news spread quickly. The first person into the Leamington
Mennonite church that Sunday morning quickly told the others
as they arrived. The church had been vandalized! Sometime on the
night of 25 May 1940, a person or group of people had broken into
the church basement and destroyed dishes and Sunday School material.
congregation cancelled the communion service it had planned for
that morning and assessed the damage. Someone snapped a few pictures
before they started to clean up the mess left by the intruders.
At least two of these photos survive.
do you see when you look at these pictures of the church basement?
basement after being vandalized
||Torn up Sunday
School material in Leamington church basement
first picture is of the damaged room. The dishes lie broken on the
floor and a large counter has been overturned. In the background
you can see large posters lying on the ground. The second photo
is a close-up of these posters. This shot shows that the posters
are Sunday School material that has been ripped and crumpled up.
They are in English. A few of them are maps. The others show illustrations
based on the Bible.
pictures show the result of the vandalism, but no one knows why
this happened. We do know that it was part of a wider pattern of
events in Leamington, Ontario. The Mennonites had lived in Leamington
for less than twenty years when the war started. The local citizens
wondered if the Mennonites would be loyal to Canada or to Germany.
These Mennonites had lived in the Soviet Union for more than one
hundred years before coming to Canada, but people still thought
they were German because they spoke the German language. The RCMP
even wanted to fingerprint some of the Mennonites. This exercise
was cancelled when it was discovered that the Mennonites were born
and raised in the Soviet Union, which was not an enemy country in
the Second World War.
so, the RCMP searched the home of Jacob Janzen, a Mennonite minister.
could the Mennonites do? They had voluntarily cancelled their German
school classes so they wouldn't offend their neighbours. They had
voluntarily stopped serving meals in the church basement so that
no one could accuse them of meeting together to plot against Canada.
They also took offerings during the church service and gave them
to the Red Cross. Even so, on the night of 25 May 1940, someone
broke into the church and vandalized the basement.