Mennonites at war.
I love how fraught those three words are, conjuring two opposing images in my mind. First, of Mennonites in church, repressing hostility, perfecting the art of passive aggression, continually splitting from one another. Second, of Mennonites abandoning their church’s peace position to join the war effort.
Both these aspects are explored and entertained in the Mennonites at War exhibit at the MHV, alongside many other complicated threads, narratives, and the stories of those who operated in between these two initial impressions — those who served in the medical corps and alternative service, for instance.
Anyway, recently the MHV announced that the Mennonites at War exhibit would remain open until April 2022, and it made me think about when Andrew and I visited Morden earlier this year, and explored its war memorial.
The memorial is quite grand, in my opinion. (Or maybe I haven’t visited enough of them?)
You can probably see in the background of the above photo, there are little blue-green signs in the distance. Each one tells of a different aspect of war efforts throughout the years, and of local connections to both Morden and Winkler… including this sign which explains Conscientious Objectors:
Speaking of Winkler, I don’t think they have a war memorial at all. Or maybe they do — if so, it’s maybe diminutive like the one in Steinbach. Not as bold and grand as the one in Morden
I appreciated that the memorial has a panel about women and the war, naming specific women from Morden who served the armed forces in electrical and mechanical trades.
(Also of note, that tree by the women and war sign is massive and I love it.)
Several of these interpretative panels talk about people with ethnic Mennonite names, such as Private Henry Wiebe of Winkler, who is mentioned in the panel below titled “The Defence of Hong Kong, December 7-25, 1941” (his story is also told in the Mennonites at War exhibit, alongside a really cool photo).
The next time you visit Hong Kong, you could look for Henry Wiebe’s name inscribed on the Sai Wan Memorial.
Both above and below we see two postings of John McCrae’s war poem, “In Flanders Fields”.
Also on the left (below), the picture is titled “184th Battalion of Morden, Spring 1916”. (A Kroeker and a Goertzen are listed in the names on the right side of the photograph.) The panel on the right is titled “Peace!” and the first line reads, “The joy in the community over the tidings of peace on Monday was tempered to such an extent by the ravages of the ‘flu’…” linking the conclusion of World War l with the Spanish Flu pandemic.
Also on this site, at the back of a flower bed, we saw what we think is the remainder of a building that had stood here before. I can’t remember what we thought this might be. I like that it’s still here.
Andrew took this picture:
All in all, the Morden War Memorial is a lovely spot and it’s very informative too. (A visit here would be a terrific companion to visiting the Mennonites at War exhibit at the MHV!)
Controversial & Personal: Mennonites at War!
Not sure if you can see this, but here is a post from my former blog, about the time we visited the actual Flanders Fields in Belgium.