Friesen, Gerhard Johann (Fritz Senn) (1894-1983)

Jump to navigation Jump to search

Born in 1894 in Halbstadt, Molotschna Colony, Gerhard Friesen came to Canada in 1924 and lived near Stonewall, Manitoba and later in Kitchener, Ontario before he moved to Germany in 1938. Except for wartime service in the East and a stay in South Africa, he remained in Germany until his death. Educated as a teacher, he began writing poetry in Russia, but only published poems and other writings after 1934. His poems appeared in Der Bote, the Mennonitische Warte, and a number of other Mennonite periodicals. An anthology of his poems edited by Elisabeth Peters appeared in 1974. His collected poetical works were published in 1987.

The poetry of Fritz Senn is primarily lyrical, celebrating the lost homeland of the Russian Mennonites, evoking the sights, sounds, and other sensory details of village and country life. His major work is a cycle of poems probing the Russian experience of his people and the catastrophic destruction of a world which his imagination could not release: "Hinterm Pflug/Stimmungen" ("Reflections, behind the Plough"), published 1935-36. His attempts to write longer prose works were not encouraged by his few literary advisors, Arnold Dyck and Dietrich Epp, but surviving prose pieces are much like his lyrical verse -- descriptive and evocative. Friesen is considered to be the best Mennonite poet writing in German. He was active as a poet for some 70 years, most of them hard and lonely. At the end he was also blind, but he never lost sight of the way of life symbolized by the Russian Mennonite village and what it had meant to him and many others. Friesen died in 1983.

See also Literature.


Doerksen, Victor G.  "The Divine Plowman and the Mennonite Clod: a Reading of Hinterm Pflug/Stimmungen by Fritz Senn" in Annals 4 German-Canadian Studies. Vancouver: Canadian Association of University Teachers of German, 1984: 208-29.

Doerksen, Victor G., ed. "Fritz Senn: Hinterm Pflug/Stimmungen," in Visions and Realities, ed. H. Loewen and Al Reimer. Winnipeg: Hyperion, 1985: 149-73.

Friesen, Gerhard K., ed. "Fritz Senn (1894-1983), Kurze Selbstbiographie (1975)." German-Canadian Yearbook 7 (1983): 89-92.

Journal of Mennonite Studies 1 (1983): 122-23.

Senn, Fritz. Gesammelte Gedichte und Prosa, ed. Victor G. Doerksen. Winnipeg: CMBC Publications, 1987, contains all the known poetic writings of Friesen.

Senn, Fritz. Das Dorf im Abendgrauen; ed. Elisabeth Peters. Winnipeg: Verein zur Pflege der deutschen Sprache, 1974.

Author(s) Victor G Doerksen
Date Published 1990

Cite This Article

MLA style

Doerksen, Victor G. "Friesen, Gerhard Johann (Fritz Senn) (1894-1983)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1990. Web. 17 Oct 2019.,_Gerhard_Johann_(Fritz_Senn)_(1894-1983)&oldid=87598.

APA style

Doerksen, Victor G. (1990). Friesen, Gerhard Johann (Fritz Senn) (1894-1983). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 17 October 2019, from,_Gerhard_Johann_(Fritz_Senn)_(1894-1983)&oldid=87598.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 5, p. 312. All rights reserved.

©1996-2019 by the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. All rights reserved.