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Mennonite Historian -- Volume XII, No. 3, September 1996


This section has dated archived material

Please see the current Archives pages on our new site.


Only selected articles are published in this electronic format.

©Copyright 1996, Mennonite Historian.


1. Menno Simons 500: A Birthday Anniversary by William Schroeder

2. Genealogy and Family History by Alf Redekopp

a. Queries
b. Recent Books
c. Genealogical Resources

3. Mennonite Heritage Centre News by Lawrence Klippenstein

a. New Mennonite Sources from Russia and Ukraine
b. Recent Archival Contacts in the FSU

4. Centre for Mennonite Brethren Studies News by Abe Dueck

a. CMBS Recent Events
b. Alberta Mennonite High School Reunion
c. Summer Projects
d. Saskatchewan Records Transferred to CMBS

5. The EMBs I Wonder... by Cal Redekop

a. Response to Cal Redekop by Abe Dueck

6. The Alexanderwohl Mennonite Church: Some Historical Notes by William Schroeder

7. Call for Papers

8. Book Reviews

Menno Simons: 500th Birthday Anniversary

by William Schroeder

In the sixteenth century Europe was a place of uncertainly and change. Martin Luther had challenged the mightiest power on earth in his day, the Roman Catholic Church, causing many people to abandon that medieval institution and to follow him in his teachings. However, the torch of the Reformation did not remain there but was taken up by other reformers who modified Luther's teachings in some important respects and soon gained a following of their own.

The Anabaptists in Zurich, led by Conrad Grebel, constituted such a group. They advocated a personal faith in Christ, adult baptism and separation of church and state. Persecution compelled them to flee to neighbouring countries and so to spread Anabaptist ideas. In the Netherlands one of their converts, Menno Simons, became their leader and in the course of time the whole movement adopted his name.

Menno Simons was born in Witmarsum, Friesland, in 1496, four years after Columbus discovered America. 1 In 1520, at the age of twenty-four, he was ordained as priest and assigned to the Catholic Church in the village of Pingjum, two kilometres northwest of Witmarsum.

Menno was a successful and contented priest before a series of events brought about a crisis and radical change in his way of life. First, while carrying out his usual priestly duties, doubts came to him about the reality of a miracle transpiring with the Mass. Did the bread and wine he was using actually change into the body of Christ? When these doubts persisted, Menno discussed his personal perplexity and doubt with his superior. He searched the writings of the Church Fathers and the Reformers but none could offer a satisfactory solution to his questions.

Finally, and with great apprehension, Menno decided to search diligently in the New Testament, a book he had never read before. He was surprised to discover that the Bible taught nothing of the traditional teaching of the Church on the Mass.

The second event that changed Menno's life occurred in Leeuwarden on March 20, 1531. On that day a tailor named Sicke Freerks was publicly beheaded because he had been rebaptized. When Menno heard that the victim was a good, God-fearing man, he wondered why a man would be ready to die for faith linked to his baptism. He wondered whether the Catholic Church could be mistaken about child baptism as it was wrong about transubstantiation.

Once more he turned to the Scriptures for an answer. He discovered that there was in fact no Biblical basis for infant baptism. In spite of all his inner turmoil, outwardly Menno still appeared as a successful priest. He was promoted to the position of pastor in Witmarsum.

The third event that changed Menno's life was the tragedy at Bolsward on April 7, 1535. On that day a group of some three hundred radical Anabaptists (Melchiorites), who had taken refuge in an old cloister and had barricaded themselves against government forces, were overpowered and slain. Among those killed was Menno's own brother. This catastrophe, occurring less than four kilometres south-east of Witmarsum, made a profound impression on Menno Simons. He saw the victims as poor, misguided sheep who, although in error, dared to face death for their convictions. He, on the other hand, knew the truth of the gospel but didn't have the courage to follow it. While in this traumatic state of mind and soul, Menno turned to God for forgiveness and was fully changed. The whole truth dawned on him gradually. For another nine months he remained within the Catholic Church, but in January, 1536, he gave up his priestly office. He turned his back on a life of ease, security and pleasure, and deliberately chose the way of the cross.

For several months after his conversion and subsequent renunciation of the priesthood, Menno went into hiding in the vicinity of Witmarsum. He stayed in the home of Hermann and Gerrit Jansz, who lived about one kilometre southeast of the village, for at least part of the time. Their house was one of a cluster of four cottages. A small shed (Scheune), which was almost totally hidden from view by the four neighbouring dwellings, was attached to the Jansz house. According to tradition it was in this Scheune that Menno was baptized. It was also there that he married Gertrude Hoyer, his life's companion. And it was there that he first preached the gospel and won men and women to Christ. 2 When Menno's activities and hiding place became known, his persecution at the hand of the state and church officials commenced. On October 24, 1536, the public prosecutor of Friesland demanded that Hermann and Gerrit Jansz publicly admit their error or be sentenced to death for having sheltered "Menno Simonzoon," the former pastor in Witmarsum. However, before they could be apprehended, the two couples fled to the vicinity of Groningen. In Groningen Obbe Philips and several other leaders of the moderate wing of the Anabaptists persuaded Menno Simons to accept ordination as elder of their new church. From that day forward Menno, his wife, and their three children wandered from one hiding place to another and from one city or state to another wherever Anabaptists were tolerated. In 1543 he fled to Emden, in 1545 to Cologne, and in 1546 to Wismar. It was during his stay in Emden that his followers were first referred to as "Mennists".

Wherever Menno Simons went he preached the gospel, baptized new converts, ordained ministers, organized churches and wrote books. 3 At all times he had to travel and work in secret because of threats to his life. In 1542 an imperial edict in the name of Charles V was issued against Menno. The edict placed a price of 100 gold guilders on his head and forbade anyone from giving him aid or shelter and from reading his books. These edicts were not mere words, but were strictly enforced. In 1539, Tjaert Reyerts was tortured and killed at the wheel in Leeuwarden because he had given lodging to Menno Simons. Another man was executed because he had transported Menno Simons in a boat down the Meuse River from Fischerswert to Roermand. On April 16, 1545, Quirinus Pieters was burnt at the stake in Groningen because he had been baptized by Menno Simons six years earlier. To help government officials apprehend their most wanted criminals, Menno Simons being one of them, they employed artists to prepare posters which displayed sketches of the offenders and provided information about the reward. These posters were displayed in public places. It is believed that followers of Menno Simons retained some of these posters as treasured souvenirs. Later these sketches were used by artists such as van Sichem, de Cooge and van de Velde to prepare the first formal portraits of Menno Simons, some of which are available to us today. Menno's stay in Wismar from 1546-1554 was a relatively peaceful one. He was able to spend most of his time visiting newly organized Mennonite churches from Flanders to the Vistula Delta in West Prussia.

However, as time went on, the civil and ecclesiastical authorities in Wismar made it difficult for Mennonites to reside in that city. They declared that all Anabaptists should be banished from Wismar by November 11, 1554. Menno fled to the village of Wüstenfelde on the Fresenburg estate, north of Bad Oldesloe, a few months before the deadline. The owner of the estate, Bartholomaus von Ahlefeld (?-1568), had participated in a military campaign against Charles V in 1542. He was greatly impressed with the Mennonites whom he had met in Julich, North Brabant and Antwerp. When Bartholomaus von Ahlefeld inherited Fresenburg in 1543, he immediately invited the Mennonites to settle on his estate. Many Mennonites eagerly responded to Ahlefeld's invitation and immigrated to Fresenburg. They settled on a small knoll about two kilometres northeast of Bad Oldesloe. Their settlement was locally known as Wüstenfelde. In spite of numerous requests and demands from King Christian III and his brother Prince Adolph to evict the Mennonites from his property, Ahlefeld continued to shelter them.4 For Menno this was an ideal refuge where he could spend the last few years of his life.

Menno Simons wrote his first book just before he left the Catholic Church. He continued to write and publish books as he fled from one state to another. With the help of Ahlefeld he set up a print shop in what is now know as the Menno Cottage (Mennokate) between Bad Oldesloe and Wüstenfeld. There with the help of an experienced printer he revised and printed his earlier books and published some new ones. His sermons were Bible-centred and Christ-centred. The people who heard or read Menno's sermons thought his style and content were profound.5 The fact that Philip II had the writings of Menno Simons placed on the Index 6 on December 10, 1557, confirms the effectiveness of his books.

Menno Simons died in 1561 at the age of sixty-five and was buried in the vegetable garden behind his house in Wüstenfelde. 7

Menno Simons created a place for himself in the history of the Christian Church. During the years of the most relentless persecution by Charles V and Philip II he encouraged the harassed brethren and gave them leadership in doctrine and faith. In 1541 a royal advisor in Friesland complained to the King's regent in the Netherlands: "The pesky sect of Anabaptists would have been eradicated by now if it weren't for Menno Simons who visits the area once or twice every year and leads many people astray." Menno caught a vision of what Christ meant when he said, "...teach them to obey everything I have commanded you."8 For him Christianity was more than faith only.9 It was faith and works, the fruit of the Spirit, "for faith without works is dead." 10

Stone markers have been erected near Witmarsum and Bad Oldesloe so that future generations may remember where Menno Simons lived, laboured and died. However, by far the most significant memorial is the church that still bears his name and whose members accept his understanding of discipleship. 11


1. Historians disagree about the dates of Menno Simons' birth and death. The dates used in this article were suggested by Karel Vos (1874-1926). Jacob G. de Hoop Scheffer (1819-1894) believed the dates should 1492 and 1559. The monument in Witmarsum bears the dates 1496 and 1561. Back to document

2. The church which stood at that site for more than 300 years was always called the Scheuenenkirche.Back to document

3. Menno Simons also became involved in two prolonged public debates on theological problems of the day, first in Emden and again in Lubeck. Back to document

4. The region was under the rule of the King of Denmark at that time. Back to document

5. Menno Simons published 24 books and pamphlets. In his writings he discussed a wide range of topics relevant to the Christian Church: the authority of the Scriptures, the Holy Trinity, atonement, repentance, sin, justification by faith, regeneration, the church, non- resistance, swearing of oaths, non-conformity to the world and others. His most important works are The Foundation of Christian Doctrine and Of the True Christian Faith. Every book and every pamphlet he wrote had on the front page the motto, "For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ" (I Corinthians 3:11). Back to document

6. The Index Lubrorum Prohibitorum was a list of books which the Roman Catholic Church forbade its members to read. Back to document

7. Menno was survived by one daughter. He was predeceased by his son, one daughter and his wife. Back to document

8. Therefore go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you (Matthew 28:19- 20a). Back to document

9. In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead (James 2:17). Back to document

10. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self- control (Galatians 5:22-23a). Back to document

11. There are about 1,000,000 people around the world who are members of a Mennonite church. Back to document

William Schroeder is a retired school teacher and historian who resides in Winnipeg, MB. This article was adapted from an earlier version which appeared in Preservings Part Two, Hanover Steinbach Historical Society Inc., No. 8, June 1996, Used with permission.

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by Alf Redekopp


Braun / Loewen - I am seeking information on the ancestors, siblings and descendants of Johann Braun (b. 26 May 1836 - 1897) and Gertrude Loewen (15 April 1836 - 1904). Apparently some relatives of Gertrude Loewen came to Canada in 1923 at the same time as their nephews Franz, Dietrich, Peter and David Braun but they lost contact in Canada. I would like to get in touch with this family as well as obtain any other information regarding the above. Please contact: Deborah Stasiewski, 12742-23 Avenue, Surrey, B.C. V4A 2C7

Dueck - I am seeking information on the family of Johann Dueck (1848-1933), son of Isaac Dueck and Maria Blatz of Fürstenland, who was married to Aganetha Redekopp (1852-1909), daughter of David Redekopp and Aganetha Giesbrecht. Any information about Isaac Dueck's ancestors, siblings and descendants would be appreciated. Contact: John Dyck, Box 344, Blumenort, MB R0A 0C0.

Dyck / Zacharias - I am seeking information about Mrs. Agatha Dyck nee Dyck. She was a foster child in the home of William Zacharias before she married a Gerhard Dyck. Gerhard Dyck was murdered in Russia and Agatha came to Canada with her three boys in 1923. Contact: Esther Dyck, 301-32040 Peardonville Road, Abbotsford, BC V2T 6N8.

Funk - I am seeking information on the parents of Peter Funk (b. 17 March 1805 d. 15 March 1855) and his wife Helena Schroeter (b. 5 Nov. 1806 d. 16 April 1869). Contact: Queenie Martens, 4435 Cascade Drive, Vernon, BC VlT 8J7.

Hamm/Berg - I am seeking information on the ancestors, siblings, and descendants of Heinrich Hamm (b. 15 Sept. 1825) and Margareta Berg (b. 17 Sept. 1835). They were married 11 Oct. 1855. Margareta is a descendent of a Jacob Berg (b. 16 Oct. 1791) and Helena Sawatsky (b. 1792). The parents and siblings of Heinrich Hamm are unknown. Please contact: Deborah Stasiewski, 12742-23 Ave., Surrey, BC V4A 2C7.

Hamm/Dyck - I am seeking information on my great grandparents, David Hamm and Sarah Dyck. David was born in Southern Russia and his family immigrated to Canada when he was two years old. They settled near Morden, Manitoba. I estimate he was born sometime between 1870-1885. Sarah Dyck was born in Morden, Manitoba, about 1870-1885. I think her family originally came from Pennsylvania, USA. They were probably married in Manitoba in the late 1890's. My grandmother, Annie, the fifth of 12 children was born in Manitoba on December 28, 1904. The family later moved to the Rosthern, Saskatchewan area, where they farmed. About 1929 many of the Hamm's moved to the Chilcotin area of British Columbia where they homesteaded. Names of the children are: Sarah, Elizabeth, Lena, Hugo, Annie, Mary, John, Bert, Matilda, David, Wanda, and Edgar. Contact: Lorie Wilson, 1785 Rutland Rd, Kelowna, B.C. VlX 4Z8, ph 604-491-0363, e-mail:

Nickel / Geddert - I am seeking information on the ancestors of Peter Nickel (1826-ca.1877) who was married to Anna Geddert (ca.1829-1882). They lived in Liebenau, Molotschna and also Wohldemfürst, Kuban. Their children were Anna (b. 1852) who first married Peter Isaak and then Abram Loewen; Peter (b.1853 d. 1937) who emigrated to Kansas; Sara (b. 1858) who married a Schmor; Abraham who married Sara K. Klassen and emigrated to Borden, SK, in 1903; Jacob b. 1868 and Kornelius b. 1870. Contact: Wesley Nickel, 2402 Wiltse Dr., Penticton, BC V2A 7Y9.

Voth - I am looking for information on Andreas Voth (1826-1885) and Kathatina Wall (1828-1908). They had a son Johannes (1854-1920) who was born in in Pastwa, Molotschna where Andreas was teaching. Andreas Voth was one of the eighteen men who signed the 1860 document of secession which brought the MB Church into being. This family lived for a few years near Neuhoffnung and then moved to Neuman, Crimea, where Andreas died. Contact: A. Schroeder, 434 Sutton Ave., Winnipeg, MB R2G OT3.

Recent Books

Katy Penner, ed. The Penner Family : Faithful through Adversity (Saskatoon, SK: PENN Publishers/Penner, Katy, 1996), pb., 490 pp.
This book traces the ancestry and descendants of Kornelius Heinrich Penner (1842-1933), seventh child of Heinrich Penner (1801-1843) and Margaretta Loewen, born in Schoenhorst, Chortitza settlement, South Russia. Kornelius was first married to Helena Peters (1844-1881) and then to twice-widowed Helena Wiebe (1852- 1932), daughter of Jakob and Helena Friesen. Shortly after his first marriage, he moved to the village of Schoendorf, Borozenko Colony where he lived the rest of his life. Contact: Katy Penner, 5-80 Berini Drive, Saskatoon, SK, Canada S7N 3P8.

Ernest Dyck. ed. The Peter Dyck Family (St. Catharines, ON: Ernest Dyck, 1996) pb., 42 pp.
This book contains the family history of Peter Dyck (1873- 1926) who was born and resident in Hierschau, Molotschna, Russia. He was married first to Margaretha Sukkau (1875-1908) and then to Katharina Toews (1887-1968). Peter Dyck was murdered by roving bandits the night after the family held its auction sale in preparation for emigrating from Russia to Canada in 1926. The book describes the events surrounding the survival and growth of this family in Canada, first in Alberta and then in British Columbia after 1937. Contact: Ernest Dyck, 102-201 Dorchester Blvd., St. Catharines, ON, Canada L2M 7W1.

Esther Patkau. ed. The Paethkeau Book 1714-1987 Volume 2 (Saskatoon, SK: Private publication, 1996) hdc., 376 pp. $65.00.
The first volume of Paethkeau Book 1714-1987 was published in 1987. Volume 2 contains several large sections of information that were not available in 1987. It is primarily information which came from the families who were resident in the northern parts of the former USSR, especially from the Orenburg settlement, and are now in Germany. The biographical sketches and short stories appear in both English and German and there are many photographs. The common ancestor for this family is Jacob Paetkau (1789-1843) who lived in Burwalde, Chortitza, South Russia. Contact: Esther Patkau, 2206 Wiggins Avenue, Saskatoon, SK Canada S7J 1W7.

Genealogical Resources

The Mennonite Heritage Centre and the Centre for MB Studies have recently acquired copies of the following: The Complete Brandregister of 1727 transcribed by Glenn H. Penner of Guelph, ON; The Deutsch Kazun Mennonite Church baptism register 1834-1943 and The Molotschna School Attendance Register of 1862, (P.J. Braun Archives) both transcribed by Arnold M. Schroeder of St. Catharines, ON; and Two Alphabetical Lists of Baptisms in West Prussia 1773-1804 for Rosenort, Elbing-Ellerwald, Ladekopp and Orlofferfelde edited by George H. Fast of Lynn Lake, MB, Canada, and previously published in Mennonite Family History.

Send inquiries to Alf Redekopp, 600 Shaftesbury Blvd., Winnipeg, MB R3P 0M4 or 169 Riverton Ave, Winnipeg, MB R2L 2E5. E-mail:

Mennonite Heritage Centre News

New Mennonite Sources from Russia and Ukraine

The post-Gorbachev period has opened up new opportunities to do research in archival centres of the Former Soviet Union, and also to procure materials from those collections.

One of the largest bodies of materials to reach the Mennonite Heritage Centre and the Centre for MB Studies, and several other Mennonite insitutions, is a set of microfilm of Mennonite records in St. Petersburg. Personnel from the St. Petersburg Christian University have helped to make these arrangements. Ten rolls are at the Centre now, ten more are on the way, and the finishing of the task ( we are told, by the end of the year), may result in yet another ten. An inventory is available for the materials already on hand.

A second collection available here now includes 2000 pages (mostly written in Russian) of photocopied material from the Zaporozhian State Archives in Zaporozhe, Ukraine. It was offered in exchange for help in securing a computer which is now in use there. The assistant archivist, Alexander Tedeev, has been very helpful also to private Mennonite researchers who are able to access the files in that institution. An inventory for this material is being prepared, and should be ready soon.

An extensive collection of printed materials in both Russian and German has been deposited here through the courtesy of Dr. Terry Martin of Chicago, Illinois. Dr. Martin has spent extensive time doing research in Moscow, and was able to obtain copies of many articles not available in North America before. An inventory of this material can be obtained from the Centre here also.

Smaller collections include audio-tapes from the Mennonite village of Neudachino, Siberia, miscellaneous files on the All-Russian Mennonite Agricultural Society, documents related to Forstei service in tsarist Russia (including 18 letters written in German from a recruit in the CO camps to his relatives), lists of persons executed in the Altai region in Siberia, and other items.

We will be happy to send duplicates of inventories and other items if they can be located easily, for the cost of copying, handling and postage.

Our thanks go to generous donors who have helped make it possible to obtain the materials noted. If anyone can assist financially with the publication of several books on pacifism in Russia, please write or call and we will provide details. An outline of these projects appeared as an insert in the June Historian. If you would like another copy of this outline, please notify us.

Recent Archival Contacts in the FSU

by Lawrence Klippenstein

It was my privilege to direct an August tour to the FSU , and to make a number of helpful archives-related contacts along the way. Unfortunately we were not able to connect with people working on our microfilm project in St. Petersburg, but recent messages have kept us up-to-date on that work.

In Moscow I wanted to see Dr. Sergei Sokolovskii to return some materials on Siberian Mennonites which he loaned to us several years ago. Sergei was away but he has communicated with us a few weeks ago, noting also that a book he has done on Siberian Mennonites has just come off the press. We have placed an order for several copies.

In Moscow too I wanted to visit with another scholar, Peter Rempel, but he seemed to be out of town. We are trying to secure some materials he has gathered on former Mennonite khutors (estates), and may be able to report more on that shortly. You will find a photo he had submitted elsewhere in this issue.

We were very pleased to obtain the promised help of a young teacher in Orenburg to do some research for us in the archives of that city. She has submitted her first report, with the name of another researcher, Ms. Neufeld, who is deeply interested in Mennonite research.

In Zaporozhe we enjoyed a very cordial conversation with Alexander Tedeev, mentioned above, and also with the director of his institution, Valentine Ivanovich Leventsov. They showed us some of their collections and expressed their appreciation of contacts with western Mennonites who are interested in materials available in their holdings. Mr. Tedeev submitted the final half of the photoduplication project which is mentioned in the New Holdings article of this issue.

An interesting new experience was an invitation to look at a collection of old books that once were in the library of the former Chortitza Mennonite Church. We were taken to the apartment of their owner, an Armenian artist, who is interested in selling these materials if he can. The same pile of books had a large collection of annual parts catalogues from Germany, once owned by the Lepp and Wallmann factory, and dating from the 1870s. They are for sale also. We had been told there was some manuscript material in this collection but were not shown anything on this visit. Something may be available later, we were told.

One evening a young scholar, Sasha Beznozov, came to our hotel with Oksana, his wife, and presented us with an interesting map showing places of Mennonite activitiy in the city of Dnepropetrovsk in the early 1900s. He also gave us several copies of journals from the University of Dnepropetrovsk containing very recently- published studies of Germans and Mennonites in that general region.

We hope it will be possible to sustain connections with these people, and to create a network of scholarly work which will be beneficial both to our Russian and Ukrainian colleagues, and to our own communities here in North America.

Centre for Mennonite Brethren Studies News

Recent Events at CMBS

This summer has been a very busy one at the Centre for MB Studies in Winnipeg. On June 7 and 8 the Centre hosted the annual meeting of the Historical Commission of the Mennonite Brethren Church (North America). Although the Commission generally has met in Fresno, California, it has recently met at various other locations, including Hillsboro, KS, Abbotsford, BC and Salem, OR. These have been educational experiences for Commission members because they have provided opportunities to learn something about the history of congregations in the particular areas.

Highlights of the meetings included extensive discussion of microfilming projects in Russian/Ukrainian archives, approval of several forthcoming publications and sharing of the activities of each of the Centres (Hillsboro, Fresno, Abbotsford, and Winnipeg). John Sharp also attended all the meetings, representing the Mennonite Church, and Lawrence Klippenstein attended some of the meetings on behalf of the General Conference Mennonite Church.

In early July the convention of the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches met in Winnipeg. The Centre sponsored several well-attended workshops entitled, "Heritage Celebration: Writing Family and Congregational History." Abe Dueck also organized a tour which included visits to the Mennonite Heritage Village near Steinbach and a Hutterite colony at Crystal Springs.

Alberta Mennonite High School Reunion

A reunion celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the Alberta Mennonite High School in Coaldale, Alberta, in 1946 took place at the Dalhousie Mennonite Brethren Church in Calgary on August 31 to September 1. Approximately 300 guests, most of them former students, teachers and spouses, attended the very successful event. The Mennonite Historian hopes to publish more on the history and significance of this school in a future issue.

Summer Projects

Special funding has enabled the Centre to pursue several projects during the summer of 1996. Funding from the federal government's CareerStart program allowed the Centre to hire Jennifer Rogalsky for ten weeks to continue the computer cataloguing of books in the J.A. Toews Historical Library. This project was begun last year when Tamara Dyck worked at the Centre two days a week.

Alvina Block has been working on a Personal Papers Redescription project which is funded by a Control of Holdings Grant received through the Canadian Council of Archives. This project, when complete, will provide a much more detailed and accurate inventory of the Personal Papers Collection at CMBS. Many of the major collections, such as the B.B. Janz Collection, had very inadequate descriptions of the inventory.

Saskatchewan Records Transferred to CMBS

For many years a large number of records of the Northern District and Southern District conferences of the Mennonite Brethren churches of Saskatchewan as well as the records of a number of congregations have been stored in an archival room at Bethany Bible Institute. It became increasingly clear that this storage facility was inadequate and that trained staff was not available to process the material and to allow proper accessibility. After discussions with the Saskatchewan Conference executive it was agreed that the material should be transferred to the Centre for Mennonite Brethren Studies in Winnipeg. In early September Abe Dueck travelled to Bethany and loaded apporximately 35 boxes of material in a rented van. These were then transported to Winnipeg where they will be processed and stored.

Many congregations continue to house their records in their local church. The Centre has had considerable success in the last several years in encouraging congregations to transfer these to the Canadian Conference archives in Winnipeg. This will provide better guarantees that the records will be preserved for future generations. Dialogue with variuos congregations will continue in the hope that more will transfer their records to the Centre.

The EMBs - I Wonder...

by Cal Redekop

I have just read your second instalment of the EMB story in Alberta and thank you very much for the important reporting you have done. As you may know, I am just now finishing a socio- historical work on the DMB/EMB/FEBC. Your research has corroborated the information and generally the conclusions I have arrived at regarding the Alberta congregations. I am citing your research in the text.

However, your conclusions regarding the renaming of the conference the "Evangelical Mennonite Brethren" because of the immigration in the 1920s of the Russian Mennonites connected with the Allianz evangelicals is not necessarily proven by the information you provide.

I'll start with the implied arguments. The Alberta congregations were not very significant for DMB (Defenseless Mennonite Brethren) life during the time of the name change. To begin with, they were not sure who they were (i.e., MB or Allianz or what), thus could not have been very influential, especially in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Secondly, they were just becoming organized and so could not affect decision-making among DMBs very much. As a matter of fact, the 1935 Yearbook includes an extensive historical report by A.A. Toews, indicating that this may have been the first time the conference heard a report from them. What is more, the early DMBs were in touch with the Allianz movement and members in Russia, so the Alberta contingent was not the only contact.

I also find your comment that evangelicalism was not known as a term during the 1930s since "neo-evangelicalism did not emerge until the 1940s" somewhat mystifying and tangential. Neo- evangelicalism emerged out of evangelicalism which had a long history and was quite healthy during the 1920s and 1930s, if I know anything about the history of religion in America. So why should the DMBs wait until neo-evangelicalism came along in order to make an authentic name change to evangelicalism when it was the reigning paradigm in America?

You are assuming it was influential, and I agree that it was. My research and reading of the DMB is that they were "evangelical" from the outset, and that it is the most logical and predictable name for an emerging movement in the process of losing its Anabaptist emphasis. The third article of the original constitution (1889) reads, "The Purpose of this conference is not only to build each other up in the faith, but to spread the net of conversion (das Netz des Evangeliums)." Nothing is more clear in the history of the DMB/EMB/FEBC than its strong emphasis on conversion and missions/evangelism. This was what they meant by being evangelical (evangelisch in German may have had a slightly different meaning.)

Hence I would say they had an inherent understanding of "evangelical", supported and enhanced by the reigning evangelicalism in America which was influencing the DMB as they were becoming assimilated. Here is where my earlier "Embarrassment" argument is relevant. I would admit that the argument in my "Embarrassment" article is not fully adequate, though not wrong. I wrote that before I began to research the history for my present manuscript.

I do not want to downgrade the importance of the Alberta events, but I do not think they were that crucial. The 1937 Yearbook gives the reason for putting the word "evangelical" in the name change as: "Das Wort Evangelium bedeutet dass die Konferenz beim wahrem Evangelium bleiben will." If my reasoning above is correct, and I am sure it is, then the name change is not that significant in the first place.

Dr. Cal Redekop resides in Harrisonburg, Virginia. He is retired from teaching at Conrad Grebel University College in Waterloo, ON.

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Response to Cal Redekop

by Abe Dueck

Cal Redekop's response to my article is appreciated and helpful. He is right that I have not proven that the renaming of the Evangelical Mennonite Brethren was the result of the influence of the Alberta Allianz. The language I used was "suggests" and "appears." Perhaps my inferences were unwarranted or overstated, but I do not find the counterarguments totally convincing.

It may be true that the EMBs did not know who they were, but they nonetheless insisted that they be allowed to retain the name "Evangelical Mennonite Brethren" when they decided to join the Defenceless Mennonite Brethren in Christ in 1934. Redekop argues that the Alberta group could not have been very influential, but then states that contacts of the DMB with the EMB dated back to the earlier period in Russia. This suggests that the connections were even stronger than I had realized.

The issue of the role and understanding of evangelicalism in America is a rather complex issue. Firstly, I did not say that "evangelicalism" was not known as a term during the 1930s. Rather, I stated that the neo-evangelicalism of the post-1940s could not have been a factor in the change of name.

Evangelicalism of a particular kind was indeed the reigning paradigm in America during the 19th century, but the late 19th century and early 20th century brought about many changes in evangelicalism including the emergence of a new coalition which came to be called "fundamentalism" by the 1920s (see e.g., George M. Marsden, Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism (Eerdmans, 1992, pp. 62ff.). After the fundamentalist controversy of the 1920s, evangelicalism appeared to be in disarray until the 1940s, when the National Association of Evangelicals was formed and new evangelical strength emerged under the influence of people like Carl F. H. Henry and Billy Graham and in institutions such as Fuller Theological Seminary. As a result, evangelicalism reemerged as a force in American culture (Marsden, 63). My point was simply that the change of name in the DMB came before the advent of this new evangelicalism as a prominent religious movement in America. Many denominations adopted the term "evangelical" after these developments, not before.

I look forward to your forthcoming work on the DMB/EMB/FEBC. Perhaps this exchange can further illuminate what is sure to be a fascinating story relating to the identity struggle of this particular (Mennonite) group.

The Alexanderwohl Mennonite Church: Some Historical Notes

by William Schroeder

The original Alexanderwohl Mennonite Church in Alexanderwohl, Molotschna settlement, was built in 1865. The walls measuring twelve by twenty-two metres were constructed from red kiln-dried bricks. Inside arrangements included a large L-shaped balcony.

Because of its large size and central location in the settlement, the building was often used for conferences which were attended by representatives from neighbouring settlements such as Borozenko, Bergthal, Chortitza and Fuerstenland.

During the 1870s, for instance, a number of conferences dealing with the military question and conscription were held on these premises. In April, 1874, General Eduard Ivanovich Totleben (1818-1884) had a meeting here to attempt to dissuade the Mennonites of southern Russia from emigrating. He also brought Tsar Alexander's offer to provide an alternative service so that Mennonites would not need to join the regular army which was being rebuilt at the time.

Half a century later, in 1921, the Mennonites had another conference here, this time resulting in the choice of B.B. Janz to serve as spokesperson for Mennonites who might wish to emigrate from Soviet Russia at this time.

In Gerhard Lohrenz's book, Heritage Remembered (First edition, 1974, p.156), one can find a photo of a group of baptismal candidates (37 persons) and ministers standing at the main entrance to the building. The year was 1930, so it will have been one of the last groups to be baptized in the Stalin period. The church was partially destroyed during World War II. Only the lower part of the building remained, to be incorporated in reconstruction for other purposes.

Call for Papers

Conference: An informal consortium of Mennonite historical societies invites papers and proposals to an upcoming conference entitled "One People, Many Stories: Comparing Mennonite Experiences in the United States and Canada through the Twentieth Century."

The sponsoring organizations include The Mennonite Historical Society of Canada, the Mennonite Historical Society (US), the Historical Committee of the Mennonite Church, the Historical Commission of the Mennonite Brethren Church (North America), and the Brethren in Christ Historical Society.

Held at Columbia Bible College, Abbotsford, BC on October 23- 25, 1997, the conference will be focused on the Mennonite experience in North America, north and south of the US/Canada border.

Sessions (though not necessarily individual papers) should thus include an explicit comparative dimension. Topics could address, for instance, Canadian and US Mennonites' responses to social forces such as military service, nationalism, minority status, Evangelicalism/fundamentalism, popular culture or urbanization. Mennonite experiences in terms of race, gender or ethnicity could come under scrutiny; similarly, contrasting Mennonite initiatives in missions, service or peacemaking might be examined. Papers of a more reflective nature are also encouraged. Papers may be weighted towards, but are not restricted to, twentieth century developments. The Mennonite Quarterly Review is interested in publishing some of the conference proceedings, and will have the right of first refusal on conference papers.

Proposals are welcome both for individual papers and for entire sessions (2-3 papers, comments and discussion in a 1 1/2 to 2 hour session). The proposals should include a short 1-2 page abstract by the presenters and commentator(s), along with a one page curriculum vitae from each participant.

All proposals should be sent to Perry Bush, co-Chair, Planning Committee, History Department, Bluffton College, 280 W. College Ave., Bluffton, OH 45817; tel. 419-358-3278; e-mail:

All materials must be postmarked no later than January 10, 1997. A limited number of travel subsidies for conference speakers and for student participants will be available.

Book Reviews

Ens, Anna. In Search of Unity. Story of the Conference of Mennonites in Manitoba (Winnipeg, MB: CMBC Publications, 1996) pb., 290 pp., $20.00

Reviewed by John J. Friesen

The Conference of Mennonites in Manitoba was formed in 1933. Or was it in 1936, or in 1947?

In sorting out the story of the tattered beginnings of the Conference of Mennonites in Manitoba (CMM), Anna Ens sets the stage for a history which, she maintains, is a long search for unity. In her view, the CMM's major agenda was bringing together two diverse groups, the Bergthaler and three immigrant Gemeinden (a multi-congregational church), into one united conference.

Anna Ens' meticulously-researched and well-documented study takes the reader on an interesting journey through numerous difficult issues. During the World War II years, when the conference was in the process of forming, disagreements on how to relate to the government over the issue of exemption from military service severely strained relations between the Bergthaler Gemeinde and the three immigrant Gemeinden: Schoenwieser, Whitewater, and Blumenorter.

The war was not quite over when a conflict arose between the Schoenwieser Gemeinde and the rest of the Gemeinden. This conflict resulted in the Schoenwieser Gemeinde withdrawing from the CMM, and not rejoining for more than two decades.

Church splits over the transition to the English language, the pain of leadership changes from lay ministry to professional pastors in autonomous congregations, the origin of radio work, camps, youth work, the changing role of women, all this and more Ens discusses in a style that is readable, interesting, and even handed.

The book is liberally documented, although the author notes in the foreward that a more fully documented version of the manuscript is in the Mennonite Heritage Centre. The book includes a listing of the archival sources which were researched for the book, as well as a list of the people interviewed. An extensive selected bibliography is also added.

To help her tell the story, Anna Ens in-cluded numerous pictures, maps, charts, and tables. Ens compiled a list of all the Aeltesten (bishops) who served the Gemeinden of the CMM. An organizational chart of the present CMM is provided in the appendix. A fascinating section is the one in which each congregation in the CMM is briefly characterized, its history summarized, and leaders listed.

To return to the question of when the CMM began, one could ask whether Ens' study may not suggest that the CMM began with the formation of the Bergthaler church. The addition of the Herald congregation and of the immigrant Gemeinden, can be seen as an expansion of the Bergthaler vision, as articulated by Benjamin Ewert, to unite all Mennonites. In fact, the earliest movements toward the formation of the CMM occurred at the 1933 annual Bergthaler Church- sponsored mission conference.

Anna Ens' In Search of Unity is a very fine study which sensitively and honestly interprets both the positives and the negatives of CMM's history.

John Friesen is professor of history and theology at Canadian Mennonite Bible College in Winnipeg, MB.

Bergmann, Günther. Auslandsdeutsche in Paraguay, Brasilien, Argentinien (Bad Münstereifel: Westkreuz-Verlag, 1994), pb., 256 pp.

Reviewed by Titus F. Guenther

Based on his 1993 Ph.D. dissertation, Bergmann offers his readers a well-documented history of the migrations and settlements of the over 5 million Auslandsdeutsche (i.e., Germans abroad; p. 221) now living in South America (SA).

The study focuses on the Auslands-deutsche in Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil, from the early 19th century to the present. Considerable attention is given to the impact of National Socialism on these Germans abroad. Overpopulation in Europe and the economic misery, coinciding with the search of countries like Paraguay, Chile and Brazil for able settlers, led to sizable migrations. Over time the colonists' German identity slowly waned. The Nazis attempted to stir up old patriotic sentiments in them to gain power in SA through them.

This caused a deep identity crisis among the Auslandsdeutsche, when the host countries reacted by closing German institutions and forcing wholesale assimilation to the national cultures and languages. The case of Brazil was especially drastic.

Later chapters deal with post-war migrations (homeless Jews, Germans and fugitive Nazis) to the same region and their impact on the communities there. Bergmann also looks at the inner regional migrations in their socio-economic context as big agribusiness forced small farmers to retreat further inland or into adjacent Paraguay. Finally he reflects on the future prospects for the Auslandsdeutsche in these countries.

The German Mennonites in these countries are treated separately as a group with distinctive characteristics. Mennonite life is defined primarily by religious-biblical principles (pp. 74f.) and not by nationalism (though some Mennonites did flirt with Nazism -- pp. 89-94). This gave Mennonites greater cohesiveness and was expressed in various cooperative community structures. Affirming many contributions by Mennonites, Bergmann cites the Mennonite-Indian relations in the Paraguayan Chaco as being a model for other communities (pp. 166-168).

The other German colonies also formed numerous community-based institutions: schools, churches, cultural clubs, clinics and financial co-ops. Their small-scale farms offered a promising alternative to the Latino large landowners. After WWII, most of the Auslandsdeutsche redefined themselves as being of German descent but consciously became citizens of their SA countries of residence, some reaching high-ranking political positions. The immigrant churches played a leading role here by forming regional and transnational synods in SA, shifting their allegiance from Germany to their new national and social contexts. The German Democratic Republic, in complete contrast to the Third Reich, has helped the Auslandsdeutsche to build and run German schools open to both German descendants and Latino citizens. This policy facilitates integration while allowing maintenance of the German heritage and serves to build amiable relations between Germany and the SA countries, which are eager for trade and technological development. Bergmann makes a valuable contribution to the understanding of the Auslandsdeutschtum in SA. One criticism pertains to Bergmann's perpetuation of the notion of an oppressive paternalism in the Jesuits towards the Guaran¡ Indians. Jesuit historian C.J. McNaspy's reassessment of the Jesuits' amazing experiment with democracy two hundred years before the rest of the world would dare to try it, could offer a helpful corrective here. Libraries and specialists will find the book a valuable resource. Interested lay readers will enjoy it as well.

Titus Guenther is assistant professor of theology and missions at Canadian Mennonite Bible College in Winnipeg, MB.

©Copyright 1996, Mennonite Historian.