Eric L. Ratzlaff: teacher and editor; born the sixth of eight children on 8 August 1911 in the village of Deutsch Wymyschle, Poland, to Leonhard Peter Ratzlaff (18 January 1880 – 12 August 1946, Stettin, Pomerania) and Anna (Wohlgemuth) Ratzlaff (25 August 1875, Deutsch Wymyschle, Poland – 31 August 1946, Dueringhausen, Germany). On 1 June 1935 he was married to Lydia Ratzlaff (11 June 1912, Deutsch Wymyschle, Poland - 19 June 2010, Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada) in the Mennonite Brethren Church of Deutsch Wymyschle by Eric’s father, Leonhard Peter Ratzlaff, who was the leading elder (Ältester). Lydia was the daughter of Franz Ratzlaff (1876–1945) and Anna (Kliewer) Ratzlaff (1876–1966). Eric and Lydia had 6 children: Richard, Frank, Trudy, Heinz, Leonard and Alice. Eric died 18 October 1988 in Abbotsford, British Columbia.
Eric was baptized and joined the church on 23 July 1928. In 1932, Eric obtained a teacher training degree (B. Ed) at the Teacher Training College in Ostrzeszow, Poland. He taught school in various villages in Poland. On 27 October 1942 he was drafted into military service in the German army. On 13 May 1945, Eric was taken as a prisoner of war in Czechoslovakia and in June of 1946, through contacts he made with relatives in Canada, he was reunited with his family in Germany. From June 1947 until August 1948 the family stayed at the International Relief Organization Camp Fallingbostel in Gronau, Germany. This camp was operated by Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) and Eric was engaged in a variety of camp activities, most notably ministry to the many children and young people in the camp.
On 19 July 1948 the family boarded the Dutch ship M.S. Tabinta in Rotterdam and disembarked in Quebec City on 29 July 1948, after which they traveled by train to Calgary and then by car to Acme, where Eric worked from August 1948 to February 1951 as a laborer and farmer. The family moved to Arnold, British Columbia and from 1951 to 1954 Eric worked in a variety of jobs including working away from the family in the construction industry in Vancouver.
From 1954 to 1967 he taught at the Mennonite Educational Institute in Abbotsford, British Columbia, primarily in the areas of German language, religion and church history. Through courses at Surpass Pacific College in Vancouver, summer sessions at the University of British Columbia and correspondence and extension courses Eric was able to upgrade his training and was able to obtain a permanent teaching certificate. Eric was remembered as an interesting teacher who enlivened his lessons with accounts of some of the experiences of his life. From 1962 to 1966 he served as the announcer of the Stimme des Evangeliums radio program, aired on KARI in Blaine, Washington.
From 1967 to 1979 he served as editor of the Mennonitische Rundschau, the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren (MB) Churches' periodical for German-speaking members. For part of that time his wife Lydia was able to help him in the Rundschau office. The 22 August 1979 issue included words of appreciation for his clear writing style and his faithfulness to the basic principles of God’s word and the teaching of the MB brotherhood.
Eric had a keen interest in the history of the Mennonites in Poland. He wrote the book Im Weichselbogen (Christian Press) in 1971. He also published a genealogy of the families that used to live in his home village entitled Familienregister, published in 1971. Eric was involved in writing and editing many publications including life stories, sermons and commentaries by well known Mennonite authors, preachers and Bible teachers.
On 13 January 1974, the Winnipeg Central MB Church ordained Eric to the ministry. He served in a variety of ministries, including preaching, teaching and behind the scenes work on numerous committees. In December 1979 Eric began serving as commentator and program coordinator for the German radio program, Licht des Evangelium. This continued for a few years until the program was discontinued. In February 1981, Eric and Lydia moved back to Abbotsford. They joined the Clearbrook MB Church where Eric served in various ministries, including writing a book of the history of the church (1986) and serving on the pulpit committee.
Eric will be remembered for his love for God, the church, his students, his colleagues and his family.
"Deaths: Lydia Ratzlaff." Mennonite Brethren Herald (September 2010): 32.
In 1989 the family donated the personal papers of Eric L. Ratzlaff to the Centre for Mennonite Brethren Studies in Winnipeg.
|Date Published||September 2013|
Cite This Article
Ratzlaff, Heinz. "Ratzlaff, Eric L. (1911-1988)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. September 2013. Web. 26 May 2016. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Ratzlaff,_Eric_L._(1911-1988)&oldid=101909.
Ratzlaff, Heinz. (September 2013). Ratzlaff, Eric L. (1911-1988). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 26 May 2016, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Ratzlaff,_Eric_L._(1911-1988)&oldid=101909.
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