| Previous | Next
Mennonite Heritage Centre news
by Peter Letkemann
The Mennonite Heritage Centre (MHC) recently received microfilm copies of two valuable sources for the study of Germans in the Soviet Union. The microfilms were part of an exchange between the Institut für Auslands-beziehungen (ifa) in Stuttgart, Germany and the MHC, negotiated by Bronislava Kristufek (ifa) and Peter Letkemann of Winnipeg. The Institute in Stuttgart received microfilm copies of Der Botschafter [1905-1913] and Der Bote [1924-1972] in exchange for copies of Deutsche Zentral Zeitung and Neues Leben.
The Deutsche Zentral Zeitung [DZZ] was the official German-language newspaper of the Central Committee of the German section of the Communist Party equivalent to Pravda. In fact, the content of DZZ included translations of speeches by Stalin, Molotov and other officials, government decrees and reports first published in Pravda. MHC received copies of the issues for Jan 1 Sep 30 1928 and from 1 Jan 1935 to 12 July 1939. The DZZ must have employed a small army of translators, working day and night, to produce translations of official Russian language materials. The DZZ ceased publication in mid-1939.
Reading through the issues of 1936-1938 we enter into the duality and unreality of Soviet life promises of a bright future for the Soviet people, and glowing reports on achievements in agriculture and industry, sports, aviation and technology. One gets a feeling for the paranoia of the period as we read transcripts of the many show trials, but not a word is said about the arrest, imprisonment and execution of innocent Soviet citizens.
We also catch occasional glimpses into life in Mennonite villages and how some Mennonites at least are coming to terms with the Soviet regime. We read, for example, about Maria Epp from the Ernst Thälmann Collective Farm in the Rot Front Rayon who received the Order of Lenin on 26 Feb 1936 for her achievements as the best milker in the region.
Neues Leben [NL] was the successor to the DZZ and began publication in 1957. It remains the official newspaper of the Germans in Russia. MHC received copies of issues for 1957, 1959-60, 1964-65, 1972-95 a total of 24 years.
In NL we can read the poems of Helene Ediger and David Loewen, the short stories of Johann Warkentin and Heinrich Epp, the scientific essays and memoirs of Prof. David Penner. We see how some Mennonites adapted to their Soviet environment [but read nothing of those who did not adapt]; after 1990 we find many stories and memoirs critical of life under the Soviet regime, including lists of victims arrested and executed during the Stalinist era.
These acquisitions represent only two of the dozens and dozens of German language publications produced during the Soviet Era. Together, these periodicals give us the official insiders view into the life of Germans in the USSR from 1928-1995.
Peter Letkemann is an organist and historian living in Winnipeg.
Faith Story Display
Funding has been received from Dr. David Friesen for a visual display that recounts the faith story of our Anabaptist-Mennonite heritage. Tentatively entitled: Faith, Service and Reconciliation, the display will be multi-paneled with some audio-visual content.
The need for such a display comes out of the increased number of non-Mennonite visitors who come to the Mennonite Heritage Centre, often directed by Manitoba or Winnipeg Tourism. Some also come to see the exhibitions mounted in the Art Gallery. They come anticipating that they will learn something about Mennonites. These casual visitors are often disappointed when The Heritage Centre has only books and original documents for them to see. They often express interest in a more visual, accessible display that tells them who Mennonites are and what they believe and do.
We are missing an opportunity to tell our story and witness to our faith and the work of our schools, congregations, commissions and agencies by not having some visual display that illustrates who we are, what we believe and from where we have come.
The display will be multi-cultural, emphasizing that while Mennonites originated in western Europe, today they come from a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds, live in many different countries and come from all walks of life. It will incorporate the story of both the Swiss and Russian Mennonites. The display panels will be invitational, presenting the viewer the opportunity to participate in this community of believers. With such a focus, the viewer should come away with a keen sense of who Mennonites are, how they worship, where they live and why they have created their many agencies of missions and services.
Work on this display will begin in April.
The present art exhibition is that of Peter Martens and Henry Peters. Both work within the montage, some would define it collage, medium. While both have Mennonite roots, they come from opposite ends of the spectrum. Where Peter Martens has stayed within the church, Henry Peters family left the church when Henry was a child. Henry has long had an unfocused desire to reconnect. Peter Martens has, on the other hand, created art for use within his congregation. Their different, exciting and colourful exhibition runs through March and most of April.
Opening April 30 and running until the last week in June will be an exhibition by Karen Cornelius. Karen is a printmaker who has spent many years living on the continent of Africa most recently in Eritrea. Her work from Africa along with new pieces created since moving to Winnipeg, will fill the MHC Gallery to overflowing with colour and energy. Entitled Rhythm and Pageantry: A Way of Life, her exhibition will offer a rare opportunity to look into the distinctive culture and ancient church of this area of Africa.
| Previous | Next
Last modified October 31, 2000.
© 2000 Mennonite Heritage Centre and the Centre for Mennonite Brethren Studies.
Masthead and usage information.