Friday, 9 September 2011

Manitoba WWII CO Memorial

The Wall of Remembrance, a peace memorial and teaching aid recognizing all 3,021 Manitoba conscientious objectors during World War II, will be dedicated at 3 pm Sunday, September 11, 2011 in Winkler, Manitoba. See Program.

Wall of Rememberance, Bethel Heritage Park, Winkler, Manitoba.

Two Doukhobors from Benito, Manitoba, are among those who chose nonkilling alternatives to war in Manitoba during WWII:
Bethel Heritage Park during construction
According to Jonathan Kalmakoff, Doukhobor Genealogy Website, though they were from Manitoba, they registered under the Regina, SK Division "M" mobilization district. They lived ~1 mile from the Saskatchewan border, the Doukhobor North Reserve, and would be with other Doukhobor COs during alternative service.

Though a complete list of the 10,000+ WWII conscientious objectors in Canada was destroyed by the government, it is known that 3,021 lived in Manitoba. See a partial list in-progress with about 2,300 names collected so far.

The Wall of Remembrance is in the southwest corner of Bethel Heritage Park, north of West Pembria Ave along 6th Street. Winkler is 130 km (80 miles) southwest of Winnipeg, and 20 km (12 miles) north of the US border and North Dakota.

The monument has 3 functions:
  1. Past — Recognize the witness of 3,021 young men in Manitoba who chose alternative service in time of war.
  2. Pesent — A teaching aid. The production of peace teaching materials will equal the cost of the wall.
  3. Future — The exhibit and published material in the adjacent city library peace collection, and on the Internet, will educate the next generation about the values of peacemaking, nonkilling and nonwar.
Hundreds are expected to attend the broadly announced Sunday afternoon dedication program emceed by Bernie Loeppky, which includes:
  • greetings from representatives of the many congregations invited
  • the background of the memorial
  • announcement of educational booklet and video
  • choir singing
  • refreshments

Conrad Stoesz, archivist at the Mennonite Heritage Centre, will present the history. The National Anthem of Canada and 'Faith of our Fathers' are among the 5 songs scheduled. The Evangelical Anabaptist Fellowship of Canada, representing 6 different Mennonite conferences in Canada, is hosting the dedication event. See Program.

This peace memorial was verbally attacked by a few Canadian veterans who claimed no peace memorials exist in Canada, or should be allowed. The protesters never appeared in person. Though war and veteran memorials exist by the thousands in Canada, about 100 peace monuments and museums are listed in the Peace Monument Directory for Canada.

The wall is sponsored by the Evangelical Anabaptist Fellowship (EAF), the Manitoba Mennonite Historical Society (MMHS), a group of C.O.’s who served in Alternative Service during World War II, and many other supporters. For more information contact Bernie Loeppky <>, Board of Directors Evangelical Anabaptist Fellowship of Canada (EAP), and founding member of Grace Mennonite Church, Winkler.

Bethel Heritage Park

This wall is part of a concerted community effort, supported by donations, to do the right thing with a hectare (acre) of land in the middle of town. When their old Bethel Hospital was demolished 5 years ago, the city council heard proposals, from which emerged an educational park showcasing their diverse community.

The result was an outdoor classroom along a walking path with:
  • an entrance gate similar to Mennonite villages in Ukraine
  • storyboards depicting Winkler's history
  • war memorial for veterans
  • peace memorial to conscientious objectors (COs).
  • garden features — fountain, gazebo, flowers.

Though the majority (55% in 2001) are of Mennonite descent, with 10 of 19 churches being Mennonite, other denominations of Germans from Russia, and Jews have co-existed for generations.

“With this park we want to honour the past, build relationships in the present, and inspire our city for the future.” said Ken Loewen, secretary of the Bethel Heritage Park Committee on August 18, 2008 when plans for the site were unveiled.

100s Attend Wall Dedication, Sunday Sept 11, 2011.


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