Schreiber, Ilse (1886-1980)

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Ilse Gottwald Schreiber: German novelist; born in Bad Pyrmont, Lower Saxony, Germany in 1886. She married Professor Dr. Otto Schreiber and in 1927-28 the couple enjoyed a lecture tour of the United States of America and also visited Montreal and Saskatchewan in Canada, including visiting her sister who was homesteading in the Frenchman Butte area near Lloydminster, Saskatchewan. In 1937 she toured Canada extensively. Ilse’s writing career spanned almost 30 years beginning in 1934 and among her works set in Western Canada are several short stories, a travel narrative and six novels. Two of her novels have Mennonite characters and the travel narrative makes brief comments on them.

Schreiber’s fiction set in Canada has mostly young adult female protagonists. They have emigrated from Germany with their homesteading families into the Canadian prairies. These young adults are active, strong willed, and practical. Though they consider themselves as Canadians and they choose to adapt to this more rugged environment their destiny is to bond with other German immigrants establishing an "Auslandsdeutschtum," a Germany in a foreign land, where their superior will asserts itself over the land and its people. Schreiber’s Germans are people who employ technology to subdue the land whereas the Aboriginal people are backward and part of the wilderness. Schreiber wrote in the 1930s and 40s and displays a view of German racial superiority that resonated with the National Socialist attitude of her times.

The Mennonites of Schreiber’s writings were an acceptable form of Germans who employed technology and resources to develop successful German speaking communities in a difficult pioneering land. Their isolation from the non-Germans is a good example of how German colonization should function in a new land. The novel Vielerlei Heimat unter der Himmel is the only work with a major focus on Mennonites. In this work the father and son of the Jacob Martens family struggle with both land and faith and the need to adapt both to the Canadian environment, to changing rural – urban opportunities and to open their closed communities to others.


Strzelczyk, Florentine. "'Fighting Against Manitou:' German Identity and Ilse Schreiber’s Canada Novels Die Schwester aus Memel (1936) and Die Flucht in Paradise (1939)." In Sophie Discovers Amerika: German-speaking Women Write the New World, edited by Rob McFarland and Michelle Stott James. Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2014.

Fiction and Travel Books by Ilse Schrieber with Mennonite Associations

Schrieber, Ilse. Die Flucht ins Paradies. [The escape to Paradise]. Hamburg, Germany: Hanseatische Verlagsanstalt, 1939: 373 pp. Several reprints published. In this novel an adventuresome young women, Jelly Hagen, lives for a season with Meno, a young man with a German Mennonite father. She leaves Menno when she realises that he has become a "White Indian."

Schrieber, Ilse. Vielerlei Heimat unter der Himmel. [Many different homes under heaven]. Hamburg, Germany: Küsten-Verlag Cornelius van der Horst, 1949: 454 pp. Translated rather freely by Sarah Dyck (b. 1924) into English as: Many are the Voices of Home. Waterloo, ON: Klandyck Books, 2006: 355 pp. The translation review by Andrea Dyck in: Journal of Mennonite Studies 26 (2008): 248-249. The labors, struggles, and changes transforming two Russian Mennonite families who fled the Soviet Union and homesteaded on the isolated Canadian prairie are recounted in this novel.

Schrieber, Ilse. Die Welt des Weizens und der Tränen: mein kanadisches Tagebuch. [The World of Wheat and Tears: My Canadian Journal]. Hamburg, Germany: Hanseatische Verlagsanstalt. 1943. 324, [4] pp. + [48] pages of plates. Reprinted in 1951. A description of Schreiber’s Canadian travels in which Mennonites are mentioned incidentally.

Author(s) Victor G Wiebe
Date Published November 2014

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Wiebe, Victor G. "Schreiber, Ilse (1886-1980)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. November 2014. Web. 13 Jun 2021.,_Ilse_(1886-1980)&oldid=130751.

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Wiebe, Victor G. (November 2014). Schreiber, Ilse (1886-1980). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 13 June 2021, from,_Ilse_(1886-1980)&oldid=130751.

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