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Mennonite Heritage Centre Archives & Gallery Otto Klassen fonds
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The Great Trek 1939-1945

  • CA MHCA Film #44 to 54; Videocassettes 147-148, 242-245
  • Series
  • 1992-2002
  • 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 – 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.

Mennonites Conquer the Vistula Delta

This film presents the history of the persecuted Dutch Mennonites who found refuge in the Vistual Delta region of Poland and tells the story of their draining the marshes and developing a fertile agricultural region in the area. The film is narrated by Gerhard Ens.

Mennonite Monument Video

This item consists of the worship service held on July 28, 1985 at the Mennonite Village Museum in Steinbach, Manitoba at the unveiling and dedication of the Mennonite Monument to the victims of war and terror in the 20th century. The service consisted of English and German language speeches and music. Participants in the event included Mennonite leaders, historians, politicians, ministers and others. Speakers include: Gerhard Ens, MP Jake Epp, Minister of Health and Welfare, MLA Victor Schroeder, Minister of Finance, Eugene Derksen, Gerhard I. Peters, Wilhelm Pauls, Hans Epp, Gerhard Lohrenz, George K. Epp, Heinrich Wiebe and Herman Lenzman.

75 Years Mennonites in Mexico

  • CA MHCA Videocassettes nos. 198-203, 246-255; Vol. 5029:7 (textual).
  • Series
  • 1997-1998
  • Part of Otto Klassen fonds

This series of 3 videos and a German script present the 75 year history of the Canadian Mennonites who moved to Mexico beginning in 1922. The titles include Old Colony Mennonites Emigrate from Canada to Mexico (Part 1), Pioneers in Mexico: Canadian Mennonites Colonize in Mexico (Part 2), 75th Anniversary Celebration of Mennonites in Mexico 1922-1997(Part 3)

The Mennonites were promised control of their schools, language and way of life – freedoms which were being lost in Canada. Approximately 7000 of these Canadian Mennonites from the Old Colony and Sommerfeld groups from Manitoba and Saskatchewan migrated to Mexico between 1922 and 1926. Part one documents the historical background of these people and the actual migration. Part two document the development of these Canadians in Mexico as they continue to colonize. Part three is a report of the 75 year celebrations held in 1998. These productions were shown in many communities in Manitoba to raise money for the establishment of a museum/archives in Mexico in the Cuauhtemoc, Chihuahua, Mexico.

50 Year Freedom Jubilee: Praise God for Canada

This production was created on the occasion of the 50 year anniversary of the coming to Canada of Mennonite survivors of the horrors and terror of World War II in 1948. The production was intended as a souvenir video of the 50 year celebration of their freedom in Canada. Filmmaker Otto Klassen begins the production with scenes from the 1985 Mennonite Monument dedication to the 20th century victims of war, followed by a recording of the celebration which saw 900 people gather under a tent on August 15, 1998 at the Mennonite Village Museum to remember and give thanks.

Guest speakers included Peter J. Dyck, veteran Mennonite Central Committee worker telling the stories of his involvement in Berlin in 1948 and historian Marlene Epp who spoke of the contributions women made to the survival of roughly 13,000 Mennonites who emigrated to North and South America. Throughout the address by Epp, Klassen creates a collage of scenes of war using archival war footage acquired from the German archives.

The video also captures a second celebration event which took place the following day, August 16, 1998, in the Centennial Concert Hall in Winnipeg which featured the Jubilee Singers led by Dr. John Martens, Dr. Harry Loewen, former Chair of Mennonite Studies, University of Winnipeg, Dr. Johanness Reimer of Germany as well as Peter J. Dyck and Marlene Epp. Politicians bringing greeting included MLA Jack Penner and MP David Iftody. Entire list of speakers: Dr. Peter Dyck, Agnes Dyck, Elvira Derksen, Dr. Marlene Epp, Dr. George K. Epp, Hon. Jake Epp, Rev. Gerhard Ens, Rev. Jake Harms, Hon. David Iftody, Rev. Hermann Lenzmann, Dr. Harry Loewen, Peter H. Peters, Hon. Jack Penner, Dr. Johannes Reimer, Viktor Sawatzky, Jacob R. Wiebe.

Women of courage: stories of sadness & stories of survival

This video focuses on an address by Dr. Marlene Epp on the occasion of the 50th anniversary celebrations of the post World War II Mennonite immigration to Canada at the Mennonite Heritage Village, Steinbach, Manitoba in the summer of 1998. Based on her research project on fate of women with men largely as a result of the infamous Stalin purges during the years 1937 and 1938 and the conscription into either the German or Soviet Union armies. In the words of one reviewer, Otto Klassen "has skillfully woven into the texture of Ms. Epp's report, footage from his extensive film library depicting women in the Great Trek managing teams of horses and repairing vehicles while at the same time nursing their children, cooking for their families, bedding down the infirm and, most heart breaking of all, burying the dead along the endless trek."

Gespräch: Delegatenreise 1921

This video consists of a play depicting the Canadian Mennonite delegates from Manitoba and Saskatchewan who went to Mexico to investigate the possibility of finding an area where a large number of Mennonites from Canada could settle and retain their way of life which was being challenged and eroded in Canada.

Im Dienst Der Liebe (KM 81)

  • CA MHCA Film nos. 30 to 32. Videocassettes 196-197, 265.
  • Series
  • 1990
  • Part of Otto Klassen fonds

This film is about the leprosy mission hospital in Paraguay established by the Mennonites in 1951 known as Hospital Mennonita Km 81, located in Asuncion, Paraguay.

125th Anniversary of Mennonites in Manitoba: 1874-1999

This film is of the celebration held at the Forks in Winnipeg on the occasion of the 125th anniversary of Mennonites in Manitoba. In 1874 Russian Mennonites came down the Red River on river boats and landed at the Forks in Winnipeg to get supplies and then traveled back up the Red River and disembarked near current day Niverville, Manitoba to begin settling.

The celebration included a re-enactment of the river boat coming to the Forks with actors dressed in period costume. This event was planned by a special ad hock committee of the Manitoba Mennonite Historical Society (MMHS).

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