Wiebe, Bernhardt “Ben” S. (1913-1971)
|Aganetha and Ben S.
Ben S. Wiebe: farmer and diarist; born in 1913 near Altona, Manitoba as Bernhardt S. Wiebe to Jakob Wiebe (1886-1954) and Susanna (Schellenberg) Wiebe. Bernhardt married Aganetha Braun (1913-1954), widow of his brother Jacob and daughter of Jakob Braun (1885-1921) of Gnadenfeld. Aganetha had five children from her previous marriage, and the couple had another three together, two of whom died young.
Bernhardt Wiebe grew up in southern Manitoba, living first in Altona and after 1930 in the Grunthal area. The family was part of the migration of the Bergthal Colony in 1876 from Russia to Manitoba, Canada, and Bernhardt also took part in the emigration of 1948, moving to Paraguay from Manitoba in response to changes in the provincial government’s policies towards the Mennonites. He kept a diary of the journey in which he detailed the departure and sea voyage, but not the year he and his family spent in South America.
In the years after the Second World War, life changed for Mennonites living in Canada. Bernhardt described the struggles he and Aganetha, together with many other Mennonites, had in the years leading up to the migration to Paraguay. Like their neighbours, Bernhardt and Aganetha Wiebe were farmers, living just south of Grunthal, Manitoba. Although the farming life was familiar to the largely agrarian Mennonites of the time, many of them were willing to set aside the lives they were building as they began to worry about the loss of their spiritual and community traditions. In the end, a large number of Manitoba Mennonites decided to leave Canada. Preparations for departure took two years, but the group was finally ready. On 23 June 1948, Bernhardt and Aganetha Wiebe and their children left on the train from Niverville to Wolfes Cove in Quebec City. From there, they boarded the steamship Volendam, which took the group of 428 immigrants along the St. Lawrence River to the Atlantic Ocean and a ship bound for Buenos Aires, Argentina, where they arrived on 19 July 1948.
Immigration was a life-changing experience for Bernhardt S. Wiebe and his family. They left friends and family behind, faced primitive and difficult conditions, including a community unprepared for the influx of new immigrants and the deaths of two of the Wiebes’ young children. In October of 1948 Ben Wiebe and his family moved to a tract of land in Villarica, Paraguay, and in October 1949 they returned to Manitoba, where another two children were born to them.
Bernhardt S. Wiebe worked hard and suffered many losses during his years in Manitoba and Paraguay. Through his diary and personal reminiscences, his descendants have come to know just how many difficulties he endured.
Funk, Anne. “Auswandrung! 1948.” Preservings No. 11 (December 1997): 58-60.
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MLA style: Huebert, Susan. "Wiebe, Bernhardt “Ben” S. (1913-1971)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. October 2007. Web. 20 June 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/wiebe_bernhardt_201cben201d_s._1913_1971.
APA style: Huebert, Susan. (October 2007). Wiebe, Bernhardt “Ben” S. (1913-1971). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 20 June 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/wiebe_bernhardt_201cben201d_s._1913_1971.