Fast, Marie K. (1901-1945)

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Published in Mennonite Weekly Review, 1945.
Marie Fast, center, stands with fellow workers Grace Augsburger, left, and Bertha Fast Harder in El Shatt refugee camp in Egypt, 1945.
Photo:Courtesy of Mennonite Library and Archives (North Newton, Kansas)

Marie Katherine Fast was born to Russian immigrants, Herman J. and Aganetha Becker Fast on 20 February 1901 in Mountain Lake, Minnesota. She was the seventh of eight children. Marie died while in service with Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) in Europe as the end of World War II approached.

Marie graduated from the Mountain Lake high school and attended the local Bible school. She proceeded to nurses’ training at the Mennonite hospital in Beatrice, Nebraska, and graduated as a registered nurse from a hospital in Lincoln, Nebraska. Marie pursued post-graduate studies in hospitals in Detroit and Chicago.

Following completion of her studies, Marie worked as a nurse in Red Wing, Minnesota, and Portland, Oregon. The suffering from World War II in Europe motivated Marie to seek to respond. She volunteered for service with the Mennonite Central Committee.

A contemporary described Marie as “a quiet, unassuming and pleasant person always congenial, hardworking never complaining and thoroughly conscientious."

MCC assigned Marie to work with refugee children at the El Shatt refugee camp in Egypt. The United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) ran the camp situated in the desert of the Sinai Peninsula. MCC provided workers to help in the camps which housed eastern European refugees mostly from the Dalmatian coast of what was then Yugoslavia (known as Croatia later) that were evacuated by the Allies, ahead of a German invasion in 1944.

At the end of hostilities, Fast and another nurse volunteered to accompany a group of refugees returning to Yugoslavia, across the Mediterranean and Adriatic Seas. The two nurses were to care for 36 patients, as well as attend to the general health needs of the 1,700 people aboard the ship. The trip there went well.

On the return trip to Egypt, early on the morning of 2 May 1945, Marie’s ship struck a mine, sinking it. Most passengers found safety in lifeboats, despite the rough seas. As others lowered the lifeboat in which Marie, age 44, was seated, the rope attached to one end of the boat failed, sending Marie and one other occupant into the stormy water.

Marie’s body was never recovered.[1] The Bethel Mennonite Church in Mountain Lake held a memorial service on 17 June 1945. The memorial stone in the Mountain Lake Cemetery bears this inscription: "Gave her life in the Adriatic Sea as an MCC relief worker."


  1. Marie Fast was the 2nd MCC volunteer who died in service due to intentional violence. The first was Kratz, Clayton (1896-1920) in 1921. Others include Gerber, Daniel Amstutz (1940-1962?) in 1962 and Lapp, Glen D. (1969-2010) in 2010.


"Marie K. Fast, Middle East relief worker reported missing."Mennonite Weekly Review. (17 May 1945): 1.

"First hand report of tragedy at Dr. G. Richard Yoder."'Mennonite Weekly Review (24 May 1945): 1,5.

"Memporial for relief worker lost at seat enroute to Middle East." Mennonite Weekly Review. (21 June 1945): 1.

"News of general interest." Mennonite Weekly Review. (28 June 1945): 1.

"Life sketch of relief worker lost at sea." Mennonite Weekly Review. (9 August 1945): 1,5.

Archival Records

Records at Mennonite Central Committee Archives (Akron)

Author(s) Kenneth Sensenig
Date Published 18 May 2024

Cite This Article

MLA style

Sensenig, Kenneth. "Fast, Marie K. (1901-1945)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 18 May 2024. Web. 16 Jul 2024.,_Marie_K._(1901-1945)&oldid=179075.

APA style

Sensenig, Kenneth. (18 May 2024). Fast, Marie K. (1901-1945). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 16 July 2024, from,_Marie_K._(1901-1945)&oldid=179075.

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