Vantage Points Flashback   -   Objecting to War - Whitewater in 1944

Please scroll down to the bottom of this story to listen to the audio recording with local historian David Neufeld.

Welcome to Vantage Points Flashback. We highlight personalities, places and opportunities in history, with stories that shape us as a region. Thank you, municipal councils, for your support.

This story has been written and aired because of the time we're in; while war is being waged in Ukraine. Please join in reflecting thoughtfully on why and how wars are fought.


Objecting to War

The adults keep their heads down. It's quite tense around here. You see, I was born in Canada, but most everyone older than me escaped New Russia, what later became Ukraine, as refugees. We're still adjusting to English Canada. And likely the English are still uncertain about us.

I'm Anne Heide. Folks call me ‘Noot’. It's 1943. I'm 15, living with my family on old #3 between Whitewater and Boissevain. I'm doing Grade 9 correspondence in Strathallan school. Evenings, we gather around the radio to hear news of the war; listening for good news so that our dear Peter can come home!

Many young English men from Boissevain are fighting against the German forces. We Mennonites speak German, which makes it easy to associate us with Canada's enemy. Our religion teaches that we must not do violence to others; that it's wrong to fight in wars; which makes it easy to think we're soft on Hitler. But in reality, we reject any authority that uses violence. We're mostly quiet, hardworking folks, trying to avoid attention. And that's hard, for an outgoing person like me.

Fortunately, Canada allows my oldest brothers to serve Canada while farming. Soldiers need a lot of food too. Peter applied too, to stay back as a farmer. But he was rejected. Father didn't need more help, they said. That was a hard day. The minister encouraged Peter to stay strong in his faith; to apply as a Conscientious Objector. Mennonites, Hutterites and Friends are Peace Churches. Canada allows their members to do alternate service. So, Peter applied, and was accepted!

Our Peter was a popular with the girls, partly because he owned his own car. And now he can't even come home – likely he'll be gone 2 full years. He had to go to Duck Mountains to work on a forestry gang.

Mennonites are divided though. Some of our young men joined the forces. Peter Engbrecht became a decorated rear gunner. He was an energetic kid; a hot-shot with his friends, and a crack-shot with a rifle. He wanted badly to join the air force. The church counseled against … but couldn't physically stop him. We've heard that his confident attitude persisted into the war. He was nearly court-marshalled twice, and now is famous for the number of German planes he shot down. Oh my...

The most awkward is when gunner-Peter attends church while on leave, wearing his uniform and jaunty wedge cap, even inside church. Then, with a cigarette and a swagger he attracts us young people to the parking lot, telling stories. I wonder, if those memories will haunt him when he's older.

Yes, it's been tense around here.


“Objecting to War” was inspired by stories I've been told. Stories are everywhere. Our 5-book series tells many local stories. Please contact Turtle Mountain Souris Plains Heritage Association. Website is There you can learn, where to buy the books. 

For more Vantage Points Flashback stories click HERE!

See ya’ later!


David Neufeld

Turtle Mountain-Souris Plains Heritage Association