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Title: The Mennonite Selbstschutz in the Ukraine : 1918-1919
Authors: Chipman, Josephine
Issue Date: 1-Aug-1988
Abstract: Mennonite pacifism has its roots in the sixteenth century Anabaptist movement of western Europe. For centuries the Mennonites interpreted their pacifism in terms of non-resistance. However, during a period between 1918 and 1920, Mennonite colonists in the Ukraine organized a unit for self-defence known as the Selbstschutz. The purpose of this study is to determine why a people historically committed to peace abandoned their principles and resorted to force. The subject of Mennonite non-resistance in general, and the Selbstschutz in particular, has received little attention from historians. Books dealing with Mennonite history refer to the Selbstschutz fleetingly, if at all. Frank Epp, for example, in his two volume study of the Mennonites in Canada devotes less than a page to the Selbstschutz, describing it as "hastily assembled Home Defence" and concluding that the "Mennonites paid dearly for their resistance". Similarly brief is C. Henry Smith's treatment of the subject which concludes that "In later years, the older generation of Mennonites, as represented in conferences, officially condemned the Selbstschutz as a tactical blunder, as well as a violation of their traditional peace princples." One historian who has discussed the Selbstschutz in detail is Lawrence Klippenstein. In his dissertation he deals with the Selbstschutz within the larger context of Mennonite pacifism. In the chapter "Revolution and the Civil War" Klippenstein looks at the Selbstschutz as one aspect of the Mennonite response to the terror in the Ukraine. He speculates that few Mennonites had thought through the concept of pacifism to its ultimate conclusion which is, of course, that one must be prepared to suffer and die for the peace principle if necessary. When called upon to make a firm commitment to non-resistance at the All-Mennonite Conference they side-stepped the issue, concluding that each man must be allowed to follow his own conscience. The failure of the Conference to take a united stand against self-defence allowed those who favored arming the colonies to do so openly and aggressively. In spite of the fact that armed resistance seemed justifiable to many Mennonites at the time, some of those who compromised their ideals were left with troubled minds. Klippenstein raises the question, "Why was it that the peace principle had been so readily subdued when put to the test?", but he does not pursue an answer...
Other Identifiers: ocm72749343
Appears in Collection(s):FGS - Electronic Theses & Dissertations (Public)
Manitoba Heritage Theses

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