
                                              Brethren in 1860, the leaders of the          how we actually organized as a church.”5
Beginnings…                                   existing church were forced to reconsider       Throughout their history the Mennonite
by Ed Lenzmann                                their understanding of the church. Elder      Brethren have agonized over those among
                                              August Lenzmann of Gnadenfeld con-            their friends and loved ones in the other

I  n “MB/GC Beginnings in Western
   Canada: Convenience Unites What the
‘Spirit’ Divides” (Mennonite Historian,
                                              ceded that, given the existing situation,
                                              some unbelievers might find their way
                                              into the church. Given his Lutheran/
                                                                                            church who have not experienced what is
                                                                                            now sometimes called “a Mennonite
                                                                                            Brethren conversion”. My own father had
Vol. XXXII No. 3, Sept. 2006) Donovan         Moravian heritage with its universal          a favorite aunt who was not open to
Giesbrecht notes that in many cases           infant baptism and confirmation, he could     “getting saved” in the Mennonite Brethren
Mennonite families immigrating to Can-        live with the situation provided that         sense. But late in life she shared that at
ada from the Soviet Union in the 1920s        church members were not living “… in          the time of her baptism she had made “a
settled in small and isolated clusters,       open and apparent sin.” Based on the          covenant with God” (einen Bund mit Gott).
especially on the prairies. At the start      Parable of the Tares (Matthew 13) he and      Was this another way of becoming a
these families worshiped together. But        Elder Heinrich Dirks, his successor,          Christian? He desperately hoped so.
when it came to organizing formally they      argued that the church would always be        Others, however, had little to say about
continued the practice of having two          an undisciplined body made up of be-          the need to become right with God.
churches, namely the Mennonite Brethren       lievers and unbelievers. In the view of         People from the other church have
and the kirchlich (increasingly referred to   Elder David H. Epp a particle of faith –      responded with concerns of their own
as the General Conference or GC).             which presumably could be built upon -        about the Mennonite Brethren. Why are
Giesbrecht asks why the practice of           should constitute a sufficient reason for     they so ready and eager to baptize their
having two churches continued in Canada,      baptism and church membership.2 Mean-         young teens and even pre-teens? Is this
even when the numbers were small. Upon        while, Bernhard Harder who had himself        not an adult decision? How different is the
discussing this question with him and he      experienced a conversion did not              pressure coming from peers and from
suggested that I share my views in a sub-     encourage re-baptism and joining the          adults (including pastors) in Mennonite
sequent issue of the Mennonite Historian.     Mennonite Brethren. Rather, he promoted       Brethren churches to be baptized, from
   It was the Mennonite Brethren who          reform of the old church and engaged in       simply baptizing everyone at a set age in
insisted on two churches; in so doing they    aggressive evangelism within his church.      the other church? How different is a once
maintained in essence – whether con-          His efforts, however, brought a significant   saved but later wayward teen age member
sciously or not - the Anabaptist under-       increase to the ranks of the Mennonite        of the Mennonite Brethren church from an
standing of a true believers’ church.         Brethren.3 Taken together, these views        adult church member in the other church
Almost all of these Mennonite Brethren,       might be seen as the response to the Men-     who has never been saved and cares little
or at least their parents, had earlier been   nonite Brethren view that the old church      about the Christian life? How often has
kirchlich, to use their term. But then they   reconsider the nature of the church.          the pressure to be saved and baptized led
had crossed over and been re-baptized by         Aside from military exemption during       to young people being saved over and
immersion because, in their view,             war there were no ‘Mennonite privileges’      over again? (When asked about this, A.H.
Bekehrung, a personal experience of the       associated with church membership in          Unruh, Mennonite Brethren leader of an
new birth at a specific time and place, had   Canada. But all those who had been            earlier time, deflected the question by
not been seen as requisite for baptism and    catechized and baptized in Russia re-         suggesting it was better to be saved many
church membership in the existing             mained in the church and all of the young     times than not at all.)
church. Rather, all who had been born and     people continued to be baptized.4 Clearly,      While I am not suggesting that the
raised in Mennonite homes were, at a          this was not acceptable to the Mennonite      concerns of each side cancel out the
more or less set age, instructed over a       Brethren. They worshiped initially with       concerns of the other, I am suggesting that
period of weeks or months in the Menno-       the other side much as Mennonites today       each side can learn from the other.
nite catechism and then baptized and          might ‘worship’ with churches that reject
received into the church, usually on Pen-                                                   Endnotes
                                              nonresistance or practice infant baptism –    1
                                                                                              Quoted in John B. Toews, With Courage to
tecost Sunday. In essence, this constituted   as in the recent Franklin Graham Festival     Spare. (Winnipeg: The Board of Christian
a universal rite of passage into adulthood.   in Winnipeg - without being prepared to       Literature of the General Conference of the
The result was a mixed church lacking in      form one church with them. Martin             Mennonite Brethren Churches of North
discipline. Mennonite Brethren leader                                                       America, 1978) p. 83.
                                              Hamm, writing about the 1920s settlers in     2
                                                                                              For a fuller explanation and assessment of
B.B. Janz noted that he had joined the        the LaGlace, Alberta area, shows how a        their views on the subject see Abraham
Mennonite Brethren because in the             set conversion was central to the Menno-      Friesen, In Defense of Privilege (Winnipeg:
existing church “…one already knew that       nite Brethren. The settlers at first met in   Kindred Productions, 2006) Chapter 7.
the child in the crib would join the church   various homes. After awhile the Menno-          Helmut T. Huebert, Events and People (Win-
between the ages of seventeen to twenty-                                                    nipeg: Springfield Publishers, 1999) p. 51-52.
                                              nite Brethren decided to organize. “We        4
                                                                                              Indeed, one young man told me not long ago
one. That is Volkskirche.”1 Apparently the    agreed”, he writes, “that each one would      that in the General Conference congregation of
situation had developed because in Russia     relate the story of his conversion. That      his youth all of the young people were
one could not partake of the Mennonite        way we would get to know each other           baptized in grade 12, while, as he came to
‘privileges’ - one could not marry, one                                                     realize, in the neighbouring M.B. congregation
                                              better. It took several Sundays until we      people were baptized “whenever”.
could not own land, one could not gain        were finished. How this bound us              5
                                                                                              Martin Hamm, Aus der alten in die neue
exemption from the military - unless one      together! There were also some who now        Heimat (Winnipeg: Christian Press) p. 81.
were a member of the church.
Page 6
                                              Mennonite Genealogy Inc. (MGI)                  Jakob Janzen Diary (1916-1925)
                                              T    he MGI collection is by far the largest
                                                   collection acquired by the Mennonite
                                                                                              by Edward Enns
                                              Heritage Centre in recent years. MGI was
                                              the only organization in Canada (and
                                              possibly anywhere in the world) that
                                                                                              J   akob Janzen (1889-1963), originally of
                                                                                                  Rudnerweide in the Molotschna
                                                                                              Colony, emigrating to Mexico in 1924
                                              worked exclusively at helping individuals       and then to Springridge, Alberta in 1926,
                                              research Mennonite genealogy and family         was very keen on keeping a diary of
                                              history. The collection is likely the largest   events around him, as well as of daily
MHC Projects                                  Mennonite genealogical collection any-          personal experiences and thinking. In this
                                              where in the world. The collection              diary from 1916 to 1925 he misses only
National Catalogue Cooperative Program                                                        two days in the first four years.
T    he Heritage Centre has hired Joanne      includes a 200,000 card index file, over
                                              300 Mennonite-related periodicals, 37              He possibly wrote six diaries of varying
     Moyer for a 9-week project which                                                         lengths between 1911 and 1946, this one
consists of re-describing and updating the    maps, ca. 1500 photographs, ca. 1500
                                              family registers and 21 filing cabinet          being the most extensive, covering his
descriptions of 24 small collections which                                                    time in an alternative service forestry
are significant for studying Canadian         drawers of family, community, and
                                              church-related historical materials. The        camp followed by his taking over the
Mennonites. The funding for the project                                                       family farm, including the experiences
came through a cooperative grant              collection contains genealogical inform-
                                              ation for Canadian Mennonites of Dutch,         during the revolution and the famine and
proposal that the Association for Mani-                                                       epidemic and finally their emigration to
toba Archives submitted to the National       North German, Prussian and Russian
                                              ancestry. They are important to people of       Mexico in 1924.
Archival Development Program.                                                                    The diary is contained in a hard-cover
  The collection descriptions are being       this ancestry who currently live in North
                                              or South America as well as Europe.             ledger-sized book of just under 500 pages.
entered into a national catalogue of                                                          He wrotes in Gothic German in small
archival holdings which is accessible at         Some parts of the collection will be
                                              integrated with existing collections at the     script crowded from edge to edge and top, which includes                                                         to bottom, always compressing the last
descriptions of archival holdings from        Heritage Centre (i.e. books, periodicals
                                              and maps) and duplicates shared with            few lines into minute and frequently
across Canada. The full inventory listing                                                     illegible words. Water damage has wiped
will also be on our Centre’s website at:      other Mennonite archival centres. Plans
                                              are also being made to scan the card index      out the lower corners of many pages. He                                                              used a considerable number of Russian
  Among the collections which are             file for ease of access by computer and
                                              also to share with other Centres.               words and expressions and practically
already completed are the papers of Anna                                                      ignored punctuation except for commas.
Baerg (1897-1972), Esther (Klaassen)             The Centre is very grateful to MGI
                                              Board of Directors who saw the                     In 1916 and most of 1917 he served in a
Bergen (1921-2005), Jacob Gerbrandt                                                           forestry camp near Kasan, northeast of
(1888-1963), Jacob J. Hildebrandt (1880-      importance of donating the collection to
                                              our Centre where it will continue to be         Moscow. He served primarily as a cook
1976), C.C. Neufeld (1906-1977), I.G.                                                         which included much time spent in
Neufeld (1910-1991) and many more.            used as it was intended.              A.R.
                                                                                              finding and buying supplies in
                                                                                              surrounding towns. He was also the camp
                                                                                              handyman who repaired shoes, cut hair,
                                                                                              soldered, sharpened saws, did carpentry
                                                                                              work, repaired watches and did accounts.
                                                                                              Prior to this he had done a term of
                                                                                              alternative service at the Bethania Mental
                                                                                              Institute (recorded in a pre-1916 diary).
                                                                                                 Janzen was a committed pacifist, a
                                                                                              stance that was sorely tested during the
                                                                                              time of the revolution and the marauding
                                                                                              bandits. When the Selbstschutz (self-
                                                                                              defense unit) was organized in the
                                                                                              Mennonite villages, Janzen and his
                                                                                              brothers and the majority of Rudnerweide
                                                                                              men refused to join and ironically
                                                                                              suffered harassment from their fellow
                                                                                              Mennonites who did join, as well as from
                                                                                              some clergy, but they stood their ground.
                                                                                              However, during the fighting in their area
                                                                                              between the opposing forces, they did
Joanne Moyer, archival assistant, displaying one of the most unusual and surprising           transport prisoners and wounded soldiers
discoveries in one of the MHC small collections – 4.9 million Deutsch Mark!!! Tucked away     away from and towards the battle lines.
in the collection of C.C. Neufeld was an envelope with 49 banknotes each with a value of         Janzen describes their community and
100,000 DM. These Weimar Republic German Reichbanknotes dated 1 February 1923
were issued during a period of hyperinflation. Photo credit: Conrad Stoesz                    farming difficulties during the civil war
                                                                                                                           (cont’d on p. 5)
                                                                                                                               Page 7
Farewell to a Faithful                        Documenting Institutional
Servant                                       Change

W      hat do you say when a faithful
       companion of almost 130 years
dies? Do you grieve or do you celebrate
                                              C     hurch institutions and agencies
                                                    constantly change—but often we fail
                                              to properly document these changes—no
its long life? Do you protest its death or    matter how important they may be.
do you look forward to how it can             However sometimes people think of
continue to serve.                            documenting important changes and that
   With such mixed emotions a group of        makes historians and archivists very
some 50 people gathered in the Centre for     happy.
Mennonite Brethren Studies on January            A good example is the change from
30 to say goodbye, and yet celebrate, the     Concord       College     and     Canadian
closing of the Mennonitische Rundschau.       Mennonite Bible College to the present-
   The reasons for its closure were due to    day Canadian Mennonite University. In
declining subscriptions—as was noted in       between was the transition college called
our December 2006 issue, page 7.              Mennonite College Federation which also
   There were some wonderful testi-           included Menno Simons College. The
monials at the event noting the Rund-         records of Mennonite College Federation
schau’s heart-felt ministry to immigrant      and Concord College it appears, at this
Mennonites from Russia, and then more         writing, will receive a federal government
recently German-speaking Mennonite            grant to hire a student to properly archive
Brethren mostly in Canada. Together with      and write a detailed finding aid to their
cake and coffee we said goodbye and yet       contents.
were amazed at the more than 80,000              Important transitions such as this can
pages of ministry the Mennonitische           very easily be lost in the “mists of time.”   North End Chapels at Burrows and Andrew
Rundschau represents.                         Then many years later someone is looking      (See Abe Dueck’s article this issue) Photo
                                                                                            credit: CMBS NP20-1-4 and NP18-1-7.
   However, there still is life beyond the    for important information, or perhaps
grave. Given its incredible documentation     writing the story of the agency or            Come Celebrate: The First
of the thousands of people the paper          institution, and the search begins for the
witnessed to, the Centre is committing        transition records.                           Mennonite Brethren “City
itself to moving forward the indexing            Al Doerksen was the chair of the           Church” in Canada
project it began earlier. Ed Lenzmann, a      Mennonite College Federation and it was
volunteer from Winnipeg, together with a
number of other individuals, will work at
indexing its contents so that scholars,
                                              his clear vision and intent that these
                                              records be carefully kept and then
                                              transferred to the Centre so that the
                                                                                            E    veryone is welcome June 1 - 3, 2007
                                                                                                 as the Mennonite Brethren Churches
                                                                                            of Manitoba celebrate the centennial of
genealogists and church historians will       important story they tell be made             the first Mennonite Brethren city church,
have better access to its contents. The       available to future researchers. We thank     and as far as we know the first Mennonite
completed indices will be made available      Al for his diligence and foresight.           city church, in Canada. Events include:
freely on the Centre website.        KR                                               KR      A Friday evening gathering with stories
                                                                                            and singing in the old North End Menno-
                                                                                            nite Brethren Church (now Heritage
                                                                                            Baptist), 621 College Ave., Winnipeg
                                                                                            beginning at 7:30 PM, June 1, 2007.
                                                                                              A bus tour of historic Mennonite
                                                                                            Brethren sites in Winnipeg beginning at
                                                                                            1:00 PM Saturday, June 2, 2007.
                                                                                            Departure from the Elmwood Mennonite
                                                                                            Brethren Church parking lot. (2 ½ hours)
                                                                                              Banquet, celebration and inspiration of
                                                                                            Mennonite Brethren Church planting in
                                                                                            Manitoba at the North Kildonan
                                                                                            Mennonite Brethren Church, 6:30 PM
                                                                                            Saturday, June 2, 2007.
                                                                                              A Sunday afternoon public service of
                                                                                            music and stories at the Elmwood MB
                                                                                            Church, 3:00 PM, June 3, 2007.
                                                                                              Contact Dan Block at the Manitoba
                                                                                            Mennonite Brethren Conference offices at
Event celebrating the ministry of the Mennonitische Rundschau held at the Centre on         (204) 654-5777 or Ken Reddig (204) 669-
January 30, 2007. Photo credit: Lorie Mayer.
                                                                                            6575 for further details.
Page 8
Winnipeg Mennonite Brethren                   Brethren in Winnipeg was at 584 Talbot         Tilitzky reported on a visit by Brother and
(cont’d from p. 1)                            Ave. (then Central Ave.), beginning at         Sister Franz Wiens as well as J. Ewert.
cars soon made their way across the           least as early as Easter, 1906. The first      Frank and Agnes Wiens presumably were
bridge, connecting via Kelvin St. (later      known Mennonite family to move to              the couple who later served as mission-
Henderson Hwy.) and Midwinter Ave.            Winnipeg was the Bernhard Tilitzky             aries in China from 1911 to 1940. A
with the Louise Bridge. By 1914 the           family, coming sometime in 1905 and liv-       regular morning service was held and the
population of East Kildonan, not yet a        ing at 713 McCallum Ave. They moved to         evening service was held in “a small
part of Winnipeg, was over 3,000 and the      Winnipeg from Winkler where they had           chapel”, possibly a mission chapel of the
railcars traveled all the way to Foxgrove.    lived for about a year after arriving from     German Baptist Church. On Tuesday
   In 1919 the Greater Winnipeg Aqueduct      Rosenthal, Russia (Chortitza colony) in        evening Wiens spoke in the German
to Shoal Lake was completed. That was         1904. About the same time several others       Baptist Church.
also the year of the Winnipeg General         arrived, including the Peter Ewert family,       A report on 20 January 1909, by Jakob
Strike.                                       also originally from Rosenthal and living      Ewert gives information about his visit to
   These were some of the circumstances       at 580-584 Talbot (now the site of the         Winnipeg in December, during a time
that formed the context for the arrival of    Serbian Orthodox Church), the Frank            when H. S. Voth and Peter Neufeld were
the first Mennonite Brethren into Winni-      Ewerts (563 Chalmers), and the David           ministering to the group. A small chapel
peg. They were also the first Mennonites      Penners (720 Talbot). The Peter Ewerts         had been rented which continued to be
in Winnipeg and the first Mennonites in       operated a small sausage factory adjacent      used. On 13 December a service was held
Canada to establish themselves in a major     to their home.                                 in the home of the Tilitzkys and Peter
urban environment. Winnipeg eventually           The Peter Ewert home was quite large        Penner from Herbert also preached.
became the city with the largest Menno-       and had a room that could accommodate            In October, 1909 Anna Tilitzky in-
nite population of any major urban centre     at least 40 people and was used as an          formed readers about a Thanksgiving
in the world. The three founding              assembly room for some time, at least          service in the home of Peter Ewert.
Mennonite Brethren churches in Winni-         until 1909. The first report of a group        Johann Warkentin and a Brother
peg were the North End (Elmwood),             meeting for a service was from “Louise         Karlenzig preached at the service. One
which was the “mother” church, South          Bridge” and was published in the               sermon was in Russian.
End (Portage Avenue), and North               Zionsbote on 2 May 1906. Bernhard                It is clear, therefore, that the Louise
Kildonan churches. In the early years a       Tilitzky reported that a group was             Bridge/Elmwood area was an important
number of nearby rural churches (e.g.,        gathering every Sunday at 2:00 p.m. in the     centre for the early Mennonite Brethren in
Domain) also functioned as affiliates of      home of Peter Ewerts for Sunday School         Winnipeg. After 1909, however, the
the North End church.                         with some 40 children in attendance. The       centre of activity shifted to another area of
   Mennonites came to rural Manitoba          report also stated that H.S. Voth and P. H.    the city, the North End, which since 1908
long before the turn of the century. The      Neufeld from Winkler had ministered to         was linked with the Elmwood area by the
first group of Mennonites arrived in          them during Easter week.                       Redwood Bridge.
Manitoba beginning in 1873 and soon              The next information comes from the         2. The North End
established what became known as the          diary of H.S. Voth, who reported that on         The shift of the centre of Mennonite
East Reserve (east of the Red River,          22 December 1906, he boarded a street          Brethren activity to the North End is not
including the Steinbach area) and the         car and made his way to the Ewerts.            well documented, but seems to have
West Reserve (west of the Red River in        Finding no one home, he went to the            begun around 1910. The first official
areas around Winkler and Altona). They        Tilitzky home for lunch and stayed there       minutes of the North End Mennonite
came from Russia via the United States.       the following night. The next day, which       Brethren Church are dated 20 May 1909
The last leg of their journey was onboard     was Sunday, he went to the Peter Ewerts        and took place in the home of John
a steamer on the Red River, which first       for a service, then stayed for lunch and for   Trottno. Thereafter regular sets of minutes
docked in Winnipeg for supplies before        the Sunday School in the afternoon.            were kept in the Gothic script. Although
establishing themselves in rural Manitoba.    Another service was held in the evening        the homes where congregational meetings
   The first Mennonite Brethren church in     with good attendance.                          took place and where services were held
Manitoba was established in 1888 in              More than a year later, on 29 April         are often identified the exact locations of
Burwalde near Winkler. It resulted from       1908, a report written by Anna Tilitzky,       many are hard to determine.
evangelistic efforts of Heinrich Voth, who    also posted from Louise Bridge, appeared.        One of the interesting developments in
came to Manitoba as a result of a decision    It again referred to Easter services with      the years from 1910 is that the names that
by the U.S. Conference in 1883. The           visiting ministers Jakob Ewert and Peter       appear in the minutes and other records
Winkler Mennonite Brethren Church,            Neufeld from Winkler. A service was held       are often not the usual Mennonite names.
therefore, became the mother church of        at the Tilitzky residence on Good Friday.      Some of the names that appear in the
the Mennonite Brethren in Manitoba as         Services were also held on Easter Sunday       various minutes of 1909 and 1910 are
well as Canada. It was also the church that   and from Tuesday to Thursday in the            Trottno, Hunza, Reich, Schott, Horch,
nurtured the early development of the first   evenings and a small prayer meeting on         Huget, Mandau, Reich, Murtin, Pauli,
truly urban Mennonite church in Canada.       Friday. The following Sunday Jakob             Schlimming, Munsil (or Mumsel). The
                                              Ewert ministered to the group. The report      other names are mostly those involved in
1. Elmwood/Louise Bridge (1906-1009)          concluded by stating that they were a          the earlier records– Jakob Ewert, Peter
(Peter Ewerts)                                small group which met every Sunday             Neufeld, Peter Ewert, B. Tilitzky, Frank
  The first meeting place for Mennonite       morning and evening.                           Ewert, Johan Warkentin (as moderator).
                                                 Later that year (12 August 1908) Anna       Evidently a significant shift had taken
                                                                                                                                  Page 9
place and new individuals were taking         23, 1917, the new hall was dedicated,          was one of several established in major
important leadership roles.                   although only the first floor (basement)       cities in Canada. It grew from very small
   In terms of places of worship, the         was completed and the remainder was            beginnings and gradually expanded and
record is somewhat confusing. According       never built. This building is still in         moved to new addresses on Boyd and
to the minutes of 21 December 1909, two       existence and is used as a meat shop.          Mountain Avenues. (413 Boyd -1928; 398
individuals, W.A. Huget and J. Trottno,          In the meantime another significant step    Mountain-1929; 437 Mountain-1931).
were asked to find a suitable place for       was taken when Anna Thiessen was               The ministry of this home met an impor-
worship in the area of Selkirk and Bur-       invited by Bestvater to help with the          tant need and shaped the lives of many
rows. The minutes of 10 February 1910         missionary work in the city, since the         women until it finally closed in 1959.
indicate that the group approved the          ministry had grown and the needs were          2. South End
purchase of a house for $1,500, offered by    great. In December 1915, she arrived in           A number of Mennonite Brethren and
John Trottno. The exact location is not       Winnipeg and soon she was busy with            other Mennonites began settling south of
known, but it was in the vicinity of          Sunday School work, house and hospital         the CPR tracks, particularly some of those
Burrows and Selkirk and probably was at       visitation, sewing classes, tract distribu-    who came in the 1920s. These found it
the corner of Burrows and Andrews. A          tion, etc. Music also became a strong          more difficult to make their way to the
building committee was also formed, but       component of worship and ministry,             North End since they were often without
it is not clear whether anything concrete     particularly as the Horch family joined the    automobiles and public transportation was
followed. In January the group offered to     North End group.                               limited. This prompted them to schedule
pay Peter Ewert for the previous use of          In 1921 the Bestvaters left to go to        separate services in various homes from
his house. At some point Johann               Herbert and teach in the Bible school          time to time. But as the group grew in
Warkentin of Winkler purchased the            there and the Erdman Nikkels replaced          number the need for a regular place of
empty lot at the corner of Burrows and        them for a short while. Four years later, in   worship grew. The first regular meeting
Andrews and also purchased a small            1925, the C.N. Hieberts were invited to        place of the South End group, beginning
chapel which was moved to the site from       assume the task as city missionaries           in 1928, was a rented United Church (pre-
St. Vital in 1911 (Neufeld, p. 37), al-       (parents of Esther Horch).                     viously the Pt. Douglas Presbyterian) at
though Anna Thiessen states that it began        The mid-1920s brought a major chal-         95 MacDonald, not far from the CPR
to be used in 1913 (p.15).                    lenge to the Winnipeg church as the            station. This building was erected in 1906.
   In 1913 an important decision was          Mennonite refugees from Russia began           (See Mennonitsche Rundschau, 12 Nov
made to strengthen the work in Winnipeg.      arriving in Canada. Many of them stopped       1930 and report of Peter Kornelsen in
William Bestvater from Mountain Lake,         in Winnipeg for a time or made Winnipeg        Anna Thiessen scrapbook).
Minnesota, was appointed as city mission-     their permanent home. This resulted in a          Although the reasons are not stated, the
ary by the Northern District Conference       very rapid growth of the church. By 1929       group moved to another site late in 1930.
(Canadian Conference). The Bestvaters         the group was in dire need of a larger         The church met at 41 Maple St., only
arrived in October when there were 22         place of worship and a new church was          about a block from the previous address,
members in the group. According to Anna       built at 621 College Ave. This location        until 1932 or early 1933. The church
Thiessen there was only one “Mennonite”       was the home of the mother Mennonite           which they rented was called the All
in the group. What had happened to the        Brethren Church of Winnipeg for the next       People’s Mission (1904). Later it became
others? Had they moved or had they gone       25 years. In 1954 the church finally           a Baptist Mission Church. When the lease
elsewhere? Why?                               returned to the area where it was birthed–     terminated in 1933, the church apparently
   Whatever the circumstances, the group      the Elmwood area, in the heart of the          met at a number of locations, including a
grew rapidly after the arrival of Bestvater   quadrant of the city in which most of the      second floor location on Princess St., a
so that within a year they needed more        Mennonites had settled in the meantime.        Kindergarten room at 294 Ellen (now
space. It also becomes clear that there was   It was also only a few blocks from the         Chief Cornerstone House), and possibly
increasing interaction with the First         headquarters of Mennonite Brethren             Logan and Ellen (268 Ellen).
German Baptist Church, which became           institutional and conference life for both        After a lengthy search, the church was
McDermot Ave. Baptist Church (located         Manitoba and Canada. The Mennonite             finally able to purchase its own property
at McDermot and Tecumseh, earlier             Brethren Bible College was founded in          at 344 Ross Ave., in June, 1933, where it
Monkman). The building, which is still in     1944 and was located at 77 Kelvin St.          remained until 1940. Several years later,
use today, was dedicated in 1908. This        Next door was the Mennonite Brethren           in 1936, the South End Mennonite
church, however, also had a number of         Collegiate Institute, founded in 1947.         Brethren Church became an independent
other mission stations, including a North     Other agencies such as Christian Press
End Chapel and an Elmwood Chapel              and Gospel Light also established their
(anniversary book). The North End             homes in the area.
Chapel was located at Manitoba and               But the mid-1920s also brought another
McKenzie. The Baptist church agreed to        significant development. In 1925 the Mis-
rent the chapel to the Mennonite Brethren     sion to Young Girls (Mary Martha Home)
group and they used it from 1914 until        began at 608 Mountain Ave. This was
September 1917.                               essentially the work of Anna Thiessen, the
   In 1916 the Conference decided to build    matron of the home. The home became a
its own mission hall in Winnipeg. Work        residence and meeting place for many
was soon begun at the previous site on        young girls who came to the city to find       Maple Street mission later South End MB
Burrows and Andrews and on September          work, mostly as domestics. This home           now Pilgrim Baptist Church.
Page 10
church and was no longer an affiliate of                                                       Tombstone of Mennonite
the North End Church. In 1940 the church
had again outgrown its facility and moved                                                      Brethren founder located.
to William and Juno, the site of a former                                                      by Katherine Martens
Methodist and United Church. After two
decades at this site, a more drastic step
was taken with a move to 1420 Portage
Ave. in 1961. The church soon became
                                                                                               O    n 10 October 2006, at 9:09 a.m.
                                                                                                    Helen and Ed Wiens, and Gert and
                                                                                               Katherine Martens, all passengers on the
named the Portage Avenue Mennonite                                                             Mennonite Heritage Cruise left Dnepro-
Brethren Church. Those who decided to                                                          petrovsk, Ukraine to look for Wiesenfeld.
remain at William and Juno became the                                                          It was the village which Gert’s great great
Central Mennonite Brethren Church.                                                             grandparents, Jakob and Wilhelmine
3. North Kildonan                                                                              Reimer founded.
   The North Kildonan Mennonite Breth-                                                            Together with Viktor our translator and
ren Church had its beginnings at about the                                                     driver we drove north but eventually
same time and for similar reasons as the                                                       turned east in the direction of Donetsk and
South End group. Some new immigrants                                                           then south on the road to Limanskoe. We
had begun settling on small acreages in                                                        saw the valley Wiesenfelder had written
the area much of which was still heavily                                                       about, that lay west of the former village.
wooded. In 1928 they began to meet in                                                          We then headed for the village of
private homes because the distance to the                                                      Oktyabrskoe.
North End congregation was too great.                                                             When we saw three men working in
They first met in the home of J. J. Klassen     Gert Martens of Winnipeg beside his great-     their front yard, our driver stopped the
                                                great-grandparents’ tombstone.                 van and asked them if they knew of a
on Edison Ave., under the leadership of
Gerhard Klassen.                                            ***********                        former Mennonite village nearby. One
   The group quickly increased in size and                                                     man said he knew that his neighbour a
in 1929 they erected their first church           MB: McDermot Avenue Baptist Church,          few doors over had a Mennonite
                                                  1989.                                        tombstone from earlier times and he could
building on Edison Ave. Rapid growth            Thiessen, Anna. “Die Enstehung und Ent-
continued for the next several decades so         wikelung     der   Mennoniten      Brueder   take us there. He walked us over to the
that a series of additions followed until a       Gemeinde in Winnipeg, 1907-1966.”            fence beside the gate and pulled a plank
large new church was erected at 217               Unpublished manuscript, CMBS, nd.            away from a pillar that stood beside the
                                                Thiessen, Anna. The City Mission in Winnipeg   gate. We crowded around it and began to
Kingsford in 1957.                              Warkentin, Lawrence. “Beginnings of the
   For a number of years the North Kildo-         Mennonite Brethren Church in Winnipeg,
                                                                                               read the inscription on the side of the
nan church together with the South End            Manitoba.” Mennonite Historian, XXX, 4       stone facing us as follows:
church functioned as affiliates of the            (December, 2004):1;6.                                    Durch Kreuz zur Krone
                                                Zionsbote                                            [Kreuz was in the shape of a cross]
North End church with a common gover-                                                                     Hier ruhen unsere Eltern
nance structure. Other small nearby rural       Abe Dueck is the former director of the                    Jakob und Wilhelmine
groups, such as the one at Springstein,                                                                            Reimer
                                                Centre for MB Studies in Winnipeg.                             geborne Strauß
also related to the North End Church. The
                                                                                                    geb. 29. Januar 1818 - 22. April 1818
North Kildonan Church became inde-                                                             gest. am 13 Nov. 1891-gest. am 11. Nov. 1889
pendent in 1938, two years after the South                                                            Funfzig Jahre gemeinsam tragen
End Church had taken that step.                                                                       Durch manch Leiden Christi Tod
4. Rundschau Publishing House                                                                         Macht das nun, wir Kinder sagen:
                                                                                                       "Tod sind sie und leben doch!"
(Christian Press)
                                                                                                 While I was reading the inscription I
   When the Mennonitische Rundschau
                                                                                               clapped my hands with joy and a wave of
first was transferred to Winnipeg from
                                                                                               emotion swept over me. The persons
Scottdale, PA, it was located at 672
                                                                                               whose tombstone we had been led to so
Arlington, where it remained until it
                                                                                               miraculously were Gert’s paternal great-
moved to 157 Kelvin St. in January, 1951.
                                                                                               great-grandparents. Jakob and Wilhelmine
Sources                                                                                        Reimer who founded the village of
Artibise, Alan. Winnipeg: A Social History of                                                  Wiesenfeld in 1880.
   Urban Growth, 1873-1914. Montreal, PQ:
   McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1975.                                                        Viktor asked the farmer if he could
Dueck, Abe. “Rewriting History:Alberta and                                                     show us the place where he had found the
   Manitoba Mennonite Brethren.” Mennonite             A Film by Otto Klassen                  tombstone. He drove with us and pointed
   Historian, XXVII,4 (December, 2001):5.                 Premiere Showing                     to a place in an open field of winter
Fiftieth Anniversary of the Mennonite
   Settlement in North Kildonan. n.p., 1978.
                                                    Sunday, 15 April 2007 7:00 p.m.            wheat. With our map we could then tell
Neufeld, William. From Faith to Faith: The                                                     where the village street had been. It was
   History of the Manitoba Mennonite             Springfield Heights Mennonite Church          now a trail about a kilometre or more
   Brethren Church. Winnipeg, MB: Kindred                   570 Sharron Bay                    running south to north. Our Ukrainian
   Press,1989.                                            Winnipeg, Manitoba                   guide pointed to depressions in the ground
Rogalski, Maria. 100 Years and Growing:
   Celebrating a Century of Grace. Winnipeg,                                                                             (cont’d on p. 11)
                                                                                                                            Page 11
Book Notes                                   page supplement, published by Bertha          Diakonisches Werk Teltow-Fläming e.V.,
                                             Toews in 2004.                                2005) is a modest 105-page two-in-one
by Adolf Ens                                    My Life Story in Brief by Jakob A.         booklet gathering memories of the

T    he following East European items        Loewen, written at Kaluga, Russia, in         experiences of German settlers in the
     will be of interest to many readers.    1996 is available in coil-bound format        USSR, especially during World War II,
   Adalbert Goertz, “Zur Einrichtung der     (8½ x 11, 61 pages) and in English            and describing the slow integration into
Grund- und Hypothekenakten – 1783 –          translation by Gerhard I. Peters (58          German society of those who have
Klein Lublin, Amt Graudenz,” is a 14-        pages). Loewen (1903-2001) voluntarily        returned to the land of their ancestors.
                                             remained in the USSR when his parents         While dealing primarily with the Volga
page reprint from Altpreuβische Ge-
                                             and family emigrated to Canada in the         German settlement, there are many par-
schlechterkunde. It illustrates the rich
                                             1920s. Making his way in scientific and       allels with the experiences of Mennonite
source of family information that can be
                                             academic circles as a “German” geologist      Aussiedler in Germany, and more recently
found in West Prussian mortgage and
                                             was never easy, and especially difficult      in a number of communities (like Winkler
inheritance “contracts.” Readers who find
                                             during World War II. “I paid a lot of         and Steinbach) in Canada.
ordinary German texts difficult to navi-
                                             attention to the police,” he writes. Yet,
gate (let alone old German technical legal
                                             looking back on his life, he says “I must     Tombstone
ones) but are interested in such sources                                                   (cont’d from p. 10)
                                             admit that it was good.” He and his wife
should check Goertz’s articles (similar to                                                 where there had been basements or more
                                             of 62 years “had a good (ignoring the bad)
the one above, but in English) in Menno-                                                   likely wells and/or root cellars. He found
                                             and happy life.” Loewen’s story provides
nite Family History back to the year 2000.                                                 remnants of red bricks which he gave us.
                                             a perspective on life in the USSR seldom
   The East German Genealogical Society                                                       Through Viktor, the farmer explained
                                             portrayed by Mennonite memoirists.
and the Federation of East European                                                        that he had moved the tombstone to his
                                                John Jacob Bergen, A Slice out of My
Family History Societies held their annual                                                 yard in the village because the plow
                                             Life (Edmonton: by the Author, 2006) had
Conference in Winnipeg in Summer 2006.                                                     would eventually have damaged the stone
                                             his first birthday at the Lechfeld barracks
The 129-page Conference Syllabus con-                                                      where it stood in what is now an open
                                             in Bavaria, Germany, where his family
tains a wide variety of useful information                                                 field. Gert used a Global Positioning to
                                             stopped over on their way to Canada in
for family and group studies of people                                                     get the following coordinates: the field
                                             1923 from Neuendorf, Chortitza, South
from Hungary, Prussia, Poland and                                                          where the tombstone was before it was
                                             Russia. An educator and academic,
Russia. Included are two papers on the                                                     moved is at N48° 30.930'; E 35° 36.691;
                                             Bergen taught in various schools in
Hutterites by retired CMU professor, John                                                  the northern edge of trees lining the
                                             Manitoba before joining the Faculty of
J. Friesen.                                                                                former village is at N 48° 31.382'; E 35°
                                             Education at the University of Alberta in
   Sergej Terojochin, Deutsche Architek-                                                   36.473'. Directions to the site of the
                                             Edmonton. This 284-page memoir is of
tur an der Wolga (Berlin: Westkreuz-                                                       former village of Wiesenfeld from Oktya-
                                             interest to the larger public because of
Verlag GmbH, 1993), 88 pages, is an                                                        brske are: 2 km north, then 1.5 km east
                                             Bergen’s deep commitment and service to
illustrative survey of architecture in the                                                 and 0.5 km south.
                                             the Mennonite church and the larger
German colonies of the Volga River                                                            It should be noted that Jakob Reimer
                                             Canadian society. Some of the extensive
region in Russia. The book is translated                                                   (1817-1891) was one of the founders of
                                             appendix material has been published
(into German) from Russian. While it                                                       the Mennonite Brethren Church in Russia.
                                             earlier elsewhere.
deals largely with German Catholic,                                                        Inspired by the revival preaching of
                                                Readers who are acquainted with
Lutheran and Reformed colonies, there                                                      Eduard Wüst he joined the revival
                                             Norman Unrau’s Those Were the Days
are some references to the Am Trakt                                                        movement in the late 1840s and promoted
                                             (2002) may be interested in his new
Mennonite settlement.                                                                      it on his travels in the Mennonite churches
                                             Paraguay Connection (NP: by the author,
   Three sets of memoirs, recently pub-                                                    with Johannes Claassen and Wilhelm
                                             2007), pb, 124 pp. Unrau joined the
lished in limited editions, provide a                                                      Bartel. Gradually his group left the large
                                             Canadian army in 1948 after he had
spectrum of Mennonite experience in                                                        church and founded the Mennonite Breth-
                                             contemplated joining the Manitoba
Russia, the USSR and Canada. Gerhard                                                       ren. On 21 May 1861 he was baptized by
                                             Mennonites who were leaving for
P. Froese (1867–1955) grew up near                                                         immersion by Heinrich Hübert. He was
                                             Paraguay to find a new home there. Now
Alexandrovsk not far from the Dnieper                                                      one of the signatories of the petition to the
                                             in retirement and having never visited his
River. With a strong interest in milling                                                   government for permission to settle in the
                                             friends and relatives in Sommerfeld and
and farming, Froese was in the                                                             Kuban, which was granted on 4 March
                                             Bergthal colonies in Paraguay, he has
agribusiness in Barwenkowo and after                                                       1864 (See “Reimer, Jakob” in Mennonite
                                             started to piece together their story, both
World War I in the Crimea. The family                                                      Encyclopedia. IV: 277-278.)
                                             those who remained there and those who
was among the last to receive entry                                                           Jakob Reimer made important contri-
                                             returned. Both the text and the numerous
permits into Canada in 1929, living first                                                  butions to the development of the
                                             photos used are of uneven quality, but the
in Winkler and then in Winnipeg.                                                           Mennonite Brethren Church. He opposed
                                             reader gets a glimpse into the pioneer
Froese’s Memoirs were transcribed and                                                      the emotional excesses of the early period
                                             hardships and more recent successes of
translated by granddaughters Edith E.                                                      with determination and was excommun-
                                             this segment of “Canadian” Mennonites in
(Wiens) Schmidt and Bertha Toews and                                                       icated for that reason by his opponents. In
                                             Latin America.
published in 2000. (8½ x 11, coil-bound,                                                   the next year he was restored to mem-
                                                Auf der Suche nach Heimat:
323 pages.) A companion piece is                                                           bership and the differences reconciled.
                                             Lebensläufe von Spätaussiedlern and Inte-
Froese’s 39-page diary covering his
                                             grationsprojekt in Niedergörsdorf und         Katherine and Gert Martens live in
alternative service 1889-1890, with an 8-
                                             Wittstock (Niedergörsdorf, Germany:           Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Page 12
Book Reviews                                    Constantinople. Here Mennonite Central            His volume includes three memoirs:
By Lawrence Klippenstein                        Committee set up a refugee centre which         Isaak and Olga Reimer's “Unter dem
                                                could serve the escapees for several years,     Schutz des Höchsten: Elf Jahre in der
Irmgard Epp, ed. Constantinoplers:              and become a point of gathering to make         Verbannung - 1945 – 1955”, “Erinner-
Escape from Bolshevism (Victoria:               plans for moving on to permanent new            ungen aus schweren Zeiten”, by Jakob
Trafford Publishing, 2006), pb., 370 pp.        homes, some in Europe, but mostly in            Bergen (1895-1974). and a section called
                                                North America. The oft-told story of the        “‘Genommen’ - Eine Schwere Nacht”. A

T    he story of how the Civil War in the       “62”, a group of young Mennonite                short piece titled “Andenken” is next, and
     Soviet Union ended, with the flight of     soldiers of the White Army who made it          a brief “Epiloge” concludes the book. We
the last several hundred thousands from         together to the US, belongs to this section.    have before us a needed tribute to some
the Crimean peninsula to Constantinople,          The final part of the book brings in          more families who endured the tortures
is known to many. But first hand accounts       accounts of a number of people (not all         and trials of this experience.
of the fortunate individuals who managed        former White Army soldiers) who did not           The stories of the Reimers take the
to save their lives that way, are less          leave via the Crimea, but went first to         reader to the city of Vorkuta in the Far
readily available. This volume contains         Batum and then on to Constantinople as          North where Isaak (d. 1987) spent time in
several dozen tellings about the exper-         they left the Soviet Union. The harrowing       the Gulag, and Irkutsk in central Siberia,
ience which reflect with deep pathos the        experiences of delay at Ellice Island in the    where Olga (d.1983), Isaak's wife had to
often desperate actions of, and personal        US form a distinctive part of this              endure her term of exile. Both ultimately
feelings about, that traumatic escape.          experience.                                     were reunited in Tadzhikistan, Central
   The first two accounts (Gerhard Wiens          It is interesting to note that the several    Asia, and made their way to Canada in
and John P. Unruh) include useful back-         dozen accounts here do not include much         1966. In Saskatoon is where this reviewer
ground material to create a context for the     reflection on the problem for Mennonites        learned to know them, and from where the
story of Mennonite soldiers who fought in       of pacifist background, of going into           Reimer papers were procured through the
the White Army under General Wrangel,           active military service. It seems fairly        contacts of the late Dr. George K. Epp, to
and how some of them managed to                 clear that the self-defense initiative during   be deposited in the Mennonite Heritage
emigrate from the Soviet Union via              Makhno times, once tacitly or even              Centre in Winnipeg. The total Reimer
Sevastopol and Constantinople. Experi-          openly sanctioned by leading Mennonite          collection at the Centre goes far beyond
ences in army service are dealt with in         ministers and teachers, seemed to leave         the portion included here.
extensive accounts by Peter Gerz, John J.       the door wide open to take up arms and            Reimer’s memoir constitutes the main
Dyck, and Peter D. Froese. While these          not question it too severely as a               section of the volume. Then follows the
do not provide a systematic account of          compromise of the Christian faith.              Bergen piece, subtitled “1917 Krons-
what happened during the final year and           The material is now at hand to write a        garten - GUlag - Karaganda 1955” in six-
months of White Army resistance to the          more comprehensive history of this part         teen short sub-sections, with some photos.
Reds, they do give significant windows          of the Mennonite story, here still much in      Regina, 1964, is cited as the place and
for understanding what Mennonite sol-           fragments large and small, but waiting,         time of writing. Bergen came to Canada a
diers had to contend with in military           along with other data (e.g. the story of the    year before.
service during that period.                     refugee home at Constantinople, which is          Johann Rempel’s “Genommen” is the
   The episode of the so-called Selbst-         available elsewhere), for an integrated         third feature of the volume. Rempel’s
schutz ( Self-defense militia) is not central   account which will surely come some day.        dates are 1887 - 1963. His home origin-
to these reports. However, it is clearly the    The editor is to be commended for man-          ally was Einlage in the Chortitza
most immediate background for Menno-            aging an impressive collection of data.         settlement. This is a 3-page item taken
nite involvement in the White Army. It          Trafford Publishers have done a very            from Der Mennonit where it was first
was the termination of the Selbstschutz         creditable job in getting the book out. The     published in November 1955.
which led to a harsh Red Army                   inclusion of maps (a useful one right on          Heinrich, the editor, is concerned that
prosecution of all Mennonites who had           the cover), photographs and a very              these stories not be forgotten, and
been part of the Selbstschutz, even though      readable type font, is also a plus for the      proposes here, as he has in several other
that body intended itself to be an opposing     project.                                        instances (Der Bote, Sept. 17 and 24,
force only to the Makhno forces, not the                                                        1997), and Chortitza Colony Atlas
Red Army itself. This prosecution led to        Heinrich Bergen, compiler and editor.           (2004), that a special memorial be erected
the flight of hundreds southward from the       Verbannung: Unschuldig nach Sibirien            in the memorial year 2007 (90 years since
into the Crimean peninsula as the Civil         ins Verderben 1935-1955 (Regina, SK:            the Bolshevik Revolution). Zaporozhe
War came to an end.                             By the editor, 2006), pb., 204 pp.              would be a fine site to consider.
   Part Three entitled “The Hollanders’
Desperate Flight”, begins with an account       T    he Mennonite literature dealing with
                                                     exile in the former Soviet Union has
                                                gained the stature of special genre in the
                                                                                                  This review does not begin to note
                                                                                                details in this publication. The stories
                                                                                                need to be read meditatively and with
of a reunion of “Constantinoplers”, in
Yarrrow, BC in June 1952. It was here           sharing of Russian and Soviet experi-           thanks to God for those who endured and
that an attempt to collect written stories      ences. This volume will likely not be the       could share about God's grace taking them
about that fateful experience was started       last to appear in this category. The full       through these ordeals.
in earnest. Then follow a dozen more            story will probably never be told. It is
stories, in the course of which one learns      good that the stories Heinrich Bergen has       Both of these books may be order from the
also about the refugee situation in             included here are now part of the larger        Mennonite Heritage Centre. Contact:
                                                account as well.                      

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