Over the past several years, numerous historians have highlighted how different Mennonite communities in Europe before and during the Second World War were entangled with and even actively participated in National Socialism, with some Mennonites helping to perpetrate the Holocaust. Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) intersected with this broader Mennonite history in multiple ways. In 2021, MCC asked 12 historians from Canada, the United States, the Netherlands, Germany, France and Paraguay to help us better understand MCC’s actions during this part of our institutional history, with summaries of their research published by MCC this past fall.
MCC is grateful for the efforts of these 12 historians and others who have conducted extensive research in many archives, including MCC’s records. Thanks to these historians’ writings, MCC has grown in its understanding of the complex ways that MCC’s relief efforts with Mennonite communities intersected with National Socialism.
MCC’s humanitarian work during this period did not always reflect MCC’s core values. MCC worked with pro-Nazi Mennonites like Benjamin Unruh in carrying out humanitarian efforts in the 1930s and 1940s. Some MCC workers in wartime France were slow to take action to protect Jews under threat from pro-Nazi forces. After the war, as part of MCC’s humanitarian efforts to help displaced Mennonites from the Soviet Union and the Danzig area migrate to Canada and South America, MCC workers promoted narratives that presented these Mennonites as separate from and victims of Nazism, when in fact the majority of these Mennonites had been entangled with National Socialism in multiple ways.
MCC grieves and repents of the harm caused by MCC’s actions and inactions during this period. MCC is committed, in collaboration with external consultants, to better telling MCC’s history in its complexity and to taking reparative steps over the coming months and years. These steps will include:
- Providing financial support for ongoing historical research into MCC entanglements with National Socialism as well as other oppressive systems such as racism, colonialism and sexism.
- Reviewing and updating how MCC narrates its post-Second World War refugee resettlement efforts, to incorporate findings from recent research.
- Renewing MCC’s determination to act against antisemitism, as part of MCC’s broader anti-racist commitments, with training for MCC staff to understand, name and confront antisemitism.
MCC today has regularly reviewed processes in place to help ensure that its relief, development and peacebuilding projects and communications reflect MCC’s core values. MCC reviews and assesses all initiatives and partnerships against these core values, seeking to be faithful to its mission of relief, development and peace in the name of Christ.
Rick Cober Bauman is executive director of MCC Canada, and Ann Graber Hershberger is executive director of MCC U.S. To read more about MCC’s findings, visit bit.ly/3zDMn1W.