Janzen, Johannes Heinrich (1868-1917)

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Johannes Heinrich Janzen: teacher, artist, and writer; born 6 January 1868 in Waldheim, Molotschna Mennonite Settlement, South Russia, to Heinrich Johann Janzen (1844-1904) and Maria (Dirks) Janzen (b. 1845). He was the eldest of four children in the family. He married Helena (Lena) Goerz and settled in Ohrloff. The couple had six children, four girls and two boys. Johannes was a teacher, artist, and writer of children’s fiction, poetry, and prose. He became ill with leukemia and died of the disease in September 1917 at the age of 49.

As a child, Johannes was influenced by his father, who was an artist, teacher, preacher, and surveyor. Johann completed his studies at the Gnadenfeld Zentralschule before taking teacher training in Halbstadt. For the next three years, he studied at the teachers’ college in Feodosiya in the Crimea while also studying painting with a marine artist, Iwan Konstantinovich Aiwasowsky (1817-1900). In 1899, he was appointed as a mathematics teacher at the Ohrloff Zentralschule, a position he held for the next 28 years. For several years, he was the chairman of the Molotschna Teachers’ Society.

In 1906, Janzen had a conversion experience and started to become active in the church, and in 1909, he was ordained as a minister of the Gnadenfeld Mennonite Church. He also began to develop his artistic skills with oil paintings, pencil sketches, and watercolors. He frequently painted on commission but also chose his own subjects, often painting landscapes of the Molotschna.

Janzen illustrated several books, including one written by his brother, as well as the Christlicher Familienkalendar and several of his own children’s books, such as a Christmas story called "Das Märchen vom Weihnachtsmann." Three of Johannes and Helena’s children were models for some of the characters in the story, and later their son Hans provided new illustrations for the book. Johannes wrote lyrical poetry as well as prose, producing works ranging from fiction to essays on pedagogy and philosophy. In 1907, he wrote a work of fiction called Das goldene Zeitalter der Zukunft. Although most of his writing was not published, some of his short stories, such as "Der David" and "Das Falkennest," appeared in periodicals. He also kept a diary for many years.

Although he wrote, drew, and painted extensively, Johannes did little to promote his work. He participated in art exhibitions in Ohrloff and Halbstadt, likely showing some landscapes and seascapes at the Halbstadt Exposition of 1909. While he was developing his art, however, he continued to support himself with teaching and became known as an imaginative and innovative teacher who was able to liven up his classes with new methods of instruction. He was still busy in his career when he became ill with leukemia. He died of the disease in September 1917 at the age of 49.

Johannes Heinrich Janzen was a dedicated teacher, artist, and writer. Although he died young, he had a profound influence on the students he taught, as well as the artistic and literary worlds of the Mennonites in settlements in Russia. Despite being relatively unknown as an artist, he still helped to shape the future of literature, painting, and drawing among his family, his friends, and the community where he lived and worked.


Friedensstimme (22 August 1909): 9.

GRANDMA (The Genealogical Registry and Database of Mennonite Ancestry) Database, 4.19 ed. Fresno, CA: California Mennonite Historical Society, 2005: #469377.

Huebert, Helmut T. “Johann Heinrich Janzen (1868-1917).” Events and People. Winnipeg, MB: Springfield Publishers, 1999: pp. 114-116.

Friesen, P. M. Die Alt-Evangelische Mennonitische Brüderschaft in Russland (1789-1910). Taurida, Russia: Raduga, 1911: xv, xvi, 595, 636, 688, 708, 776.

Goerz, H. Die Molotschnaer Ansiedlung. Steinbach, MB: Echo-Verlag, 1950-51: 169-170; English translation, 1993: 204.

Janzen, Jakob. "Etwas Rezension." Der Bote (29 August 1931): 1.

Janzen, Johann. Illustrations in Denn meine Augen haben Deinen Heiland Gesehen, written by Jakob Janzen, originally published in 1910, again in 1925 and 1927.

Janzen, Johann. "The Months of the Year." Mennonite Life (October 1951): 13.

Janzen, Johann. Das Märchen vom Weihnactsmann, edited by Waldemar Janzen, postscript written by Waldemar Janzen. Winnipeg, MB: CMBC Publications, 1975.

Janzen, Johann. "Peace on the Molotschna." Mennonite Life (1 January 1956): 6.

Janzen, Waldemar, personal communications.

Additional Information

Original Article

Johannes Heinrich Janzen, a teacher at the Ohrloff Zentralschule in the Molotschna Mennonite settlement of South Russia and minister of the Gnadenfeld Mennonite Church, born 6 January 1868, at Waldheim (Molotschna), the eldest son of Heinrich Johann Janzen. After studying for three years at the normal school in Theodosia (Crimea), he taught at the Ohrloff Zentralschule until his death in 1917, a period of 28 years. His pedagogical methods led away from dry teaching in the direction of real life situations, and his literary work, Das goldene Zeitalter der Zukunft, clearly shows his leaning toward technical schools. In religious matters he was a doubting seeker and a rationalist until 1906, when he was converted to a somewhat pietistic view. From that time on he was an active and fruitful worker in the Mennonite churches, enjoying unusual popularity and respect.

Like his father, he was an amateur artist; although his work is imperfect in technique it reveals a deep love and understanding for the Molotschna landscape. His sketches, not yet published in the 1950s, form a valuable contribution to the study of the Russian Mennonite milieu. Some have found their way to Canada.

His literary works were for the most part also unpublished by the 1950s. Among them are children's stories like "Das Märchen vom Weihnachtsmann," "Die Geschichte van Miez, Mauz, Murr, und Hinz," lyric poems and prose, pedagogical and philosophical essays and articles. In addition, a few stories have been published in periodical literature—"Der David," and "Das Falkennest."  He also kept a diary. -- Heinrich Janzen, Vol. 3, p. 96.

Original Bibliography

Goerz, H. Die Molotschnaer Ansiedlung. Steinbach, 1950.

Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. II, 393.

Author(s) Susan Huebert
Helmut T. Huebert
Date Published October 2010

Cite This Article

MLA style

Huebert, Susan and Helmut T. Huebert. "Janzen, Johannes Heinrich (1868-1917)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. October 2010. Web. 18 Oct 2019. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Janzen,_Johannes_Heinrich_(1868-1917)&oldid=145521.

APA style

Huebert, Susan and Helmut T. Huebert. (October 2010). Janzen, Johannes Heinrich (1868-1917). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 18 October 2019, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Janzen,_Johannes_Heinrich_(1868-1917)&oldid=145521.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, p. 96. All rights reserved.

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