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side had its own prejudices. Some people didn't like the Mennonites
because they spoke German and refused to fight for Canada. Austin
Cross wrote a series of travel reports for the Ottawa Citizen.
His report on Saskatchewan was called “Heiling Hitler on Saskatchewan
Relief.” The title referred to his claim that most Mennonites needed
assistance from the government and yet were loyal to the German
dictator Adolf Hitler, not Canada.
(Read full article)
example, Cross wrote that “These Mennonites are just about all for
Hitler” and that the Mennonites fit into Canadian democracy “about
as well as ostriches mate with oysters.” The rest of the article
was on the same theme.
spring the Mennonite children came to school boasting about Hitler,
and the one or two English kiddies had to hear these grubby Mennonites
– mostly on relief -- gloat when Denmark, Holland or Belgium were
invaded. Openly in the school yard, they told how good that was.
Canada 's turn would come, they announced gleefully. I can get
people who will supply the names of the individuals who boasted
that when Hitler got to Canada, he would soon put the old Canadian
settlers where they belong. And you gathered that the Mennonites
felt the Canadians belonged behind barbed wire.”
heard other more sinister stories, harder to confirm, about conditions
up there. The funny part about it is, that most of this anti-British
faction is as yellow as the Italian navy. A littler bit of action
on the part of the authorities, and these people would be the
most abjectly craven and crawling. Too, they would respect Canada
a great deal more.”
saw by the papers that a teacher had recently been put in jail
in Saskatchewan for making the same sort of speeches to his pupils
the Mennonites have been making. Perhaps this not only proves
that I am giving you facts and not fancies, but that the authorities
out there have become belatedly alive to the anti-British elements
you read this article and didn't know anything about Mennonites,
you might conclude that they were the worst sort of people.
however, you read the response of some of the readers of the article,
you would get a much different impression. Dorise Nielsen, a Member
of Parliament from Saskatchewan criticized Cross's generalizations.
(Read full article)
a statement, so sweeping and so wide, is calculated to influence
our minds against these minority groups and is, in my opinion,
grossly unfair and without foundation, and evidence enough for
me that Mr. Cross is a most unreliable reporter and certainly
not fit to send in contributions to a paper such as the Ottawa
of [the Mennonites], weighed down under a cloud of suspicion as
they are, are unable to defend themselves, and so I take this
opportunity to speak for them and to assure the readers of the
Citizen that great numbers of these people are as loyal
Canadians as any to be found. I cannot condemn severely enough
articles of this nature and sincerely hope the Citizen discontinues
Jennings, another reader, agreed with Nielsen.
(Read full article).
attack upon the Mennonites that appeared in a recent Citizen seems
to me to be unworthy of your paper. I don't know the author of
the article, but I do know that today there are malicious busybodies
styled as patriots quite ready to report a few careless spoken
and harmlessly intentioned words that are enough to place peaceful
people in a concentration camp with no means of defence or trial.”
it seems to me that the article slanders the Mennonites. I have
never lived amongst them in Saskatchewan, but I do know the Mennonites
of York county. I have lived beside them, worked beside them,
begged from them, and traded amongst them, and I have yet to find
a better type of people. To say they are chisellers is untrue.
Their ancestors from Pennsylvania bought and paid for every acre
they possess. They got no free grants.”
morals of the great majority of them are high, and most of them
are intensely religious; and what's better, they are Christian-hearted
and generous, and fair-minded and tolerant. To say they are unpatriotic
and pro-German is not true of the Mennonites I know. Some of the
strongest condemnations of Hitler and Stalin I've heard have come
from the lips of Mennonites.”
people saw the Mennonites as hard-working, peace-loving people,
while others saw them as friends of the enemy. It was tension like
this that led to the incident at Drake. Mennonite leaders
were very concerned about public perception Bishop David Toews and
Minister Jacob Gerbrandt corresponded about
this issue. (read letters to and from
Toews and Gerbrandt). Both men were personally threatened.
Government officials also wrote to Bishop Toews about this
incident, expressing concern. (Read a
letter and Toews' response).
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