By Jessica McKague
Throughout their history, Mennonites have grappled with the dissonance between their belief in nonresistance and the many conflicts by which they have found themselves surrounded. This belief in nonresistance was a significant motivating factor in their migrations from Prussia (now Poland) to Russia, and then to Canada, always seeking a place that might grant them exemption from military service. During wartime, such as World War One in Canada and Russia, some Mennonites chose to become Conscientious Objectors and were assigned various forms of alternative service ranging from infrastructure projects to the medical corps, while others chose to participate in the military. Other circumstances, such as the Russian Revolution and Civil War, did not offer such a choice. Regardless of the period in history and the country in which they lived, Mennonites throughout their history have been affected by war in many ways.
As Remembrance Day reminds us of the high cost of peace, Village Books & Gifts offers many books related to topics on war and peace, told from a Mennonite perspective.
An autobiographical narrative, The Constructed Mennonite by Hans Werner, relates the story of a man dealing with his identity in Stalin's Russia, Hitler's Germany and, finally in post-World War Two Manitoba.
Women without Men: Mennonite Refugees of the Second World War by Marlene Epp is a scholarly account and discussion of the trials and tribulations faced by Mennonite women and their families as they struggled to survive and escape war-torn Russia.
Peace Shall Destroy Many by Rudy Wiebe is a classic novel that caused great controversy when first released in 1962. A major theme in the novel is whether a Mennonite should go to war or not.
Also see: 1937 Stalin's Year of Terror by Helmut T. Huebert, The Gates of Moscow edited by H.J. Willms, My Harp is Tuned to Mourning by Al Reimer, and many more.