Author’s note: Special thanks to the Mennonite Historical Library at Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisonburg, Va., and to the Anabaptist Historians website for making available research material needed for this article. Thanks also to Ben Goossen, John Kampen, Kathy Shantz, Reg Good, John Thiesen, Mark Jantzen, Perry Bush, Shelbey Krahn, Marc Gopin, Odelya Gertel Kraybill, Bill Goldberg, Regina Shands Stoltzfus, Tobin Miller Shearer and Melanie Zuercher for helping with my research, talking with me and/or reading and commenting on drafts. None are responsible for this content or any mistakes I may have made. I welcome feedback and corrections at firstname.lastname@example.org
Over the last five centuries, Anabaptists have had distinct and impactful relationships with Jews. This article surveys the literature to reveal three key themes in the Anabaptist-Jewish relationship: a unique Anabaptist affiliation for Judaism; shared identities as persecuted minorities living in exile; and unique expressions and implications of Mennonite antisemitism against Jews.
The first theme is the unique affinity of some early Anabaptists toward Judaism. Mennonites, Amish, Hutterites and Brethren churches active today emerged from the Anabaptist movement that split with Catholicism during the Protestant Reformation. Anabaptism emerged as a critique of the Christian Empire’s marriage of church and state. Anabaptists disagreed with Protestant leaders on a number of issues, including religious freedom to practice adult baptism and pacifism. Anabaptists became a small but diverse offshoot persecuted by both Catholic and Protestant leaders. In their attempt to evoke pre-Christendom teachings of Jesus as a Jewish rabbi, some early Anabaptists sought out Jewish scholars and studied rabbinic texts in their attempts to address the corruption of the Empire’s church. A minority of early Anabaptists, as well as significant Anabaptist leaders in the 1900s, affirmed and borrowed from Judaism and embraced its theology of practice or lived faith. In the 20th century, prominent Mennonite theologians again concluded that authentic Anabaptists who aimed to reject Empire Christianity needed to study Judaism.
The second theme is the distinct history Jews and Anabaptists share as persecuted minority religious groups in Europe. European Catholics and Protestant leaders applied special taxes and laws restricting Anabaptists and Jews from owning property or holding public office. While both groups experienced persecution, Jews suffered exponentially more than Mennonites. The total number of Anabaptists killed in Europe, including Russia, between 1500 and 2000 is less than 50,000. The total number of Jews killed in Europe in this time period far exceeds six million, including unknown numbers of deaths in pogroms, the Inquisition, random Christian violence against Jews throughout the centuries, and the Holocaust. Both groups memorialize their history of suffering, and their experience of trauma is an important aspect of their identity today. Stemming from the experience of persecution and isolation from broader society, both groups hold a strong commitment to communal life, and some practice forms of collective socialism such as kibbutzim or intentional communities. And some members of both groups came to embrace ethno-religious nationalism.
The third and most prominent theme of Anabaptist-Jewish relations is anti-Judaism and antisemitism. From early Anabaptism in the 1500s until today, many Anabaptists adopted widespread Christian beliefs blaming Jews for Jesus’ death, denouncing Jews as “unbelievers” and avowing premillennialist’ beliefs that Jews need to convert to Christianity to allow the second coming of Christ. During World War I and World War II, Mennonites in Ukraine experienced extensive Russian violence. Mennonites in Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Danzig, Prussia and Ukraine widely supported Hitler and the Nazi regime. Many experiencing Russian violence viewed German forces as rescuing them from “Jewish Bolshevism.” Anabaptist Mennonites took on a unique role among Christians in providing racial and theological justification for the Holocaust. Mennonites also benefited from the Holocaust in unique ways, sometimes directly receiving bloodstained clothing, homes and/or businesses from Jews who perished in the Holocaust. Many German Mennonites living in Germany, Poland, Prussia and Ukraine supported Hitler. And untold numbers fought on behalf of Germany, including actively killing Jews in the Holocaust. Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), a church-based humanitarian organization, offered refugee assistance to Mennonites first escaping violence in Russia in the 1920s, and then later to Mennonites escaping post-WWII violence. Some of these Mennonites had willingly served within the Nazi regime’s vast tentacles, including high-ranking Mennonite Nazis and some who participated in killing Jews. After escaping to the Americas with MCC’s assistance, some of these Mennonites published pro-Nazi antisemitic propaganda, particularly in their German-language newspapers, that justified the theology and ideology of white supremacy. Five of these Mennonites became key leaders building the institutional architecture of today’s violent white supremacist movements in North America.
Today, many Mennonites are unaware of this history, or fiercely oppose those writing about this history. Some believe Mennonite support for Hitler stemmed primarily from Russian violence against Mennonites. Others suggest that there were only a few Mennonite Nazis, that Mennonites supported National Socialism’s emphasis on German culture but not Nazism, that Mennonites were reluctant or coerced to support Nazis, or that most Mennonites were not aware of Hitler’s mass violence against Jews. Research in this article suggests each of these assertions in untrue. 
This article is a bibliographical essay or survey of the current state of research on Mennonite-Jewish relations, with a focus on summarizing the extensive body of scholarship on Mennonite antisemitism. This article also makes three unique contributions to the literature.
First, it identifies the unique and significant role that some MCC-assisted Mennonite refugees played in the white supremacy and neo-Nazi movements in the Americas. Second, this article describes the “de-Nazification” process that Europeans went through to come to terms with their complicity with the Holocaust, and contrasts this with MCC attempts to share peace theology to Mennonite refugees. Third, the article explores the relationship between Mennonite antisemitism in the first half of the 1900s and Mennonites’ support for Palestinians beginning in 1948 and continuing with a troubled relationship with Jews and Israel over the last 70 years. Today, conservative Mennonites’ premillennial beliefs offer support for Israel in hopes that a Jewish state will bring Jesus’ return. Premillennial beliefs are widely denounced as antisemitic since they presume the death or conversion of all Jews. On the other hand, MCC’s disproportionate emphasis on denouncing Israeli violence while giving significantly less attention to violence from Arab and Muslim states or other regions of the world, raises questions. MCC offered simultaneous assistance to Nazi-supporting Mennonites in Europe and Palestinians suffering in the Nakba, also known as “Israel’s war of independence.” A significant number of Mennonites seem to have adapted antisemitic narratives from the early 1900s, including blaming Jews for violence in Russia, toward immediately singling out and denouncing Jews in Israel. MCC’s historians and staff from 1952 onwards have given almost no attention to Jewish suffering. And today, there are only a handful of substantial Mennonite connections with Jews or Jewish institutions while there are robust Mennonite-Muslim relationships.
Each of these three themes – affinity from Anabaptists toward Judaism; parallel narratives of persecution, identity and nationalism; and Anabaptist antisemitism – manifests in each of the last five centuries since the birth of Anabaptism. This article offers insights into the diversity of Anabaptist belief and experience with Jews across Europe, Israel and Palestine, and North and South America. The article follows a roughly chronological trajectory, though the latter half of the paper covers parallel timelines in separate sections. The article also provides a road map for what remains to be researched.
Because Anabaptists are a much smaller group, it is not clear whether Jews related to Anabaptists as a distinct group. As such, this article focuses on the variety of Anabaptist relationships with Jews. It is important to note that there is as much diversity within Anabaptism and Judaism as there may be between these religions. At each period in history, Anabaptists disagreed fiercely with other Anabaptists about how to relate to Jews. There is no one “Anabaptist” view on Jews or Judaism. Diverse Anabaptists experienced different treatment by local authorities and hold different theologies and definitions of what it means to be ethnically and/or religiously Anabaptist. Throughout the last 500 years, there have been progressive, tolerant, democratic and inclusive Anabaptists, and those who are more conservative, intolerant, authoritarian and exclusive. In general, there are two origins of Mennonites in the Americas: “Swiss Mennonites” who migrated in the 1800s and early 1900s, and “Dutch-Prussian-Russian” Mennonites, who migrated in several waves, some directly from the Netherlands, and other from Prussia and South Russia in the 1870s, 1920s and post-WWII.
Defining who is or is not an Anabaptist Mennonite is a difficult and contested task. Mennonites are not all “Mennonite” in the same way. Some scholars use criteria such as those who belong to a Mennonite church, hold beliefs in pacifism and identify as Mennonite in a religious sense. Other use a broader ethnic definition, including those who grew up in an ethnic Mennonite community, or those who hold an ethnic Mennonite surname. A Mennonite could also be defined as someone who has benefited or experienced persecution by others because they were perceived as Mennonite. The Nazis determined Mennonitism through rigorous “racial testing” including X-rays, body measurements and blood tests. And Mennonite leader C. Henry Smith suggested the term “Mennonite” might describe a “special race” as well as “a body of beliefs.” After WWII, MCC argued to the International Refugee Organization that Mennonites could be distinguished from other post-war German refugees according to whether an individual had a common Mennonite last name, spoke Low German or had proof of originating in a Mennonite town in Ukraine that, they argued, had not integrated into Russian society. This article draws on theological, institutional, geographic and ethnic identifiers of Mennonite identity to tell a complicated story of a diverse group of people who share a name.
Anabaptism developed as a reaction to and rejection of the Christian Empire, which had abandoned many of the teachings of Jesus, a pacifist Jewish teacher. Jesus was Jewish, studied and practiced Judaism, kept Jewish laws and never articulated any vision of starting a new religion or leaving Judaism. Jesus’ teachings were a part of the Jewish world at that time. Early followers of “the Jesus movement” were Jews who were arguing with other Jews about the best way to be a Jew and they wrote primarily for a Jewish audience. Most of the writings of the New Testament were written by Jews within the first century after Jesus’ death.
In the decades after Jesus’ death, Roman rule became even more oppressive, until the Romans destroyed the Jewish Temple in 70 CE, and then Jerusalem in 132-135 CE, making it a Roman city and forbidding Jews to live within it. The move away from Judaism occurred within the context of Rome’s genocidal violence against Jews with possibly up to one million killed. As the Jesus movement took root primarily in Gentile contexts, antisemitic ideas became more central in the movement’s writings. In the second century, Marcion, a Jesus follower, argued that Jesus’ teachings “superseded” the Jewish Scriptures or the “Old Testament.” Supersessionism also is known as “replacement theology.” Jesus’ followers began moving away from Judaism, referring to the Hebrew scriptures as the “Old Testament” and the Gospels of the Jesus movement as the “New Testament.” The Roman Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity in the third century. When the Empire embraced Christianity, many Christians embraced the Empire. In Constantine’s Sword: The Church and the Jews, James Carroll traces the history of Christian antisemitism. Emperor Constantine infused Christianity with the symbol of the cross that doubled as a symbol of the sword, binding an authoritarian state with an authoritarian church. The Jesus movement transformed into a political and military Empire.
In the centuries that followed, Christians became obsessed with forcibly converting Jews to Christianity. Christians blamed Jews, instead of Rome, for Jesus’ death. In 1097, Christian leaders unleashed mass violence against Jews with the Crusades, forced expulsions and pogroms. Persistent Christian persecution of Jews forced many to emigrate to North Africa, the Ottoman Empire and back to Palestine. Christians made up rumors of Jews killing Christian children. They blamed Jews for the Black Plague. During the Middle Ages, Christian leaders restricted Jews from many professions. They prohibited Jews from owning land, forcing many to abandon agriculture, which had been central to Jewish rituals for millennia, and move to cities. The Church forced Jews into the few jobs that Christians were forbidden to hold, primarily “usury” or money lending. This marginal and socially inferior profession set the stage for conflicts between Jewish money lenders and peasants who borrowed money and could not repay. This economic tension became the root of persistent antisemitic tropes of Jews as greedy and morally inferior.
There were few Jews still living in England, France, Spain or central Europe when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses critiquing the corruption of the Catholic Church to the door of the Wittenberg church in 1517. The Protestant Reformation began amid centuries of mass violence against Jews across Europe to challenge centuries of oppressive and corrupt Christian authoritarian religious rule. In 1492, a few months before Christopher Columbus sailed to the Americas and 25 years before the Protestant Reformation began, Spanish rulers Ferdinand and Isabela issued the “Edict of Expulsion” forcing Europe’s most advanced Jewish communities to choose between forced conversion to Christianity or expulsion. In 1506, Jewish converts to Christianity were massacred in Lisbon in a renewed wave of anti-Jewish pogroms sweeping across Europe. Jews had already been pushed out of England, France, much of Italy and most Swiss cantons.
Some Jews viewed the Reformation as God’s punishment of Christians for their mistreatment of Jews. Some viewed Luther as a “crypto-Jew” who would lead Christians back to Judaism. Some thought this new era of Christian division would bring greater religious tolerance. But that did not come to pass.
Anabaptists formed their own “radical reformation” movement in 1525, splitting off from both the Catholic and Protestant movements. Anabaptism had diverse origins, and there were debates among Anabaptists. In general, Anabaptist beliefs differed from Protestantism in three ways. First, they believed the teachings in Scripture applied to everyone, not just clergy. Catholic doctrine had stressed that only clergy had to live out difficult biblical guidance and laws. Anabaptists asserted a “priesthood of all believers.” Second, Anabaptists believed that Christians should be nonresistant, which meant not fighting in state wars. Anabaptists believed all of Jesus’ teachings should be observed, including Jesus’ command to love enemies and do good to those who harm you. Third, Anabaptists believed in adult baptism rather than infant baptism. As a principal of freedom of religion, people should decide as an adult to be baptized. Authorities had used baptism of infants as a type of census related to registering people for military service.
Most Anabaptist leaders wrote little to nothing about Jews. Beginning in the 1500s (and continuing until today), many Anabaptists viewed Jews within the wider anti-Jewish Christian narrative as unbelievers needing conversion. Like other Christians, most Anabaptists in the 1500s until today assert supersessionism, the presumed superiority of Christianity. Unlike most Catholics and Protestants, early Anabaptists did not embed anti-Judaism ideas into their scriptural analysis nor did they take part in anti-Jewish violence. Most Anabaptists in the 1500s were not actively blaming Jews for blood libel, magic or the plague, nor were they instigating violence against Jews.
Anabaptist emphasis on “works” or “lived faith” rather than strict doctrine led to at least some of the early Swiss Anabaptists becoming more sympathetic to Judaism and viewing Jewish scholars as more reliable sources of scriptural insight. Five groups of Anabaptists shared an affinity for Jewish thought and practices.
One group of “mystical” Anabaptists developed beliefs similar to Judaism. This branch of Anabaptism seems to have a lineage related to medieval mystics, and also to Jewish mysticism. As opposed to other Christians who believe in “sola scriptura,” the belief that all authority comes from the Scriptures, mystics understood truth to emerge from internal revelation and cooperation between the Divine spirit in every being. This group developed into a movement of Christian-Hebraists, those who studied Hebrew and learned from Kabbalah, the Jewish mystical tradition, and later went on to found the Humanist movement. Like Jews, these Anabaptists emphasized the teachings of the Torah, the first five books of Moses. Anabaptist Augustine Bader, like several other Anabaptists at the time, sought out rabbis in local Jewish communities to learn Hebrew. Bader imagined a multi-religious society.
With a desire for a more authentic reading of scripture, there is evidence that early Anabaptists Ludwig Hatzer and Hans Denck studied Hebrew and then sought out the translation help of Jewish expertise and rabbinic scholarship in the city of Worms, in the Palatinate region of Germany. After centuries of Christian antisemitic violence against Jews, Worms was one of only two cities left in Western Europe with any sizeable Jewish population. Hatzer and Denck both participated in Protestant evangelism toward Jews at early points in their life, but they also seemed to embrace key aspects of Judaism. In 1527, they published a new translation known as the Worms Prophets, which seems to draw on Jewish interpretations of Hebrew texts. While debatable, the Jewish influence on this translation includes both linguistic accuracy and a non-christological tone. James Beck points to proof of the Jewish sources of Hatzer and Denck’s translation because most other Christian Hebraists rejected Jewish texts on the Prophets. As Christian humanists, these two Anabaptists may have sought to influence other humanists more than Anabaptists. While traditional in his views of Christian superiority to Jews, Denck and at least some other Anabaptists believed in ecumenical dialogue with Jews, and possibly believed in universalist salvation, that all people are “saved” by God’s grace. Some scholars assert Denck believed Jesus was “a” son of God and not the “only” son of God. Jesus was seen as an exemplary Jewish teacher counter to what other Christians thought at the time.
The third group of Anabaptists, led by Oswald Glaidt and Andreas Fischer, showed similar affiliation for Jewish thought and practice regarding observing the Sabbath on Saturday, known as “Sabbatarianism.” Observing the Sabbath or “Shabbat” is a central commandment in Judaism. These Anabaptists began observing a Saturday Sabbath in 1530 in Moravia and Silesia. Fischer also encouraged his community of Sabbatarians to practice circumcision as an expression of their reverence for God’s covenant with humanity.
From 1534-1535, a fourth group of Anabaptists in the city of Münster sought to reconstitute their faith not to early Christianity, but to the time of Moses and the Jewish Exodus from Egypt. These Anabaptists were a revolutionary movement seeking to establish an ideological “caliphate” through force. While there is little information about Jewish influences on Anabaptists in Münster, the Anabaptist Münsterites viewed themselves as modern Jewish leaders, creating a promised land of Zion. The Anabaptist Münsterites violently took over the city to establish a proto-socialist society. They saw themselves as “Israelites,” and referred to their leader as the “king of the new Zion.” They called the city of Münster the “New Jerusalem,” or the capital of the “New Israel.” They referenced the fight against evil as told in the Hebrew scriptures. They were, in a sense, an early manifestation of Christian Zionists. They were not unlike the Islamic State or Kahanist Jewish settlers wanting an expansive Jewish state today.
Jews and Jewish thought also influenced Italian Anabaptists in Padua. In his research on Anabaptists and Jews, James Beck describes how the Italian Anabaptist community elected Hebraist Jerome Busale, possibly of Jewish ancestry, in 1550, following his conversion to Anabaptism. Busale’s colleague Lawrence Tizzano described Anabaptist rebaptism in terms of the Jewish practice of a mikveh, a ritual purification through immersion. As a Jew, Jesus would have practiced the mikveh, and baptism emerged from that rite. Another Italian Anabaptist, Tizzano’s colleague John Laureto, sailed to Thessalonica to join a Sephardic Jewish community where he studied Hebrew under the local rabbis, converted to Judaism and submitted to circumcision.
Protestant leader Martin Luther condemned Anabaptists, as well as his other enemies, as “Judaizers” succumbing to “Jewish influence.” He denounced Anabaptists as a warning to other Christians to stay away from the “danger” that Jews posed to Christianity. Martin Luther viewed any effort to reform Christianity to its early expressions or to learn Hebrew to read and understand scripture in Hebrew as a threat to Christianity.
Anabaptists would continue to encounter theological similarity with Jews over the next several centuries. In the late 1600s, there are other stories of Anabaptists converting to Judaism. A Dutch Mennonite couple named Hans Joostenszn (Abraham Abrahamsz) and Sanne Thijsdochter (Sara Abrahamsz) converted to Judaism in Constantinople. While visiting the Ottoman city of Safed, Abraham performed a “self-circumcision.” Upon their return to the Netherlands, Dutch authorities arrested them for apostasy. However, it would take another 400 years before Anabaptists would again publish theological reflections on the relevance of Judaism to followers of Jesus, as discussed later in this article.
As the two main religious minorities in Europe from the 1500s to the 1900s, Anabaptists and Jews experienced similar forms of persecution by European authorities. Both experienced exile, martyrdom, loss of property, lack of citizenship, inability to own land and being barred from holding public office. In some regions, this led to Mennonites and Jews living in adjacent, isolated communities and developing similar cultural traits. In some places, authorities relaxed restrictions, and they both became leading merchants and traders. The affiliation led some Mennonites to reject association with Jews, contributing to antisemitic sentiments. For other Mennonites, when convenient, it led them to draw upon the association and shared victimhood to pose themselves as Jews. At critical moments in history, this appropriation of Jewish history and victimhood would displace and minimize Jewish suffering, becoming a source of antisemitism discussed later in this article.
Martin Luther’s commitment to anti-Judaism and persecution of Anabaptists accelerated with the growing popularity of the Protestant Reformation. While earlier in his life, Luther wrote That Jesus Christ Was Born a Jew, Luther published On the Jews and Their Lies in 1543. Luther encouraged prohibitions against rabbis teaching, confiscations of rabbinical texts, and even burning down Jewish homes and synagogues to prevent the spread of Judaism. In the early 1500s, authorities began to apply similar repressive tactics and laws to Jews and Anabaptists, then often referred to as Mennonites after their leader Menno Simons. During the 16th century, between 1,500 and 2,500 Anabaptists were tortured, drowned or burned at the stake, and many more were imprisoned. Anabaptist Balthasar Hubmaier, who had participated in organizing a violent pogrom against Jews before his conversion to Anabaptism, ironically suffered a violent death when he was chased down by religious authorities for his unorthodox Anabaptist beliefs. This martyrdom has significantly shaped Anabaptist identity and sense of victimhood until today.
The earliest known historical record of local political authorities grouping Jews and Mennonites together came in January 1577 when the mayor and city council of the Dutch city of Emden sent a letter to Count Edzard II to report on two “seductive sects” accused of prosperity such as living in “noble houses,” creating business associations, spreading their beliefs and seducing “simple people.” In 1601, Emden imposed a Schutzgeld (protection tax) on a combined list of Anabaptist and Jewish families. The Schutzgeld did not forbid Anabaptists and Jews from religious gatherings but denied them a formal space to do so. The Schutzgeld continued for 200 years.
Religious leaders linked the two groups as well. Jesuit priest Joannes Schröter attempted to mobilize anti-minority sentiment with his exclamation in 1691, “O dear people, you hate the Jews as enemies of Christ and so should you hate their offspring, the Mennonites!” In 1702, a Lutheran prayer pamphlet read, “Keep us by your Word, O Lord, and deflect the murderous intentions of the Quakers, Mennonites, Jews and Turks, who desire to dethrone your Son, Jesus Christ.”
Mennonites and Jews both fled persecution in Central Europe and moved toward regions that tolerated religious diversity, by fleeing west to the Netherlands, north to Germany (particularly the Palatinate) and east to Prussia and Ukraine from the 1790s.
This enforced affiliation had several consequences. Anabaptists and Jews developed some similar cultural traits requiring communal conformity, similar clothing and similar dialects of German. Michael Driedger argues that Anabaptists and Jews resembled each other in that they both tried to avoid public attention that might endanger their status as tolerated groups. One aspect of their shared culture was their practice of community-organized discipline. In his article comparing Jewish and Anabaptist histories, Driedger describes like cultural sanctions, including a “nezifah, a temporary reprimand; niddui, community shunning, usually lasting for month-long periods, during which time an individual was excluded from religious privileges; and herem, permanent excommunication.” If a community member in either Anabaptist or Jewish communities acted in an unseemly way, the community itself developed ways of censuring individuals who dressed or behaved unusually.
Jewish and Anabaptist scholars agree that the most severe repression ended in the late 1500s, as political authorities began to recognize the political value of religious tolerance. While both Anabaptist and Jewish communities remained marginalized and members could not hold office, both communities enjoyed more freedom and safety, and some began to accumulate wealth as traders in some parts of Europe during the 1600s-1800s.
Mennonites and Jews in the Netherlands
In the Netherlands, both Anabaptist Mennonites and Jews experienced a reprieve from persecution. Both groups became wealthy traders, and many held a relatively progressive and tolerant worldview. Amsterdam was one of the cities that included both a large Jewish and Mennonite population. Jan Theunisz belonged to the progressive and tolerant Anabaptist Waterlander congregation in Amsterdam. He owned a popular dance hall called the Menniste Bruyloft. Theunisz was also a printer and linguist, teaching Hebrew at the Amsterdam Academy and printing Hebrew books. Theunisz had both Muslim and Jewish friends and advocated for religious tolerance.
Jewish Enlightenment philosopher Baruch Spinoza lived with Mennonites and other Collegiants in the 1600s in the Dutch city of Leiden. Collegiants held meetings or “colleges” the first Sunday of each month and allowed everyone the freedom to pray and discuss scripture. While Amsterdam’s Jewish community largely rejected Spinoza, Anabaptists in Leiden welcomed him because of their shared belief in religious liberty. Some of Spinoza’s closest friends were Mennonites, including significant Mennonite leaders like Jarig Jellesz who wrote the preface to Spinoza’s book Ethics.
Some of these Mennonites eventually immigrated to the United States and Canada, and maintained progressive attitudes that valued science and religious tolerance, and emphasized nonresistance (voiced today as pacifism) and opposition to nationalism.
Mennonites and Jews in Prussia
Other Mennonites moved eastward to Poland, Prussia and Ukraine looking for land to farm and agreements known as schutzbriefe with governments to avoid military service. Polish, Prussian and Russian authorities viewed these Mennonites as Germans. In Prussia, Mennonites and Jews faced similar restrictions on property ownership from the 1500-1800s. Mark Jantzen analyzes the evolution of Prussian policies toward Jews and Mennonites. Prussian authorities received special taxes from Mennonites and Jews but cited Mennonites as “more worthless than Jews” given Mennonite refusal to join the army.
After the Napoleonic Wars and the Treaty of Tilsit in 1807, government reformers examined rules that had applied to both Mennonites and Jews. The Napoleonic Code enabled Mennonites and Jews to begin to acquire property. The new authorities ordered a census of Mennonites and Jews, and the development of strategies to integrate them into society. The government offered full citizenship in exchange for military service. Mennonites rejected this offer, wanting continued exemptions from military service. But Jews generally supported participation in military service and wanted citizen privileges, so did not appreciate Mennonite efforts to disentangle equal citizenship rights with the military draft. Despite being treated as similar groups by authorities, Mennonites and Jews did not seem to work together to coordinate a response to new policy proposals. Janzen notes Mennonites were worried about being thought of as Jews. There were exceptions to this. Hermann von Beckerath was a bank owner and member of Parliament, and a member of the Mennonite church in Krefeld, in northern Germany. As an urban, progressive Mennonite, he made multiple speeches on behalf of Jewish equality and rights for minority groups.
Mennonites and Jews in Ukraine
In Germany and Ukraine, Mennonites and Jews would live in adjacent villages in rural areas and attempt to farm challenging landscapes. Mennonites and Jews both seemed to prefer to keep to themselves, and viewed outsiders, even other religious minorities, as threats. Negative views on money lending imposed by earlier Christian antisemitic authorities led some Mennonites to hold negative views of Jews.
In Ukraine, the Mennonite communities known as Chortitza and Molotschna existed adjacent to Jewish communities known as “Hebrew colonies.” They spoke distinct but similar ethnic dialects. Jews spoke Yiddish, while Mennonites spoke what is now known as Plautdietsch. Both Jews and Mennonites held a minority status, emphasized community loyalty and communalism, and practiced a minority religion distinct from their Russian neighbors.
The Russian government settled Jews and Mennonites together in an agricultural area in Kherson province. Mennonites in Chortitza, 100 kilometers away from Kherson, referred to these farms as the Judenplan. The Judenplan seems to be the most extensive cooperation and contact between Jews and Mennonites both quantitatively and qualitatively throughout the last five centuries.
There were 39 villages in the Judenplan, each with 400-600 people. The government settled eight or nine Mennonite families in each village, at a ratio of about one Mennonite to every five Jews. Possibly due to Christian restrictions on Jewish professions over many centuries, Jews did not have substantial farming expertise and the government interspersed their farmland with German “master farmers” who were mostly Mennonites. In his description of the Jewish-Mennonite farming relationship, David H. Epp describes how a young Mennonite superintendent, Dietrich Epp, would ride through the Judenplan farms on the Russians steppes “directing the Jewish farmers by precept and example, showing them how to cultivate their land; he also taught them how to plant trees around their houses. His work received repeated grateful recognition from the government.”
Historian Harvey Dyck’s introduction to the diaries of Jacob D. Epp, another Mennonite farmer in the Judenplan, notes that “[y]oking Jews and Mennonites together in the Judenplan was a characteristic experiment of Russian autocratic paternalism” in the early 1800s. Mennonite leaders agreed to the plan because of the increasing population pressures and landlessness in the established Mennonite colonies. The Russian experiment in the Judenplan created Mennonite-Jewish tension. Epp writes: “To the right and left of well-cultivated fields, there were neglected fields. Furthermore, the Jews let the Russian peasants pasture their cattle on these uncultivated fields, and consequently, the cultivated fields of the Mennonites were trampled. Not until 30 years later was the land of the Mennonites separated from the rest.”
Jews also did not like the humiliation of having “master farmers.” Jews complained about Mennonites using their land to pasture their animals. The Epp diaries also document how Mennonites would look down on their Jewish neighbors and act violently against them. In one instance, for example, Dyck describes “how a group of drinking Mennonites surprised some Jews watching them, so they caught the ‘spies’ and beat them mercilessly.”
Dyck describes “[t]roublesome encounters between Jews and Mennonites, coupled with vague feelings of being boxed in by a different, alien world…” With little experience of living in a multicultural and multi-religious society, Mennonites tended to look down on other groups. “Proud of their agrarian accomplishments, strongly isolationist theologically, and in consequence of their tragic martyr past, they unquestionably preferred… familiar, homogenous, largely self-administered Mennonite settlements.” James Urry notes that some Russian Mennonites accused local Jews of taking their jobs and made antisemitic accusations against Jewish merchants. Some scholars assert that this was in part due to Jewish craftsmen’s willingness to work for less than some Mennonite craftsmen.
Yet overall, Jacob Epp describes a mutual tolerance between Mennonites and Jews, who spoke similar languages but had separate schools and segregated living. Epp does not mention any intermarriages or friendships in the Judenplan. But there was a Mennonite-Jewish co-owned mill. And Jews and Mennonites eventually administered and regulated the land together to determine animal grazing rules and crop rotation. A Jewish website about the Kherson Jewish Colonies in Russia states, “A Mennonite minister, Jacob Epp, lived in the Hebrew Colonies between 1860 and 1880 serving as a model farmer, advisor, and Mennonite church official. He was not only a moral advisor but had considerable civic authority. He was also the chairman of the church council whose jurisdiction included responsibility for Jewish-Mennonite relations.”
It appears Jews and Mennonites improved their relationship over time. Epp’s diary has been used by both Mennonite and Jewish historians to document how local tribal peoples, Mennonites, Russians, Ukrainians and Jews interacted.
Eventually, poor landless Mennonite families leased land from Jewish families and the number of Jews and Mennonites became more equal. Mennonite biographies note that there was a mixture of antisemitism and affinity for Jews living in Ukraine. One biographer, David G. Rempel, notes robust Mennonite-Jewish relationships because of proximity and trade. Rempel also claims that “during pogroms, Jewish residents from nearby cities often found asylum in local Mennonite homes.” Another Mennonite biography from Ukraine by Jacob Abramovich Neufeld (1895–1960) blamed “Russian Jewish interrogators” for his oppression in the gulag. And yet Neufeld also wrote about his support for Jews and tells a story of befriending an Orthodox Jewish fellow inmate with the last name Goldberg who was imprisoned beside him during his five years in the gulag. As an observant Jew, Goldberg fasted instead of eating soup that might contain pork. He was mocked by fellow inmates for his religious prayers. Neufeld reached out to him. “My familiarity with the Holy Scriptures and Psalms, as well as allusions I made to some of my own beliefs, seemed important to him. He did not want to believe I was a Gentile and not a concealed Jew.”
Further exile, migration and trauma
Agricultural hardships and political unrest sent waves of Mennonites from Germany and Ukraine to North America in the 1800s and early 1900s, where many would remain pacifist and seek out exemptions from war. Jews also emigrated during this time to North America to escape Russian pogroms and ongoing persecution and hardships.
The Russian civil war in 1917 brought violence to both Mennonites and Jews. The Mennonite communities in Ukraine were wealthy landowners and farmers, and Bolsheviks objected to their rule over local peasants. Russian Mennonites experienced significant trauma. Between 1914 and 1941, 20 percent of the 11,000 Mennonites in the Chortitza colony were killed, starved or deported. Russian Mennonites estimate overall that up to 30,000 died or disappeared during Stalinist terror to come. Mennonite Central Committee helped Mennonites leave Ukraine after the Bolshevik revolution, starting in 1920. Those who stayed experienced further hardships. The war had destroyed their churches or religious schools.
This chapter in history set the stage for Mennonite support for the Nazi regime. The German government gave six million Reichsmarks, a significant portion of funds at a time when Germany was economically devastated, to thousands of Russian Mennonites fleeing Russian violence. The Mennonite community remembered this German aid for many years.
The Nazis would eventually amplify existing antisemitic beliefs propaganda blaming “Jewish Bolshevism” and later “Jewish communism.” Some Mennonites would continue blaming Jews for Bolshevik and Communist violence in the decades to come. Researchers continue to debunk this antisemitic myth. Some scholars assert only a minority of Bolsheviks were Jewish, estimated at 5% of those supporting the revolution. Others note that most Jews opposed the Bolshevik revolution. All scholars agree that pogroms killed thousands of Jews during the Bolshevik revolution and that some Jews were perpetrators while others were victims, noting that Jews are a diverse group of people, like Mennonites and other groups, without a shared ideology.
Some Anabaptists portray themselves, to this day, as suffering “like Jews.” Jewish scholars also explore the similarities between Jews and Anabaptist “radical sectarians.” Magdalena Luszczynska writes about Anabaptist groups both claiming and distancing themselves from similarities with Jews. Haim Hillel Ben-Sasson notes that both Jews and Anabaptists experienced persecution and exile that shaped their cultural identities. Ben-Sasson notes that Anabaptists suffered because of their chosen religious beliefs whereas Jews suffered because of their historic identity. Jews were often persecuted regardless of their religious beliefs, as Christian groups also killed Conversos (Jews forced to convert to Christianity). Ben-Sasson also points to the shared sense of superiority and “chosenness” among Jews and Anabaptists.
Mennonites simultaneously viewed themselves as similar to Jews and as the opposite of Jews. Nazi racial scientists would understand this as both a danger and opportunity, as detailed in the next section. A Nazi geographer would observe the following:
Like the Jews, Mennonites believe the bonds of blood make them not just a single race, but the “chosen race” of God. Jewish history dominates the Mennonites in all details; through the giving of Jewish first names, they seek to compare themselves to the Jewish race.
In Paraguay, one influential Russian Mennonite leader, Fritz Kliewer, would argue that every Mennonite was “sickened by Judaism,” citing Mennonites using Jewish names like Sara and Isaac from the Bible.
Claims to Mennonite trauma as being greater than Jewish trauma or caused by Jews would become especially problematic with the rise of Hitler. Mennonite researcher Doris Bergen notes, “I often [found that] Mennonites described themselves as ‘like the Jews’ – persecuted, often homeless in the world, chosen by God. But if Mennonites are ‘the Jews,’ then where are the Jews? They become the villains of the narrative.” By continuing to equate or displace Jewish identity and suffering with stories of Mennonite suffering, Mennonites would participate in antisemitic narratives denigrating Jews.
Despite centuries of belief in the need for separation of church and state, pacifism and religious freedom, German nationalism divided Mennonites and turned a significant number of European Mennonites against Jews and toward fascism. Those who had immigrated to the United States and Canada before the 1900s maintained an emphasis on church and state separation and pacifism. But some European Mennonites faced a different set of historical circumstances and largely abandoned pacifism. There are several explanations for this shift.
Explanations for Mennonite antisemitism and support for Hitler
First, Mennonites in many countries associated their German cultural identity closely with their religion. To this day, some insist Mennonites did not support “Nazism” but rather they supported Hitler’s “National Socialism” and “völkisch” or the German folk movement. After the defeat of Germany in WWI, some Mennonites, like other Germans, wanted a strong leader who would redeem their German identity. They experienced anger, economic disruption and social isolation as a result of the Versailles Treaty after Germany’s defeat in WWI. German territory shrunk, affecting Mennonites living in border areas with France, Poland and the Free City of Danzig.
Second, Russian Mennonite’s experience of violence, rape, death and persecution in Russia left them exhausted and humiliated from suffering. Many Mennonites had been sent to the gulag work camps; hundreds more were killed or disappeared. Russian Mennonite authors have created a significant number of biographical and historical accounts of their suffering and the lasting psychological trauma they experienced. Mennonite suffering during the Bolshevik revolution and what some saw as their longstanding “addiction to autocratic rule” left Mennonites vulnerable to German propaganda. For some, Nazi fascism looked better than Russian tyranny. John D. Thiesen’s 1990 book Mennonite and Nazi? notes Mennonite appreciation for Germany’s economic, educational and cultural support to Russian Mennonite refugees in South America and suggests this contributed to their ardent support for Hitler. Mennonite refugees from Russia living in the Mennonite colony of Fernheim, Paraguay, sent bags of peanuts to prominent Nazi leaders. Hermann Goering received his Mennonite peanuts on his wedding day. Desperate to protect their ethnic German identity and to prove their loyalty to Germany, many Mennonites also came to view Hitler as a savior from Soviet aggression.
Many viewed pacifism as outdated. Without church institutions to affirm historical Anabaptist principles, it is not surprising that some Mennonites joined military forces. And as products of their context and Nazi propaganda, some viewed Jews as responsible for their suffering. Even today, some Russian Mennonites suggest their support for Hitler emerged mainly from trauma experienced in Russia.
Third, Mennonites uniquely contributed toward and benefited from German racial science that would justify the Holocaust. Even before Hitler rose to power, from 1930-32, German “racial” scientists used Mennonite church records and measured over 1,200 Mennonites’ facial features in their attempt to prove that Mennonites were among the purest “Aryans.” German Mennonite identity was based upon genealogical research in the 1930s to illustrate their “purity of blood and culture.” Nazi narratives of Mennonites as “anti-Jews” in terms of culture, religion and blood implicates Mennonites in helping to justify the Holocaust.
Mennonites in Europe and the Americas began to view their “blood purity” as central to their identity. John Redekop argues that Mennonite refugees fleeing violence in Russia in the 1920s developed a strong affiliation with German identity, which morphed into a belief in German cultural superiority. As a minority group, some Mennonites admired Hitler’s pride in Germanness. Analyzing the Canadian Mennonite newspaper Der Bote, Redekop observed that “Canadian Mennonites… believed that there was a biological basis for cultural and racial identities… Many thought that both biological theory and theological doctrine were in line with the division of the human family into racial groups and that the mixture of these groups was wrong and harmful.” In her blog “Was Opa a Nazi?,” Russian Mennonite Susan Klassen attempts to understand her Russian grandfather. “As a faith that values voluntary, adult decision-making, Anabaptism should have rung the death knell for any ideologies that associate virtue with race and genetic markers. But centuries of forced and voluntary isolationism had made us culturally distinct and bigoted.”
Finally, many German and some Dutch Mennonite leaders made theological arguments in support of the rise of Hitler. Contrary to some assumptions that trauma alone pushed Mennonites to support Hitler, Mennonites had enjoyed several centuries of peace, freedom and acceptance in Germany and the Netherlands. They supported German Nationalism and Hitler not under duress, but because their theology and lived experience resonated with Hitler’s ideology. Mennonite theologians in Germany and the Netherlands advocated for racial theology in which “morals pass through blood.” John Roth notes, “The biblical motif of a ‘called-out people’ became an argument for Aryan supremacy; references to the blood of the martyrs fused into the language of racial identity; church festivals and rituals were transformed into celebrations of the German nation.” German Mennonite church leader Benjamin H. Unruh argued that Hitler’s National Socialism was a natural partner to Mennonitism.
Mennonite support for Hitler in Europe and among Russian Mennonite refugees in North and South America was widespread. They used theological and racial arguments, as well as referencing their trauma and desire to recover from WWI, as explanations. Mennonites participated in the Holocaust in diverse ways. Mennonites served in a wide variety of positions under the Third Reich, including as scientists, propagandists, mayors, governors, guards, police, bureaucratic staff, and executioners who oversaw the killing of Jews. Mennonites played roles as subjects, distributors and creators of Nazi propaganda, and were particularly effective in spreading pro-Nazi sentiment among fellow Mennonites across the Americas.
German Mennonites and the Holocaust
Mennonites appeared on Nazi party lists starting in 1920. Only a minority of Mennonite religious leaders in Germany opposed the “false sacraments” of race and blood. In the Palatinate region of Germany, a large number of Jews attended the only German Mennonite educational establishment, until Mennonites expelled all Jewish students in 1890. Mennonite religious newspapers discussed attempts to convert Jews and printed arguments stimulating fear and hatred of Jews as “the enemies of our savior.” By 1936, German Mennonites allowed their school to become an elite Nazi training academy.
There was some diversity of viewpoints among Mennonites, and some accepted the regime more slowly than others. Mennonite youth wrote a circular letter starting in 1933 that was passed among church members in which they discussed the justification of joining the Germany army, the boycott of Jewish businesses and Nazi violence against Jews. Only a minority discussed their compassion for Jews. In 1936, the leader of the Hitler Youth Movement, Baldur von Schirach, announced his decision to allow Mennonites to join the Hitler Youth with a solemn pledge rather than a sworn oath, since Mennonites opposed oath-taking. Some Mennonite leaders urged Mennonite youth to avoid any type of leadership position, since that would require an oath.
Some Mennonite church leaders spoke out against National Socialism, argued for their religious independence, objected to swearing an oath and resisted Nazi efforts to create a protestant union that removed the Hebrew scriptures. Their concern, it seemed, was that they would lose their church independence along with Mennonite youth, who were abandoning the church and replacing Mennonite theology with allegiance to Nazi groups and theology. Most Mennonite church leaders in Germany had already abandoned pacifism. Like other religious groups, including Jews, Mennonites boasted about the percent of their membership that had served in the German Army in WWI. Military service was a key test of citizenship. Mennonites in Germany largely relegated pacifist beliefs to the past, suggesting pacifism was irrelevant and outdated.
A Berlin Mennonite pastor, Horst Quiring, wrote a handbook for Mennonites that incorporated racial purity into Mennonite theology. Quiring urged Mennonite pastors to participate in genealogical research to preserve “the purity of blood, the care for a healthy race.” Mennonites became symbolic of how to maintain German or “Aryan” cultural traditions abroad. Nazis would later use this racial science as one of many justifications for the Holocaust. C. Henry Smith published his Story of the Mennonites in 1941, which included a section chastising German Mennonites for their support for Hitler. Smith cites a Mennonite pastor in Hamburg, who wrote in 1934 in response to an article called “Who is my Neighbor?” in the Mennonitische Blätter that he was only required to love his “German neighbors,” and “the Jew, the Negro, and the Japanese can in no sense be his neighbor in the scriptural sense.”
Some individuals with Mennonite backgrounds became significant leaders in the Nazi regime. A physicist named Abraham Esau set up the German radio network around the world to combat British news service in the 1910s. He joined the Nazi party in 1933 and advised the Third Reich’s Propaganda Ministry. Esau later directed the Nazi nuclear program. Mennonites supported Nazi propaganda in a variety of ways in Europe and also North and South America. One successful Nazi propaganda film in Germany showed a group of Mennonites struggling with the “futility” of their religious pacifism and taking up arms to kill the “savage” Bolsheviks who have taken over their church to use as a drinking hall. Two Canadian Mennonite newspapers printed official Nazi propaganda speeches in the 1930s. After WWII, two Mennonite Nazis who emigrated to Canada became editors of Canadian Mennonite newspapers.
Mennonite church leaders had direct relationships with Hitler’s top advisers, particularly Heinrich Himmler. Benjamin Unruh became Mennonite Central Committee’s (MCC) official representative in Germany in 1936 while simultaneously serving as the Third Reich’s expert on Mennonites and Nazi government liaison to the Mennonite community. Unruh grew up partly in the Mennonite Molotschna community in Ukraine. Having played a role in MCC’s assistance to Russian Mennonites to North and South America after the Bolshevik revolution, the Nazi government viewed Unruh and Mennonites as positive examples of German culture and colonialists in its desired German empire. Unruh’s multi-hatted mission was to help Mennonites advance their interests with MCC, and to promote Nazism to other Mennonites in Europe and North America for the Third Reich.
Danzig Mennonites and the Holocaust
Before and during WWII, a large Mennonite population lived in Danzig (now Gdansk, Poland). Mennonites in Danzig and East Prussia joined the Nazi Party in the 1920s. Mennonites served as Nazi party county commissioners, funded Nazi cultural houses and led Nazi agricultural programs. Mennonite Otto Andres was deputy Gauleiter (lieutenant governor) of Danzig-West Prussia. Mennonite Ernst Penner was the Nazi representative in the Prussian Parliament.
Gerhard Rempel records how the large population of Mennonites in Danzig participated in the persecution and death of Jews at the adjacent Stutthof concentration camp. A Mennonite builder, Gerhard Epp, served as a general contractor to the SS to construct buildings on the premises, noting, “It is not much of an exaggeration to say that a Mennonite built the barracks for the first concentration camp on non-German soil.” Rempel records the widespread use of slave labor by Mennonite farmers in the area. Both Jewish and non-Jewish inmates at the concentration camp would be leased from the camp. Paid nothing, they were forced to work long days. Mennonites served as guards for the Stutthof concentration camp. One was SS-Unterscharführer Kurt Janzen, who served as Blockführer and leader of the labor detachment. The other, Heinz Löwen, was one of the few Mennonite Nazi guards tried after the war. Another likely Mennonite named Schröder was one of 20 SS guards notorious for their brutal treatment of 1,000 Jewish women forced to build dikes. The SS guards killed women who tired from the slave labor.
Danzig area Mennonites also benefited economically from Nazi persecution of Jews. Jews were forced to serve as slave laborers on surrounding farms, including those of Mennonites. Gerhard Epp used 300-500 Stutthof inmates to build a new factory near the camp. Fritz Friese, the Mennonite owner of the largest estate in the Grenzdorf B area, was a member of the Nazi forces of the General SS. “Friese personally selected the fieldworkers from his camp inmates and worked them so ferociously that he was known as the ‘Lord of Death and Life.’”
Danzig area Mennonites were also silent bystanders. Letters and interviews with some Mennonites still alive today document childhood memories of a long series of trains and wagons going by their Mennonite home, transporting Jews to Stutthof. “There was no question about what was happening there.”
Christiana Epp Duschinsky’s parents grew up in Danzig during this time. Duschinsky’s father was imprisoned for opposing Nazis. She recalls a story her mother told her about growing up in Danzig.
In 1944, while my father was imprisoned, my mother worked for a time as a dressmaker for my father’s Mennonite aunts who had a farm at Tiegenhof, close to the old border between Prussia and Danzig. This farm was located close to the railway line that led to the Stutthof Concentration Camp. At one point my mother heard terrible, distressed screams. When she asked one of the aunts about the screaming, she was told, “They are separating the Jewish mothers from their children.” When my mother protested that this could not be right, the aunt responded, “Hitler must know what he is doing.”
Duschinsky records that “in 1940 the West Prussian Mennonite Conference publicly declared: ‘The Conference will not do anything that gives even the faintest appearance of opposition to the policy of our Fuehrer.’” This suggests that despite intimate everyday knowledge of preparations for the Holocaust happening in the Danzig area, Mennonite leaders refused to collectively speak out.
Polish Mennonites and the Holocaust
Colin Neufeldt, reflecting on his German Mennonite ancestors in Poland, documents the relationships between Jews living in the somewhat larger town of Gabin, and Mennonites living in the adjacent Mennonite town of Deutsch Wymyschle. Before WWII, the Polish government applied “de-Germanification” efforts to force Jews and Mennonites to assimilate. At the onset of WWII, Polish neighbors attacked German Mennonites. When the Nazis invaded Poland, Mennonites saw the German forces as their saviors and the Nazis favored Mennonites because of their German identity.
The Nazis burned the classic Jewish synagogue in Gabin and decimated the Jewish quarter on Sept. 1, 1939. In exchange for signing up for the Deutsche Volksliste (the Nazi list of Germans in Poland), the Nazis permitted Mennonites on the Volksliste to rent at low cost the “Aryanized” former homes and businesses of some of their Jewish and Polish neighbors. In 1939, Neufeldt’s grandparents, Peter and Frieda Ratzlaff, moved to Gabin and took over a Jewish hardware store. Peter was soon drafted into the Nazi army. Eager to win the favor of the Nazis, some Polish Mennonite women married Nazi soldiers in the local Mennonite church. One local Mennonite, Albert Foth, became the leader of the Hitler Youth organization and participated in the murder of local Poles. Erich L. Ratzlaff was a prominent Mennonite and official member of the Nazi party. Neufeldt’s grandmother witnessed Ratzlaff as mayor of Gabin carrying a whip on the streets of Gabin to terrorize Jews. Ratzlaff later emigrated to Canada and became the editor of the pro-German Mennonitische Rundschau newspaper, as discussed later in this article.
Russian Mennonites and the Holocaust
In Ukraine and other parts of the Russian Empire, Mennonite communities had a long history of living with Jews. While a handful of positive stories discussed earlier in this article denotes some sympathetic relationships, the decades before the rise of Hitler also set the stage for the worst manifestations of Mennonite antisemitism.
When Germany took over Ukraine, forcing back the Red Army, MCC liaison Benjamin Unruh believed that Germany would win the war, and Mennonites like himself who had fled the Bolshevik revolution would return and establish a Mennonite homeland in Ukraine. Hitler wanted to “Germanize” Ukraine, and Mennonites would be central to his plan. In a self-fulfilling prophecy, Nazis viewed Mennonites as racially superior farmers – the best of “blood and land” – and offered Mennonites and other ethnic Germans the best agricultural equipment and food rations. In return, many Mennonites helped Nazis expand and seize Jewish and Russian land. Some Mennonites would participate in the administration and death squads known as Einsatzgruppen to kill Ukraine’s 1.2 million Jews in the genocide that would begin in Ukraine and evolve to become the Holocaust.
Unruh had three days of meetings at Nazi SS headquarters with Himmler and other Nazi officials from Dec. 31, 1942 to Jan. 2, 1943. Himmler reportedly referred to MCC’s Benjamin Unruh as the “pope of the Mennonites.” Nazi ethnographers asserted Mennonites were supposedly “fourteen times” more effective than Protestants, and 50 times more effective than Catholics, in colonizing an area. Himmler reportedly asserted that Mennonites were among the best German colonists, allegedly because they had not intermarried and defiled their blood. Unruh returned the compliment by stating, “Today the vast majority of ethnically German Mennonites across the whole world stand on the side of Adolf Hitler.” When German officials visited Mennonite communities in Ukraine, they were met with lines of young and old Mennonites waving swastika flags and children chanting “Heil Hitler.” Mennonite families hung photos of Hitler in their homes. Surveys of Russian Mennonites living in Brazil and Paraguay found high support for Hitler. Russian Mennonites in Canada and the United States also filled their newspapers with support for German nationalism. The only point of tension for Unruh with his Nazi colleague was his insistence that Mennonites did not have to swear an oath to Hitler. Himmler seemed satisfied when Unruh argued, “The Mennonite soldier will be loyal to our Fuhrer unto death, even when he, as Menno Simons requires in matters regarding the state, ‘solemnly promises’ according to the form of his forefathers.”
The Holocaust began in Ukraine, in what scholars now refer to as the “Holocaust by Bullets.” Before the Nazis built concentration camps, Germany created “mobile killing units” known as Einsatzgruppen that rounded up Jews in villages and cities across Ukraine and killed them in mass executions. Before these assassinations, the Einsatzgruppen often forced Jews to take off their clothing. Mennonites received “used clothing” from Jews killed by the Einsatzgruppen. Nazi officials gave Mennonites land, homes, furniture and clothing from murdered Jews. Russian Mennonite writer Pamela Klassen records Mennonite women in Canada remembering the used clothing they received with bloodstains. Some Mennonite women washed out the bloodstains and sewed up the bullet holes from the clothes of Jews massacred by Nazi forces. Years later, more records reveal that Mennonites in Molotschna and Chortitza colonies received clothing and goods from Lublin concentration camp in 1942, as ordered by Himmler.
According to Gerhard Rempel, hundreds of Mennonites living in Ukraine participated in the Einsatzgruppen’s execution of Jews. Nazi-appointed Mennonite administrators were part of the executioner police force in the Zaporizhia region of Ukraine. Heinrich Jakob Wiebe, Isaac Johann Reimer and other Mennonites they hired held positions of administrative power in the region, including the Mennonite community of Chortitza. In this area of historic Mennonite settlement, 44,000 Jews were killed, many gunned down into ditches. In the 1980s, the conscience of an aging witness to Mennonite participation in the massacre apparently caused him to come forward. Alexander Rempel was the son of a Mennonite bishop from Chortitza who had been sent to the gulag. In 1984, Rempel sent an article he wrote about his memories of Mennonite participation and celebration of the “Massacre of Zaporizhia” to the Winnipeg Mennonite Heritage Centre. Rempel spoke out at the end of his life (when there is evidence, because of bizarre claims he made about other issues, that he was experiencing mental illness) because he believed Mennonite leaders had covered up Mennonite participation in a Jewish massacre with “a conspiracy of silence.”
Gerhard Rempel describes Heinrich Wiens as “the most notorious Holocaust perpetrator from a Russian Mennonite background.” Wiens, who had immigrated to Danzig from Molotschna, joined the Nazi party in 1931 and had ambitious career goals. Eventually he was put in charge of “anti-Jewish measures” for a subunit of Einsatzgruppe D and given the power to organize his own “killing operations.” Wiens directed Jewish massacres with the mobile gas vans. German soldiers reported trauma from carrying out mass executions of Jews in ditches across the region. The mobile vans were brought in to lessen the soldiers’ trauma. Between 20-50 Jews would be forced into the van at once. The van drove around with the exhaust piped into the van until everyone died. Then Jewish prisoners were forced to empty the bodies into a ditch. The mobile gas vans became the models for the mass killings in the concentration camp’s gas chambers. Evidence suggests Wiens’s unit was responsible for killing up to 6,300 Jews.
Rempel’s interviews with Mennonite refugees indicate that Mennonites in general were aware of what was happening to Jews. Some had directly witnessed brutality toward and suffering of Jews and others verified that they were aware of mass killings. Some Mennonites were eyewitnesses to Jews being rounded up near Mennonite towns and marched outside of town where they were shot by Einsatzgruppen.
European Mennonites who resisted Nazis or helped Jews during the Holocaust
In general, European Mennonite and ethnic German support for the Nazis increased during the course of WWII. Compared to the thousands of Mennonites who supported Hitler and participated in the Holocaust, a relatively small number of Mennonites may have helped to hide or protect Jews. And to this day, it is not clear whether these stories are revisionist regrets in hindsight. Little hard evidence exists of Mennonite assistance to Jews.
In Ukraine, Jacob Abramovich Neufeld, a prominent Russian Mennonite leader and writer who had earlier in his life shared a prison cell with an Orthodox Jewish man as described earlier in this article, continued to express some empathy toward Jews. After WWII, Neufeld would write of his compassion for “terrorized Jews” fleeing eastward in search of refuge. “We pitied them, but did not believe the frightening stories of German atrocities that had triggered their flight.” Neufeld’s editor writes that, according to Neufeld’s son, during the German occupation the Neufeld family hid a Jew in their home during a SS sweep through their village and refused to accept the Nazis’ gifts of “used” clothing and shoes that were sent to Mennonites from the mass slaughter of Jews. When Jacob Neufeld immigrated to Canada, he gave speeches describing the Holocaust as “a barbaric act” that Mennonites could only think of with the greatest horror and revulsion.”
In his letter “The Fate of a Jewish Friend,” Russian Mennonite John Sawatzky recalls his discomfort at Mennonite complicity with Jewish suffering in Ukraine.
The German army treated us well. They were nice and considerate… but our fondness for the Germans did not last long. When the army’s administration units arrived, new rules and regulations came into effect. Russians were treated differently, and Jews were forced to wear armbands with the Star of David on them. If that had been all… but it wasn’t. We soon heard that the Jews were being killed. At first, we didn’t believe it, but it wasn’t long before we learned it was true. Some of my best friends were Jews. We had worked side by side and shared the same hardships. Now we were different. They were targeted and their lives were in jeopardy, all due to their nationality. I could not face the Jews anymore. I was ashamed. Not even Jewish children were spared. Having even one Jewish parent marked the children for death. I remember the impression left on my mind as I watched my children… play with childhood innocence. But Jewish children… were dying. I had many sleepless nights during these times. I had a friend, a good friend, named Abram, who was Jewish. His wife was [Mennonite] Margaret Neufeld and they had five children. They fled for their lives…[but] the Germans caught up with them.
Abram was eventually killed, along with his mother, brother, sister and all his children.
Christiana Epp Duschinsky states that, in Danzig, the Gestapo arrested and imprisoned her Mennonite father Hermann Epp in Stutthof. Epp belonged to the “Inner Resistance” movement critical of Nazism. She states that she is not aware of any other German Mennonites imprisoned in a concentration camp. Most Danzig-area Mennonite congregations were led by elders with Nazi Party membership. But a handful of Mennonite pastors in Danzig may have spoken out against Nazi violence to Jews. Duschinsky claims that Pastor Goettner of Danzig gave sermons denouncing violent forms of antisemitism. And a Mennonite mayor of Albisheim, Adolf Hahn, attempted to protect Jews from persecution in 1938. Duschinsky’s uncle Waldemar Epp was a Nazi official. After the war, the International Red Cross director ordered Waldemar’s removal from a prisoner of war camp to a refugee camp, possibly because, as a Nazi official, Waldemar had also worked against the Nazi regime and had provided Nazi documentation to the Red Cross that 3.5 million Jews had been killed, an act of treason that could have resulted in his death if Nazi authorities had found out.
In the Netherlands, some Dutch Mennonites protected and aided Jewish neighbors and friends. Two Dutch Mennonite ministers, A. du Croix and Albert Keuter, as well as Keuter’s son, openly opposed Hitler’s ideology of National Socialism because of their religious beliefs. All three were arrested and ended up dying in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany. A Dutch Mennonite woman, Geertje Pel-Groot, hid a Jewish baby, Marion Swaab, A neighbor led authorities to Pel-Groot. She was arrested and died at Ravensbruck concentration camp. Pel-Groot’s daughter took care of the baby, who survived the war and lived to tell the story.
Dutch Mennonite Alle Hoekema’s research found most Mennonites who assisted Jews did not document this assistance, sought no post-war recognition and viewed their actions as normal and motivated not by religion but by a shared sense of humanity. Hoekema has documented some of the stories of how Dutch Mennonites helped to rescue Jewish children. A female Mennonite pastor, Cornelia (Lenie) Leignes Bakhoven, is named at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem as one of the “Righteous of the Nations” who took risks to hide, protect or aid Jews during the Holocaust. Hoekema documents that only 40 of the 5,000 Dutch listed at Yad Vashem are Mennonites. This seems to be a smaller proportion than other denominations.
Other Anabaptists were more unified in their opposition to Hitler. The Anabaptist Bruderhof left Hitler’s Germany in 1937 for refuge in England, openly opposed Nazism and offered refuge to Jewish refugees. According to The Dictionary of Jewish-Christian Relations, the Bruderhof taught agricultural skills to Jews living with them in preparation for founding kibbutzim. Relationships between Jewish kibbutzim and Hutterites and Bruderhof remain to this day, as described later in this article.
In North America, there were scattered efforts to denounce Hitler, as detailed later in this article. Only one case could be found of American Mennonites going to Europe to help Jews. In 1939, the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker group based in Philadelphia, called the Mennonite president of Bethel College in Kansas asking him to select German-speaking Mennonite men to help with Jewish relief efforts. The AFSC had “permission from the German government to come into Germany to help the Jews.” Five Mennonite applications to join the committee were sent. But Mennonites did not in any systematic way attempt to help Jews, as detailed in the next section. Most North American Mennonites were bystanders unwilling either to take a political position against Hitler and or to help Jews. But some North American and European Mennonites did join the armed resistance against the Nazis. Mennonite members of the U.S. and Canadian military may have killed Mennonite members of the German army or Mennonite civilians in Germany. Through Mennonite Central Committee, North American Mennonites instead chose to help Mennonites, many of them nonreligious, who had mostly supported Hitler.
Mennonite Central Committee had helped thousands of Russian Mennonites escape to North and South America in the 1920s, following the Russian revolution. After WWII, MCC would again help thousands of Mennonites escape from Europe. While the Nazi regime had praised and rewarded Mennonites for their German identity, this very identity became a liability after WWII. Thousands of Mennonites fled Soviet-controlled territory toward Western Europe. They faced hostile Russian authorities who viewed Mennonites as German traitors because of their affiliation with Hitler. Many fled toward Germany, but there they were seen as Soviet citizens who could be forcibly deported back to the USSR. Thousands of Mennonites from Poland, East Prussia and the Free City of Danzig fled toward Germany as well. Fearing further violence toward them, these Mennonites were desperate to escape Europe to North and South America.
MCC set out to help 45,000 Mennonites. To do so, they had to relate to the newly created United Nations and its International Refugee Organization (IRO). The IRO assessed refugee status and eligibility and afforded considerable funding for those refugees. To help ethnic Mennonites escape, MCC had to convince the IRO and other authorities that some of these Mennonites were victims of Soviet violence and that they were not perpetrators of German violence.
Drawing on MCC correspondence and government documents, two Mennonite scholars, T.D. Regehr and Steve Schroeder, analyzed MCC’s post-WWII assistance to Mennonites who had supported, worked for and fought for the Nazis. MCC argued for preferential status for Mennonite refugees, particularly those from Ukraine and Danzig, so that these Mennonites, rather than other refugees, would receive international funding and support. MCC would actively hide the many ways these Mennonite refugees had voluntarily supported Hitler and had benefited from the Holocaust because of their German identity.
Allied governments argued that Russian Mennonites were German and thus not eligible for refugee status. Soviet officials insisted Mennonites from Ukraine were Russian and should be returned home. Mennonites from Ukraine believed they would face torture and death if they were forced to return to the Soviet Union as mandated in post-war treaties. Mennonites from Danzig, Prussia and Poland were not eligible for refugee assistance from the United Nations. MCC had to find ways around these restrictions.
MCC leaders used various tactics to persuade the authorities. An early MCC ploy was to say that the Mennonite refugees from Ukraine were of Dutch origin and had Dutch last names. MCC leaders Peter Dyck and Robert Kreider asserted that they “duped” Allied authorities by arguing that Mennonite refugees were neither Russian nor German, but rather a distinct group of people with a unique Mennonite identity of Dutch origin. Another tactic involved MCC issuing a “Menno Pass” – an official-looking Mennonite passport – as evidence that these Mennonites were not “German” or “Russian” but ethnic Dutch Mennonites.
Schroeder argues that “Mennonites adopted a fluid national identity.”
When their formerly favored characteristics of nationality, ethnicity, and language became the very things that brought the wrath of others to bear upon them, the Mennonites denied any association with the Nazi regime — and with their German heritage — and remodeled their existing identity to distance themselves from their recent past to avoid retribution from their enemies.
MCC sent out pamphlets to Mennonites advising them not to identify themselves as Russian or German to authorities. Peter Dyck said Mennonites were like “chameleons,” shifting their identity according to context.
MCC argued that the Mennonite refugees had no complicity with the Holocaust because they were pacifist. These statements were false. The IRO found that MCC had lied. MCC claimed that Mennonite refugees were “a nonpolitical group who found National Socialism under the German occupation of Ukraine as abhorrent as the rule of communistic Russia,” and that Mennonites joined the Nazis only under “duress.” Regehr describes how the IRO found, among Nazi records at the Berlin Document Centre in 1948-49, new evidence of Mennonites’ voluntary participation in Nazi forces. Authorities learned that many Mennonites had signed up voluntarily, that virtually all Mennonite men had joined some sort of armed service, and that some Mennonites had participated in the most “reprehensible” units that had massacred 1.2 million Jews in Ukraine.
MCC continued to assert that Mennonite refugees had been drafted en masse and had only pretended to be German to save their lives from Bolshevik violence, arguing that the ends justified the means. MCC returned to the narrative that Mennonites simply wanted to join their families and religious brethren in the Americas so that they could continue their agricultural life. The Canadian government was looking for agricultural colonists and wanted Mennonite farmers. MCC continuously denied there had been Nazi collaboration and perpetration, and instead helped to construct a Mennonite identity based on “familiar Mennonite motifs of victimization, martyrdom, and nonresistance.”
The next MCC tactic was to compare Mennonites to Jews, asserting Mennonites were like Jews “in terms of their persecution, ‘chosen’ status before God and unjust post-war suffering.” Several scholars document that MCC showed “complete disregard for the magnitude of Jewish suffering during the war and at the time.” Mirroring Jewish leaders attempting to establish a Jewish state of Israel, Peter Dyck argued that Mennonites deserved the same privileges and self-determination as Jews, which he noted received support for their claims to be not just a religion but an ethnic nation. MCC insisted that, again like Jews, Mennonite refugees were part of a “divinely-sanctioned exodus from Communism and suffering to a new life abroad.” Dyck asserted that being Mennonite “is not confined to religion alone, nor does it connote a church or a church membership; it means infinitely more than that, embracing all that which culture, language, tradition, and a distinct way of life imply.” MCC lavishly used metaphors of the Exodus while simultaneously denying and/or justifying Mennonite participation in the Nazi regime and Holocaust. Schroeder notes this was “insensitive at best.” Later, some Mennonites would describe their suffering as a holocaust greater than that of the Jews, even wishing they could have had a “merciful, quick death in the gas chambers.” While tens of thousands of Mennonites did suffer and die in Russia, this is not comparable in scale or scope to the Holocaust that killed, at a minimum, six million Jews.
Several international refugee organizations commissioned research into MCC’s claims regarding Mennonite refugees’ identity, forced conscription and innocence. These investigations all questioned MCC’s honesty and the integrity of its claims that Mennonite refugees should receive special privileges before help for other refugees. MCC had nurtured relationships with high-level U.S. and Canadian immigration officials to support their work, and these advocates for MCC eventually succeeded. IRO authorities balked at MCC’s arguments – some IRO staff had suffered under Nazi violence, and they viewed MCC’s claims that German-speaking Mennonites who had been protected by the Nazi military as suspect. Regehr asserts the MCC leader C.F. Klassen “was particularly critical of some of the Jewish people who worked at the IRO.” Drawing on antisemitic mythologies to blame Jews, Klassen stated he was waging “an honest fight” against the “stupidity” and “wickedness” of IRO officers.
Ultimately, the Intergovernmental Commission on Refugees paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to transport ethnic Mennonites, most of whom had voluntarily (passively or actively) supported and benefited from the Nazis, to North and South America. This took place within a historical context in which the U.S. government had been turning away thousands of Jewish refugees during WWII with the claim that Jewish refugees could be Nazi spies. MCC’s ability to help Mennonite refugees occurred at a time when many countries around the world were rejecting Jewish refugees, even with knowledge of the Holocaust. Many Jews during this era saw no choice but to emigrate to Palestine because other options were not available.
Within MCC, there were also doubts about these refugees. Some MCC staff came to suspect that non-religious ethnic Mennonites, as well as others who had no Mennonite connection, were learning to play the system to achieve MCC assistance to migrate out of Europe. Peter Dyck would come to acknowledge the problem of nonreligious Mennonites seeking MCC help. Mennonite refugees who had expressed no religious beliefs would suddenly become interested in worship and baptism once they realized it could improve their chances of emigration. MCC staff noted that some of the refugees “misrepresented their war records, settlement intentions, and commitment to Christianity.” MCC would convince Mennonite populations in North America that even though many of these Mennonites were not religious, due in part to the Russian violence against Mennonite leaders in Ukraine two decades earlier, they deserved help because they were ethnic Mennonite kin.
MCC was able to rescue almost all Mennonite refugees who wanted to migrate to North and South America. And through their narratives, which were often false, they secured funding from international refugee agencies. Further research is needed to determine the impact of preferential treatment and scarce refugee funds and resources on other groups that were suffering post-WWII. Did Nazi supporting Mennonite refugees displace Jewish refugees coming to the Americas? Did MCC make it more likely that Jewish refugees would seek safety in Palestine?
MCC and Mennonite Nazis
MCC told international refugee agencies that it did not have records of Mennonite refugees’ collaboration with Nazis. While this may have been technically true, not keeping records of such information did not mean that MCC was completely unaware of Mennonite collaboration with Nazis. Regehr documents that MCC did keep a registry of all Mennonite refugees assisted. In his interviews with some of the refugees, they told Regehr they had given MCC “damaging information” that MCC did not record on their Kartei (registry card). MCC staff avoided knowing about Nazi ties in a “don’t ask, don’t tell” avoidance of questions about participation in the Nazi regime. Ed Wall, whose father Gerhard Wall was rescued by MCC, summarizes MCC’s ethical framework with a quote he found in his research of internal MCC records. “I fully agree with you that we do not want to do anything illegal. But what is legal and what is illegal when it comes to saving people from those godless Red bandits?”
Immediately after the war, some Mennonites were wanted for war crimes. Mennonite physician Johann Klassen was executed for his role in selecting 100 disabled people to be killed by Nazis. Nazi war criminals with Mennonite ties are still being found to this day. MCC helped several Mennonite Nazis who would later be imprisoned for their crimes in the Holocaust.
A special team of American soldiers arrested high-profile Nazi scientists and engineers, including Abraham Esau, the top Nazi physicist noted earlier. Goossen describes how MCC workers Peter and Helene Goertz helped Esau while he was in prison for war crimes. Even though they noted Danzig Mennonite refugees’ support for Nazis and their racism, they believed Esau was innocent. MCC may have played a role in helping to get Esau released from prison by writing letters of support for him. For MCC staff, helping other ethnic Mennonites outweighed concern for the crimes they had committed with the Nazis.
Esau began translating C. Henry Smith’s Story of the Mennonites into German while he was in prison. After MCC helped earn his release, Esau returned to Germany and chose not to renounce his allegiance to Nazi ideology. MCC and the General Conference of Mennonites in the United States published Esau’s German version of Smith’s book on Mennonites that excluded Smith’s section on Mennonite support for Nazism. Years later, a German Mennonite minister, Hans-Jürgen Goertz, challenged Mennonite institutional efforts to erase and downplay Mennonite Nazism. Goertz translated the missing chapter from Esau’s interpretation of Smith’s book and had it republished in Germany in 1965.
At the Nuremberg war crimes trials, two Mennonites testified on behalf of imprisoned Nazis. MCC’s Nazi liaison was called to testify at a Nuremberg trial in 1947 on behalf of the Nazi administrator Werner Lorenz. MCC liaison Benjamin Unruh had worked with Lorenz, the director of the SS’s Ethnic German Office, which aimed to engineer the Nazi “Aryan utopia.” Despite Unruh’s testimony, Lorenz was found guilty and imprisoned for 20 years. The court recognized that this “Ethnic German Office” had directly participated in aiding groups like the Mennonites while supporting the genocide against Jews.
A Mennonite woman on trial at Nuremberg, Franziska Reimers, told a complicated story of her suffering. The Soviets sent her husband to the Gulag and threatened her child if she did not spy for them among Nazis. Upon capture, a Nazi leader had sympathy for her and took her into the service of his “liquidation unit” (Einsatzgruppe), Task Force C. This unit had a van that operated as a gas chamber. As part of her work, Reimers communicated with Mennonites in Chortitza, where the Nazis proceeded to execute 3,000 Jews just outside of the town. An anonymous and almost certainly fictional account of her experience describes a love story in which Reimers marries the Nazi leader who saved her, then emigrates to Canada with the help of MCC.
John Thiesen cites evidence that MCC helped Dutch Mennonites charged with Nazi war crimes to emigrate to Paraguay. One of these men, Jacob Luitjens, had been known as the “terror of Roden” in the Netherlands for his torture Jews. From Paraguay, he moved to Vancouver, where he taught biology at the University of British Colombia. Jewish Nazi hunters found him in 1988, and he was the first Canadian to lose his citizenship and be forcibly deported to the Netherlands for trial because of war crimes in 1991. Mennonites across Canada defended Luitjens and MCC was asked to write a position paper on cases such as this.
MCC would argue decades after WWII, that Mennonite Nazis were not guilty of Nazi war crimes or, if they were, that they acted under duress, insisting that Mennonite Nazis should still not face accountability. Siegfried Bartel was an officer in the German army during WWII. As an immigrant in Canada, Bartel embraced pacifism and sat on the MCC board. He and MCC executive Bill Janzen presented to Canada’s Deschenes Commission, which reviewed cases of Nazi war criminals. Janzen wrote of their testimony in a report to MCC Canada:
I introduced our concern, stating that we wanted primarily to ask that the idea of mercy be considered as having some relevance to the issue… Siegfried Bartel …restated our view that we were not appealing on behalf of mass murderers like those at concentration camps, that our concern was with the actions of soldiers and “borderline” cases.”
The U.S. State Department brought a war crimes case against Mennonite Jakob (Jack) Heinrich Reimer in 1998. Reimer was found living in New York City. The charges against Reimer included responsibility for deportation of Jews from Czestochowa and Lublin in 1942, and Warsaw in 1943, and participation in the mass murder of Jews. Reimer lived his post-Nazi life without facing accountability, working for Wise Potato Chips.. Mennonite John J. Kroeker had met Reimer at the MCC refugee station in Berlin and vouched for him as a “Mennonite of Dutch origin” so that he could receive a “Menno Pass.” Research indicates Reimer was able to escape punishment for so many years by being a “chameleon,” pretending to be different people.
Nazis with Mennonite ties who may have been helped by MCC are still facing justice to this day in the United States and Canada. In 2007, Jacob Fast of St. Catharines, Ontario, was charged with war crimes, including arresting, torturing and executing thousands of Jews, and then lying about his past when he emigrated to Canada in 1947. Helmut Oberlander served as a translator for the Einsatzgruppen that murdered 1.5 million Jews. A translator for that unit would have told Jews to walk to the edge of the ravine and told them to take off their clothes. Oberlander was found living as a construction manager in the largely Mennonite town of Waterloo, Ontario. A Canadian court record states, “Mr. Oberlander was born in 1924 and raised in the town of Halbstadt, as it was known before the Second World War to the local community of Volksdeutsche, that is persons of German descent, in southeastern Ukraine. His forebears had lived there for more than 250 years, having originally come to settle there as members of a German Mennonite community.” In 2019, the Supreme Court of Canada charged Oberlander with crimes against humanity for making “a voluntary, knowing and significant contribution” to the crimes committed by a Nazi mobile death squad that targeted Jewish people in the former Soviet Union. After many appeals, Oberlander’s deportation may occur in 2020.
Further research is necessary to correlate the list of MCC-assisted refugees with these names and others facing war crime trials. Future research on this topic could address several other themes. Did non-Mennonite Nazis benefit from the privileges extended to Mennonite Nazis, and what did MCC do when it suspected such deception?
MCC and Jewish suffering
MCC’s official history, written by John D. Unruh in 1952, focuses on MCC’s post-WWII relief work in Europe with a variety of groups. But more than one researcher has found that “it [MCC] almost entirely ignores the plight of the Jews.” Unruh’s MCC history lacks any narrative about Jews, Jewish suffering or Mennonite complicity with the Nazi regime. At a time when many in the world were devastated to learn about the death of millions of Jews, MCC’s history provides great detail on the suffering of virtually every other group except Jews.
Unruh describes Prussian Mennonites as extremely poor and in need. Yet these presumably were the same Prussian Mennonites who had supported the Nazis and economically benefited from Jewish slave labor and persecution. The absence of any care for Jews is especially prominent in Unruh’s explanation of MCC’s role in Palestine beginning in 1948.
The advent of Israel into the world’s family of nations may eventually have great significance. The immediate result was to create many thousands of Arab refugees with a familiar pattern of needs. Orie O. Miller described their situation as “the worst case of pure unrelieved suffering with no solution in sight” that he had ever seen.
Fewer than 50,000 Palestinians died between 1920-1950. Approximately 800,000 Palestinians lost their homes in Palestine while an equivalent number of Jews in Arab countries fled their homes in Egypt, Morocco, Iraq, Iran and other countries because of persecution. Britain had limited Jewish immigration to Palestine, but there were also tens of thousands of Jewish refugees living in camps in Palestine in 1949. Had MCC staff not seen the horrific evidence of the genocide of six million Jews in Europe or the Jewish refugees in Palestine?
There are only three known cases of MCC helping individual Jews. In each one, an individual MCC worker went outside their mandate and used their initiative to help Jews. In France, MCC assigned Lois Gunden, a 26-year-old Mennonite from Goshen, Ind., to be a French teacher at a children’s home and school for Spanish refugees. The 1952 history of MCC barely mentions Gunden’s work with Jews, noting that out of the 40-50 children at the home, “some” were Jewish, “but by and large they were Spanish.” However, in preparation for MCC’s 100th anniversary in 2020, Lois Gunden’s story in features in MCC’s “100 stories for 100 years.” However, Gunden had decided on her own to help Jewish children escape from a nearby internment camp for Jews. It was not part of her MCC mandate and not included in the earlier history. In 2013, the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem named Gunden as one of the “Righteous of the Nations” In a search for “Mennonite” on the Yad Vashem website, Gunden’s name is the only one that appears.
The other two MCC cases involve Jewish-Mennonite married couples. A Jewish man, Hans Furstenberg, married to a Mennonite woman, Ilse Harder, lived in Danzig with their son. Harder’s mother was a Nazi. As Nazis began arresting Jews in Danzig, the couple fled to Denmark, and then to Belgium, before Hans set off for Australia, hoping to get enough money to buy passage for his wife and son later. Arrested by invading Nazi forces in Belgium, Ilse Harder Furstenberg and her son Felix were sent to French internment camps. It was there that MCC worker Edna Ramseyer made contact with Ilse, gave her money and arranged for a visa for her and her son to reunite with her husband and take refuge in Australia.
Buried in Unruh’s history of MCC is the fact that Henry Buller, on MCC assignment in France in 1942, had married Beatrice Rosenthal, a Jewish refugee. Rosenthal worked at the MCC office in France. After the German invasion, Buller, Rosenthal and the other MCC worker, Lois Gunden, were interned at a relatively comfortable hotel in Baden-Baden with diplomats and other aid workers until they were liberated in 1944. Rosenthal converted to Christianity when she moved to the United States.
What explains the absence of MCC descriptions of Jewish suffering or their lack of any systematic response to aid Jews after WWII? In his research on Christian responses to the Holocaust, Jack Fischel notes:
On an organizational level, the failure of experienced Mennonite relief organizations even to approximate the efforts of the Quakers about Jewish refugees is an unresolved question in evaluating Mennonite attitudes towards Jews…That it [MCC] concerned itself primarily with Mennonites caught in the European upheaval and not with refugees, in general, was not just a failure of the Mennonites but rather symptomatic of the overall failure of much of American Protestant denominations to transcend their sectarian loyalties on behalf of European Jewry… [M]any Mennonites believed – despite evidence to the contrary vis-à-vis Nazi racial laws – that Jewish suffering would be alleviated by accepting Christ.
And yet MCC was able to transcend its sectarian loyalties to help Palestinians, Spanish refugees and other groups suffering in Europe.
As a final side note on this section, Mennonite pacifists in the United States who had asked for Civilian Public Service assignments instead of participating in the U.S. armed forces volunteered, as part of alternative noncombatant service, to be part of the “Minnesota Starvation Experiment.” The goal of this U.S. Army study was to learn the physiological and psychological effects of severe and prolonged dietary restriction, and how to “re-feed” such a population to aid in postwar recovery efforts in Europe and Asia, including the Jewish population that remained in concentration camps. In this small way, this handful of Mennonite men may have done more to address Jewish suffering than any other Mennonite effort.
Historical impact of MCC’s post-WWII roles
What impact did MCC’s tactics to aid traumatized but Nazi-supporting Mennonites have on other populations? By arguing that Mennonites should have preferential status over other post-WWII populations, did MCC displace refugee assistance to Jews? Were countries in North and South America more willing to take in Mennonite refugees, even those associated with Nazism, than Jews? Did this MCC strategy narrow Jewish options for escape from Europe? Did Palestine, by default, became the destination for many Jews? Did MCC consider using their relationships in Washington, D.C., and Ottawa to advocate on behalf of Jewish refugees? If so, what happened in those conversations? More research is needed on these questions.
Most Nazi-supporting Mennonites never had to face consequences for, or understand the impact of, their support for Hitler. While other Germans and Europeans went through a “de-Nazification” process aimed to shock and disrupt their illusions of Hitler, Mennonites may be the single largest group who were complicit in the Holocaust that never went through a process of coming to terms with the vast suffering and harm to which they had contributed and from which they benefited.
Mennonite and Jewish conversations on nationalism from 1900-50 again illustrate the parallel experiences and thoughts of these two minority religious groups. By the 1900s, Mennonites and Jews living in Eastern Europe had both suffered centuries of uncertainty and insecurity from authorities that treated them potential threats, foreigners or traitors. Both had tried and failed to win full citizen rights in some regions. Both groups experienced a sense of being a diaspora in exile. Many Jews and Mennonites became secular, abandoning their religious affiliations, assimilating in their clothing and deserting some of the markers of belief and lifestyle that had set them apart.
Significant Mennonite and Jewish leaders both came to assert that their group was a unique “nation” deserving self-determination and the ability to protect their safety through armed force. Ethno-religious nationalism appealed to members of both groups under threat. Both groups developed their version of Zionism. Many Mennonites in Ukraine and Germany abandoned pacifism and joined armed groups to protect their communities from threats. Likewise, following the Russian pogroms in the late 1800s, some Jewish leaders abandoned the “quietism,” a sort of de facto pacifism that rabbinic Judaism had advised after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E. and the defeat of various Jewish militias. After centuries of mostly nonresistance to persecution, some Jews turned to armed force to defend their interests in safety and a place to live.
Both Jews and Mennonites set up humanitarian groups, the Jewish National Fund (JNF) and Mennonite Central Committee. Both these groups negotiated or bought access to land from local authorities for Jewish and Mennonite refugees. Both JNF and MCC brought thousands of Jews and Mennonites, respectively, to colonize land in areas where there was already an Indigenous population. Both groups looked down on the Indigenous groups, and used strategies that aimed to depopulate them to make room for more Mennonites and Jews. Mennonites and Jews both became refugee settlers forced from their homes again and again only to ultimately displace Indigenous peoples in the Americas and Palestine. MCC and JNF undertook the same project: to argue these minority religious groups were nations that deserved their homelands, justifying the displacement and colonialism of Indigenous groups.
The debate within Jewish communities about Zionism and the creation of a Jewish state began amid Russian pogroms. A pamphlet called Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State) argued that Jews would only find safety in a Jewish homeland in the Ottoman Empire, a land known as Palestine. The Jewish National Fund began in 1901 to help Jewish refugees move to Palestine. For centuries, persecution against Jews persisted regardless of whether Jews assimilated to secular culture or maintained their unique dress. In the 1894 Dreyfus Affair, a secular Jewish military officer was falsely accused of treason. This signaled to Jews that, despite decades of progress, antisemitism persisted. With Nazism, German authorities sought out all Jews, regardless of whether they were Orthodox (wearing distinct clothing), Reform or secular Jews. Jewish Zionism appealed to a growing number of Jews who saw no hope but by creating their state. Today, there is a robust conversation among Jews about the nature and ethics of Zionism.
The Münster Anabaptist movement, noted earlier, embraced religious statism, articulating early narratives of nationalism in its attempt to create a Täuferreich von Münster or “Anabaptist dominion of Münster” in 1534. Next, as detailed earlier, Mennonite communities in Ukraine operated self-governance for decades in a form of a state within a state which they called the “Mennonite commonwealth” or the “Fatherland,” referring to a wider Russian Empire. Then, in the late 1800s, Mennonites Templars from Russian territories went to Palestine.
With the rise of Mennonite support for Hitler, many European Mennonites embraced German Nationalism. Some Mennonite fascists internally debated about their ideal Aryan utopia. A Mennonite émigré in Germany, Heinrich Schroeder, wrote a book on Mennonite Aryan racial purity and imagined a racially pure Mennonite colony within Germany where Mennonites would live out the Nazi slogan “blood and soil” – a simple, agricultural lifestyle that could protect German culture. Hitler’s Lebensraum strategy of killing Jews would make space for the new Mennonite Aryan colonies. Some Mennonite refugees living in Paraguay also used nationalistic notions in narrating their vision of the Mennonite Fernheim colony.
J.J. Hildebrand, a member of the Nazi Deutsch Bund Kanada, writing in Canadian Mennonite newspapers, envisioned a separate Mennostaat. Hildebrand argued that Mennonite racial superiority was the reason why Mennonites were wealthy, culturally superior and chosen by God. Hildebrand detailed his proposal for a “Mennoland” or Mennostaat that would allot each Mennonite family 120 acres to farm and where citizens would speak German, use a “Menno-Gulden” currency and be governed by elected representatives in a “Menno Bund.” The Menno Bund would exercise authoritarian power and include both secular and religious Mennonite refugees from Russia. Hildebrand was critical of Mennonite humanitarian agencies like MCC, which he saw as failing to rescue sufficient numbers of Mennonites. He also criticized the Mennonite Board of Colonization, which had settled Mennonites amidst people of other backgrounds, as this might lead to “defiling” Mennonite blood.
MCC staff played with the concept of Mennonite nationality when they issued refugees their Mennonite passport, the “Menno-Pass,” as discussed earlier in this article For most Mennonites today, ethno-national narratives manifest in the ever-popular “Mennonite Game,” in which Mennonites figure out their relationships and genetic purity. And for some Mennonites, their belief in the superiority of white Mennonite blood would evolve into leadership for the white nationalist movement, as described in more detail later in this article.
Mennonites organizations took diverse approaches to Jews in Palestine and Israel. Some favored the premillennialist view that Jesus would return after the rebuilding of the Jewish temple; some believed Jews needed to be converted to Christianity before the second coming of Christ; some believed in Christian evangelism to Jews and Muslims; some supported Palestinian Christians; some went to reconcile with Jews and atone for the Holocaust; some went to aid Palestinians displaced by the Israeli state; and still others went to seek peace between Jews and Arabs. These diverse efforts are reviewed here in roughly sequential order.
Mennonite Templars and Christian Zionism
Before Jewish Zionists began arriving in Palestine in the 1800s, Mennonite Templars had been migrating to the Holy Land from their Mennonite villages in Ukraine. As part of a wider “German Templar” movement, these early Christian Zionists became a model for Jewish Zionism. They were seeking to rebuild the Jewish Temple, which they believed would bring the coming of the Messiah, an idea known as premillennialism. Mennonite Templars opened schools, grew oranges sold in Jaffa, and built some of the first Western-style institutions in Palestine. In 1907, German Mennonite Templar Abraham Fast bought a large 100-room hotel at Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem and named it Fast Hotel. Fast would later turn this hotel, one of the largest European-style hotels in Jerusalem’s German Colony, right beside the Old City wall, into headquarters for the German Consulate in Jerusalem. He hung a huge swastika banner above the front door in 1935, which must have been an unimaginable shock to Jewish refugees seeking safety in Jerusalem. One of these Mennonite Templars, Ludwig Buchhalter, was the head of the Templar school and became the leader of the Nazi Party in Jerusalem. “The Templar school was firmly anti-Jewish, and its scouts and girl guides became members of the Hitler Youth and the League of German Girls. On occasion, they threw stones at Jews.”
Conservative Mennonite churches today widely hold to premillennialism and Christian Zionism, a belief that Jews must control the Holy Land and rebuild the Temple per biblical prophecy to bring about Jesus’ return. Fundamentalist and conservative Christians tend to offer blanket support to Israel and either ignore or denounce Palestinians’ claim to the land and human rights.
Mennonite “Jewish evangelism” in Israel
The Virginia Mennonite Board of Mission’s “Jewish Evangelism Committee” began “mission work in Israel” by sending Mennonite couples to “study the situation further.” In 1953, Roy and Florence Kreider moved to Israel with no formal job description. Mennonites understood that Jewish leaders in Israel did not allow Christian proselytizing. From a Jewish perspective, Christian “mission” to Jews stems from a mindset that Jews are inferior to Christians, an idea that has brought centuries of violence and genocide to Jews. Since proselytizing was illegal in Israel, the Kreider’s were sent “to immerse themselves in the history, language, and culture of the Jewish people, especially noting the importance of the recent Holocaust experience and the tensions between Israel and her Arab neighbors.” The Kreiders found an abundance of other Christian groups attempting to evangelize Jews. In her research on Mennonites encountering Judaism, Marie Shenk characterized these efforts as marked by “competitiveness, aloofness, and non-fellowship… as a result of many denominations and mission boards with [different] convictions and beliefs.”
At the same time, another Mennonite institution, the Mennonite Board of Missions (MBM), appointed J.B. Martin as the Mennonite Commissioner to Israel in 1953-54. His report to the Jewish Evangelism Committee was harsh, suggesting Jews had “blinded minds, veiled hearts, [and] self-generated righteousness.”
Judaism is a meaningless religion and a disappointment to many Jews… There are many Jews who secretly believe… and are afraid to openly embrace the gospel because of religious intolerance resulting in persecution and social outcasts…. Judaism hates the New Testament, Christianity and the Church, and the missionary and Christian. 
There is no mention in Martin’s report of how Jews in Israel were recovering after the Holocaust, or how Christians, especially Mennonites, should be reflecting on their role in the Holocaust and the role of Christianity’s long history of antisemitism.
Martin’s colleague J.D. Graber discouraged Mennonite attempts to evangelize Arab Christians at that time, suggesting that given the tensions between Jews and Arabs, “Roy Kreider’s interest in the Arab population would jeopardize his position with the Jewish authorities” and therefore make it less likely that the Kreiders could carry out their mission efforts to Jews.
But Mennonites would modify their understanding. By 1965, J.D. Graber would write that their goal was not to establish a church in Israel, but rather to “be a Christian presence.” He stated, “Redemptive living and self-giving love is required as a response to Jewish prejudice against the church fostered by history and silence in the face of Hitler’s regime.” The Kreiders, and other Mennonite missionaries in the Swarr and Seitz family, would become much more interested in learning about Judaism and Jewish history and would become much more sympathetic to Jews than their counterparts at MCC Palestine, who would spend most of their time with Palestinians.
Roy Kreider enrolled in a Hebrew “Ulpan” course and went on to study Hebrew language and culture, and Jewish history and beliefs, at Hebrew University and eventually to the more orthodox Jewish Bar Ilan University. Through this commitment to learning from Jews rather than preaching at Jews, the Kreiders secured visa extensions. Using a “theology of presence,” the Kreiders were to demonstrate solidarity with others and “absorb their pain.” The Kreiders developed friendships with Jews, and their memoir details the many stories they heard of the Holocaust. These Mennonites aimed to show both Muslims and Jews a “different understanding of Jesus, not as Hitler’s blue-eyed Aryan oppressor, but as a teacher in both Jewish and Muslim texts.” The Kreiders played key roles in attempting to build institutions in Israel which would allow them to continue to justify visa extensions. This included a new tourist agency for Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land and an interfaith dialogue among Christians, Muslims and Jews. Kreider became the chair of the United Christian Council, an ecumenical Christian network, and one of a select group of Christians involved in high-level dialogue with Jews in the “Rainbow Dialogue Group.” Kreider believed that Mennonites and Jews had a unique basis for dialogue and relationship based on “values of community and experience of suffering” shared by both groups. He and other Mennonite missionaries were never comfortable with the idea that Christians should not aim to convert or witness to Jews.
In his book Judaism Meets Christ, Kreider analyzes Jewish psychology and trauma without suggesting that Christianity needs to examine itself in light of the Holocaust and historic Christian antisemitism. He states that the main blocks to converting Jews to Christianity, in his opinion, were that “the great mass of professed Christians are not Christlike” and “Christianity is unceasingly disrupted into denominations and sects, evidencing… that Christianity is still not sure of its course.” Kreider concludes the book arguing that Christians should seek dialogue with Jews to learn more about Judaism rather than solely attempting to convert Jews.
The main focus of Mennonite mission work in Israel was always Messianic Jews. Mennonite agencies commissioned a study in 1986 to clarify how they should relate to Messianic movements in Israel, to assess the possibilities of Mennonite dialogue with Jews and broader Jewish-Christian dialogue, and to understand how Jews in Israel viewed Mennonite agencies. Calvin and Marie Shenk from Eastern Mennonite University’s Bible department were commissioned to Jerusalem to conduct the study. In her history of Mennonite missions in the region, Marie Shenk notes that mission-oriented Mennonites who spent more of their time with Jews and MCC Mennonites who spent more of their time with Palestinians tended to develop different understandings of the conflict between Jews and Palestinians, and this sometimes translated to interagency tensions. By 1990, Mennonite mission agencies working in Israel converged to form the Mennonite Middle East Reference Group to relate to a variety of different religious groups in the Middle East.
Anabaptists and kibbutzim
Beginning in 1909, Jews created farming cooperatives with a strong sense of community in what was then Palestine. Today there are more than 200 kibbutzim across Israel. In 1960-61, the Mennonite Jewish Evangelism Committee began planning for and sending young American and German Mennonite leaders to do voluntary service “witness” to Israelis to help to justify the presence of Mennonite mission agencies in Israel. They held a four-week work camp at a kibbutz named Ayelet Hashahar.
Also in 1960, Mennonites became involved in establishing a Christian kibbutz. Fritz Kuiper, a Dutch Mennonite theologian supportive of Jews during WWII, worked with Dr. Pilon, a Dutch physician, along with a group of Swiss churches to begin a Christian kibbutz in the Galilee called Nes Ammim. Mennonite agencies in the region began to get involved in supporting what they thought would be a kibbutz for both Arab Christians and Messianic Jews.
Marie Shenk documents the conflicts in vision with Messianic Jews who had first envisioned such a kibbutz.
The Dutch and Germans were influenced by a theology which proposes two equally-valid covenants – one for Jews and one for Christians – none superseding the other. They emphasized that, after the crimes done against the Jewish people in Europe, the church had lost its right to bring to Jewish people its message, owing them only humility and solidarity. Dr. Pilon had the opinion that what Christian societies had done to the Jewish people raised serious questions as to whether the Christian faith is really the preferred one! For the Dutch and Germans, Nes Ammim was an attempt to compensate for the guilt of the holocaust [sic]. The Swiss, less implicated in the holocaust [sic], were motivated by a desire to be a light and bring witness of another quality through the project.
Roy Kreider recommended that American Mennonite agencies delay investment in Nes Ammim until the conflict had been settled.
In 1963, MCC sent three Mennonites from its Pax program to help build Nes Ammim, and began raising funds for its construction. American Mennonites were concerned when the Dutch and Swiss organizers agreed to the Israeli government’s requirement that the kibbutz not include Messianic Jews. American Mennonites wanted the kibbutz to take on an evangelical mission. The kibbutz was taken over by Dutch Reformed and Christian Reformed groups from the Netherlands. Mennonite involvement in Nes Ammim ended in 1967 as the conflicts in goals and religious beliefs continued. Today, the Nes Ammim website states that the goal of the kibbutz is to cultivate the land and “heal the relationship between Jews and Christians after the dark years of the Second World War.”
Some Anabaptist groups, such as the Hutterites, the Bruderhof and some progressive Mennonites, valued communal living and had frequent exchanges with Jewish communities in Israeli kibbutzim. These communities embraced similar characteristics of shared ownership, hard agricultural work and family life that perpetuated the community. In 2018, the Winnipeg Free Press reported that Israeli kibbutzim had hosted delegations of Hutterites on several occasions, and a Hutterite was a farm boss on an Israeli kibbutz.
Mennonite Central Committee work in Palestine
MCC began working with Palestinians directly after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, referred to by Israelis as the War of Independence and by Palestinians as the Nakba, the catastrophe. MCC staff arrived in Gaza in 1949, and began the first MCC project in Jericho to aid Palestinians in 1950, a school for refugee boys where they also made shoes. In the 1960s, MCC shifted from humanitarian work to longer-term development until the 1967 War, when it again provided humanitarian aid to Palestinians displaced by Israeli forces. In the 1970s, MCC ran a school and a needlework program in Beit Jala, adjacent to Bethlehem. In the 1980s, MCC began micro-credit lending to support Palestinian entrepreneurs. In the 1990s, MCC supported Palestinian churches to begin a robust dialogue with Palestinian Muslim leaders, and hosted learning tours to Hebron and Gaza, where participants could hear the Palestinian perspective on the conflict and visit Jewish settlements. These MCC tours gave strongly argued that Israeli settlements were illegal under the Geneva Convention. The history of MCC in Palestine makes no mention of tours or efforts to learn about Judaism, to build understanding or empathy for Jewish survivors of the Holocaust, or to offer humanitarian aid to the 850,000 Arab Jews who fled their homes under threat of violence from Arab countries.
Paul and Jane Quiring worked with MCC Palestine in the 1970s to investigate human rights violations and Jewish settlements. Israel refused to grant Paul Quiring a visa, citing his work as “PLO propaganda.” Quiring advocated labeling Palestinian needlework with the term “Made in Palestine” to promote awareness. In 1976, Quiring said, “The presence of international voluntary organizations like MCC provided person-to-person recognition of the injustices created by the 1948 war.” In 1977, Quiring would testify before Congress on the impact of Israeli settlements on Palestinian property rights.
MCC debated whether to engage with both Jews and Palestinians or to “take the side of justice” only with Palestinians. MCC workers argued that peacemaking demanded alignment with the Palestinian oppressed, and in turn rejecting opportunities to listen to and learn from Jews. MCC staff inaccurately viewing conflict resolution as simply “setting aside questions of justice” and assuming that it meant being “neutral conveners of Jews and Palestinians.” Some MCC staff in Palestine object to any dialogue with Jews on issues other than occupation, a position known as “anti-normalization.” MCC staff recognized the dangers of supporting Palestinian rights amid an often antisemitic narrative of Palestinian nationalism. MCC’s books, literature and statements on events in the Middle East have consistently minimized Arab violence toward Arab citizens (including Syrian President Assad’s attacks on hundreds of thousands of Syrians and thousands of Palestinian refugees in Syria), Arab attacks on Israel and Arab antisemitism.
While MCC trains its staff on racism and other oppressive systems, there is no staff training on antisemitism. In their books and films analyzing the conflict in Israel and Palestine, MCC Palestine staff sometimes offer a brief mention of the Holocaust. But there is little attention to the long history of Christian antisemitism, and nothing on Mennonite participation in the Holocaust, MCC’s lack of attention to Jewish suffering during or after WWII, the inability of Jews to migrate to other countries during and after WWII, or Mennonite antisemitic propaganda in North America. Jewish authors critique MCC’s ethical double standards, noting the pattern of singling out and denouncing Jews for ethics they do not apply to themselves or others. MCC consistently denounces Israeli human rights violations while suggesting biblical “love of enemies” should apply to Iran and other Arab and Muslim countries. Some MCC staff seem to identify not just with Palestinians, but as Palestinians. Many MCC Palestine staff have come from a Russian Mennonite background. Are there conversations around Mennonite dinner tables between a generation of Mennonites who blamed Jews for violence in Russia, and present-day MCC workers who casually speak of all of Israel as “evil” and use narratives of Jewish global control reminiscent of Hitler’s propaganda? Future researchers may want to explore these questions.
Former MCC-Palestine director Alain Epp Weaver praises Jewish peace groups willing to speak the truth, heal memories and “grapple with the past” by “publicly acknowledg[ing] the massive dispossessions of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in 1948.” Yet to date Epp Weaver and other MCC leadership working in Israel and Palestine have not issued a statement or apology related to the now abundant documentation of Mennonite roles in the Holocaust, MCC assistance to Nazi Mennonites, post-war lack of attention to Jewish suffering, the spread of antisemitism by those rescued by MCC, and exclusive focus on Jewish harms while ignoring Arab harms to Jews starting in 1948.
Christian Peacemaker Teams
In the mid-1990s, a group of Mennonites began an organization called Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) to show solidarity with Palestinians. CPT provides human rights monitoring of Israeli settler violence in Hebron and other parts of the West Bank. CPT organizes delegations of Christians, mostly Mennonites, to witness the impact of Israeli policy on Palestinians. Concerned about the “anti-Jewish” sentiment in the church, CPT issued a letter to Mennonite churches on antisemitism in 1999. The letter states that they work with Jews in opposing Israeli policy toward Palestinians and that antisemitism threatens that work when “expressions of Christian anti-Semitism rekindle their fears and memories of the role of Christianity in fostering hate and violence towards Jews.” Unlike any other Mennonite organization working in Israel and Palestine, or North America, CPT asks critical questions of Mennonites who offer anti-racism training but do not mention antisemitism.
CPT recommends that the following questions be addressed by Mennonite educational and publishing institutions: “Where in our school curricula are our students taught about the history of Christian anti-Semitism? Are they exposed to modern Judaism as a living faith?
Where in our seminaries are future church leaders given the tools to confront anti-Semitism in congregations they may pastor, in church conferences, or ministerial associations? In our congregations and meetings, does the theology in our Sunday or First Day School curricula prepare our members for respectful encounters with Jews?”
MennoPIN and BDS advocacy
The Mennonite Palestine Israel Network (MennoPIN) began in 2013 in response to Palestinian calls for solidarity from Mennonites. MennoPIN promotes the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against the state of Israel and produced a study guide for Mennonite congregations to support Palestinians and denounce Israel. While the organization includes “Israel” in its title, there are no Israeli advisors. MennoPIN’s board members have no clear affiliation with any Jews or Jewish perspectives. MennoPIN’s website contains only two sentences about Jewish history and the role of the Holocaust in the founding of Israel. The website makes no mention of Mennonites’ extensive role in the Holocaust or in promoting antisemitism in North and South America. The website offers little explanation of Arab countries’ persecution of Jews, or the 850,000 Mizrahi Jews who fled violence in Arab countries and took shelter in Israel. In sum, the site offers little sympathy for Jews, Judaism or how the conflict is understood by most Jews.
A variety of Jewish writers have been describing the similarities between Jews and Mennonites, as well as the revelations within the Mennonite community about their role in the Holocaust. As one might guess, the reaction is quite negative. One Jewish website notes this: “Given their experience of being a wandering, murdered, and oppressed minority, one might imagine that Mennonite-supported institutions would have words of comfort for Israeli Jews… To the contrary, Mennonite activists provide aid and comfort to those who foment anti-Semitism.” 
In North America, influential Mennonites became significant publicists of Nazi propaganda. In the 1930s, Mennonite newspapers would become mouthpieces for German National Socialism and its ideology of racial purity and antisemitism in the Americas. In his survey book on the spread of Nazism in Canada, Brothers Beyond the Sea: National Socialism in Canada, Jonathan F. Wagner claims Mennonites played a significant role in justifying “rabid antisemitism, pseudo-scientific racism, intense German nationalism, and pervasive, paranoid anti-communism.” Mennonite newspapers published senior Nazi military and propaganda posts for Mennonite populations in the Americas. These newspapers included The Defender (Kansas, United States), Das Mennoblatt (Paraguay), Die Brücke (Brazil), Die Mennonitische Rundschau (Manitoba, Canada), Steinbach Post (Manitoba), Der Bote (Manitoba), Deutsche Zeitung für Canada and smaller publications Der Immigrantenbote, Mennonitische Volkswarte and Mennonitische Warte.
Mennonite antisemitic propaganda began with seemingly benign narratives of Mennonite volk, or peoplehood. Mennonite writers like Arnold Dyck’s narrative of Mennonite volk explored the unique features of Mennonite culture particularly important for Russian immigrants. Mennonite narratives on peoplehood evolved into conversations on race, impacted by German Nationalism and racial science. Ethnic pride morphed into racial pride. Racial pride unleashed antisemitic and racist theologies.
Mennonites’ antisemitic propaganda was unique in several ways. First, Mennonites published pro-Nazi propaganda at a time when this was widely unpopular with American and Canadian citizens who generally supported the war against Nazi Germany. Second, Mennonite newspapers legitimated Nazi propaganda by publishing wholesome reports on Mennonite church life and Christian ministry adjacent to arguments justifying both religious and racial antisemitism. Third, some Mennonites were unique in their assertions that Hitler was Christian, and that his persecution of Jews was a Christian task. The following case studies provide examples of Mennonite propaganda and support for antisemitism.
Hermann H. Neufeld and Mennonite Nazism in Winnipeg
In Winnipeg, Mennonites and Jews were again living in the same city as new immigrants to Canada. William Whittaker, a member of the Ku Klux Klan, formed the Canadian pro-Nazi National Socialist movement, which received wide support from Mennonites. Mennonite publisher Hermann H. Neufeld published and distributed the Canadian National Socialist newspaper and other anti-Jewish hate propaganda, which he sold and distributed both in Winnipeg and in rural areas throughout Manitoba. Neufeld was also the editor of Die Mennonitische Rundschau, the newspaper for the Russian Mennonite community throughout the Americas. In 1934, members of the Canadian National Party, including some Mennonites, violently clashed with Jewish and other anti-fascist demonstrators on the streets at the Winnipeg Old Market square.
The Jewish community in Winnipeg mobilized against hate speech published by Neufeld’s newspaper.
In March of 1934, several months before the clashes at Old Market Square, Marcus Hyman, a Jewish member of the legislature introduced a bill prohibiting “publication of a libel against a race or creed likely to expose persons belonging to the race or professing the creed to hatred, contempt or ridicule, and tending to raise unrest or disorder among the people.”
In 1992, Mennonite Helmut-Harry Loewen, a University of Winnipeg sociology professor and expert on hate groups in Canada, gave a presentation on this history to the Winnipeg Jewish community arguing that confrontation against such hate speech is necessary. According to Loewen, “The Libel Act of 1934, which proscribed racially motivated group defamation, was the first example of what in the latter part of the twentieth century came to be known as hate propaganda legislation in Canadian jurisprudence.” By the 1990s, six decades later, the KKK had a firm hold in Canada, particularly in Winnipeg. Via Neufeld’s publication and distribution of KKK material among Mennonites, Mennonites had played a role in its popularity and legitimacy.
In 1939, the Mennonite community celebrated the anniversary of Hitler’s rise to power to “praise Der Fuhrer” at the German consulate in Winnipeg. Mennonites attended the rally, complete with floor to ceiling Nazi flags, Nazi salutes and Mennonite youth choirs singing the Third Reich’s national anthem Horst-Wessel-Lied. Given the local enthusiasm for National Socialism, in 1942, Winnipeg held an “If Day” to model what the city would be like if Nazis invaded. Journalists believe the event “helped turn the tide of opinion in a city that held a Nazi rally just three years earlier.”
Walter Quiring and Der Bote
Der Bote (The Messenger) was a German-language Winnipeg-based Mennonite newspaper serving the Mennonite refugees who had fled Poland, Prussia and Ukraine after WWII. It became a blatant platform for the spread of Hitler’s arguments for white supremacy. In 1935, Der Bote ran a four-part propaganda series on “Communism Unmasked” written by Joseph Goebbels and sent out by the Nazi propaganda ministry. The influential and widely respected Mennonite David Toews, head of the Mennonite “Board of Colonization” in Canada, wrote in Der Bote that the term “Heil Hitler” should be understood as “a means by which millions could express their desire for strength, health, knowledge, in short, the blessing of God for their spiritual leader in his titanic battle against evil.” Toews argued that Hitler deserved admiration. “If the largest majority of 87 million intelligent people and to the largest extent also Christian people, who know the man, speak favorably of him, how should someone, who has never seen Germany before or spent only a few weeks there, have an opinion different from the opinion of many?”
In the 1930s, Nazi propagandist Walter Quiring wrote frequently for Der Bote, particularly encouraging Mennonites to support Hitler and justifying antisemitic views. Born in the Mennonite community of Chortitza, Ukraine, Quiring fled to Germany in 1921 and helped other Mennonite refugees migrate to the Americas. Quiring was an enthusiastic and prolific propagandist and was on the staff of the Deutsches Ausland Institute, which promoted Nazi interests. He was an early supporter of Hitler’s National Socialist government. In 1941, he began working with the German army as a translator, interpreter, propagandist and interrogator of prisoners of war. Quiring argued that Jews were responsible for a plot to destroy the German people by imposing Communism upon them. Quiring asserted that Mennonites’ pure “blood identity” was German and needed preservation. Like his fellow Nazis, Quiring believed that morals and spiritual traits pass through blood. Quiring believed that non-German blood was “poisonous” and thus even a blood transfusion would change someone’s soul. Quiring asserted that Jews were dangerous and needed to be expelled because of their blood.
In 1965, Mennonite historian Frank Epp wrote his dissertation on Canadian Mennonite support for National Socialism in the 1930s as seen in Der Bote. Examining the number of column inches supporting or opposing National Socialism and its ideology, Epp estimated that 90% of Der Bote readers agreed with Nazi assertions on race.
The biological theory and theological doctrine of race taught that God had ordained the division of the human family into racial groups and that the mixture of these groups was as wrong as it was harmful… God made the white race and God made the black race but the mixed breeds came from the devil.
In 2007, Tim Nafziger published a summary of Epp’s dissertation. For some reason, Epp never published his dissertation research even though he went on to publish many other books. The research sat in archives and received little attention for more than 40 years, Few Mennonites were aware of Epp’s finding of Mennonite support for Nazis. Nafziger summarized the dissertation for readers of The Mennonite, citing Epp’s analysis of Mennonite narratives that suggested Jews were immoral and were corrupting society and his conclusion that Mennonites in Der Bote blamed Jews for Communism and Bolshevism. Epp cites one letter to Der Bote stating that Jews were “responsible for much promiscuity (in one school a Jew had taken the virtue of 400 girls — this the parents had confirmed).” Mennonite authors wrote that Hitler was “disciplining” Jews. Some Mennonites spread the idea that Jews were “power-hungry plotters” taking over the world. Mennonites writing in Der Bote discussed their belief in the “Jewish world conspiracy” outlined in the hateful, fake, antisemitic book known as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Some Mennonites opposed such beliefs, but their voices and pleas to other Mennonites not to spread Nazi propaganda or to support Nazi killing of Jews were in the minority.
Erich Ratzlaff and Die Mennonitische Rundschau
Like Der Bote, the Mennonitische Rundschau also contained extreme pro-Nazi letters to the editor and frequent assertions of the supremacy of white people, particularly Germans. In 1933-34, the paper published a series edited by Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels glorifying the Nazi revolution. The paper asserted Hitler was Christian and had arrived at his platform on National Socialism because of Martin Luther’s New Testament. Erich Ratzlaff, the Mennonite mayor and member of the Nazi party from Poland who had taunted Jews in Gabin (as detailed earlier in this paper), became the editor of the Mennonitische Rundschau newspaper from 1967-79.
The Defender and Winrod’s pro-Nazi message
Some American Mennonites also played significant roles in legitimating and disseminating antisemitism. From 1931-42, the Mennonite Herald Publishing House of Newton, Kan., printed the rabidly antisemitic, pro-Nazi monthly magazine The Defender with a monthly circulation reaching 100,000. The magazine’s editor was Gerald Burton Winrod, a pro-Nazi, antisemitic evangelist and political activist. Winrod was not Mennonite, but Mennonites published his work. Winrod started the “Defenders of the Christian Faith,” and authored The Jewish Assault on Christianity, The Talmud Unmasked, Jewish Ritual Murder and The Truth about the Protocols (referring The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a false book created as propaganda to purport a Jewish global conspiracy to subvert Christian morals). Many Mennonites in Kansas supported Winrod and subscribed to The Defender and its antisemitic message. Mennonite John Kroeker served as a German-speaking advisor to Winrod on German Nationalism. When Winrod ran for a Kansas Senate seat, he lost. But he had high support in “counties where either Mennonites or the KKK were influential.” When Melvin Gingerich opposed Winrod in his article “The menace of propaganda and how to meet it” in the Mennonite Quarterly Review in 1939, other Mennonite leaders rushed to denounce Gingerich.
The Mennonite and Bundesbote
In 1933, two U.S. General Conference Mennonites took opposing views of the impending war. The editor of the Mennonite newspaper Bundesbote, Christian E. Krehbiel, argued that Mennonites should support Hitler. Krehbiel lived in Kansas and had traveled on a humanitarian mission to Ukraine to aid Russian Mennonites. Krehbiel said that Hitler offered an example of “positive Christianity,” a Nazi term that refers to a form of Christianity that removed Jewish Scriptures and elements. He reported that German Mennonite leaders had sent a cable to him denying that Hitler was harming Jews. Krehbiel published arguments tying Jews to Communism and suggested that states had the right to persecute Jews. For the next several years, Krehbiel used the pages of the Bundesbote to claim that Jews were responsible for Bolshevik and Communist violence against Mennonites. Krehbiel asserted that other papers in the United States were portraying Jews only as victims because he believed Jews controlled the media. Krehbiel also published news articles repeating old antisemitic tropes that Jews killed Jesus, and that the only solution to “the Jewish problem” was for Christians to convert Jews. By 1937, Krehbiel had started to offer a more critical stance on Hitler and his ideology.
Silas Grubb, the editor of the General Conference newspaper The Mennonite, published his views of Hitler as a “dictator,” denouncing National Socialism as “a racket.” Citing Hitler’s “medieval Jew-baiting” and his “intolerance and cruelty” to Jews, Grubb noted the many contributions Jews had made to “science, literature, statesmanship, and the good of the world.” But by 1938, the new editor of The Mennonite, J.R. Thierstein, had embraced Krehbiel’s earlier position. Thierstein wrote an editorial defending German National Socialism and arguing that Hitler was far better than Stalin’s Soviet Russia. Robert Kreider, the future MCC leader in Europe and future president of Bluffton (Ohio) College, wrote a strong response denouncing this affirmation of Hitler and antisemitism. Kreider was only 18 and had just returned from hitchhiking around Europe to Mennonite homes and sites. There he encountered German Mennonites who “worship Hitler, [and] hate Jews.” Kreider wrote to The Mennonite, “It is difficult to understand why Semitic hatreds are so prevalent among religious peoples. When a Christian publication makes the statement that ‘for the persecution of the Jews there is at least some reason….’ one wonders how such a judgment embodies the spirit of love.” But Thierstein continued publishing antisemitic rants in The Mennonite, blaming “Communist Jews” and “Jewish propaganda” as the reason why the Americans were not supporting Hitler.
A 1939 editorial in The Mennonite explained the Balfour Declaration and the UK’s efforts to find a fair solution to conflict between Jewish refugees fleeing certain death in Europe and local Arabs living in Palestine. The editor noted Jewish fears that stopping Jewish immigration in the Holy Land would cause further harm to Jews. “Christians will do well to pray that God may so direct affairs that the Jews may be dealt with justly.” Another editorial noted the great divide between Mennonites who opposed Hitler and those who embraced him.
The Mennonite then invited E. L. Harshbarger, Bethel College professor of history, to write an educational series on antisemitism to counter Nazi propaganda, including that found in Mennonite newspapers. Each week, Harshbarger would explain the origins and manifestations of antisemitism, noting, “At one time religion, at another business rivalry, and again nationalism has caused anti-semitism.” He noted that antisemites falsely accused Jews of every known evil. Some labeled Jews as evil capitalists. Others viewed Jews as the architects of Bolshevism and Communism. The March 7, 1939, article in the series examined “The Most Common Anti-Semitic Arguments” and gave a detailed history of Russian and Germany propaganda centered on the fabricated Protocols of the Elders of Zion, as well as Henry Ford’s antisemitic book The International Jew. In deconstructing antisemitic propaganda, the column noted that it was “Swiss Aryans” who declared the “Protocols” to be false, “German Aryans” who were responsible for the failures of the Weimar Republic, also “German Aryans” who dominated the business, publishing, banking and academic worlds in Germany. The myth of Jewish control was untrue. “The Jewish masses in Europe have lived in poverty and misery. Most American Jews are middle-class merchants of only moderate means.” He emphasized that it was the antisemites publishing falsehoods and exaggerations, not Jews. “Everywhere” he said, “‘Aryans’ are in control.” Harshbarger documented the many manifestations of antisemitism, from religious persecution, to economic boycotts, to pogroms and Nazi persecution. He explained how the Church had barred Jews from every other profession other than money lending, and how this had set up an ongoing economic conflict with Christians. He noted that Russian antisemitism had been perhaps the most brutal, with ongoing massacres of Jews, leading to the understandable Zionist movement. Harshbarger concludes at the end of his series with this call:
It ill behooves us, a persecuted minority, to aid in any way the persecution of another minority group… I am opposed to the Jewish persecutions because I cannot forget the great cultural contributions of the Jewish people…. As a Christian, I cannot become an antisemitic, because I remember that nearly all my religious idealism and Christian hope came through the Jewish race. Moses, the prophets, Jews… and all his disciples… [were Jewish.]
In the May 1939 issue, the editor again pleads with the newspaper’s audience that they should press Congress to allow Jewish refugees to come to the United States. Harshbarger set a model for how to do de-Nazification by debunking antisemitic myths one by one.
The Gospel Herald and the Christian Monitor
The conservative Mennonite church in the United States wrote little about Jews or Nazis in their newspapers, the Gospel Herald and Christian Monitor. Clayton F. Derstine was the only church leader who spoke publicly on National Socialism in these papers. In 1933, Derstine stated that the German persecution of Jews was wrong, even though, in his opinion, Jews were being persecuted because they did not believe in Jesus. Derstine asserted that the antisemitic The Protocols of Elders of Zion was a forgery. Orie O. Miller, the head of the Mennonite Church’s “Peace Problems Committee,” shared the antisemitic opinions of Mennonite historian John Horsch. They both wrote that Derstine had succumbed to what they thought was anti-German Jewish propaganda. Horsch offered Winrod’s antisemitic propaganda to Orie Miller as support to his belief in the Protocols.
In response to some of the explicit antisemitic content in other Mennonite papers, the Christian Monitor news editor printed the “most pro-Jewish article found in the Mennonite press” during 1933-45. The article “refuted, point by point, the attempt of the Nazi propaganda machine to link the Jews in Germany with Communism.”
Pro-Nazi sentiments in Mennonite newspapers eventually declined. Why did they decline? Were Mennonites simply afraid by 1939 that their support for Hitler in a country fighting against him would spark another anti-German backlash against their communities? What role did pacifist Mennonites speaking out against National Socialism have in this decline? This topic requires more research. Mennonite newspapers were spreading and justifying what is now widely referred to as the ideology of white supremacy and the core beliefs of groups such as the Ku Klux Klan. By legitimating and widely publishing antisemitic ideas in their newspapers, Mennonites hold a unique role in the spread of antisemitism and racism toward African Americans, Latinos, First Nations and other groups in the Americas that seeded today’s growing white supremacist movement.
The antisemitic content of Mennonite sermons, newspapers and community conversations would not just disappear. Mennonite institutional support for Nazis and Nazism would reap a significant harvest of hate. Growing up in a context with religiously sanctioned antisemitic discourse, a small group of Mennonites carried this ideology to the next logical step by taking these beliefs to a wider, secular audience. At least five institution-minded individuals with clear ethnic Mennonite ties became central architects for the white supremacy movement. They are not aberrations.
White supremacy is an ideology that purports that white people are superior and therefore should control, dominate and/or kill people of color, including Jews. Today, white supremacy is a widely shared ideology that pervades many white societies and is responsible for systemic racism and discrimination against people of color. White supremacist organizations and institutions, also referred to as white nationalism or the Alt-right, exist to advance the idea of creating a “white nation.” White supremacist organizations are part of a “violent extremist” movement seeking to “purify” society through violent acts.
Today the racist and antisemitic books and websites written by these fringe Mennonites continue to inspire thousands of white supremacists’ attacks on Jews, Muslims, African Americans and immigrants in North America. This section includes examples of ethnic Mennonites’ leadership roles in white supremacy movements.
Ben Klassen and the Church of the Creator
After growing up in a Mennonite colony in Molotschna, Ukraine, and escaping Russian violence toward Mennonites, Ben Klassen became one of the early founders of the white supremacy movement. Klassen settled in Mennonite communities, first in Mexico and later in the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba, while attending Mennonite-affiliated Rosthern Junior College and the University of Manitoba. He attended Herschel Ebenfeld Mennonite church in Saskatchewan.
There is little doubt Klassen was influenced by the Mennonite newspapers and pro-Nazi activities in these provinces. Klassen’s prolific writing provided a theological justification for white supremacy that echoes the major Canadian Mennonite newspapers’ justification for hating and killing Jews. In his autobiography, Klassen argues he is “proud” of his Mennonite identity and his “pure Dutch-German stock” with a 450-year genealogy. He details his Mennonite background and Mennonite theology. He describes his family as “early victims of Jewish Communism.”
Inspired by reading Hitler’s Mein Kampf, Klassen abandoned not only pacifism but also Christianity, asserting that Jesus was Jewish and therefore the whole church is an inferior religion. In 1987, Klassen wrote:
We gird for total war against the Jews and the rest of the goddamned mud races of the world — politically, militantly, financially, morally, and religiously. In fact, we regard it as the heart of our religious creed, and as the most sacred credo of all. We regard it as a holy war to the finish — a racial holy war. Rahowa! is INEVITABLE. … No longer can the mud races and the White Race live on the same planet.
Drawing on racial concepts widely discussed among Mennonites in his youth, Klassen founded the Church of the Creator (COTC), a belief system that “whatever benefits white people is good.” He wrote a series of “holy books” including The White Man’s Bible, Nature’s Eternal Religion, This Planet Is All Ours and many more influential pamphlets on how to foment a race war. He also wrote for the periodical Racial Loyalty, which published a “Cupid’s Corner” matchmaking service to help people find white mates, with the note “White Men and Women, be fruitful and multiply! This planet is all ours!”
Klassen coined the term “racial holy war” (shortened to the term “Rahowa,” which rhymes with aloha), referring to a white Aryan revolution that would commit mass murder on Jews, African Americans and all other non-whites. He successfully argued to the U.S. government that his organization to spread hate should have tax-exempt status since he posited it was a “religion.” An online Mennonite-style sermon by Klassen posted in June 2019 has been viewed hundreds of times in the last year. His sermon itemizes his hatred of Jews and offers a mandate to kill. Klassen’s books and writings are still widely published on white supremacist websites. Angry men in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017 referred to Klassen’s foundational books when they shouted that “Jews will not replace us.” In Canada, a COTC “racialist” rock band named RAHOWA is based on the belief that music is “the best way to reach youth . . . (with) . . . our political ideas.”
Tom Metzger, a former grand dragon of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in California and founder the San Diego-based White Aryan Resistance (WAR), claims Klassen asked him to take over the COTC leadership. Metzger is one of the most notorious white supremacists in the United States. Metzger turned down Klassen’s invitation and Matthew Hale of East Peoria, Ill., took over leadership. Klassen’s books and movement continue to spread, fueling murders in North America, and are monitored closely by the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Klanwatch program that tracks white supremacist activity. Upon retirement, Klassen stated that he had “succeeded in spreading . . . our creed and program to most of the racially conscious groups all over the world and our creed is now well rooted…” Klassen died by suicide. His tombstone reads, “He gave the white people of the world a powerful racial religion of their own.”
Ingrid Rimland and Zundelsite
Ingrid Rimland grew up in the Mennonite Ukrainian community of Molotschna, escaping with her mother to Paraguay after the Russian government deported her father to Siberia along with hundreds of other Mennonite men. Rimland ended up in Kansas, where other Russian Mennonites had been writing and celebrating German Nationalism and racial purity decades earlier. Rimland cherished the writings on racial purity by Walter Quiring, editor of the Mennonite newspaper Der Bote in Canada. Aided by Bethel College library director Cornelius Krahn, Rimland collected research on Mennonites’ ethnic and theological purity for her acclaimed book The Wanderers that recalled her childhood in Ukraine, Stalin’s terrorizing army and her MCC-funded escape to Paraguay.
In her third book, Demon Doctor, Rimland asserts that Joseph Mengele, known as the Butcher of Auschwitz and the Angel of Death, hid from Nazi hunters in a Mennonite colony in Paraguay, where he served as a medical doctor under the name Hans Joachim Fertsch. Rimland’s mother assisted the “eccentric” Dr. Fertsch, who left the colony in 1951.  Rimland’s book put her in association with real Jewish Nazi hunters who also believed Mengele might be hiding among Paraguay’s Mennonites. John Thiesen’s book Mennonite and Nazi? also asserts that Mengele had contact with Mennonites in Paraguay, living in a boarding house owned by presumed Mennonite Peter Fast, and also visiting Mennonite colonies. Given that other Nazis of Mennonite origin had also created new identities to hide their past in the Americas, it is not a far-fetched story.
The Wanderers won the California Literature Medal Award. Rimland believed her book sales would continue to increase until her publisher Bantam Books, which she referred to as “a Jewish publishing house,” destroyed remaining copies of the book after someone, she conjectured, “noticed the novel’s positive portrayal of Nazi soldiers” as rescuing Mennonites from Russian aggression. Her later book Lebensraum! took her white identity politics and ethnic purity narrative forward. In 1994, Rimland republished The Wanderers after praise by the California-based Institute for Historical Review, a group known for its antisemitic and revisionist history of the Holocaust. At the organization’s annual meeting, Rimland met her future husband, Toronto-based renowned neo-Nazi and Holocaust denier Ernst Zündel, who published pamphlets such as The Hitler We Loved and Why and Did Six Million Really Die? The Truth at Last.
Zündel and Rimland lived in California and developed the first Holocaust denial website, Zundelsite.org, which collated resources on Holocaust denial and fascism. This website became a significant factor in the spread of white supremacy on the internet. Rimland’s book Demon Doctor disappeared from her website, as she abandoned any ties with Jewish Nazi hunters. James Juhnke notes that there appear to be only three copies of the book in libraries worldwide. Rimland became a celebrated speaker at major white supremacist conferences. When U.S. authorities located Zündel, they imprisoned him and then deported him to Canada, which in turn deported him to Germany, where he was convicted for inciting hatred against Jews.
In 2007, Rimland spoke at a Mennonite church in Fresno, Calif. Local Jewish blogger Vic Rosenthal attended the event “imagining the place packed with skinheads and Jew-hating survivalists from the mountain.” Instead, he found “involuntary skinheads”: balding old Mennonite men listening to Rimland, “a pleasant woman in her sixties,” who argued that no Jews were gassed at Auschwitz and that the “Holocaust ‘myth’ is a huge ‘cash cow’ used to extort reparations from Germany and sympathy for Jews and Israel in the U.S.” Rimland’s leadership toward white supremacy, antisemitism and Holocaust denial is still felt today.
April Gaede and the National Vanguard
April Gaede, the great-granddaughter of Russian Mennonite immigrants to Kansas, became one of the most prominent leaders in the white supremacist movement, co-founding the National Vanguard. She grew up in Fresno, Calif., a city with a high concentration of Mennonites. Her father branded the cows and horses on his ranch with swastikas and boasted about shooting Mexicans.
Gaede became an influential member of the National Alliance, led by William Pierce, author of the Turner Diaries, which had been inspired by Ben Klassen’s books. Gaede was also a member of Klassen’s Church of the Creator and later would take up his work by starting a “white power matchmaking” service.
Gaede named her youngest daughter Dresden Hale, a tribute to Matthew Hale, Ben Klassen’s successor. She moved her daughters from California, which was “not white enough,” to Montana, where they are envisioning a white-only town near Glacier National Park. Gaede’s twin daughters, Lynx and Lamb, played in a white supremacist folk band called Prussian Blue, referring to the color of the gas Zyklon B that was used in Nazi gas chambers. They were known as the “Nazi Pop Twins” and wore “AryanWear” T-shirts with Hitler-shaped smiley faces. In a YouTube movie about their life, they sing German folk songs of white power and an ABC song where “A” is for Aryan and “B” is for blood. In an interview, the twins assert that Germans never would have gassed Jews because they would not have wasted all that fuel to kill six million people in the middle of a war. In 2011, they renounced white nationalist politics, saying they had been duped.
More research is needed here, too, to determine what impact the lives of Gaede’s great-grandparents in Ukraine played in her own life and what, if any, Mennonite upbringing Gaede experienced.
Robert Millar and Elohim City
Rev. Robert “Grandpa” Millar left the Mennonite Church in Kitchener, Ontario, renounced pacifism and set off to build a whites-only city. He founded “Elohim City” (“Elohim” is Hebrew for “City of God”) in Oklahoma in 1973. Millar was a leader in the American radical right for nearly 50 years. Now Millar’s two sons, David and John Millar, run Elohim City. The Southern Poverty Law Center labels the Elohim City compound a violent extremist group that is part of the Christian Identity movement supporting racial purity. Millar’s studies of religious materials led him to believe that “whites of northern European extraction, rather than Jews, are God’s chosen people.” Millar appropriates Jewish identity in a variety of ways. He asserts that America, not Israel, is the Promised Land and that Jews and other non-whites are a “pre-Adamic” sub-species.
In his role as Elohim’s director, he ran a safe house for the “extremist underground railroad.” Millar hosted hundreds of white supremacist gatherings on his compound. As a reverend, Millar would preach and teach to indoctrinate or “re-educate” people into the ideology of racial purity. He hosted members of the Aryan Republican Army, who robbed banks across the United States. Millar was a close friend of, and is buried beside, Richard Snell, who led the white supremacist group The Covenant, The Sword, and the Arm of the Lord. Snell was executed for killing a shopkeeper he thought was Jewish hours after Timothy McVeigh carried out the Oklahoma City bombing. Snell had warned that there would be payback for his execution. Snell was implicated in a previous plot to bomb the Murrah Federal Office Building in Oklahoma City. And some suspect McVeigh knew this. McVeigh called Millar’s compound at Elohim City two weeks before he bombed the Murrah building, killing 168 people. The FBI suspected that Robert Millar was somehow connected to the bombing, though the investigation did not produce conclusive evidence. Robert Millar had eight children and at least 58 grandchildren and great-grandchildren who continue his legacy.
Digging further into the deep corners of the internet, it appears that all the Mennonite white supremacist leaders know or knew each other and worked with each other as well other white supremacist leaders such as Ben Klassen, April Gaede, Ingrid Rimland’s husband Ernst Zündel and Robert Millar. Reading through the history of the white nationalist movement, other Mennonite family names appear, including individuals with the last names Nafziger, Metzger, Gliebe, Snyder, Weaver, Kessler, Beck and Krause. More research could explore the family backgrounds and connections with Mennonite history.
After WWII, the Allies created “de-Nazification” programs to remove Nazis from positions of power and to address the lingering attitudes of antisemitism and denial in Germany, Austria and other countries with a population that had supported the Nazis. Hitler’s propaganda machine had successfully convinced many people that Jews were to blame for their problems and deserved to suffer. De-Nazification programs educated the public on the realities of the Holocaust and confronted antisemitic propaganda, such as the myth of Jewish control over banks and falsehoods that Jews were responsible for Bolshevism and Communism. As part of this de-Nazification process, German Catholic and Protestant churches explored concepts of denial, guilt and judgment for their complicity with Nazi crimes against humanity. Church leaders debated the role of the church in Schuldfrage, war guilt, or the debt owed those harmed by the Nazis.
In 1945, the Council of the Protestant Church in Germany signed the “Stuttgart Declaration of Guilt.”
With great pain we say: By us, infinite wrong was brought over many peoples and countries. That which we often testified to in our communities, we express now in the name of the whole church: We did fight for long years in the name of Jesus Christ against the mentality that found its awful expression in the National Socialist regime of violence; but we accuse ourselves of not standing to our beliefs more courageously, for not praying more faithfully, for not believing more joyously, and for not loving more ardently.
In 1947, Switzerland hosted the International Emergency Conference on Anti-Semitism organized by the International Council of Christians and Jews. The conference analyzed the causes of antisemitism and how to combat it. The conference resulted in a statement known as the “Ten Points of Seelisberg,” including the following:
- Remember that One God speaks to us all through the Old and the New Testaments.
- Remember that Jesus was born of a Jewish mother of the seed of David and the people of Israel and that His everlasting love and forgiveness embraces His own people and the whole world
- Remember that the first disciples, the apostles, and the first martyrs were Jews.
- Remember that the fundamental commandment of Christianity, to love God and one’s neighbor, proclaimed already in the Old Testament and confirmed by Jesus, is binding upon both Christians and Jews in all human relationships, without any exception.
- Avoid distorting or misrepresenting biblical or post-biblical Judaism with the object of extolling Christianity.
In 1975, German Mennonites were involved in the German Evangelical Church’s publication of “Christians and Jews,” emphasizing the Jewish origins of the Christian Church and reflecting theologically on Christian-Jewish relationships. And in June 1995, the Member Assembly of the Consortium of Mennonite Congregations in Germany (AMG) published a statement entitled “50 Years after World War II”:
On May 8, 1995, we remember the end of the Second World War and recognize the meaning that this date holds for Mennonites in Germany today. Many of us experienced that turning point and suffered through it as a catastrophe. In hindsight we recognize that the end of the war, despite all the suffering that we ourselves experienced, above all constituted a liberation from a criminal regime of terror. The majority of Mennonites in Germany, as the result of a long development, succumbed to the temptations of the Third Reich, and they abandoned their peace theology. They chose to privilege their responsibilities to their nation over relationships with fellow Mennonites in the Netherlands and Alsace. The Dutch brothers and sisters, including many victims and others who suffered under the German regime of occupation, could not count on the attention, let alone the aid of the German Mennonites. In Lorraine or in Warthegau the German Mennonites also took over lands of expropriated farmers during the war. Mennonites of all occupations were caught up in the system, and nearly all Mennonites remained silent in the face of the National Socialist crimes against Jews and many others. We do not raise these examples to point fingers, but we believe that looking into the past is necessary in order to learn from this history. Thus we regret that it took so long to begin reckoning with National Socialism and its effects, due to fear of internal disagreements and the reality that the war severely affected many German Mennonites. Others believed that they had nothing for which to apologize, because they themselves did not directly participate in crimes. Today we recognize that we, as Christians and as part of the Mennonite denomination, should have acknowledged our involvement and our shame earlier. For us, the years after the end of the war and after the misery of expulsion turned out to be undeservedly good years of reconstruction. We were able to experience how neighboring peoples who were once at war grew together and today treat each other with friendship and respect. For this, we are thankful. But with the past in mind, we also observe troubling developments including a growing atomization and rootlessness supported by egotism, xenophobia, and rising bellicosity. In order to appropriately address these challenges, we intend to orient ourselves according to God’s word and the legacy of our Anabaptist forebears. Therefore, we would like to emphasize the following principles: Public confession through mission and peace witness; Emphasis on fellowship of the Christian community and beyond our own nation; Willingness to welcome strangers and to never shut others out; [And] a responsible lifestyle for protecting Creation. “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail” (Lamentations 3:22).
While the German churches were learning the full realities of the Holocaust and publicly discussing and confessing their guilt for complicity and participation with Nazi harms, there is no record of any type of de-Nazification for the thousands of Mennonites MCC rescued who supported Hitler’s National Socialism in North and South America. Other than the Mennonite consultations on Judaism discussed earlier in this article regarding Mennonite evangelism to Jews in Israel, I found no other documented systematic efforts to address Mennonite antisemitism or participation in the Holocaust until 2015.
During the war, Mennonite leaders attempted to address the diverse beliefs and experiences of Russian and Swiss Mennonites. In North America, there were ethnic, ideological and religious differences among Mennonites. Mennonites with Swiss German backgrounds who immigrated from the 1680s onward were theologically and culturally more conservative than other Protestant groups. The General Conference Mennonite Church continued commitments to pacifism throughout the U.S. Civil War onward. While some Swiss-German Mennonites vocally opposed support for Hitler, there was not a strong response or attempt to address antisemitic attitudes either during the war or after. A minority of Mennonite leaders spoke out denouncing Jewish persecution and mocked Hitler.
In 1934, the Mennonite Board of Colonization took over the role of protecting Mennonite culture in a move designed to reduce the influence of secular and pro-Nazi Mennonites who asserted Mennonitism as ethnicity or nationality rather than as a Christian sect. Church leaders such as Harold S. Bender wrote The Anabaptist Vision in 1944 to provide a unifying narrative for people with diverse experiences and beliefs who shared the name Mennonite. This avoided the discomfort of truth-telling and accountability that many European Mennonites had abandoned pacifism and supported Nazism. It also used the writing of Mennonite history as a tool of church authority and persuasion. Bender and others told the story of Mennonite pacifism as if it were true, even in the midst of robust evidence that many Mennonites who defined themselves as Mennonites did not hold this belief.
After WWII, Mennonite refugees did not go through de-Nazification and did not systematically confront their collaboration with Nazis and participation in the Holocaust. Instead of de-Nazification, MCC emphasized the principles of Anabaptist theology, including pacifism and “peace work” among secular Mennonite refugees. MCC offered peace education programs to new Russian Mennonite immigrants. Tensions between religious, pacifist Mennonites and pro-Nazi Mennonites heightened in Paraguay. Mennonites there had received support from MCC to escape violence in Europe. MCC pressured two of the pro-Nazi Mennonites leaders to leave, and supported efforts to teach Anabaptist principles. Some rejected MCC’s efforts to encourage pacifism and theological unity to displace their support for National Socialism. Paraguayan Mennonites published an anonymous document entitled “The Mennonite Central Committee as a Political Instrument,” known as the Werkzeug document. While it expresses gratitude for MCC’s humanitarian support to their communities, it calls MCC a “calamity” by “treating us as national enemies” and disputing “our right to believe in our ancestral nation and homeland.” Paraguayan Mennonites seemed to view MCC’s pacifism and rejection of Hitler through a political lens, not based on religious ethics. The authors believed MCC’s rejection of Nazism was a personal attack on their German identity.
Mennonite emphasis on peace education did have positive results. I am a product of Mennonite programs encouraging peacebuilding. Mennonite kids everywhere grew up singing “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world.” This simple children’s song is, in effect, a song replacing a white supremacist worldview. My college friend Shelbey Krahn, a great-niece of Ben Klassen, recollects that while she doesn’t know of any official de-Nazification in her Mennonite community in Saskatchewan, she wonders if there was a “quiet anti-anti-semitism in our Sunday School materials.” She said, “My mom, Ben Klassen’s niece, bought me so many books by Jewish authors that for a time I wished I was Jewish.” I, too, encountered pro-Jewish ideas in my Mennonite church in Bluffton, Ohio. But on a larger scale, a different pattern emerges.
MCC’s peace education over the last seven decades morphed into fierce support for Palestinians and denouncement of Israeli violence, as detailed in the section earlier. Mennonites critiqued Jewish Zionists fighting in Palestine, even though their brethren had also taken land from Indigenous tribes in Russian territories, in Paraguay, Brazil, Canada and the United States. MCC does work today with a few Jewish peace groups striving to end occupation and for equal rights for Palestinians. But without any de-Nazification process to address Christian antisemitism or Nazi propaganda that blamed Jews for Bolshevism and Communism and made accusations of Jewish “world control” of banks and the media, Mennonite writing and analysis of the situation in Israel and Palestine often inadvertently draws on old antisemitic tropes. MCC’s website today makes note of Israeli injustices against Palestinians and the imbalance of power between Israel’s strong military and government in comparison to Palestinians. But MCC’s website provides little of the Jewish narrative of the centuries of pogroms, the Holocaust, the search for safety elsewhere or the refusal of countries like the United States to take Jewish refugees, which led to the creation of Israel. MCC’s narrative today also continues to downplay Arab and Muslim countries’ attacks on Israel, the Jewish refugees that fled from Arab and Muslim countries or Israel’s minority status in the world. MCC meanwhile takes a very different approach to Arab and Muslim countries who commit far more extensive human rights violations against their own people. This creates a question of whether Mennonites’ rejection of de-Nazification processes in favor of peace education had the effect of reinvigorating antisemitism among a new generation of Mennonites who today judge the Jewish state with a different set of criteria than Arab, Muslim or other states.
History of Mennonite critique of the Nazi era
Mennonite archivists and historians have been writing books and articles on this troubling Mennonite history of Mennonite support for Nazis and roles in the Holocaust for decades. Yet for many Mennonites, there is little to no awareness of this research. Among my Russian Mennonite colleagues, some had heard there were “a few” Mennonites who supported Hitler. Mennonite writers now researching their family history report “weeping” when they uncover family stories of Nazi support. For a religious community known for excessive contemplation of its history and identity, the suppression of Mennonite involvement with Nazi racial science, racial theology, antisemitism, the Holocaust, German Nationalism and white supremacy raises serious questions. Why is there so little awareness about or attention to this history? For four decades, Mennonite scholars have been publishing research on the role of Mennonites in spreading antisemitism, favoring Hitler and participating in the justification and execution of the Holocaust. But somehow, even in 2017, that information was not widely known among Mennonites.
C. Henry Smith was the first to write about Mennonite support for Nazis in his 1941 book The Story of the Mennonites. Smith had penned some frightening treatises on white supremacy earlier in his life, arguing for the racial superiority of Mennonites and denouncing interracial marriage. But through some type of enlightenment, Smith came to denounce the Holocaust. Writing during Hitler’s reign, Smith notes, “Menno Simons would find himself ill at ease, today, among his namesakes in Germany were he to return to his familiar haunts around the Baltic; in fact, he would find himself, in all likelihood, in a concentration camp [should he return to Germany during Nazi era].”
This was the section of Smith’s book that Nazi physicist Abraham Esau omitted in his German translation, and that Cornelius Krahn cut from the 1950 reprint of The Story of the Mennonites.
A broader Mennonite critique of Mennonite roles in the Holocaust or Mennonite antisemitism did not surface again until 1965, when Frank Epp’s dissertation analyzed the number of column inches in Der Bote devoted to German propaganda, breaking it down into racial, political and cultural propaganda. In Germany, an article by Hans-Jurgen Goertz in 1974 challenged the idea that Mennonites had no choice in their support for Hitler, or that they had voiced dissent. Goertz’s book disproved a 1962 statement by Hans Rothfels that Mennonites, Quakers and Jehovah’s Witnesses consistently critiqued Nazism. Goertz argued that the Mennonite embrace of Nazism was a continuation of what had been a process of assimilation over several centuries, as Mennonites conformed to society to enjoy acceptance. In 1977, Diether Götz Lichdi published the first book-length work, Mennoniten im Dritten Reich. In 1990, Peter P. Klassen published his book on Nazism in the Fernheim colony in Paraguay.
Aileen Friesen cites calls for repentance in Canadian Mennonite newspapers in the 1980s and 1990s, when the Canadian government deported Mennonite Nazi Jacob Luitjens and the public began to discuss Mennonites committing Nazi crimes. Friesen cites a letter from Alfred Heinrichs:
First, we need to draft a statement that takes ownership of our involvement in the Jewish solution. Second, we need to stage a public meeting with the Jewish community as we seek forgiveness. Third, we need to find ways of doing service projects together with the Jewish community as it seeks to build a bond of fellowship.
In Tim Nafziger’s 2007 article summarizing Frank Epp’s dissertation on Mennonite antisemitism in Canadian newspapers, Nafziger responds to the critique that exploring this history is an opportunity to “simply feel guilty.”
…looking honestly and openly at our whole history is an opportunity to joyfully repent as Jesus called us and move forward. In this case, it is an opportunity to strengthen our relationship with our Jewish brothers and sisters. As a people with some persecution and marginalization in our history, we are well-positioned to understand the Jewish story in Christendom of 1,700 years of marginalization, exclusion, and extermination. But to begin that journey we need to recognize our complicity in that long and ugly part of Christian history and educate ourselves about it.
In 2008, James Irvin Lichti’s book Houses on the Sand? Pacifist Denominations in Nazi Germany compares Mennonite periodicals to Quaker publications. Quakers self-censored critiques of Nazism, and avoided offering unnecessary accolades to Nazis. In comparison, Mennonites seemed to enthusiastically and theologically endorse Nazism. Lichti argues that German Evangelical Baptists served in noncombatant positions. Yet most Mennonites did not attempt to find or use alternatives to military service. Both Goertz and Lichti debunk the idea that coercion alone justifies Mennonite support for Nazism. John Thiesen’s Mennonite Nazi?, Mark Jantzen’s Mennonite German Soldiers, and dozens of other scholarly articles and books cited in this article came next, providing a flood of research on specific aspects of Mennonite relationships with the German state. Gerhard Rempel’s 2010 article in Mennonite Quarterly Review provided a systematic overview of not just Mennonites and Nazis but, for the first time, an overview of Mennonite roles in the Holocaust. Rempel also offered a personal testimony to the guilt Mennonites experienced for their participation in the Holocaust.
In 1942, the mayor of Osterwick, my hometown, reported to German authorities a fellow townsman who happened to be a Jew married to a Mennonite woman. This Jew, who had spent his whole life with Mennonites and even spoke Plautdietsch, was arrested and killed. For a few months my own family lived in the house of this family. It was known as the Judenhaus. Recalling that experience fills me with the same ominous feeling Anna Sudermann expressed when she discovered the free clothing she received from the Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle distribution center that came from the Jews killed at Babi Yar in Kiev. How much guilt and condemnation is shared by those Mennonites who witnessed and observed or benefited from the Holocaust in their midst?
In 2017, Ben Goossen’s book, Chosen Nation, cited here at length, provided the next chapter of analysis using new primary source material. In 2020, new books on the topic include John Eicher’s Exiled Among the Nations and Mark Jantzen and John Thiesen’s European Mennonites and the Holocaust.
There were further calls for Mennonite institutions to repent and account for their harms toward Jews after the series of “Mennonites and the Holocaust” conferences in Germany, Paraguay and Kansas between 2015 and 2018. The first Mennonite conference addressing collaboration with Nazis occurred in 2015 in Muenster, Germany. The second took place in the colony of Fernheim, Paraguay, in 2017. And the third conference happened at Bethel College in North Newton, Kan., in 2018. Canadian Mennonites, to date, have not set a time to reckon with Mennonite-Nazi collaboration, even though Canadian Mennonites had one of the closest and longest-running relationships with Nazi Mennonites in their membership and newspapers.
MCC did not officially send anyone to attend the 2018 conference in Kansas. But MCC staff person Esther Epp-Thiessen attended the conference on her own initiative and wrote a blog afterward asking these questions:
Why the silence? Why are we only hearing these stories now? … Does a community’s own experience of trauma absolve it of complicity in the harming of others? Soviet Mennonites were, when German occupying forces arrived in 1941, deeply traumatized. Under Stalin, they had lived through forced collectivization, starvation, repression, and the murder or disappearance of thousands. Does that reality lift the burden of responsibility? …How do Mennonites recognize, acknowledge, and atone for this dark side of our collective story? How do we lay aside the sense of “Mennonite exceptionalism” that we are somehow better than others?
Mennonite leaders have been avoiding calls to address Mennonite roles in the Holocaust for eight decades. In the Mennonite Church USA Resolution on “Seeking Peace in Israel and Palestine” in 2017, there is a general apology for Christian antisemitism, but no mention of the unique and substantial participation of Mennonites in the Holocaust. Despite repeated requests from authors over several decades, no North American Mennonite church institutions have agreed to offer an apology or a plan for accountability and repentance.
To date, Mennonite historical survey textbooks contain little to no mention of the broad Mennonite support for Nazism or participation in the Holocaust. Mennonite theology books rarely address how Anabaptists clung to their resistance to oath-taking during WWI and WWII but abandoned ethics of pacifism, separation of church and state, and religious freedom that had formed the core of their Radical Reformation. Early Anabaptists believed in adult baptism, whereby individuals would not “inherit” their religion or be baptized at birth but rather choose their religious beliefs as adults. But Mennonites everywhere began to put more significance on their ethnic identity. The Nazi idea that “morals pass through blood” became widely accepted among Mennonites. To this day, Mennonite leaders in Mennonite institutions insist on hiring ethnic Mennonite staff, even when they are less qualified or less ethical than non-ethnic Mennonites.
In 2017, MCC made a statement against the white supremacy movement that marched in Charlottesville, Va. However, this statement does not mention Mennonites’ unique participation in the Holocaust or their unique role in spreading white supremacy in North America. The author of the statement notes that the angry white men marching in Charlottesville chanted antisemitic threats. And it states that “anti-Black, anti-Indigenous, anti-immigrant, anti-Semite and anti-Muslim rhetoric” is contradictory to the Gospel. But then in its four action steps to work against white supremacy, it mentions only anti-racism training, Indigenous rights, mass incarceration of African Americans, and working for a humane immigration system. Nothing is mentioned about training on antisemitism, despite the legacy of antisemitism among Mennonites, and the fact that the white supremacist groups marching in Charlottesville were calling for the racial holy war (Rahowa) envisioned by Ben Klassen, who was rescued by MCC. The document appears not to recognize that white supremacy blames Jews as the source of and architects of the diversity, multiculturalism and democracy they hate.  As such, Jews are often the prime targets of white supremacist violence, as evidenced in the many attacks on synagogues in the United States in the last few years. (It is important to understand that white supremacy ideology can benefit white-appearing Jews even while white supremacist movements target Jews as their top enemy.)
Amish apologies to Jews
Without knowing about or referencing the history of Mennonite collaboration with Nazis, the Anabaptist Amish community has made several gestures of apology and reconciliation with Hasidic Jews and at least three trips to Israel. In 2010, a group of Amish flew to Israel, an unusual use of technology for a group that usually uses horses and buggies instead of cars, to apologize to Jews for their silence during the Holocaust. They met with Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch at the Kotel, the Western Wall, and assured him they were not there to proselytize. The Amish presented to Rabinovitch a parchment with a request for forgiveness in the name of the entire Amish community. In 2013, a group of 31 Amish went to Israel to offer a formal apology to Jewish people for not recognizing them as a “chosen people” in the past and for their past lack of action to prevent Jewish persecution. Amish leaders read this statement:
We would like to meet with city officials and other leaders who would give us a few minutes of their time. We, the Amish and Anabaptist people turned away from the Jewish nation, while they were in their darkest hour of need. We hardened our hearts against them, we left them – never lifting our voices in protest against the atrocities that were committed against them. We want to publicly repent of this and acknowledge our support of Israel.
People “stared in wonder” as the group sang Amish hymns at the Western Wall.
When the Amish visited a Hasidic Jewish community in New York City, the similarities and differences were also evident.
As the two groups walked side by side on Brooklyn streets, Crown Heights residents did double-takes; the Amish could be mistaken for Lubavitchers at a quick glance. But their hats are more square [sic] and their ruddy complexions from working outdoors contrast with the pale faces of the studious, urban Lubavitchers.
The Amish who visited Israel also noted the similarities between Jews and Mennonites, including “a traditional style of dress, a focus on the Old Testament, family and community values, and a respect for hard work.”
Mennonite conference resolutions on Israel and Palestine, and antisemitism
In 2017, Mennonite Church USA (MC USA) passed a resolution at their biennial convention entitled “Seeking Peace in Israel and Palestine.” The resolution aimed both to oppose Israeli military occupation of Palestine in favor of a “just peace” for all and “oppose antisemitism and seek right relationships with Jewish communities.” The resolution was written in response to the Palestinian Kairos document denouncing Israeli policies and asking Christians to speak out to support their human rights. Several Palestinians helped MCUSA staff to craft the language in the resolution. MennoPIN advocated for the statement to advance the Palestinian campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) against Israel. Only two Jewish scholars were consulted in the writing of the resolution, and their main advice, which was to affirm the right of Israel to exist, was not included. The MCUSA resolution did not endorse the entire BDS agenda, but pro-BDS groups called the resolution a victory, noting that Mennonites had “dumped” their investments in Israel’s occupation. In reality, Mennonite institutions had no investments in Israel or the occupation to begin with. The statement had no real economic impact in punishing or sanctioning Israel.
Without knowing the specific history of Anabaptists and Jews surveyed in this article, the Jewish press widely denounced MC USA’s statement for supporting Palestinian calls for a boycott of the state of Israel, for refusing to recognize the state of Israel, and for singling out Israel when Mennonites generally have not published such statements against other countries. Noting the upcoming conference on “Mennonites and the Holocaust” referred to in the resolution, one author states:
They will make up for their blithe indifference to the fate of Jews today by conferencing, and maybe even shedding a few golden tears, about the fate of Jews last century. The resolution has called “on Mennonites to cultivate relationships with Jewish representatives and bodies in the U.S.” I will leave it to knowers of the Torah to say whether we are required to associate with a small group of morally obtuse, self-righteous preeners. But if it were left up to me, I would tell them to go to hell.
Mennonite Church Canada also published a pro-BDS resolution, though with even less attention to antisemitism. Neither Mennonite statement made any note of the unique role of Mennonites in supporting Hitler or participating in the Holocaust.
Mennonite scholar John Kampen, a professor at Hebrew Union College, has perhaps the most robust Mennonite contact with Jewish scholars today. For decades, Kampen has offered support and guidance to Mennonites for navigating their relationships with Jews. On Mennonite institutions’ denouncement of Israel, Kampen has repeatedly cautioned that Mennonites have not taken time to engage with and understand Jewish narratives. As such, Mennonite narratives lack knowledge of and care and concern for Jews.
Mennonites reading the Bible after the Holocaust
Building off the series of conferences exploring Mennonite roles in the Holocaust, the Institute of Mennonite Studies at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Ind., plans to hold a conference on “Reading the Bible after the Holocaust” in fall 2020. [Editor’s note: The conference has been postponed until 2021, date to be determined.] The stated goal for the conference is for “Mennonite scholars, pastors, and other church leaders to grapple with the difference the Holocaust makes for biblical interpretation.” Conference organizers stated in a position paper that achieving this goal requires “(1) an account of the Holocaust and its impact and legacy; (2) an understanding of Mennonite involvement with the Holocaust and its impact and legacy, which includes both resistance and complicity; and (3) a reevaluation of Mennonite biblical interpretation in light of the foregoing.”
The position paper denounces Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory and notes “agreement with the 2017 MC USA resolution, that both anti-Semitism and the occupation of Palestine are egregious.” From a Jewish point of view, the Mennonite tendency to bring up Palestinians in every conversation about Jews, and to insist on opposing Palestinian occupation whenever there is a discussion of antisemitism, can seem disingenuous. This type of “equating” has been widely rejected by Jewish authors, who note the systematic killing of between six and 20 million Jews over the last two millennia is quantitatively and qualitatively different than the occupation, given that fewer than 100,000 Palestinians have died in the last century, and Arab countries have also inflicted ongoing threats and violence against Israelis. Future research might explore the ethics of such principles for discussing post-Holocaust Biblical interpretation. Should Mennonites continually highlight Jewish harms against Palestinians at a time when Mennonites have not formally repented or accounted for their extensive roles in killing far more Jews, and when most Mennonites have not accounted for their roles in settler colonialism in North and South America, resulting in similar harms to Indigenous peoples in the Americas?
In 2020, the Jewish-Mennonite Relations Committee of the Mennonite Church USA published a survey of Mennonite churches conducted to determine if and how Mennonite pastors and congregations related to Jewish synagogues. Of the 77 congregations that responded, one third (26 congregations) had no contact with Jewish houses of worship. Most of the Mennonite-Jewish connections involved “responsive actions,” such as congregations speaking out against antisemitic attacks and/or rhetoric, and/or “hold[ing] vigils, informational sessions, joint meals, or shared worship services in response.” Some pastors noted that they occasionally have interaction on common issues, such as support for the NAACP or local service agencies. Some participate in a local interfaith committee involving leaders of different churches, mosques and temples. And in some cases, there are “activism-based connections,” in which members of Mennonite churches and Jewish houses of worship are involved in protests, trainings and/or joint responses. Two churches reported relationships with, and even support for, Messianic Jewish missionaries and contacts. One church invited a rabbi to teach a 12-week written Hebrew course, and joins in an annual event called “Night to Honor Israel.” Some Mennonite pastors noted that different understandings of the conflict between Israel and Palestine are significant obstacles to a relationship with a Jewish congregation. And some Mennonite pastors noted their congregations have no interest in, or even feel resistance to, having relationships with Jews.
One of the pastors who responded to the survey noted that the congregation shares space with a Jewish congregation. Mennonite Church of San Francisco rents space from a Jewish synagogue. After the white supremacist attack on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, the San Francisco Jewish congregation Sha’ar Zahav, which serves the Jewish LGBTQI community, expressed fear at the spread of hate and violence. Rabbi Mychal Copeland reports that Mennonite pastor Joanna Lawrence Shenk offered that a group of Mennonites would hold a “vigil of protection” during Shabbat. The Jewish service started with joint songs and prayers for both congregations. Rabbi Copeland noted that amid fear and threats, “I’ll take 20 Mennonites over one armed security guard any day.” The small and fragile Mennonite-Jewish relationships that do exist in North America today, as well as the lived experience of those in Mennonite-Jewish intermarriages, will perhaps map a way forward.
In the 1980s and ’90s, some Mennonite theologians showed renewed interest in dialogues with Jews, in studying Judaism as an essential critique of Empire Christianity and in seeking- an authentic understanding of Jesus as a Jewish rabbi. Infamous Mennonite scholar John Howard Yoder’s book The Jewish-Christian Schism Revisited, published posthumously in 2003, posits that Anabaptists need to reexamine the whole history of Christianity to understand that Christianity “fell” when early followers of Jesus actively renounced and separated from Judaism so that Christianity could have “the God of the Jews, without the Jews.” By separating from Judaism, Yoder argued, Christians lost the sense of Scripture as a blessing. He also asserts this aspect of Judaism is what Anabaptists were trying to restore when they began their movement in the 1500s. Yoder also finds resonance with what he interprets as rabbinic Judaism’s understanding of violence, power and land. While Yoder’s book drew on his exchanges with Rabbi Steven Schwartzchild and other Jewish scholars, Peter Ochs, another Jewish scholar, notes that the book’s view of Judaism through an Anabaptist lens does not give an authentic Jewish view of Judaism, suggesting the need for further dialogue.
Other Anabaptists have also explored Judaism. Perry Yoder’s article “The Importance of Judaism for Contemporary Anabaptist Thought” argued that Anabaptists could look to Judaism and the Torah for inspiration on a practical “lived faith.” James Hamrick, a Mennonite scholar on Judaism, said Mennonites need to study Judaism and antisemitism because they too often include antisemitic themes that portray Jesus as a liberator from Judaism. Citing Jewish New Testament scholar Amy-Jill Levine’s book The Misunderstood Jew: The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus, Hamrick asserts that antisemitic themes are woven into both progressive and conservative Christianity alike. Christians often suggest that Jesus was “anti-Jewish” because he liberated women, violated oppressive Sabbath laws, welcomed outcasts, preached pacifism and rejected Jewish oppressive culture. Hamrick writes that Mennonites can counter embedded antisemitism in our theology and practice by reminding ourselves that Jesus was Jewish and that therefore it is bizarre and unthinkable to try to understand Jesus’ teachings without understanding Judaism.
In general, Mennonites have rarely addressed Judaism and, when they do, they almost never include Jews in their discussion about them. In 1980, Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary hosted the “Shalom Consultation: A Gathering of Jewish and Christian Pacifists.” The consultation included Rabbi Everett Gendler, the only Jewish representative, John Kampen and representatives of the three historic peace churches, primarily from Earlham College (Quaker) and Manchester College (Church of the Brethren).
However, in 1984, Eastern Mennonite Board of Missions sponsored a two-day consultation on “Christian/Jewish relations” between a group of Mennonites and four Jews (two rabbis and two college professors. The meeting analyzed the common ground as well as differences in theology and beliefs).
We, as Mennonite Anabaptist followers of Jesus, feel and observe many commonalities between our community and the Jewish community. We both are communally oriented. We both have experienced isolation from and suffering at the hands of the larger society. We are both concerned… about issues of justice and peace. We both are covenant communities.
The meeting also included Mennonite repentance.
We regret that especially in the era after Constantine, the Christian church rapidly distanced herself from her Jewish roots…. We acknowledge that during the heyday of triumphalistic Christendom, the Jewish people in “Christian” lands far more faithfully reflected the character of Jesus than did the Gentile church of the West.
Given the broader context of Mennonite relationships with Jews, this meeting was remarkable. However, there was no mention of Mennonite roles in the Holocaust. It may not have been known or the topic may have been avoided.
How often have Jews and Mennonites married and how is it relevant to this history? Mennonite Nazi supporters in Canada in the 1930s and ’40s wrote extensively of the dangers of intermarriage. J.J. Hildebrand composed a “Mennonite national anthem” with a whole verse devoted to keeping Mennonite girls from marrying outsiders. Hildebrand also wrote about his fears of defiling Mennonites’ “pure blood”: “[O]ur Mennonite girls – to which we, Mennonite men, have the first and only right, and whom we approach only via the honest path to the altar – are now exposed to the sexual caprices of these and similar types. [Such a reality] makes my Germanic blood boil …”
Why would Hildebrand feel the need to emphasize this point? Historically, both groups had lower rates of intermarriage than other faiths. As noted throughout this article, there are documented cases of Jewish-Mennonite marriages in the 1800s and 1900s across Europe, including stories already discussed in this article from Danzig and Ukraine. In the Netherlands, Alle Hoekema writes that several members of the Mennonite church who set up a school for Jewish refugee children had Jewish ancestors themselves. She also mentioned references to other Jews and Mennonite intermarrying. The story of MCC worker Henry Buller’s marriage to Beatrice Rosenthal, a Jewish refugee, was noted earlier. Researchers have found that a rare genetic eye condition primarily affects only Ashkenazi Jews and Amish. Mennonites and Jews also have similar last names such as Kauffman, Krall, Roth, Augsburg/er, Gross and Glick. But this could be simply from the similar geographic history of these two groups. Yet there are many stories of Jewish-Mennonite intermarriage described on blogs in the last decade. And a new book, The Amish Menorah describes a fictional Amish man rescuing a beautiful Jewish woman during WWII.
In my circle of contacts, there are more than a dozen Mennonite-Jewish couples, some of whom are raising their children to embrace both Jewish and Mennonite culture and religious practices. There are also famous Mennonite-Jewish marriages including Blythe Danner and Bruce Paltrow, and Jared Kushner’s cousin Marc Kushner, who married a Mennonite man from Pennsylvania. While no longer geographically connected, Mennonites and Jews still seem to find each other and recognize something similar, a rhyme or harmony of cultural experience, a blending of minority religious and ethnic experience and the traumatic memory of persecution and hardship. Are Mennonites and Jews in intermarriages both trying to escape the confines of their own somewhat repressive community by finding freedom in a partner with a similar cultural experience?
For mixed Mennonite-Jewish families, this history of Mennonite support for the Holocaust and the legacy of Mennonite antisemitism creates a new context for understanding the legacy of this long, unique and often troubled history within modern times. At Bethel College’s “Mennonites and the Holocaust” conference in Kansas in 2018, Mennonite Helen Stoltzfus performed “A Mennonite Wife, A Jewish Husband, and the Holocaust,” part of Heart of the World, a play she wrote with her Jewish husband Albert Greenberg. In this theatrical conversation, a married couple asks questions of their Jewish and Christian ancestors who are watching and commenting on their interfaith marriage and their cultural and religious identity.
Unlike most Mennonites who have little contact with Jews, those in Mennonite-Jewish intermarriages have a compelling cause for pushing the Mennonite church to finally repent and act to address historic and significant Mennonite harms to Jews.
This historical survey article has summarized the primary and secondary sources that document 500 years of Anabaptist Mennonite relationships with Jews. Mennonites originated out of a complex political and religious setting that led to their own suffering, and their political and religious choices have led to the suffering of others. This article detailed how Mennonites embraced not only Christian anti-Judaism and antisemitism, but also took a direct role in the Nazi regime and the Holocaust, and in the spread of antisemitic ideas to Mennonites in the Americas. The article documents that a fringe group of Mennonites who left the church went on to become significant leaders of the white supremacy movement. And the historical survey suggests that MCC, in particular, moved directly from helping Mennonites who had supported the Nazi regime to helping Palestinians, with little mention of and no systematic efforts to address Jewish suffering.
James Urry notes the tendency for Mennonites to dismiss their own individual and institutional failings as being limited to one or more “bad apples.” “A single act of grace or sacrifice by an individual Mennonite is celebrated and appropriated to the history of the entire community; a single negative act or opinion is suppressed and claimed to be odd, particular and unrepresentative.” While some may suggest that some of the painful chapters of Mennonite history do not represent Mennonites at large, the lack of attention to Mennonite harms to Jews spans large numbers of people and multiple Mennonite institutions and newspapers, and occurred over decades. This history cannot be dismissed.
How will Mennonites respond to this history? How are such a diverse and decentralized group of people known as “Mennonites” responsible for each other? Mennonites have contributed to the most transformative and positive examples of the Jesus movement, as well as the worst manifestations of Christian Empire. Mennonites are neither all angels, nor all demons. We are human beings who have committed grave harms and offered great help to others.
In a companion article to this one, “A Mennonite Agenda for Research and Action on Antisemitism,” the focus turns toward the potential to transform this history into an opportunity for growth and reconciliation drawing on Mennonite contributions to and principles of peacebuilding, trauma healing and restorative justice.
 The term “Empire Christian/ity” is used throughout to refer to Christians who viewed their religion through the lens of the Christian Empire that used the cross as a symbol of the sword to conquer pagan, Jewish or Muslim beliefs.
 Various Anabaptist scholars assert that the total number of martyrs in the 1500s and early 1600s was between 1,500 and a few thousand. (See Paul Schowalter. “Martyrs.” Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1953. Web. 1 Jun 2020. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Martyrs&oldid=146427) Scholars estimate approximately 30,000 Mennonites died in Russia. (See Paul Konrad. “Memorial to Victims of Soviet Terror Unveiled: Ukraine Monument Honors 30,000 Who Died During Years of Stalin’s Persecution.” Mennonite Weekly Review, 14 Dec. 2009, p. 7.)
 This article uses the spelling “antisemitism” instead of “anti-Semitism” in line with the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. “Memo on Spelling of Antisemitism.” April 2015. Found at https://www.holocaustremembrance.com/sites/default/files/memo-on-spelling-of-antisemitism_final-1.pdf Accessed 1 March 2020. For a definition and history of antisemitism, please see Anti-Defamation League’s “A Brief History of Anti-Semitism.” https://www.adl.org/sites/default/files/documents/assets/pdf/education-outreach/Brief-History-on-Anti-Semitism-A.pdf Accessed 20 March 2020.
 See, for example, Tim Huber. “Historians address Nazi influence on Mennonites.” Canadian Mennonite. 26 Aug. 2015; Waldemar Janzen. “An eye-witness account of Nazi occupation.” Canadian Mennonite. 4 April 2018.
 Numerous scholars have used last names as markers of Mennonite identity. See, for example, Cornelius Krahn. “Names (Mennonite).” Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1957. Web. 31 May 2020; Melvin Gingerich. “Mennonite Family Names of Iowa.” The Annals of Iowa, 42:5, Summer 1974, pp. 397-403; Gerhard Rempel. “Mennonites and the Holocaust: From Collaboration to Perpetration.” Mennonite Quarterly Review 84, Oct. 2010, pp. 507-49. Rempel (p. 518) justifies using Mennonite names as markers of identity, citing other scholars, such as Horst Gerlach in “Stutthof und die Mennoniten,” pp. 246-47, as it appears some SS officers charged with war crimes used their names as proof of their Mennonite identity and claims of innocence.
 Benjamin W. Goossen. “Measuring Mennonitism: Racial Categorization in Nazi Germany and Beyond.” Journal of Mennonite Studies 34, 2016, pp. 225-46.
 C. Henry Smith as quoted in Benjamin W. Goossen. Chosen Nation: Mennonites and Germany in a Global Era. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2017, p. 141.
 See T. D. Regehr. “Or Dutch or German Ancestry? Mennonite Refugees, MCC and the International Refugee Organization.” Journal of Mennonite Studies 13, 1995, pp. 12-13. Regehr cites that the dissertation of Horst Penner on the names and locations of Mennonite settlements in Prussia and Russia were used to convince International Refugee Organization (IRO) staff that Mennonites escaping violence were not “Russian” but of Dutch origin, and thus deserved refugee status and assistance.
 Richard Rubenstein. When Jesus Became God: The Struggle to Define Christianity During the Last Days of Rome. Harcourt, 2000.
 See, for example, John Kampen. Matthew within Sectarian Judaism. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2019; Daniel Boyarin. “Jesus Kept Kosher: The Jewish Christ of the Gospel of Mark.” Tikkun, 2 March 2012.
 James Carroll. Constantine’s Sword: The Church and the Jews. New York: First Mariner Books, 2001, pp. 90-91.
 See Jesus, Judaism and Christian Anti-Judaism: Reading the New Testament After the Holocaust. Paula Fredriksen and Adele Reinhartz, editors. Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox Press, 2005; Maureena Fritz. “Nostra Aetate: A Turning Point in History.” Religious Education, 81:1, 67-78.
 Carroll, p. 146.
 Carroll, p. 194.
 Alice L. Eckardt. “The Reformation and the Jews” in Interwoven Destinies: Jews and Christians Through the Ages. Eugene J. Fisher, editor. Mahwah, N.J.: Paulist Press, 1993, pp. 125-126.
 C. Arnold Snyder. Anabaptist History and Theology. Ontario: Pandora Press, 1995.
 Edward Kessler and Neil Wenborn. A Dictionary of Jewish-Christian Relations. UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005, p. 46.
 Eckardt, 1993, pp. 123-124.
 George H. Williams. The Radical Reformation. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1962, p. 189.
 James Beck. “The Anabaptists and the Jews: The Case of Hatzer, Denck and the Worms Prophets.” Mennonite Quarterly Review, 75:4, Oct. 2001.
 James Samuel Beck. The Anabaptists and the Jews: The Example of Hatzer, Denck and the Worms Prophets. Master’s thesis. University of Toronto School of Theology, 2000, p. 105.
 Beck, 2000, p. 107.
 Morwenna Ludlow. “Why Was Hans Denck Thought to be a Universalist?” Journal of Ecclesiastical History, Cambridge University Press, 55:2, April 2004.
 Alice L. Eckardt. “Reformation Memories: Issues Still with Us.” Lehigh University: Faculty Publications (8), 1996, p. 13.
 Daniel Liechty. Sabbatarianism and the Sixteenth Century: A Page in the History of the Radical Reformation. Berrien Springs, Mich.: Andrews University Press, 1993.
 Beck, 2000, p. 43.
 Beck, 2000, p. 45.
 Beck, 2000, p. 3.
 Yosi Yisraeli and Yaniv Fox. Contesting Inter-Religious Conversion in the Medieval World. Abingdon-on-Thames, U.K.: Routledge, 2017, p. 45.
 See Doris Bergen. “Neighbors, Killers, Enablers, Witnesses: The Many Roles of Mennonites in the Holocaust.” Bethel College, North Newton, Kan. YouTube. 16 March 2018; Steve Schroeder, “Selective Memory: Danziger Mennonite Reflections on the Nazi Era, 1945-1950.” Bethel College, North Newton, Kan. YouTube. 16 March 2018; Benjamin W. Goossen. “‘As the Jews’: Mennonites, Holocaust Denial, and the Appropriation of Jewish Suffering.” Antisemitism Studies, forthcoming.
 Gustav Bossert and James M. Stayer. “Reublin, Wilhelm (1480/84-after 1559).” Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online, 1989.
 Jessica Carole Lowe. “Anabaptists and Jews in Emden, before Schutzgeld.” Anabaptist Historians. 22 Oct. 2019. https://anabaptisthistorians.org/tag/mennonites-and-jews/ Accessed 1 Feb. 2020.
 Timothy G. Fehler. “Coexistence and Confessionalism: Emden’s Topography of Religious Pluralism” in Topographies of Tolerance and Intolerance: Responses to Religious Pluralism in Reformation Europe.
Marjorie Elizabeth Plummer and Victoria Christman, editors. Leiden, the Netherlands: Brill, 2018, p. 101.
 Joannes Schröter. Stammbuch der Mennistischen Ketzerey Sambt dero Gespannschaffften Lehr und Sitten. Neyss: Nicolaum Mayr, 1691.
 Johann Friedrich Corvinus. “Anabaptisticum et enthusiasticum Pantheon und geistliches Rüst-Hauss.” Kothen. 1702.
 Michael Driedger. Crossing Max Weber’s Great Divide: Comparing Early Modern Jewish and Anabaptist Histories. Werner O. Packull and Geoffrey L. Dipple, editors. Aldersho, U.K.t: Ashgate, 1999, pp. 157-174.
 See Jonathan Israel. European Jewry in the Age of Mercantilism. Oxford: Clarendon, 1989; James M. Stayer. “The Radical Reformation.” Handbook of European History 1400-1600. Thomas A. Brady, Heiko A. Oberman and James D. Tracy, editors. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1995. Discussion found in Michael Driedger. Crossing Max Weber’s Great Divide: Comparing Early Modern Jewish and Anabaptist Histories. Werner O. Packull and Geoffrey L. Dipple, editors. Aldershot, U.K.: Ashgate, 1999, pp. 157-174.
Nanne van der Zijpp. “Theunisz, Jan (ca. 1569-1637?).” Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online, 1959. Web. 20 Feb. 2020. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Theunisz,_Jan_(ca._1569-1637%3F)&oldid=123819
 Peter John Hartman. “Radical Protestantism in Spinoza’s Thought, Book Review of Graeme Hunter, Radical Protestantism in Spinoza’s Thought.” Aldershot, U.K.: Ashgate, 2005. In Conrad Grebel Review, 25:3, Fall 2007.
 Jessica Carole Lowe is exploring similarities in how authorities interacted with Jews and Mennonites, in Paying for dissent: Money, movement and Anabaptism in the northwestern Holy Roman Empire, 1535-1744. Dissertation. Vanderbilt University, forthcoming 2020.
 Mark Jantzen. Mennonite German Soldiers: Nation, Religion, and Family in the Prussian East, 1772-1880. Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 2010, p. 45.
 Jantzen, 2010, pp. 83-86.
 Mark Jantzen. “What Constitutes a Mennonite Gospel of Peace? Progressives, Traditionalists, and the End of Mennonite Nonresistance in Prussia, 1848-1880.” Conrad Grebel Review, 35:3, Fall 2017.
 David H. Epp. “Judenplan (Kherson Oblast, Ukraine).” Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1957. Web. 1 April 2020.
 Harvey L. Dyck, translator and editor, with Introduction, A Mennonite in Russia: The Diaries of Jacob D. Epp 1851-1880. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1991, p. 33.
 Dyck, p. 34.
 Epp. “Judenplan (Kherson Oblast, Ukraine).” Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1957. Web. 20 Feb. 2020.
 Dyck, p. 38.
 Dyck, p. 40.
David Epp, 1838, in Harvey L. Dyck, translator and editor. A Mennonite in Russia: The diaries of Jacob D. Epp 1851-1880. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1991. Quote found in Jacob A. Loewen and Wesley J. Prieb. “The Abuse of Power among Mennonite in South Russia 1789-1919.” Journal of Mennonite Studies 14, 1996, p. 295.
 Dyck, p. 41.
James Urry. None but Saints: The Transformation of Mennonite Life in Russia 1789-1889. Canada: Hyperion Press, 1989, p. 237.
 Jewish Gen Kehila Links. “Jewish Agricultural Colonies of the Ukraine.” Research contact: Chaim Freedman. This page maintained by Max Heffler. 1999, updated 2 July 2018. https://kehilalinks.jewishgen.org/Colonies_of_Ukraine/JosephEpp.htm Accessed 19 Feb. 2020.
 David G. Rempel with Cornelia Rempel Carlson. A Mennonite Family in Tsarist Russia and the Soviet Union, 1789-1923. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2002, p. 91.
 Jacob A. Neufeld. Path of Thorns: Soviet Mennonite Life under Communist and Nazi Rule. Harvey L. Dyck, editor. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2014, p. 138.
 Goossen, 2017, p. 150.
 Paul Konrad. “Memorial to Victims of Soviet Terror Unveiled: Ukraine Monument Honors 30,000 Who Died During Years of Stalin’s Persecution.” Mennonite Weekly Review, 14 Dec. 2009, p. 7.
 John P. R. Eicher. Exiled Among Nations: German and Mennonite Mythologies in a Transnational Age. Washington, D.C.: Cambridge University Press, 2020, p. 101.
 Jeffrey Herf. The Jewish Enemy: Nazi Propaganda During World War II and the Holocaust. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2008.
 Michael Stanislawski. “Why Did Russian Jews Support the Bolshevik Revolution?” The Tablet 24, Oct. 2017. https://www.tabletmag.com/sections/news/articles/why-did-russian-jews-support-the-bolshevik-revolution Accessed 1 March 2020.
 Daniel J. Mahoney, Aleksandr Isaevich Solzhenitsyn and Edward L. Beach Jr. The Solzhenitsyn Reader: New and Essential Writings, 1947–2005. Lanham, Md.: Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2009.
 Magdalena Luszczynska. Politics of Polemics: Marcin Czechowic on the Jews. Boston: De Gruyter Oldenbourg. 2018, pp. 8-10.
 Haim Hillel Ben-Sasson. “Jews and Christian Sectarians: Existential Similarity and Dialectical Tensions in Sixteenth-Century Moravia and Poland-Lithuania.” Viator, 1973.
 Goossen, 2017, p. 142.
 Doris Bergen. “Neighbors, Killers, Enablers, Witnesses: The Many Roles of Mennonites in the Holocaust.” Bethel College, North Newton, Kan. YouTube. 16 March 2018.
 See Benjamin W. Goossen, “‘As the Jews’: Mennonites, Holocaust Denial, and the Appropriation of Jewish Suffering.” Antisemitism Studies, forthcoming.
 See, for example, a summary of a letter from Peter P. Klassen to John D. Thiesen, author of Mennonite and Nazi?, about the use of the word “Nazi” in the title, cited in Harry Loewen. “Book Review of Mennonite & Nazi? Attitudes Among Mennonite Colonists in Latin America, 1933-1945.” Conrad Grebel Review, 18:3, Fall 2000. This point is also reiterated in personal correspondence between Lisa Schirch and a prominent Mennonite in Canada, who asked to remain anonymous. 3 March 2020.
 See, for example, Frank H. Epp. Mennonites in Canada, 1786-1920: The History of a Separate People. Toronto: MacMillan of Canada, 1974; and Epp. “Mennonite Exodus: The Rescue and Resettlement of the Russian Mennonites Since the Communist Revolution.” Canadian Mennonite Relief and Immigration Council, 1962.
 See, for example, Lynda Klassen Reynolds. “The Aftermath of Trauma and Immigration: Detections of Multigenerational Effects on Mennonites Who Emigrated from Russia to Canada in the 1920s.” Dissertation. California School of Professional Psychology, 2007; Elaine L. Enns. “Trauma and Memory: Challenges to Settler Solidarity.” Consensus, 2016, p. 37; Marlene Epp. Mennonite Women in Canada. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba, 2008.
 Abraham Friesen. In Defense of Privilege: Russian Mennonites and the State Before and During World War I. Winnipeg: Kindred Productions, 2006, p. 201. Found in Eicher, p. 213.
 John D. Thiesen. Mennonite & Nazi? Attitudes Among Mennonite Colonists in Latin America, 1933-1945. Kitchener, Ontario: Pandora Press and Herald Press, 1999.
 Eicher, 2020.
 Klassen, 1990, p. 28. Found in Wilfried Hein. A Witness in Times of War and Peace: The Story of Gerhard Hein, a Mennonite Pastor who served in the Wehrmacht During World War II. Victoria, British Columbia: Friesen Press, 2015, p. 280.
 Melanie J. Wright. “The Nature and Significance of Relations between the Historic Peace Churches and Jews during and after the Shoah.” In S. Porter and B.W.R. Pearson, editors. Christian–Jewish Relations through the Centuries. Sheffield, U.K.: Sheffield Academic Press, 2000, pp. 410-12.
 Goossen, 2017, p. 123.
 John H. Redekop. “The Roots of Nazi Support Among Mennonites 1930 to 1939: A Case Study Based on a Major Mennonite Paper.” Journal of Mennonite Studies 14, 1996, p. 88.
 John D. Roth. “Europeans confront hard truths of Nazi era.” Mennonite World Review, 5 Oct. 2015.
 Goossen, 2017, pp. 123-124.
 Astrid von Schlachta. “Judaism as Argument: German Mennonites between Anti-Semitism and the Old Testament God.” Bethel College, North Newton, Kan. YouTube. 16 March 2018.
 Goossen, 2017, pp. 125-127.
 Immanuel Baumann. “Anti-Semitism and the Concept of ‘Volk:’ The Mennonite Youth Circular Community at the Beginning of the Nazi Dictatorship.” Bethel College, North Newton, Kan. 16 March 2018.
 As the author of this article, Lisa Schirch, I have no known kinship with Hitler Youth leader Baldor von Schirach. However, it may be of interest that there are Mennonites with the last name spelled “von Schirach,” and it is not known whether Baldor had Mennonite ties. Baldor’s wife, Henriette von Schirach, is known for her close friendship with Adolph Hitler and her attempts to persuade him not to harm Jews.
 James Irvin Lichti. Houses on the Sand? Pacifist Denominations in Nazi Germany. New York: Peter Lang, 2008, p. 57.
 Goossen, 2017, p. 126.
 Goossen, 2017, p. 134.
 Goossen, 2017, pp. 121-122.
 C. Henry Smith. The Story of the Mennonites. Berne, Ind.: Mennonite Book Concern, 1941, p. 344.
 Dieter Hoffmann and Rüdiger Stutz, “Grenzgänger der Wissenschaft: Abraham Esau als Industriephysiker, Universitätsrektor und Forschungsmanager,” in ‘Kämpferische Wissenschaft’: Studien zur Universität Jena im Nationalsozialismus, Uwe Hoßfeld, Jürgen John, Oliver Lemuth, and Rüdiger Stutz, editors. Cologne: Böhlau Verlag, 2003, pp. 136-79. In Ben Goossen, “Hitler’s Mennonite Physicist.” Anabaptist Historians. 21 March 2019. https://anabaptisthistorians.org/2019/03/21/hitlers-mennonite-physicist/ Accessed 22 Jan. 2020.
 Goossen, 2017, p. 128.
 Imanuel Baumann. “The Mennonite and National Socialist Otto Andres (1902-1975). How identification with the National Socialism of some Mennonites became a problem for the entire religious community.” Mennonite History Sheets, 2018, pp. 87–99.
 Goossen, 2017, p. 124.
 Rempel, 2010, p. 520.
 Rempel, 2010, p. 518.
 Rempel, 2010, p. 523. Rempel adds that Epp’s Mennonite business, along with 3,500 other German companies, were required to pay into the Slave Labor Compensation Fund to help those who suffered particular hardships at the hands of the Nazi regime.
 Rempel, 2010, p. 521.
 Steve Schroeder. “Selective Memory: Danziger Mennonite Reflections on the Nazi Era, 1945-1950.” Bethel College, North Newton, Kan. YouTube. 16 March 2018.
 Christiana Epp Duschinsky. “Mennonite Responses to Nazi Human Rights Abuses: A Family in Prussia/Danzig.” Journal of Mennonite Studies 32, 2014, p. 82. A conversation between the author and her mother, Friederike Epp, 1987, Kelowna, British Columbia.
Ibid, p. 82. As quoted in Steven Mark Schroeder. “Prussian Mennonites in the Third Reich and Beyond: The Uneasy Synthesis of National and Religious Myths.” Master’s thesis. University of British Columbia, 2001, p. 27.
 Colin Neufeldt. “Jewish-Mennonite Relations in Gabin, Plock County, Masovian Voivodeship, Poland, prior to and during World War II.” Bethel College, North Newton, Kan. YouTube. 16 March 2018.
 Goossen, 2017, pp. 147-149.
 Goossen, 2017, p. 152.
 Goossen, 2017, p. 155.
 Goossen, 2017, pp. 149-150.
 Goossen, 2017, p. 150.
 Goossen, 2017, p. 155.
 Pamela Klassen. Going by the Moon and Stars: Stories of Two Russian Mennonite Women. Waterloo, Ontario: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1994, p. 85.
 Ben Goossen. “Mennonite War Crimes Testimony at Nuremberg. Anabaptist Historians. 7 Dec. 2019. https://anabaptisthistorians.org/2019/12/07/mennonite-war-crimes-testimony-at-nuremberg/ Accessed 3 Feb. 2020.
 Quote from Ben Goossen, summarizing “Letter from Heinrich Himmler to Oswald Pohl and Werner Lorenz,” 14 Oct., 1942, T-175, roll 129, NARA. In Ben Goossen. “Mennonite War Crimes Testimony at Nuremberg.” Anabaptist Historians. 7 Dec. 2019. Footnote 7. https://anabaptisthistorians.org/tag/mennonites-and-national-socialism/ Accessed 2 Feb. 2020.
 Rempel, 2012, pp. 530-35.
 Rempel, 2010, p. 518.
 Rempel, 2010, pp. 540-47.
 Jack Knight. “The Horrific Nazi Gas Vans – The Mobile Gas Chambers.” War History Online. 28 Aug. 2015.
 Rempel, 2019, p. 547.
 Rempel, 2010, pp. 526-36.
 Dyck introduction in Neufeld, p. 48.
 John Sawatzky. “The Fate of a Jewish Friend” Road to Freedom: Mennonites Escape the Land of Suffering. Harry Loewen, editor. Kitchener, Ontario: Pandora Press, 2000, pp. 61-62.
 Duschinsky, p. 88.
 Duschinsky, p. 83.
 Duschinsky, p. 90.
 Nanne van der Zijpp. “Keuter, Albert (1892-1945).” Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1957. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Keuter,_Albert_(1892-1945)&oldid=108463 Accessed 3 March 2020.
 Alle Hoekema. “Dutch Mennonites and German Jewish Refugee Children, 1938-1945.” Mennonite Quarterly Review 87, April 2013, p. 153.
 Edward Kessler and Neil Wenborn. The Dictionary of Jewish-Christian Relations. New York: Cambridge University Press, p. 13.
 The Mennonite. 28 Feb. 1939, p. 5.
 Goossen, 2017, p. 174.
 Regehr, 1995, pp. 7-8.
 Steve Schroeder. “Mennonite-Nazi Collaboration and Coming to Terms with the Past: European Mennonites and the MCC, 1945-1950.” Conrad Grebel Review, 21:2, Spring 2003, p. 7.
 Schroeder, 2003, p. 9.
 Schroeder, 2018.
 Schroeder, 2003, p. 12.
 Regehr, p. 15.
 Schroeder, 2003, p. 12.
 Regehr, pp. 15-16.
 Schroeder, 2003, p. 8.
 Schroeder, 2018.
 Schroeder, 2003, p. 11.
 Schroeder, 2018.
 Doris Bergen. “The Volksdeutsche of Eastern Europe and the Collapse of the Nazi Empire, 1944-1945” The Impact of Nazism: New Perspectives on the Third Reich and Its Legacy, Doris Bergen, Alan Steinweis, and Daniel Rogers editors. Lincoln, Neb.: University of Nebraska Press, 2003, p. 118.
 Regehr, p. 17.
 Regehr, p. 13.
 Daniel A. Gross. “The U.S. Government Turned Away Thousands of Jewish Refugees, Fearing That They Were Nazi Spies.” Smithsonian. 8 Nov. 2015. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/us-government-turned-away-thousands-jewish-refugees-fearing-they-were-nazi-spies-180957324/ Accessed 2 March 2020.
 David S. Wyman. The Abandonment of the Jews: America and the Holocaust. New York: Pantheon Books, 1984.
 Goossen, 2017, p. 184.
 Goossen, 2017, p. 185.
 Regehr, p. 19.
 Regehr, p. 17; p. 24, note 49.
 Kroeker to Unruh, “Lieber Onkel Benny.” 11 April 1946. Kroeker Papers, Box 14, AMC-N. Cited in Rempel, op. cit., p. 537. Found in Ed Wall. “Ep. 57: MCC ‘rescues’ must be reconsidered.” Gerhard’s Journey. 7 June 2018.
 MCA, MCC records. “MCC Correspondence: Inter-Office, C. F. Klassen, 1952.” Letter from Klassen to W.T. Snyder, 17 Jan. 1952, quoted in Schroeder, op. cit., p. 11. Found in Ed Wall. “Ep. 57: MCC ‘rescues’ must be reconsidered.” Gerhard’s Journey. 7 June 2018.
 Dmytro Myeshkov. “The Mennonites under the Nazi Regime in KGB Documentation, Ukraine 1941-1944.” Bethel College, North Newton, Kan. YouTube.
 Ben Goossen. “Hitler’s Mennonite Physicist.” Anabaptist Historians. 21 March 2019.
 Goossen, March 2019.
 Goossen, Dec. 2019.
 The Dutch men took on new Mennonite names: Gunther Klassen, Lothar Driedger, Heinz Wiebe and Gerhard Harder. In John D. Thiesen, Mennonite and Nazi? Kitchener, Ontario: Pandora Press, 1999, pp. 206-07.
 Clyde H. Farnsworth. “Canada Revokes Citizenship of Nazi Collaborator.” New York Times. 12 Nov. 1991.
 This author was not able to obtain this document.
 Siegfried Bartel. Living with Conviction: German Army Captain Turns to Cultivating Peace. Winnipeg: Canadian Mennonite Bible College Publications, 1994, p. 150.
 Bartel, p. 151.
 Rempel. 2010, p. .535-537. See also Debbie Cenziper. “The Nazis and the Trawniki Men.” Washington Post Magazine. 23 Jan. 2020.
 Eric C. Steinhart. “The Chameleon of Trawniki: Jack Reimer, Soviet Volksdeutsche, and the Holocaust.” Holocaust and Genocide Studies 23, 2009, pp. 239-62.
 John Ward. “Nazi Collaborators Stripped of Citizenship.” Toronto Star. 25 May 2007.
 Judge Andrew MacKay on Helmut Oberlander. Date: 2000/02/28; Docket: T-866-9, in the matter of revocation of citizenship pursuant to sections 10 and 18 of the Citizenship Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. C-29. https://willzuzak.ca/tp/d-d/oberlander20000228.html Accessed 20 May 2020. For more discussion and analysis of Helmut Oberlander’s case, see European Mennonites and the Holocaust. Mark Jantzen and John D. Thiesen, editors. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2020.
 Kathleen Harris. “Supreme Court to decide whether to hear appeal from former Nazi interpreter.” CBC News. 4 Dec. 2019.
 John Unruh. In the Name of Christ, Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 1952, see p. 35.
 Jack Fischel. “An American Christian Response to the Holocaust.” In Bearing Witness to the Holocaust 1939-1989. Alan L. Berger, editor. Queenston, Ontario: The Edwin Mellon Press, 1991, p. 136.
 Unruh, p. 167.
 Unruh, p. 47.
 Joe Miller. “Rescuing Jewish children: The story of Lois Gunden.” Mennonite Central Committee 100 Stories for 100 Years. 2020. https://mcc.org/centennial/100-stories/rescuing-jewish-children-story-lois-gunden Accessed 22 March 2020.
 “American Woman Named Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem.” 8 July 2013. https://www.yadvashem.org/press-release/08-july-2013-11-21.html Accessed 3 March 2020.
 Gerlof Homan. “From Danzig to Down Under: A Mennonite-Jewish Family’s Escape from the Nazis to Australia.” Mennonite Historical Bulletin 73, Jan. 2012, pp. 13-18.
 Unruh, p. 47.
 “Beatrice Rosenthal Buller.” Obituary. Mennonite Weekly Review. 27 Oct. 2008, p. 9.
 Jack Fischel. “An American Christian Response to the Holocaust.” Bearing Witness to the Holocaust 1939-1989. Alan L. Berger, editor. Pp. 136-137.
 Todd Tucker. The Great Starvation Experiment: The Heroic Men Who Starved So That Millions Could Live. New York: Free Press/ Simon & Schuster, Inc., 2006.
 This research is still cited in modern efforts to recover from anorexia and other eating disorders. Most of the starved volunteers developed an eating disorder, signaling that anorexia can be triggered by extreme dieting. There is some evidence that anorexia has a genetic component, suggesting previous generations that faced starvation may predispose descendants to eating disorders.
 J. Patout Burns, editor. War and its Discontent: Pacifism and Quietism in the Abrahamic Traditions. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 1996.
 From 1990-1992, this author served as Mennonite Central Committee “Native Concerns coordinator” in Ontario, Canada. In this role, I studied the history of Mennonite settlement on land the Canadian government had forcefully and directly taken from First Nations people and given to Mennonites. I gave sermons in Mennonite churches about First Nations history and fundamental rights, and I encountered firsthand Mennonite racism toward First Nations people. For this history, see Reginald E. Good. “Colonizing a People: Mennonite Settlement in Waterloo Township.” Earth, Water, Air and Fire: Studies in Canadian Ethnohistory. David T. McNab, editor. Waterloo, Ontario: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1998.
 Geoffrey Wheatcroft. The Controversy of Zion: Jewish Nationalism, the Jewish State, and the Unresolved Jewish Dilemma. New York: Basic Books, 1996.
 Frank H. Epp. Mennonites in Canada, 1786-1920: The History of a Separate People. Toronto: MacMillan of Canada, 1974.
 James Urry. “The Mennonite Commonwealth in Imperial Russia Revisited.” Mennonite Quarterly Review, April 2010.
 Urry, p. 72.
 Urry, 1996, p. 71.
 Urry. “A Mennostaat for the Mennovolk? Mennonite Immigrant Fantasies in Canada in the 1930s.” Journal of Mennonite Studies 4, 1996, pp. 65-80.
 Ben Goossen. “Mennonite Genealogy and Racial Privilege.” Anabaptist Historians. 3 Nov. 2016.
 “The German Templars: From the ‘Christian Zionism’ to the Nazism.” The Templar Globe. 22 July 2009. https://templars.wordpress.com/2009/07/22/the-german-templars-from-“the-christian-zionism”-to-the-nazism/ Accessed 1 March 2020.
 Victor G. Doerksen. “Mennonite Templars in Russia.” Journal of Mennonite Studies 3, 1985.
 “The Hotel Fast.” Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/pg/BMJerusalemitesPhotoLib/photos/?tab=album&album_id=949656045105107 Accessed 28 Feb. 2020.
 Raffi Berg. “The Templers: German settlers who left their mark on Palestine.“ BBC News. 12 July 2013.
 Marie Shenk. “Mennonite Encounter with Judaism in Israel: An MBM Story of Creative Presence Spanning Four Decades, 1953-93.” Elkhart, Ind.: Mennonite Board of Missions, 2000.
 See, for example, “Xian Missionizing” in The Jewish Press for a sample of stories by Jews denouncing Christian missionizing. https://www.jewishpress.com/news/jewish-news/xain-missionizing/ Accessed 9 Feb. 2020.
 Roy H. Kreider. Land of Revelation: A Reconciling Presence in Israel. Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 2004, p. 12.
 Shenk, p. 3.
 Jesse B. Martin. “Report to the Jewish Evangelism Committee.” Undated, p. 2. Found in Shenk. Mennonite Encounter with Judaism in Israel, 1953-1993. Master’s thesis. Eastern Mennonite Seminary. 18 Aug. 1998, p. 6.
 Martin in Shenk, 1998, p. 5.
 J.D. Graber to Orie O. Miller, 7 Dec. 1956, in Shenk, 1998, p. 18.
 Shenk, 1998, p. 86.
 Shenk, 1998, pp. 5-6.
 Kreider, 2004, pp. 13-15.
 Roy H. Kreider. Judaism Meets Christ. Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 1960, p. 45.
 Kreider, 1960, pp. 61-67.
 Shenk, 1989, pp. 90-93.
 LeRoy Friesen. Mennonite Witness in the Middle East: A Missiological Introduction. Mennonite Board of Missions, 1992.
 Kreider interview, tapes 3-4, pp. 19-21, in Shenk, 1998, p. 37.
 Shenk, 1998, p. 38.
 Pierre L. van den Berghe and Karl Peter. “Hutterites and Kibbutzniks: A Tale of Nepotistic Communism in Man.” Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, 23:3, Sept. 1988, pp. 522-39.
 Bill Redekop. “Old Ways, New World.” Winnipeg Free Press. 8 June 2018.
 Alain Epp Weaver and Sonia K. Weaver. Salt and Sign: Mennonite Central Committee in Palestine, 1949-1999. Akron, Pa.: Mennonite Central Committee, 2000, pp. 3-13.
 Epp Weaver and Weaver, p. 8.
 Epp Weaver and Weaver, p. 101.
 Epp Weaver and Weaver, p. 106.
 Conflict resolution is often wrongly assumed to “ignore justice.” While there may be some conflict resolution practitioners who do ignore justice, this is not an accepted approach. This is a misunderstanding of the ethics of multi-partiality, that respects the dignity and experiences of all people while being partial to human rights norms. Conflict resolution and modern peacebuilding approaches suggest that listening to and understanding grievances on all sides of the conflict is a necessary step in building justice and peace. In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there are clearly legitimate grievances on all sides, even though Palestinians experience far greater levels of violence and human rights violations. Peacebuilding requires both supporting Palestinian human rights and listening to Jewish grievances in an attempt to find a solution that addresses the needs and interests of all sides. See Lisa Schirch. “Trauma Triggers and Narratives on Israel and Palestine.” Journal of Peacebuilding and Development, 13 Feb. 2019, pp. 108-114.
 Epp Weaver and Weaver, pp. 94-95.
 MCC does not have an “Israel” office, and its choice calling itself the “MCC Palestine” office is a way of affirming Palestinian existence, though Jews have noted it also is a way of denying the existence of Israel.
 See, for example, Dexter van Zile. “Mennonites Need to Keep Their Side of the Street Clean.” The Algemeiner, 24 Oct. 2019.
 Lisa Schirch. “An Open Letter to MCC on Iran and Israel, Muslims and Jews.” 18 Jan. 2020. https://lisaschirch.wordpress.com/2020/01/18/an-open-letter-to-mcc-on-iran-and-israel-muslims-and-jews/ Accessed 1 March 2020.
 MCC Palestine staff have included many with Russian Mennonite names, including Paul and Jane Quiring, Dan and Joanna Hiebert Bergen, Alain and Sonia Epp-Weaver and Rachelle Friesen, among others.
 Alain Epp Weaver. “Interfaith Bridge Building.” Borders and Bridges: Mennonite Witness in a Religious Diverse World. Alain Epp Weaver and Peter Dula, editors. Telford, Pa.: Cascadia Press, 2007, p. 97.
 Christian Peacemaker Teams. “A letter to our churches about antisemitism” 27 April 1999. https://cpt.org/cptnet/1999/04/27/letter-our-churches-about-anti-semitism Accessed 10 Feb. 2020.
 See, for example, “Key Mennonite Institutions Against Israel” Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.” 6 July 2009. https://jcpa.org/article/key-mennonite-institutions-against-israel/ Accessed 22 March 2020; Edwin Black. “Mennonites and BDS: A Lawsuit Among a Legacy” The Times of Israel. 27 Nov. 2017. https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/mennonites-and-bds-a-lawsuit-amid-a-legacy/ Accessed 22 March 2020.
 Wagner, p. 49.
 Harry Loewen and James Urry. “A Tale of Two Newspapers: Die Mennonitische Rundschau (1880-2007) and Der Bote (1924-2008).” Mennonite Quarterly Review, 86:2, April 2012, pp. 175-204.
 Al Reimer. “The Role of Arnold Dyck in Canadian Mennonite Writing,” Journal of Mennonite Studies 9, 1991, p. 86.
 Wagner, pp. 110-112.
 Rhonda Spivak. “B’Nai Brith/JHC Lecture: Prof Loewen on Fighting Anti-semitism: The Day that Nazi Sympathizers were driven away from Winnipeg’s Old Market Square.” Winnipeg Jewish Review. http://www.winnipegjewishreview.com/article_detail.cfm?id=134&sec=6 Accessed 14 Feb. 2020. See also Helmut-Harry Loewen. “Battle at Old Market Square, Winnipeg, 1934.” Online. International Encyclopedia of Revolution and Protest Blackwell, 2009. Immanuel Ness, general editor, City University of New York; Heidi Rimke, Canadian editor, University of Winnipeg.
 Helmut-Harry Loewen and Mahmood Randeree. “White Hoods: The Klan in Manitoba.” Canadian Dimension, 27:2, March-April 1993.
 “Hitler Salute: Local Germans Hail Re-birth of Fatherland Under Fuehrer.” Winnipeg Free Press. 30 Jan. 1939, p. 1. Found in Ben Goossen. “Mennonite Fascism.” Anabaptist Historians. 27 April 2017. https://anabaptisthistorians.org/2017/04/27/mennonite-fascism/. Accessed 5 Feb. 2020.
 Tate Delloye, “The Day the Nazis invaded Canada” The Daily Mail. 23 February 2019. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6734803/The-day-Nazis-invaded-Canada-Winnipeg-staged-mock-takeover-city-1942.html Accessed 8 Feb. 2020.
 Jonathan F. Wagner. Brothers Beyond the Sea: National Socialism in Canada. Waterloo, Ontario: Wilfred Laurier Press, 1981.
 David Toews. “Einige Reiseeindruecke.” Der Bote XIII, 30 Sept. 1936, p. 1. Found in Redekop, p. 92.
 Redekop, 1996, p 89.
 Wagner, p. 49.
 Frank H. Epp summarizing Walter Quiring. “Artfremdes Blut ist Gift.” Der Bote. 15 April 1936. Epp, 104, in Tim Nafziger. “A window into Antisemitism and Nazism among Mennonite in North America, Part 1.” The Mennonite. 30 July 2007. https://themennonite.org/window-antisemitism-nazism-among-mennonite-north-america-part-1/ Accessed 25 Feb. 2020. Epp. “An Analysis of Germanism and National Socialism in the Immigrant Newspaper of a Canadian Minority Group, the Mennonites, in the 1930s.” Dissertation. University of Minnesota, 1965.
 Epp summarizing Oswald J. Smith. “Mein Besuch in Deutschland.” Der Bote, 28 Oct. 1936. Epp, 132, in Nafziger, 2007.
 Epp summarizing C. F. Klassen, D. H. Epp and A. Reimer. Epp, 140, in Nafziger, 2007.
 Ted D. Regehr “Quiring, Walter (1893-1983).” Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Feb. 2012. Web. 21 May 2020. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Quiring,_Walter_(1893-1983)&oldid=163033.
 Regehr. “Walter Quiring (1893-1983).” Shepherds, Servants and Prophets: Leadership Among the Russian Mennonites. Harry Loewen, editor. Kitchener, Ontario: Pandora Press, 2003, pp. 329-30.
 Alan Davies. “How Silent were the Churches: Canadian Protestantism and the Jewish Plight During the Nazi Era.” The Holocaust: Memories, Research, Reference. New York: Haworth Press, 1998.
 Wagner, 1981.
 Anti-Defamation League. “The Winrod Legacy of Hate.” New York: ADL, 2012.
 James C. Juhnke. A People of Two Kingdoms: The Political Acculturation of the Kansas Mennonites. Newton, Kan.: Faith and Life Press, 1975, p. 137.
 John Thiesen. “The American Mennonite Encounter with National Socialism” Yearbook of German-American Studies 27, 1992, pp. 130-131.
 See Harold Stauffer Bender Papers, 1919-1962. Goshen College Archives. Natasha Sawatsky-Kingsley. Series 1, Box 12, Folder 3:F, Item 10. THREE ENTRIES: C. F. Derstine <–> Bender, July 24 & 27, Sept. 29, 1939.
 Ibid. p. 137.
 Robert S. Kreider. Looking Back into the Future. Newton, Kan.: Mennonite Press, 1998, p. 11.
 Excerpt from an editorial in The Bethel Collegian. 29 Sept. 1938. Response to editorial by the editor of The Mennonite, 27 Sept. 1938, arguing in support of Nazism. Kreider, Looking Back into The Future, p. 14.
 Thiesen, 1992.
 Editorials. “Palestine, Holy Land, Canaan.” The Mennonite. 7 March 1939, pp. 1-2.
 The Mennonite. 31 Jan. 1939, p. 1.
 E. L. Harshbarger. “The Most Common Anti-Semitic Arguments Part 1.” The Mennonite. 14 Feb. 1939, p. 2.
 Harshbarger. “The Most Common Anti-Semitic Arguments Part 3.” The Mennonite. 7 March 1939, pp. 4-5.
 Harshbarger. “The Most Common Anti-Semitic Arguments Part 4.” The Mennonite. 14 March 1939, pp. 8-9.
 Harshbarger. “The Most Common Anti-Semitic Arguments Part 2.” The Mennonite. 21 Feb. 1939, pp. 3-4.
 Harshbarger. “History Views the Jewish Persecutions.” The Mennonite. 2 May 1939, p. 1.
 Harshbarger. “History Views the Jewish Persecutions: 5. Concluding Statements from a Christian Point of View.” The Mennonite. 30 May 1939, p. 2.
 Thiesen, 1992, pp. 146-150.
 “Clearing the Atmosphere of Anti-Jewish Slander.” Christian Monitor. 13 April 1936, p. 120. Found in Jack Fischel. “An American Christian Response to the Holocaust.” Bearing Witness to the Holocaust 1939-1989. Alan L. Berger, editor. Queenston, Ontario: The Edwin Mellon Press, 1991.
 Lisa Schirch. The Ecology of Violent Extremism: Perspectives on Peacebuilding & Human Security. London: Rowman & Littlefield, 2018.
 Special thanks to Shelbey Krahn, a great-neice of Ben Klassen, who provided some of this information and read a draft of this article. I met Shelbey while attending Conrad Grebel College with her in the 1990s.
 Ben Klassen. Against the Evil Tide: An Autobiography. Otto, N.C.: Church of the Creator, 1991.
 Southern Poverty Law Center. “Creativity Movement.” https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/creativity-movement-0 Accessed 28 Feb. 2020.
 Rich Preheim. “White supremacist’s racist ‘faith.’” Mennonite World Review. 28 Aug. 2017.
 Sarah Henry. “Marketing Hate: The Church of the Creator Has Sold Violent Racism as Religion for 20 Years.” Los Angeles Times. 12 Dec. 1993.
 Henry, 1993.
 Anti-Defamation League. “Recurring Hate: Matt Hale and the World Church of the Creator.” New York: ADL, 2012. https://www.adl.org/sites/default/files/documents/assets/pdf/combating-hate/Recurring-Hate.pdf Accessed 8 Feb. 2020.
 Henry, 1993.
 James C. Juhnke. “Ingrid Rimland, the Mennonites, and the Demon Doctor.” Mennonite Life, 60:1, March 2005.
 Art Harris. “On the Trail of Mengele.” Washington Post. 8 March 1985.
 Thiesen, 1999, p. 207.
 Ben Goossen. “The Pacifist Roots of an American Nazi.” Boston Review, 2 May 2019. http://bostonreview.net/philosophy-religion/ben-goossen-pacifist-roots-american-nazi Accessed 20 Jan. 2020.
 Goossen, May 2019.
 “Ernst Zündel.” Southern Poverty Law Center. https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/individual/ernst-zundel Accessed 1 March 2020.
 Juhnke, 2005.
 Vic Rosenthal. “Holocaust Denial in my Neighborhood.” FresnoZionism.org. 1 July 2007. http://fresnozionism.org/2007/07/holocaust-denial-in-my-neighborhood/ Accessed 25 Feb. 2020.
 Sadie Stein. “Neo-Nazi Stage Mom Fashions Self as White Power Matchmaker.” Jezebel. 26 Jan. 2010.
 Ken Ashford. ”KKKKids: Where Are They Now?” The Ashford Zone Blog. https://www.ashford.zone/2015/09/kkkkids-where-are-they-now Accessed 20 Feb. 2020.
 Gustav Niebuhr. “A Vision of an Apocalypse: The Religion of the Far Right.” The New York Times. 22 May 1995.
 This information comes from a blog entitled “A brief history of the white nationalist movement,” written by Sebastian E. Ronin, a member of a white nationalist organization.
 Frederick Taylor. Exorcising Hitler: The Occupation and Denazification of Germany. New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2011.
 Matthew D. Hockenos. A Church Divided: German Protestants Confront the Nazi Past. Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 2004, p. 53.
 International Council of Christians and Jews. “The 10 Points of Seelisburg,” Seelisburg, Switzerland, 1947.
 Member Assembly of the Consortium of Mennonite Congregations in Germany (AMG). “50 Years after World War II.” 10 June 1995. Translation by Benjamin W. Goossen.
 Thiesen, 1992.
 Urry, 1996, p. 74
 Harold S. Bender. The Anabaptist Vision. Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 1944.
 Joel Nafziger. “Power, History, and the Future of the Church Summit.” Anabaptist Historians. 20 July 2017.
 See chapters 14-15 in Unruh, 1952.
 Thiesen, 1999, pp. 211-24.
 Anonymous. “Das Mennonitische Zentralkomitee als politisches Werkzeug.” Mennonite Library and Archives. 1944.
 E-mail interview with Shelbey Krahn, 15 April 2020.
 “MCC in Israel and Palestine.” https://mcc.org/learn/where/middle-east/palestine-israel/faq/mcc-palestine-israel Accessed 2 April 2020.
 Lisa Schirch. “An Open Letter to MCC on Iran and Israel, Muslims and Jews.” https://lisaschirch.wordpress.com/2020/01/18/an-open-letter-to-mcc-on-iran-and-israel-muslims-and-jews/
 Smith, 1941, p. 345.
 The full story of Mennonite backlash against Frank H. Epp and his dissertation findings has yet to be told. Epp wrote several books on Palestine that were harshly criticized by the Jewish community in Canada. Epp, 1974.
 Hans Rothfels. The German Opposition to Hitler. Hinsdale, Ill.: Henry Regnery, 1948. Found in John D. Thiesen, “Menno in the KZ or Munster Resurrected: Mennonites and National Socialism – Historiography and Open Questions.” European Mennonites and the Challenge of Modernity over Five Centuries. Mark Jantzen, Mary S. Sprunger and John D. Thiesen, editors. North Newton, Kan.: Bethel College, 2016, p. 318.
 Diether Lichdi. Mennoniten im Dritten Reich. Weierhof im Bolanden Mennonitischer Geschichtsverein, 1977.
 Peter P. Klassen. Die deutsch-völkische Zeit in der Kolonie Fernheim, Chaco, Paraguay, 1933-1945. Bolanden-Weierhof: Mennonitischer Geschichtsverein, 1990.
 Aileen Friesen. “Soviet Mennonites, the Holocaust & Nazism: Part 1.” Anabaptist Historians. 25 April 2017. https://anabaptisthistorians.org/author/afriesen77/ Accessed 22 March 2020.
 Nafziger, Part 2, 2007.
 James Irvin Lichti. Houses on the Sand? Pacifist Denominations in Nazi Germany. New York: Peter Lang, 2008.
 Rempel, 2010, p. 549.
 Lisa Schirch. “Rethinking Mennonites’ approach to Israel and Palestine.” The Mennonite. 14 May 2018.
 Esther Epp-Thiessen. “Could it Happen Again?” Mennonite Central Committee Ottawa Notebook. 22 March 2018. https://mccottawaoffice.wordpress.com/2018/03/22/could-it-happen-again/ Accessed 22 March 2020.
 This author was involved in many conversations about the MC USA resolution. Some committee members insisted that Mennonites had not played any distinct or unusual role in the Holocaust, and that our confession needed to focus on broader complicity of the Church, and not our specific denomination. This was before this author had read the material cited in this article.
 This author has attended and worked at Mennonite institutions for more than 30 years and, on four occasions, has sat on hiring committees where top Mennonite administrators argued for the necessity of hiring ethnic Mennonite staff even when there were more qualified non-Mennonite applicants, with stories from colleagues suggesting this is a broader trend.
 Andrew Wright. “Mennonite Central Committee in the U.S. statement on white supremacy and racism in light of the events of August 12, 2017, in Charlottesville, Virginia.” 18 Aug. 2017. https://mcc.org/stories/statement-white-supremacy-racism Accessed 3 March 2020.
 Understanding Antisemitism. Jews for Economic and Racial Justice, 2017, pp. 21-24. https://jfrej.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/JFREJ-Understanding-Antisemitism-November-2017-1.pdf Accessed 8 Feb. 2020.
 Jonah Mandel. “Amish community asks forgiveness of Jews at Kotel.” Jerusalem Post.
https://www.jpost.com/National-News/Amish-community-asks-forgiveness-of-Jews-at-Kotel Accessed 11 March 2020.
 “Amish delegation expresses remorse to Israel.” Jerusalem Post. 11 Feb. 2013. https://www.jpost.com/Travel/Around-Israel/Amish-delegation-expresses-remorse-to-Israel Accessed 11 March 2020.
 Associated Press. “Amish tour haredi Brooklyn neighborhood.” Jewish World. 1 April 2009. https://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3695558,00.html Accessed 20 March 2020.
 Tom Knapp. “Amish journey to Israel, seeking forgiveness from Jews” Lancaster Online. 15 Dec. 2013. https://lancasteronline.com/news/amish-journey-to-israel-seeking-forgiveness-from-jews/article_d01a35bf-1f73-59b1-ab96-4761484378d2.html Accessed 22 March 2020.
 Mennonite Church USA. “Seeking Peace in Israel and Palestine.” July 2017. http://mennoniteusa.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/IP-Resolution.pdf Accessed 20 March 2020.
 See this blog for a list of citations on concerns about shades of antisemitism in the BDS movement: Lisa Schirch. “The Pros and Cons of BDS” 10 May 2018; Lisa Schirch. “Progressive Christians and Antisemitism: From Arrogance to Ignorance on Israel & Palestine.” 20 March 2019. https://lisaschirch.files.wordpress.com/2019/02/full-report-on-antisemitism-and-progressive-christians.pdf Accessed 10 March 2020.
 Nora Barrows-Friedman. “Mennonites latest U.S. church to dump Israel-linked investments.”
The Electronic Intifada. 7 July 2017. https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/nora-barrows-friedman/mennonites-latest-us-church-dump-israel-linked-investments Accessed 10 March 2020.
 Sam Kestenbaum. “Mennonite Church of Canada Backs BDS — but Americans Seek Balance.” Forward. 18 July 2016. https://forward.com/news/345274/mennonite-church-of-canada-backs-bds-but-americans-seek-balance/ Accessed 10 March 2020.
 To be transparent, I worked with the authors of the MC USA statement. At that point, I was unaware of the literature cited in this document. The key authors of the statement assured me that Mennonites had not played a unique role in the Holocaust and that there was not anything remarkable requiring a special confession specifically from Mennonites. There were many conflicts between the other committee members and me regarding BDS and the lack of Jewish consultation and involvement in the statement.
 See, for example, the following: “A Christian Witness to the Jews: A Response.” Mennonite Reporter, Vol 12, 14 June 1982, p. 5; “The Gospel of Matthew and the Challenge of Antisemitism.” Mennonite Quarterly Review 92, 2018, pp. 548-70; “Mennonites, Jews and the Land: Preparing for a Discussion” The Mennonite (online edition), 10 June 2016; “Mennonites, Judaism, and Israel-Palestine.” The Mennonite (online edition), 23 July 2007; “We Need to Engage the Jewish Community.” The Mennonite, 3 May 2016, p. 31; John Kampen. “Mennonites, Jews and the land: Preparing for a discussion.” The Mennonite, 6 Oct. 2016; “Our Commitment to Jewish Dialogue.” The Mennonite, March 2018, p. 32.
 Internal position paper. “Reading the Bible After the Holocaust.” Institute for Mennonite Studies. Elkhart, Ind.: Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, March 2019.
 Schirch, March 2019.
 Lindsay Acker. “Mapping Jewish-Mennonite Relationships.” Mennonite-Jewish Relations (MJR), a working group of Mennonite Church USA. Unpublished executive summary, Feb. 2020.
 Mychal Copeland. “At my synagogue, I’ll take 20 Mennonites over one armed guard.” The Jewish News of Northern California. 9 Nov. 2018.
 John Howard Yoder. The Jewish-Christian Schism Revisited. Michael G. Cartwright and Peter Ochs, editors. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans. 2003.
 Peter Ochs. Another Reformation: Postliberal Christianity and the Jews. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2011, pp. 127-163
 Perry B. Yoder. “The Importance of Judaism for Contemporary Anabaptist Thought.” Mennonite Quarterly Review, 1993.
 Amy-Jill Levine. The Misunderstood Jew: The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus. New York: Harper-Collins. 2006.
 James Hamrick. “Jesus was a Jew: A Challenge to Anti-Judaism in our Churches.” The Mennonite, 22 Dec. 2015.
 Roy H. Kreider. “Mennonite Witness as it Relates to Jewish People.” Eastern Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities. 23 Jan. 1985, p. 6.
 Kreider, 1985, pp. 7-8.
 Ben Goossen. “Mennonite Fascism.” Anabaptist Historians. 27 April 2017. https://anabaptisthistorians.org/2017/04/27/mennonite-fascism/. Accessed 5 Feb. 2020.
 J.J. Hildebrand. “Zeichen der Zeit!” Die Mennonitische Rundschau, 29 March 1933, p. 4. Found in Ben Goossen. “Mennonite Fascism.” Anabaptist Historians. 27 April 2017. https://anabaptisthistorians.org/2017/04/ Accessed 5 Feb. 2020.
 Alle Hoekema. “Dutch Mennonites and German Jewish Refugee Children, 1938-1945.” Mennonite Quarterly Review 87, April 2013, p. 144.
 Hoekema, 2013, p. 150.
 Unruh, p. 47.
 Robert Wojciechowski, Joan E. Bailey-Wilson and Dwight Stambolian. ”Fine-mapping of candidate region in Amish and Ashkenazi families confirms linkage of refractive error to a QTL on 1p34-p36.” Molecular Vision 15, 2009, pp. 1398–1406.
 For example, my sister-in-law’s Jewish stepmother has Mennonite heritage, my Mennonite friend with the last name Metzler has Jewish background, and other Mennonites have found similar proof. See, for example, Mennonite Tim Janzen’s blog post, “Our Red-Headed Jewish Grandmother.” 23andMe. 3 April 2012. https://blog.23andme.com/23andme-customer-stories/our-redheaded-jewish-grandmother/ Accessed 2 Feb. 2020; Ingrid Briles, who writes of her Mennonite and Jewish ancestry in her blog Deep Roots at Jewish Mag.com. http://www.jewishmag.com/125mag/genealogy-welcome/genealogy-welcome.htm Accessed 2 Feb. 2020.
 Willard Carpenter, et al. The Amish Menorah. Plymouth, Mass.: Elk Lake Publishing, 2020.
 Original source. “About Michael Danner.” Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anabaptist–Jewish_relations Accessed 18 March 2020.
 Anna Jane Grossman. “Chris Barley and Marc Kushner.” New York Times. 13 April 2012.
 Helen Stoltzfus and Albert Greenberg. “A Mennonite Wife, A Jewish Husband, and the Holocaust,” dramatic reading from Heart of the World, play and discussion. Oakland, Calif.: Black Swan Arts & Media. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bgHoyKM9fcc Accessed 8 Feb. 2020.
 Urry, 1996, p. 75.