I stumbled upon the surprise “hit” workshop today at the Mennonite World Conference. Teens and adults piled into Astrid von Schlachta’s seminar on how the German Mennonites reacted to “NS” (National Socialist/Nazi) government. She has done some new research.
The German Mennonites of the 1930’s, as it turns out, were enthused with Adolf Hitler, who seemed religious and, more importantly, seemed to be eager to include them in the greater life of the nation. As a people who had been excluded for so long, they were eager to be included after a long isolation. The Baptists and Methodists also had a similar reaction. Plus, many people thought Nazism was a lesser threat than Bolshevism.
Discussion was vigorous among those gathered. I was surprised, but I shouldn’t have been. Many U.S. Mennonites have German and Russian ancestors. Not only did they have grandparents who went through WW2; they still have not reconciled with the “enemy.” They have memories. Those memories have not been talked through. Seventy years after the war, this group of people seems to be getting to the place where someone can hear their stories. From the eagerness with which some spoke, it appeared that no one had asked them to talk much yet. The “quiet of the land” seem to have kept a lot of unseemly things quiet.
Continue reading Were the Mennonites wooed by Nazi acceptance?
As I acclimated to the sprawling Pennsylvania Farm Show complex in Harrisburg I ran into a parade of good memories of worldwide travel with the Mennonite Central Committee. I met Ron and Judy Zook with whom we traveled to Palestine. I saw Bonnie Klassen from Colombia who has impressed anyone who has met her since I did. A new Beachy Amish friend talked about visiting San Pedro Sula, in Honduras, like I had on my first learning tour with Ron Byler (and later I saw Steve Penner!). MCC has a big presence at the MWC /Mennonite World Conference, with which the Brethren in Christ are affiliated. I have been all over the world with our relief and advocacy mission, now I am experiencing the whole world coming to Harrisburg.
The first meeting started off with a dramatic parade. Native Americans representing those displaced by Mennonite immigrants in the 1700s came in to drums, singing and flutes. They reminded us of a recent ceremony of mutual understanding and forgiveness that took place. The ground was made clean for the meeting.
Then there “a parade of nations” reminiscent of the Olympics to begin the week. Brethren in Christ churches from Zambia and Zimbabwe were represented, banners and all.
Continue reading Parades at the MWC