Behrends, Ernst (1891-1982)

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Ernst Behrends, 1967

Ernst Behrends, born 19 May 1891, died 1982, was a North German writer whose major work, a series of six historical novels titled collectively Das Volk der Wanderschaft, deals with the history of the "peaceful " Anabaptists. Earlier literary treatments and literary research on Anabaptists had dealt almost exclusively with the more violent Anabaptists at Münster.

Behrends was a high school teacher in MöIln from 1911 to 1939, with the exception of his brief military service, cut short by a serious head wound. Even though he lived in North Germany close to the "Menno-Kate " (Menno Simons cottage) near Oldesloe, he did not know about the "peaceful " Mennonites until 1929, when 6,000 Russo-Germans (including 4,000 Mennonites) were housed in a refugee camp in Mölln. His contact with a type of Christianity which rejected force and revenge (Gewalt und Rache) impressed him to such an extent that he spent 1950 to 1966 studying and giving literary shape to Mennonite history, tracing the movement of Mennonites from Holland to North Germany, then to Prussia, later to Russia, then to Germany (Mölln in particular), and from there to North and South America.

The resulting sequence of six novels deals with the following periods of history: Der Ketzerbischof (The Heretic Bishop, 1525-1561); Die Rose von Wüstenfelde (The Rose of Wüstenfelde, 1618-1648); Der rote Tulipan (The Red Tulip, 1710-1713); Stromaufwärts (Upstream, 1786-1806); Der Steppenhengst (The Prairie Stallion, 1848-1906); and Wir trotzen dem Irrlicht (We Spite the False Light, 1929-1935, 1948-1961). The six novels were published between 1966 and 1977 (details under Literature, Mennonites in).

Behrends published at least five additional novels, four short stories, nine books of poetry, and many articles (including several about Mennonites). The Mennonite Library and Archives in North Newton, Kansas, has the most complete collection of his works, including typed manuscripts of several of his novels.


Obituary in Mennonitische Geschichtsblätter 39, n.F. 34 (1982): 96-105.

For a list of Behrends' writings, manuscripts, and reviews of his works see Herta Marie Funk, "Die religiose Weltanschauung in Ernst Behrends Romanreihe, Das Volk der Wanderschaft." PhD diss., University of Kansas, 1982.

In addition see Harry Loewen, "Themes and Symbols in the `Mennonite' Novels of Ernst Behrends, Mennonite Life 37, no. 1 (1982): 14-18.

Author(s) Herta Marie Funk
Date Published 1987

Cite This Article

MLA style

Funk, Herta Marie. "Behrends, Ernst (1891-1982)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1987. Web. 27 Feb 2024.,_Ernst_(1891-1982)&oldid=173842.

APA style

Funk, Herta Marie. (1987). Behrends, Ernst (1891-1982). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 27 February 2024, from,_Ernst_(1891-1982)&oldid=173842.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 5, pp. 62-63. All rights reserved.

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