Fonds Photographs: NP10-1, NP10-2, NP108-1, NP108-2, NP108-3, NP108-4, NP108-5, NP108-6, NP108-7, and NP108-8; CMBS Personal Papers: Klassen - Heinrich F. Klassen (1900-1969) and Catherine Thiessen Klassen (1906- ) fonds

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Heinrich F. Klassen (1900-1969) and Catherine Thiessen Klassen (1906- ) fonds

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CA CMBS Photographs: NP10-1, NP10-2, NP108-1, NP108-2, NP108-3, NP108-4, NP108-5, NP108-6, NP108-7, and NP108-8; CMBS Personal Papers: Klassen

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  • 1918-1991 (Creation)

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Physical description

80 cm textual records
198 photographs

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Biographical history

Heinrich F. Klassen was born on October 30, 1900 in Donskoye, Neu Samara, Siberia, the fifth child of a pious Mennonite merchant. As an able student and natural leader, he completed village schooling and continued his education in high school and the school of commerce. The Russian Revolution prevented him from attending university, since conditions during the First World War forced him to go to work. For a time he served in a government office after which he was associated with the Quaker relief efforts, acting as interpreter and organizer for them for two years. Later he became an agent for a soviet cooperative in whose behalf he often travelled to Moscow and Samara. After his father died in 1924 in Russia, he came to Canada with his mother and six siblings. From 1926 to 1951 he was a bookkeeper for the United Grain Growers. In 1927, Heinrich married Catherine Thiessen. In 1928, following an illness he committed himself to the Lord and the work of the church. Soon thereafter he joined the Mennonite Brethren Church in Winnipeg and became active in its work. For twenty-five years he taught a Sunday School class and for a number of years he was a youth leader, both locally and for the conference. He was also a deacon of the Elmwood Church for fourteen years. Heinrich became instrumental in founding and editing the German language Konferenz-Jugendblatt in the early 1940s, at a time when the conference was taking increasing interest in publication activities. When a group of Mennonite Brethren businessmen and church leaders bought the Rundschau Publishing House in 1945, he agreed to become its managing director and to edit the Mennonitische Rundschau. Until 1951 he continued to be employed at the United Grain Growers. His association with the Mennonitische Rundschau spanned 22 years. Heinrich F. Klassen died suddenly in Winnipeg on March 3, 1969 at the age of 68. He was survived by his wife Catherine (Kaethe), three sons and two daughters. Catherine Klassen, born on May 30, 1906 in Rueckenau, Molotschna, was the daughter of Lydia Wieler (1879-1908) and Franz C. Thiessen (1881-1950) the prominent Mennonite minister, musician, and teacher. After the death of her mother, Catherine's father married her aunt, Margarete Wieler (1888--1984). This step-mother and birth mother were both daughters of Johann Wieler (1839-1889), the prominent Mennonite Brethren itinerant preacher and teacher. Catherine Klassen (Kaethe Thiessen as she was first known) spent most of her early life growing up in Davlekanovo, Ufa, Russia where her father was a well known choir leader and teacher. In 1924 her family moved to Moscow where she worked with her father in the All-Russian Mennonite Agricultural Society until the family immigrated to Canada in 1925. In Canada Catherine attended the Rosthern German/English Academy in Rosthern, Saskatchewan. After she married Heinrich F. Klassen, they settled in Winnipeg where they raised a family of five children and were active members first of the North End M.B. Church and later of the Elmwood M.B. Church. Catherine loved to write, travel and read. She corresponded with many friends and relatives and wrote trip journals and diaries. She also wrote and published the biography of her father entitled, "My Father, Franz C. Thiessen."

Custodial history

The Heinrich F. and Catherine Klassen came to the Centre for Mennonite Brethren Studies at various times. In April 1988, Catherine Klassen donated original papers, now a part of this fonds, as well as photographs and 57 books. In July 1991 Catherine donated three boxes of personal materials created by H.F. and Catherine Klassen consisting of original papers, printed materials, and books. They were delivered to the archives by son-in-law Pete Peters and are now part of this collection. Catherine made a further donation in June 1993 consisting of original papers, printed materials, books and photographs. The files contained correspondence, trip journals, diaries, personal books, and photographs. The photographs are taken in Russia, Europe, and North America, some in the early twentieth century. Many are of MCC distributions of food and clothing to refugees in Europe.

Scope and content

The Heinrich F. and Catherine Klassen fonds consists of official records, such as correspondence with Cornelius F. Klassen, Heinrich's brother. These letters grow out of their common interest in relief work, immigration and resettlement of Russian Mennonites. The fonds also contains records that reflect Heinrich's work in publications, with the Jugendblatt as well as his position as editor of the Mennonitische Rundschau. But this fonds is also quite personal, depicting the life of a Mennonite family through courtship, family life, death of one partner, and continuity of life for the surviving widow. This is a valuable collection because there are so few available records created by Mennonite women. The photograph collection consists of pictures of Mennonite life in Russia in the late 19th and early 20th century. Also in this fonds are pictures taken in Europe of C.F. Klassen, and Peter and Elfrieda Dyck in their role with Mennonite refugees. The photographs date from approximately 1874 to 1961.

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Restricted access until after the death of the donar, Catherine Klassen.

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Accession numbers are 1988-11, 1991-31, 1993-24

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Some German

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  • English

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