Fonds PP - Jacob Hoemsen fonds

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Jacob Hoemsen fonds


  • 1900-1968, 1995, 2007 (Creation)

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Extent and medium

10 cm of textual records
37 photographs

Context area

Name of creator


Biographical history

Jacob Hoemsen (1879-1969) was born in the village of Hierschau, Molotschna to Heinrich Hoemsen and Agatha Friesen. In 1885 the family moved to the Memrik colony. After his father's death around 1886 or 1887, at least 3 of the children were sent to live with other families as orphans. His mother married J. Fast. Jacob was moved around from family to family year after year. In 1900 Jacob studied at a technical school in Dippoldiswalde, Germany, taking courses in bookkeeping and German. In 1901 he served his country in the forestry service (Forstei) as a conscientious objector as an alternative to military service. In 1905 he volunteered to serve with the Red Cross in the Russo-Japanese war and was stationed at Urulga. Here he visited the nearby areas of Nerschish, Manchuria, and Vladivostok on the eastern coast. He was responsible for commissary supplies as opposed to attending to the sick and wounded. After serving for less than a year he moved to Halbstadt, Molotschna where he worked as the treasurer and bookkeeper of the local Co-op store. On May 1, 1910 he joined the firm of Franz and Schroeder in Halbstadt and later Tsaritsyn. During WWI he served as a medic (Sanitaeter) on board a medical train as the Russians fought the Germans. In 1915 he volunteered for a post at the front to be known as the "Flying Column". Now he wore a uniform and was the only non-Russian in the whole command working with the wounded. One night in May 1915 the unit came under heavy fire but he continued to work at serving the wounded. For this he and his unit received the St. George's medal 4th grade for bravery. In 1916 he was appointed "Officer in Time of War" with the rank of Lieutenant. He was responsible for record keeping and had others under his command.
Hoemsen was wounded in 1918 and returned to Halbstadt where he became an interpreter for the German occupying forces. With the rise of anarchy in the area while living in Waldheim he joined the Gnadenfeld Selbstschutz or self defense unit under the command of German officers. The German forces left in the fall of 1918 and the Machno forces and other bandits took over the area.
In September 1919 Jacob Hoemsen married Maria Heidebrecht (1895-). She was the daughter of Peter Heidebrecht and Maria Driedger. They lived in Ufa, Snamenka, Gnadental, the Caucasus and lastly in Kazahkstan. Peter was exiled twice. Peter and Maria had seven daughters and one son. Daughters Maria Hoemsen and Elizabeth Mathies immigrated to Canada with their families in the 1920s. The rest of the family suffered a great deal under Stalin and the Soviet governments.

In 1919 Jacob Hoesmen was still employed with the Franz and Schroeder firm. His employment ended in 1923 when the factory closed. A new position was found with the newly formed German Raion in Halbstadt in 1924 where he worked as a bookkeeper. In 1925 he, his wife and 2 daughters immigrated to Canada. They lived in Saskatchewan for 2 years, in Ontario for another 2 years and finally settled in Alexander, Manitoba near Brandon. In total he and his wife had 6 children: Margarita, Kay, Betty, Peter, Hugo, and Verner. Jacob Hoemsen died on October 10, 1969 in Alexander, Manitoba.

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Margaret Silver

Content and structure area

Scope and content

The materials in this fonds consists of materials related to the life of Jacob Hoemsen and to the Heidebrecht family. The Homsen materials included letters to and from family members in Russia after WWI, documents, diary, and photos related to Hoemsen's experiences during various wars including the Russo-Japanese war of 1905, and a book of memoirs edited by his daughter Margaret Silver. This fonds is unique as gives details of the various conflicts of the early 20th Century in Russia and how a Mennonite moved from doing alternative service to serving the Russian and German war efforts and actively participating in the Mennonite Selbstschutz (self defense unit).

The Heidebrecht family materials consists of a manuscript by Margaret Silver that, with the help of old letters, reconstructs the life of the Heidebecht family as it struggled to survive in Russia under Stalin and the Soviet governments. Also included are photos and documents to his wife Maria Heidebrecht's experience as a student in Russia. This material is helpful in understanding the experiences of the Mennonites after World War one, the collectivization of the farms, Stalin's purges, labour camps, famine, deportation and exile, great trek to Germany, repatriation to the U.S.S.R., and life in Russia up to the modern era.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


System of arrangement

Described by Conrad Stoesz October 5, 2005, updated by Conrad Stoesz April 28, 2008.

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None to access

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Language and script notes

English, German and some Russian

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Notes area


Acc. No. 2005-084, 2008-035

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