The AW history of Ukraine’s Mennonites (“Rich history, vibrant witness,” March 4) left out significant parts of the story. Mennonites are not only victims. We are also perpetrators. 1) Ukraine was not empty when Mennonites colonized the land. Mennonites displaced Indigenous people. 2) While many Mennonites became wealthy, they employed Russian peasants. Economic disparity and perceptions that some Mennonites treated their neighbors disrespectfully contributed to the Bolshevik anger and violence. While there is no justification for the violence against Mennonites, it is also unfair not to explain the economic grievances of Mennonite neighbors. 3) The article suggests keeping their German language was somehow superior or ethical. Mennonites’ German identity led them to side with Hitler’s Nazi party. Despite false reports that Mennonites were coerced to join, there is plentiful evidence that Ukraine’s Mennonites supported Hitler enthusiastically. The Holocaust began in Ukraine. Some Mennonites participated in the genocide of their Jewish neighbors. Mennonite administrators in the local governments oversaw the killing. Mennonites knew their neighbors were being killed. While there are some stories of Mennonite-Jewish friendships, these are a small exception. If Mennonites want to have an ethical voice, we need to first look at the log in our own eye and come to terms with the way Mennonites have harmed others.
Lisa Schirch, South Bend, Ind.