of Alberta

Alfred Klassen fonds

Accession 2016.003

Title and Physical Description

Alfred Klassen fonds. – 1929-2016. –  8 cm of textual records. –  8 photographs. – 1 map.

Administrative/Biographical history

Alfred Klassen was  the grandson of Franz Peter Klassen and the son of Jacob Franz and Maria Klassen. After the death of his parents in 1983 Alfred Klassen discovered a collection of letters received by his parents between 1929 and 1933 from his father’s brothers or sisters-in-law living in the Soviet Union.

The date and place of birth of Franz Peter Klassen (Alfred Klassen’s grandfather) is not known, but he apparently lived for some time in the Judenplan village of Novo Jhitomir.  In 1908 he auctioned off the family’s assets with the intention of joining his daughter who had emigrated earlier and was living with her family in Saskatchewan.  Serious delays in Riga, Latvia, caused him to change his plans and move instead, together with his unmarried sons, ranging in age from 11 to 26, to a newly established Mennonite village at Gljaden, Siberia.   Franz Peter Klassen died in 1920.

Peter Franz Klassen and Helene (Fast) Klassen registered in a collective in Issyl Kul and moved therein the spring of 1930. He died there of natural causes in 1933.

The family of Abram Franz Klassen and his wife, Susana (Wilms) Klassen ,were exiled to the Narym forestry camp in 1931.  Two of their smallest children died en-route.  Abram and his son Abraham died within a few years.

Nikolai Franz Klassen and Liese (Dyck) Klassen apparently returned to Chortitza, but in 1933 they joined Nikolai’s brothers, Isaak and Peter, who had registered in a collective in Issyl Kul.  Nikolai was exiled in 1937 because “he had relatives in foreign lands,” and was never heard of again.

Isaak Franz Klassen and Maria (Friesen) Klassen, as already mentioned, registered in a collective in Issyl Kul.  Little is known of the subequent fate of the family.

Daniel Franz Klassen and Anna (Giesbrecht) Klassen apparently lived in one of the Gljaden villages in the early 1930s.  Little is known of the subsequent fate of the family.

Custodial History

The original letters from relatives in the Soviet Union were written to Jacob Franz and Maria Klassen.  Their son, Alfred Klassen found, transcribed and translated the letters and added relevant genealogical information.  He donated the fonds to the Mennonite Historical  Alberta in 2016.

Scope and Content

The collection consists of 55 letters written by five of Franz Peter Klassen’s sons, or their wives to their relatives – the Jacob Franz Klassen family in Canada.  These letters are arranged by family and then chronologically.  They are written on poor quality paper in the Gothic script, but have been transcribed and the translated by Alfred Klassen who also provided biographical and explanatory information, 8 photographs and map of the Gljaden village

Notes, explanatory comments, genealogical information, transcriptions and translations of the family letters, in the order listed below.

55 letters or postcards written by members of the Klassen family living in the Soviet Union, addressed to Jacob Franz Klassen in Canada
-5 letters, 1 post card from Peter Franz Klassen and Helene (Fast) Klassen, 1931-1932.
-11 letters, 1 post card from Abram Franz Klassen and Susana (Wilms) Klassen, 1930-1932.
-6 letters from Nikolai Franz Klassen and Liese (Dyck) Klassen, 1929-1930.
-28 letters, postcards and smaller written communications from Isaak Franz Klassen and Maria (Friesen) Klassen, 1931-1933.
-4 letters from Anna (Giesbrecht) Klassen, wife of Daniel Franz Klassen, 1931-1933

8 photographs, described in greater detail in Alfred Klassen’s notes.
-1882, Franz Peter Klassen, his wife, and sons Franz F. and Peter F. Klassen
-1925, Nikolai F. Klassen and Elizabeth (Dyck) Klassen
-1926, Daniel F. Klassen and Anna (Giesbrecht) Klassen with baby.
-1928, Isaak F. Klassen and Maria (Friesen) Klassen and family.
-1929, Abram F, Klassen and Susana (Willms) Klassen and family
-1934, Peter F. Klassen and Helena (Fast) Klassen with family and relatives.
-1934, Family at Issyl Kul, probably in Isaak F. Klassen’s home.
-The Peter Dyck’s sod house

Map of Gljaden area, from the internet.

Source of Acquisition

Gift by Alfred Klassen