What might we have done?

Lisa Schirch (Letters, March 25) unfairly reflects on Mennonites in Ukraine who lived through the Soviet era. Mennonites did welcome the German army in 1941, but that does not equate to joining the Nazis. They had been through a decade of brutalization under the Soviets, lost thousands of family heads, denied the right to gather for worship in churches and seen many starve to death. Why would they not welcome those who came as deliverers? If it was only months later that they began to realize the Nazi agenda included killing of Jews, we should not be surprised. I have met enough people who lived through that period to believe that not nearly all knew or supported what the Nazis were doing. There certainly were those who became complicit in the genocide, but I don’t believe it was the majority.

Those who knew felt little ability to intervene. I had a relative who lived within a cluster of Jewish villages, and he became aware when the Germans herded the people into a ravine and killed them. He told me he heard the shooting and the screams. But he had barely survived exile, where his parents and a sibling starved to death. He felt as powerless as he had when he was sent to a place from which few returned. Few Mennonites would have felt any ability to challenge the course of events. Can we lay the burden of what happened on all of them? Who knows what we might have done?

Harold Jantz, Winnipeg, Man.

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