- CA MHCA Film #44 to 54; Videocassettes 147-148, 242-245
Part of Otto Klassen fonds
The Great Trek is a feature length documentary film of the Mennonite experience and exodus from Russia 1939-1945. It is about World War II and the Russian Mennonites who were part of a migration of people, not only of many individuals, but of entire populations. The movement began with the resettling of ethnic Germans after the annexation of the Baltic States in 1940 by the Soviet Union. After the outbreak of hostilities between Germany and the USSR, entire ethnic German colonies were uprooted and moved east. When the Soviet armies forced the German retreat beginning in 1943, all ethnic Germans were evacuated from Ukraine by the retreating German forces. Among them were 35,000 people of Mennonite origin and background.
This films consists of two parts â the first covering 1939-1943 and the second 1943-1945. Each part begins and ends with an introduction and closing comments by Mennonite historian, educator and editor Gerhard Ens. In this documentary, Otto Klassen has assembled a collage of documentary and newsreel footage made by German information services of the time and still photographs from the archives of the Federal Republic of Germany in Coblenz, private archives and from the archives of the Mennonite Heritage Centre in Winnipeg to tell a story. The archival film footage gives the film an immediacy that narration and re-enactment cannot. The realism and horror is almost overpowering at times. Producer and director Otto Klassen has released both English and German versions of The Great Trek.
Also included with the moving images is a script, sequence summary and shot list, Correspondence related to archival footage acquired from German archives and reviews and congratulatory correspondence.