Researching German Immigration to Western Canada

At Ambrose, history faculty and students research various local history projects. From 2016-2018, we are engaged in a project called “Refugee Stories: The Immigration and Resettlement of Germans in Western Canada, 1947-1960.” We are partnering with members of various German-Canadian communities in Calgary and throughout Alberta, combining scholarly research and oral history interviews to discover the history and memory of the emigration of Lutherans, Baptists, Mennonites, Catholics and others from Germany and/or Eastern Europe and their resettlement in Canada during the fifteen years after the end of the Second World War. This research will be community-based and participatory, which means that members of the German-Canadian community will be invited to bring their knowledge and expertise about this history into a partnership with university researchers.

We are delighted that “Refugee Stories” has the support of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) Alberta Synod, the Lutheran Church-Canada (LCC) Alberta-BC Synod, and the Mennonite Historical Society of Alberta, among others. The project is funded in part by Canadian Lutheran World Relief and by the University of Winnipeg’s Chair in German-Canadian Studies.

As of November 2016, we have engaged in three kinds of project work:

Networking: We have made contact with the Calgary chapter of the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia and various Lutheran officials, including Canadian Lutheran World Relief, resulting in a list of 200 potential interview participants and project volunteers, to be supplemented with contacts in Baptist, Mennonite, Catholic, and Church of God communities.

Compiling Resources: Based on input from scholars in the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 (Halifax), the Lutheran Historical Institute (Edmonton), the University of Winnipeg Chair in German-Canadian Studies, and the Mennonite Historical Society of Alberta, we have compiled an extensive bibliography of primary and secondary sources, and an interview guide.

Preparing Students: Eight third-year history students will be working with me on this project in the fall 2016 semester, with another 10 to 15 second-year students participating in the winter 2017 semester. We have engaged in oral history interview training, discussed an early interview I conducted with an immigrant from the 1950s, and have been engaged in background research from secondary and primary sources.

The next step is a reunion of immigrants and their families at Hope Lutheran Church on Saturday, November 26. We plan to conduct a History Harvest at that event, conducting short interviews centred on artifacts immigrants bring along to the reunion.

Reunion Poster.jpg

To learn more about the project, ask questions, or get involved, please contact Kyle Jantzen at 403-410-2000 (ext. 6902) or kjantzen@ambrose.edu. Please share this information with others who might be interested in the “Refugee Stories” project.

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