Neufeld, Wilhelm Peter (1873-1937)
Wilhelm Peter Neufeld: teacher and minister; born 11 September 1873 in Liebenau, Molotschna Mennonite Settlement, South Russia, to Peter Peter and Katharina (Goossen) Neufeld. He was the youngest of five children in the family. On 10 October 1896, Wilhelm married Helena Fast, daughter of Peter Fast, of Blumenort, Molotschna Mennonite Settlement. The couple had nine children, six sons and three daughters. He was arrested on 18 August 1937 and was held in jail in Waldheim, Molotschna Mennonite Settlement, for almost a month. He was sentenced to be executed and was shot in Melitopol on 14 September 1937.
As a child, Wilhelm attended school in his village before continuing on to complete his studies at the Zentralschule and then teacher training in Halbstadt, Molotschna Mennonite Settlement. After he completed his studies, he accepted a position as a teacher of mathematics in the village of Blumenort, Molotschna Mennonite Settlement, where he stayed from 1893 to 1899. On 10 October 1896, he married Helena Fast. The first two sons were born in Blumenort. In 1900, Wilhelm inherited his father’s estate in Liebenau, and the family moved there.
In 1910, Neufeld was elected as minister of the Schönsee Mennonite Church, although he felt unworthy of accepting this position. He did, however, fill various other roles in the church in areas that made use of his education and talents. He was a long-term member of the church council and was the conductor of the church choir, as well as Vorsänger (song leader) of the congregation, for many years. In 1914, his wife Helena died, and Wilhelm gave up teaching to manage the family farm.
In 1930, Neufeld was declared a kulak and was forced to leave his home. For several years, he stayed in the Memrik Mennonite Settlement, where conditions were not quite as severely controlled as elsewhere. In 1934 he returned to Liebenau, but he had to remain hidden. He was arrested on 18 August 1937 and kept for several weeks in a jail in Waldheim, Molotschna Mennonite Settlement. He was mistreated and tortured before being sent for trial in the Dnepropetrovsk region and found guilty. He was sentenced to be executed and was shot in Melitopol on 14 September 1937. All six of Wilhelm’s sons were arrested and exiled, three of them in 1937. Two sons-in-law were also arrested and exiled in 1937.
Wilhelm Peter Neufeld was a dedicated church worker, minister, and teacher who used his talents to benefit the congregation where he served. As choir conductor and song leader, he helped to enhance worship services, and he was also effective in many of the other capacities in which he served. Despite the difficulties he experienced in life and the circumstances of his death, he was an example of faithfulness for his family and the community.
GRANDMA (The Genealogical Registry and Database of Mennonite Ancestry) Database, 6.06 ed. Fresno, CA:, 2011.
Neufeld Family Records, Gerhard Neufeld, Ufa, Russia.
Toews, Aron A. Mennonitische Märtyrer: der jüngsten Vergangenheit und der Gegenwart, 2 vols. North Clearbrook, BC: Selbstverlag des Vefassers, 1949-1954: II, 142-143.
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MLA style: Huebert, Susan and Helmut T. Huebert. "Neufeld, Wilhelm Peter (1873-1937)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. March 2011. Web. 18 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/neufeld_wilhelm_peter_1873_1937.
APA style: Huebert, Susan and Helmut T. Huebert. (March 2011). Neufeld, Wilhelm Peter (1873-1937). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 18 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/neufeld_wilhelm_peter_1873_1937.