Mennonitische Flüchtlingsfürsorge (Mennonite Refugee Care). The arrival of many Mennonite refugees to Germany from Russia after World War I, their number constantly increasing as revolutionary bands violated the villages of the Ukraine, called for organized assistance in alleviating their distress, in which all the Mennonite congregations in Germany were to take part. In South German circles it was discussed several times. In April 1920 a meeting was held at Heilbronn with representatives chosen by the Mennonites of Russia to explore possibilities for settlement. The South German Conference then sent its traveling evangelist, Abram Warkentin, himself a former Russian Mennonite, to investigate conditions in the refugee camps in North Germany. He visited about 70 families in August and September 1920 and found them in a desperate situation, many of them in rags and undernourished. A number of the refugees had already been taken in by Mennonite families.
Now an organized and centralized program of support was inaugurated on 22 November 1920, when the Flüchtlingsfürsorge was organized in Ludwigshafen with its seat at Heilbronn. Its purpose was "to assist with pastoral and material aid the German refugees from Russia, especially the brethren in the faith, who have been sorely tried in soul, spirit, and body in consequence of war and anarchy." An attempt was made to find the Mennonite families and support them with money, clothing, and food. An effort was made to give permanent aid by finding employment for them in industry and on farms. A considerable number of families settled in Gronau in Westphalia and worked in the textile mills of the van Deldens. Others were settled on state lands east of Lübeck in Lockwisch and Westerbeck near Schönberg in Mecklenburg-Strelitz in the winter of 1920 and summer of 1921; this was made possible by loans from the German Mennonite congregations. But the settlers soon immigrated to America with the exception of one family. The loans were fully paid back; some of the funds were donated to the conference of the South German Mennonites for benevolent purposes.
Other refugees were given work and lodging for their families in the Lechfeld camp, a former army drill ground which was given for agricultural purposes to the Mennonite Fürsorgekomitee, the Mennonite relief organization called "Christenpflicht ", and the union of German Baptists. This farm yielded about 50,000 marks in 1923 for charitable purposes. The refugees who could not be used in farming were given other work such as basket making or the manufacture of work clothing. At the same time a camp was kept in Lechfeld for Mennonite refugees whose admission to Canada was postponed for reasons of health. The German government consented to this arrangement after the Heilbronn committee had given a guarantee that it would take care of all expenses and assume political responsibility for the refugees.
To meet the increasing scope of its work the committee changed its name on 9 May 1922, to "Deutsche Mennonitenhilfe" (German Mennonite Aid) and transferred its seat to Oberursel near Frankfurt. Most of the refugees were able to emigrate to Canada with the support of the Canadian Mennonite Board of Colonization.
At this time calls were coming from Russia for German literature, especially for Bible and school books. The German Mennonite Aid was able to send the Mennonites in the Ukraine 12,000 text-books and 4,000 Bibles. This committee also supported the publishers of the Mennonitisches Lexikon in ordering for Russia one hundred copies of the first volume, which offer was gratefully accepted by the Russian Mennonite churches. Before World War I, however, only the first two installments could be sent to the 900 subscribers in Russia; after that no further shipments to Russia were possible.
The committee was dissolved on 16 December 1926. The work of the Mennonitische Flüchtlingsfürsorge and the Deutsche Mennonitenhilfe was done during the period of inflation of German currency, enormously increasing the difficulty of the task. But thanks to the co-operation of the Mennonites in countries with stable currency, it was possible to render the Mennonite refugees from Russia genuine assistance throughout the period to relieve their great need.
Deutsche Mennonitenhilfe, ihre Entstehung und Arbeitsgebiete. Oberursel, 1924.
Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon: v. III, 107 ff.
Neff, Christian. Bericht über die Mennonitische Welthilfskonferenz vom 31. August bis 3. September 1930 in Danzig, 67-68.
Warkentin, Abram. Mennonitische Blätter (1920): 77-78.
Cite This Article
Hege, Christian. "Mennonitische Flüchtlingsfürsorge." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1950. Web. 17 Oct 2017. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Mennonitische_Fl%C3%BCchtlingsf%C3%BCrsorge&oldid=146390.
Hege, Christian. (1950). Mennonitische Flüchtlingsfürsorge. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 17 October 2017, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Mennonitische_Fl%C3%BCchtlingsf%C3%BCrsorge&oldid=146390.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, p. 645-646. All rights reserved.
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