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… is made possible by Otto Klassen's gift to distribute his films. This is a joint project between the Centre for Mennonite Brethren Studies and the Mennonite Heritage Centre of Winnipeg. Both centres are national archival centres and have seen demand for services grow. At the same time they are facing new challenges and opportunities with new electronic possibilities. Read more [PDF file]

You can help preserve and make accessible records held at the centres that God’s story in the life of the Mennonite and Mennonite Brethren Community. For a donation of $30 ($25 will be receipted) you can choose of Otto Klassen’s fascinating documentaries. For $60 choose 2, for a $90 donation choose 3 etc. They make great gifts for family and friends. Download the Donation Response Form.

Otto has over 50 films to his credit in various languages including English, German, Low German and Spanish. The following are currently available.

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Remembering Our Mennonite Heritage traces the origins of the Anabaptist-Mennonite movement and the migration of the persecuted Anabaptist believers to Polish-Prussia in the 16th Century. 250 years later, over one half of these Prussian Mennonites respond to an invitation of the Russian Tsars to settle in southern Russia (in what is now Ukraine) during the years 1789 to 1836; and in central Russia from 1853-1870. The “golden years” of this Mennonite Commonwealth came to an end with the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. 2007 production, 45 minute DVD.

 
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Prairie Pioneers: The Mennonites of Manitoba (1874-1974) is Klassen’s first full-length film produced in 1974. The film recreates various aspects of pioneer life, such as the building of sod huts (zemlin), and the arrival of Russian-Mennonite settlers at the junction of the Red River and Rat River in 1874. It also includes footage of Manitoba Centennial Celebrations of 1970 in various Manitoba Mennonite communities, including the first ever visit of members of the Royal Family – Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip and Prince Charles – to a Mennonite village in Canada and the visit of rime Minister Pierre Trudeau to Steinbach. 1974 production, re-mastered in 2007, 43 minute DVD.

 
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Remembering Russia 1914-1927: War and the end of Mennonite Tranquility. The Mennonites in southern Russia, present-day Ukraine, had become affluent. They worked hard in their tight-knit communities, bound by a common language and faith. That all changed with the beginning of World War I in 1914. A bloody civil war in 1917, churned through the country and ended the Mennonite way of life. Farms, enterprises and churches were expropriated and families died at the hands of marauding anarchists. As their world crumbled thousands of Mennonites fled to Canada. 2006 production, 43 minute DVD.

 
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Remembering Russia 1928-1938: Collectivization and Mass Arrest. This DVD documents the spiritual battles and sufferings of Mennonites in Soviet Russia from the introduction of the first Five-Year Plan in October 1928 to the end of The Great Terror in 1938. Soviet plans for the complete collectivization of agriculture, and the closing of all churches struck a hard blow to the traditional Mennonite way of life. Thousands fled to Moscow; others into China. Of those who remained, many suffered the fate of exile to the forests and mines of Northern Russia, Siberia, and Kolyma. Hundreds died during the terrible famine of 1933. Thousands of men and even some women were rounded up by the secret police and exiled to labour camps or simply shot. 2007 production, 52 minute DVD.
Note: also available in German

 
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The Great Trek: Part 1 (1939-1943). Otto Klassen uses rare archival photographs and film footage from the German Bundesarchiv to document the effects of the Soviet-German Non-aggressive Pact (August 1939), the German invasion of the Soviet Union (22 June 1941), and the subsequent two-year occupation of Ukraine on Soviet-Germans and Ukrainians in general and on the Mennonite villages of the Khortitsa and Molochna Settlements in particular. 1992 production re-mastered in 2007, 35 minute DVD.

 
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The Great Trek: Part 2 (1943-1945). Otto Klassen uses rare archival photographs and film footage from the German Bundesarchiv to document the westward retreat of over 350,000 Soviet-Germans and Mennonites in Fall of 1943, their resettlement in German-Occupied Polish territory, and their eventual flight from advancing Red Army forces in the early months of 1945. 1992 production, re-mastered in 2007, 39 minute DVD.

 
red background, soviet hammer and sickle

The Burden of the Soviet Star. After the Russian Revolution, famine, and the Great War, Stalin’s communism was an even harsher burden especially for those exiled to labor camps. The camps were in isolated areas where conditions were notoriously horrible.

 
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Pioneers in the Chaco. The harsh environment of the Paraguayan Chaco did not scare off the Mennonites who moved there from Canada in the 1920s. With their faith they forged a path into the wilderness which others would soon follow. The heirs of these pioneers have been reaping the rewards based on the pioneers’ courage. (45 minutes) (2009)

 
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Personal Experiences of Mennonites from Russia. A presentation of four (4) short Otto Klassen Productions featuring speakers such as Dr. Marlene Epp, Professor of History, University of Waterloo; story-teller Peter J. Dyck, teacher Gerhard Ens and others on Mennonites who experienced trauma and terror during early Soviet communism through to World War II. (45 minutes)