Gerhard Toews (Georg de Brecht) (1897-1986), novelist and historian, was born in Schönfeld-Brazol, Ukraine. He attended the Halbstadt Kommerzschule (business school) and university in Kharkov, where his studies were interrupted by World War I. Toews served as an officer in the Molotschna Selbstschutz and after its collapse fled to the Crimea, where he joined the White Army and later eluded the Soviet authorities by escaping through Turkey to Germany. He emigrated to Canada in 1923 and farmed in Saskatchewan while trying to establish himself as a writer. His novels Heimat in Flamen (Homeland Aflame, 1933) and its sequel Heimat in Trümmern (Homeland in Rubble, 1936) which portray the dramatic experiences of Mennonite soldiers, were well received but had limited sales. Disappointed, Toews moved back to Germany in 1939, hoping to improve his writing fortunes. He returned to Canada in 1951 and settled in St. Catharines, Ontario.
In his novels Toews generates strong narrative energy and depicts actions and pathos through believable if somewhat stereotyped characters. He never really stands above his fictional world, and he accepts Russian-Mennonite attitudes and values uncritically. Nevertheless, his novels are important firsthand fictional accounts of a tragic chapter in Mennonite history.
Brecht, Georg de. Die Heimat in Flammen. Regina, SK: Sonderabdruck aus Der Courier, n.d.
Janzen, Jacob H. "The Literature of the Russian-Canadian Mennonites." Mennonite Life 1 (January 1946): 22-25.
Reimer, Al. "The Russian-Mennonite Experience in Fiction." Mennonite Images: Historical, Cultural and Literary Essays Dealing with Mennonite Issues, ed. Harry Loewen. Winnipeg: Hyperion Press Ltd., 1980: 227-29.
Toews, Gerhard. Die Heimat in Trümmern. Steinbach, MB: Warte Verlag, 1936.
Toews, Gerhard. Schönfeld: Werde und Opfergang einer deutschen Siedlung in der Ukraine. Winnipeg: Rundschau Publishing House, 1939.
Cite This Article
Reimer, Al. "Toews, Gerhard (Georg de Brecht) (1897-1986)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1989. Web. 29 Apr 2017. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Toews,_Gerhard_(Georg_de_Brecht)_(1897-1986)&oldid=78218.
Reimer, Al. (1989). Toews, Gerhard (Georg de Brecht) (1897-1986). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 29 April 2017, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Toews,_Gerhard_(Georg_de_Brecht)_(1897-1986)&oldid=78218.
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