Cover

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Title Page, Copyright Page, Dedication

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-xii

I spent the first years of my life in a small Mennonite town in central Kansas. Pacifist Mennonites had settled the Great Plains during the 1870s, when thousands left Europe to escape newly established conscription laws. While most of these immigrants came from colonies in southern Russia, several hundred also left the German region of West Prussia. Among these were the ancestors of my paternal grandfather, Henry Goossen. I knew my grandfather as a thoughtful and congenial man, a retired minister who always arrived at church a half hour early and who habitually proclaimed...

Note on Translation

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pp. xiii-xvi

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Introduction

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pp. 1-17

Soon after dawn on June 15, 1876, several dozen families gathered on the train platform outside the West Prussian village of Simonsdorf. A morning storm had settled over the town and the surrounding fields, and as the passengers arrived, rain drummed against their carefully packed trunks. The travelers were Mennonites, pacifist Christians who for generations had farmed the rich grain lands between the Vistula and Nogat rivers and who were departing their homes to seek freedom from military service. They had...

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1 Becoming German: The Geography of Collectivism

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pp. 18-44

A visionary and a nation-builder, Hinrich van der Smissen was fond of looking backwards. The Hamburg-Altona pastor, who at the end of the First World War was nearing his seventieth birthday, had presided for more than four decades over the unification of Germany’s Mennonites. Editing newspapers, heading educational institutes, and chairing national conferences, he worked tirelessly to inspire cooperation among the far-flung congregations of the German Empire. As he told it, these efforts had begun in 1871—...

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2 Forging History: Anabaptism and the Kulturkampf

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pp. 45-70

In 1878, the German nationalist playwright Ernst von Wildenbruch published a tragedy entitled The Mennonite. Set during the Napoleonic Wars in a village in East Prussia, Wildenbruch’s drama portrayed Mennonites as nationally apathetic cowards, unwilling to take up weapons for the German cause against French invaders. Loosely based on historic events, the play connected some Mennonites’ traditional separatism to Kulturkampf ideas of national primacy over religious loyalty. During the “cultural struggle” that dominated Germany during the 1870s and 1880s—in which...

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3 Raising the Faith: Family, Gender, and Religious Indifference

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pp. 71-95

When the Union of Mennonite Congregations in the German Empire formed in 1886, only a fraction of the country’s seventy-one congregations joined. Despite hopes that all Mennonites would grasp the necessity of supporting a national association, enthusiasm among rural conservatives— especially in southern Germany and the Prussian east—proved elusive. Two years later, membership remained at a paltry seventeen, less than one-fourth the desired total. Determined to pry coreligionists from their separatist ways, organizers portrayed the Union as a confession-wide association that...

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4 World War, World Confession: International Violence and Mennonite Globalization

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pp. 96-120

On a September day in 1915, Emil Händiges arrived at a German prisoner of war camp called Bütow. As the Mennonite pastor entered the compound, hundreds of faces surrounded him. “I saw the various types of Russians and Poles,” he recalled; “the Jews, many of whom spoke German, showed a particularly lively and vocal interest.” But it was neither Jews nor those he labeled Russians or Poles whom Händiges had come to see. He sought the thirty-six Mennonites in the crowd. All were conscientious objectors from Imperial Russia, who had been serving as medics on the front when...

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5 The Racial Church: Nazis, Anti-Semitism, and the Science of Blood

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pp. 121-146

In early 1930, a young Mennonite woman posed for a camera. She was thin, perhaps still undernourished from the long journey from Ukraine. Her blouse hung loosely about her shoulders, and she kept her hair woven at the nape of her neck. The photographers, visiting from the Anthropological Institute at the University of Kiel, did not record her name. She was just one of thousands of Russian-born Mennonites in a series of north German transit camps—a data point in a larger sample group. Along with hundreds of her fellow inmates, the unnamed woman submitted to their attentions....

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6 Fatherland: War and Genocide in the Mennonite East

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pp. 147-173

On New Year’s Eve 1942, Benjamin Unruh arrived at SS headquarters in East Prussia. As the train brought him eastward through German-occupied countryside, the professor had drawn closer to the land of his youth. Born in Crimea six decades earlier, Unruh had been exiled to Germany after the Bolshevik Revolution. There he had advocated for coreligionists in the Soviet Union, helping tens of thousands migrate to Canada, Paraguay, and Brazil. After 1933, he served as the Third Reich’s foremost consultant on Mennonites. Collaborating with government agencies, Unruh promoted...

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7 Mennonite Nationalism: Postwar Aid and the Politics of Repatriation

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pp. 174-199

On a spring evening in 1946, Robert Kreider picked his way through the rubble of Berlin. The Mennonite Central Committee worker from Illinois entered an abandoned building. He had heard rumors of Mennonite squatters in the area and was searching for their hiding place. A noise drew his attention. “There in the gloomy darkness,” he wrote, “I saw about a dozen people, mostly women and children. They eyed me half fearfully.” At first, the refugees refused to speak. But when Kreider told them he was a cousin...

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Conclusion

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pp. 200-212

“One third of the Mennonites in the world today are non-white,” Executive Secretary Cornelius Dyck reported in 1972 at the ninth Mennonite World Conference. “They do not care much for Luther’s sixteenth-century Europe, which ethnic Mennonites consider important.” Held in Curitiba, Brazil, the assembly was meeting outside Europe and North America for the first time since its founding nearly fifty years earlier. Organizers had chosen the venue in response to growing concerns about the Western orientation of a...

Archival Sources

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pp. 213-214

Notes

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pp. 215-256

Index

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pp. 257-266