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Featured Article: "Fast, Marie K. (1901-1945)

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Published in Mennonite Weekly Review, 1945.

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.

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The Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online provides reliable, freely-available English-language information on Anabaptist-related congregations, denominations, conferences, institutions and significant individuals, as well as historical and theological topics. Secular subject articles from an Anabaptist perspective and full-text source documents are also included.


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Other Mennonite Encyclopedias

GAMEO works together with the editors of other Mennonite encyclopedias to make their content available in the English language. These encyclopedias include:

Mennonite Historical Agencies

As a volunteer organization, we are unable to respond to questions on Mennonite history or genealogical questions of any kind.

For questions of that type, please contact a local genealogical society, or check with a Mennonite historical library or archives. For a list of Mennonite historical society or archives near you, please consult the

Directory of North American Mennonite Historical Agencies.

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GAMEO falls under the umbrella of the Mennonite World Conference Faith and Life Commission. Members of the Management Board include: Mennonite Historical Society of Canada, Mennonite Church USA Archives, Mennonite Brethren Historical Commission, Mennonite Central Committee, Mennonite World Conference, Institute for the Study of Global Anabaptism, and the D. F. Plett Historical Research Foundation.