Side by Side: Mennonite Stories of the First World War

Friday, January 31, 2014 12:30 pm - 1:30 pm EST (GMT -05:00)

Featuring Laureen Harder-Gissing

In 1916, when Berlin, Ontario changed its name to Kitchener, Mennonite diarist Susannah Cressman wrote, “Such is the wisdom of our…town fathers who are making [military contract] money out of it.” That same year preacher U. K. Weber persuaded his congregation to adopt the name “First Mennonite Church” to avoid naming the church after “warlord” Kitchener. In 1918, Mennonite conscientious objector Joseph Smith worried that he would be court-martialed. Later that year, soldier and Mennonite Gordon Eby acted as interpreter when his battalion marched into a defeated Germany, where the warmth and hospitality of the people he met made a deep impression. Meanwhile in Russia, Mennonite field chaplain J.H. Janzen won the respect of the men by eschewing officers’ privileges; he would soon become an immigrant to Canada.

At the Archives, Laureen is preparing to commemorate the First World War anniversary through Mennonite eyes. By presenting an exhibit of individual Mennonite stories “side by side” in all their complexity, she hopes to inspire deeper conversations about collective memory.