Janzen, Johann Martin (b. 1885)

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Johann Martin Janzen: teacher and minister; born on 10 March 1885 in Ebental (later known as Nikolayevka), Memrik Mennonite settlement, South Russia, to Martin Janzen. In 1907, Johann married a woman, whose first name is not known, from a Martens family in Orlovo, Memrik. The couple had at least two daughters and a son. In 1937, Johann was arrested and sentenced to 10 years’ exile in Siberia; although his wife was able to visit him once in his place of exile, he was never heard from after that time.

In his childhood, Johann lived in Ebental, where he attended elementary school. From there he progressed to the Ohrloff Zentralschule, followed by two years of teacher training in Halbstadt. His first teaching assignment was at a small commerce school on one of the estates of Heinrich Jakob Sudermann in Ekaterinoslav, beginning in the autumn of 1905. After two years of teaching, he got married and began to establish a family. The couple eventually had at least three children, two daughters and a son. When they were old enough, the children would provide music for visitors to the home on occasion, accompanying their singing with harp and guitar music.

Janzen accepted a teaching position at Herzenberg, Kharkov Province, where he had the opportunity to serve as choir conductor in the Mennonite Brethren church, and where he preached on occasion. After two years, the family moved to Barvenkovo, Kharkov, where Johann served as a teacher and also worked in the church, helping to lead the youth group together with another church member, A. H. Unruh. In the summertime he took mathematics courses with a private tutor in Kharkov to prepare himself for his official teacher examinations.

At the beginning of World War I, Johann was drafted into the Sanitätsdienst as a medical orderly. After the conclusion of the war, he returned to Herzenberg, again working as a teacher and minister. When he decided he could no longer teach Communist dogma as the school required, he resigned and returned to his home colony of Memrik, where he helped with the development of the Mennonite Brethren Church in Kotlyarevka. His fluent Russian was helpful for dealing with the authorities, and he helped the congregations deal with the steadily increasing pressure from the government, accomplishing much more than many others had managed. He was elected to the ministry by his home church, and was officially ordained for the work by Elder Jakob Doerksen. Johann became elder of the church when Elder Doerksen retired, continuing on until 1937. He ministered to people beyond the borders of Memrik, traveling as far as Kuban on his mission trips.

Likely because he had very little property, Johann was able to escape the notice of the authorities for quite a long time. He was arrested in January 1934 but later released. Soon after returning from a mission trip in 1937, when he had just served at a funeral in Nordheim, Memrik, he was called in for interrogation by the authorities and then arrested. At his trial, Johann was sentenced to 10 years’ exile in Siberia. His wife was able to visit him on one occasion and brought back a picture of him. None of his family or friends ever heard from him again.

Johann Martin Janzen was a dedicated teacher and minister who persisted in following his conscience despite adverse circumstances. Through his mission trips and his efforts in ministry in his home village, he had a profound effect on the people around him, leaving a legacy of faithfulness for subsequent generations to follow.


Huebert, Helmut T. 1937: Stalin’s Year of Terror. Winnipeg, MB: Springfield Publishers, 2009.

Toews, Aron A. Mennonitische Märtyrer, 2 vols. North Clearbrook, British Columbia: self-published, 1949-1954: v. I, 281-284.

Author(s) Susan Huebert
Date Published May 2009

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Huebert, Susan. "Janzen, Johann Martin (b. 1885)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. May 2009. Web. 16 Jul 2020. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Janzen,_Johann_Martin_(b._1885)&oldid=95508.

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Huebert, Susan. (May 2009). Janzen, Johann Martin (b. 1885). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 16 July 2020, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Janzen,_Johann_Martin_(b._1885)&oldid=95508.

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