Book: European Mennonites and the Holocaust
Transnational Mennonite Studies
During the Second World War, Mennonites in the Netherlands, Germany, occupied Poland, and Ukraine lived in communities with Jews and close to various Nazi camps and killing sites. As a result of this proximity, Mennonites were neighbours to and witnessed the destruction of European Jews. In some cases they were beneficiaries or even enablers of the Holocaust. Much of this history was forgotten after the war, as Mennonites sought to rebuild or find new homes as refugees. The result was a myth of Mennonite innocence and ignorance that connected their own suffering during the 1930s and 1940s with earlier centuries of persecution and marginalization.
European Mennonites and the Holocaust identifies a significant number of Mennonite perpetrators, along with a smaller number of Mennonites who helped Jews survive, examining the context in which they acted. In some cases, theology led them to accept or reject Nazi ideals. In others, Mennonites chose a closer embrace of German identity as a strategy to improve their standing with Germans or for material benefit.
A powerful and unflinching examination of a difficult history, European Mennonites and the Holocaust uncovers a more complete picture of Mennonite life in these years, underscoring actions that were not always innocent.
Mark Jantzen is a professor of History and Chair of the Department of History and Conflict Studies at Bethel College.
John D. Thiesen is an archivist and co-director of libraries at Bethel College.
Edited by Mark Jantzen and John D. Thiesen
Publisher: University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division (2020)
Dimensions: 6.3in x 1.0in x 9.3in
Grounded in literature on the Holocaust, German, Dutch, Ukrainian, and Mennonite history, editors Mark Jantzen and John D. Thiesen, along with the authors in this volume, demonstrate how collective memory can be made oblivious to collaboration with evil, and the responsibility of scholars to ruthlessly and compassionately alter past narratives. The research represented here is crucial to better understand the multilayered Mennonite past, and offers broader implications for how small and seemingly benign groups become complicit in mass violence.
A particularly interesting case study, European Mennonites and the Holocaust is a valuable collection representing topics, such as ecclesiology and other branches of theology, often neglected by historians. Situating itself into the wider historical literature, especially the literature on the Holocaust, there is a lot in this book to chew on.
What makes European Mennonites and the Holocaust important is the bringing together of the most active scholars in this emerging field. It serves as a case study for the ways in which cultural and ethnic minorities reacted to and engaged in the Holocaust, as well as an exploration of the transnational reality of the Holocaust. A fine work of scholarship edited by experienced scholars, this book will be of great interest to those interested in Holocaust and memory, and to members of the Mennonite community – a subculture deeply interested in and committed to its own history.