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Harder, Abram A. (1866–1941)

Proper Title

Abram A. Harder fonds

Dates of Creation

1936, 1965

Physical Description

1 folder of textual records

Biographical Sketch

Abram A. Harder was born in Hierschau, South Russia on September 29, 1866 to Abraham J. Harder (1840–1925) and Anna Fast (1841–1898). After son Abram’s schooling Abram, J. Harder left his job as village school teacher and moved the family to a farm in Alexanderwohl. Here Abram J. Harder became a preacher in the Alexanderwohl church.

On January 22, 1891, Abram A. married Justina Epp (-1936) and for the first few years farmed in Neu-Toksaba, Crimea. Here they were rebaptized into the Mennonite Brethren church at Spat, Crimea. About 1900 they moved their family from Neu-Toksaba, Crimea back to the Molotschna colony with the intension of establishing an orphanage. This vision Abram had from his youth. After checking with various villages, they moved to the village of Rosenort, where his wife’s parents lived, to wait for the right opportunity to establish the orphanage. After some disappointment, a location and circumstances became favourable in Grossweide. On July 20, 1906, they bought a house and converted it into an orphanage. In later years a large modern school building with a boy’s dormitory was added.

They ran the mission without any trouble until November 1922. The Russian Board of Education prohibited any religious education. Eventually they were forced to leave the orphanage and took work as house parents in an old folks home. Here they worked for two years. They resigned in 1926 and moved to Rueckenau. Here Abram was elected as deacon. Some of their children had emigrated to Mexico and Canada and they wanted to as well, but their child, Anna, was of poor health and therefore not allowed to emigrate.

In 1931, the communists confiscated all their possessions except the bare necessities. During the night they fled for fear of being exiled to Siberia. They took refuge in the home of their daughter and son-in-law, Jacob Janzens in the Crimea. After four months the Janzens were banned to the jungles at Archangelsk. The Harders were not banished but were unable to return to their house. They lived in a dugout that had been used as a chicken coop. Here Justina took ill and died in July 1936. Abram and daughter Anna went to live with his daughter, Bertha, who had just married K. Harder. A few months after the birth of her first child, Rudi, her husband was taken away, never to be seen again. Bertha had to work to provide food for four people, the child, her father, sister, and herself. In September 1941 all four were banished to Kasachstan. It is believed that about this time Abram A. Harder died.

Custodial History

The diary in this collection was given to son John A. Harder who wanted to publish the diary. John Harder added a postscript which completes his parents story. John died in 1964 before this project was completed. His brother, Abram Harder, finished the project and sent a copy to the Mennonitische Rundschau where it was published in 1965. When this material came to the archives and who donated it is unknown.

Scope and Content

This fonds consists of a note book into which the diary, printed in the Mennonitische Rundschau were pasted, stariung with June 9, 1965. It is unclear when the original diary was written. The diary was sent to his son John A, Harder of Clearbrook, BC in 1962. Also included is a translation of the diary. The diary documents the running of the orphanage and the difficulties encountered with the government after the First World War. Also included is a copy of an article which talks about the orphanage, written after the death of Justina (Epp) Harder in 1936. The material is in German and English.


  • Volume 965.
  • Described by Conrad Stoesz December 3, 1999, updated February 15, 2002.
  • No restrictions.
  • Finding aid consists of a file list.
  • Related Materials: John A. Harder fonds.

File List

Volume 965

  1. Scribbler of clippings of Abram A. Harder’s diary, published in the Mennonitische Rundschau. – June 9, 1965.
  2. Copy of A. Kröker, “Nicht Umsonst Gelebt”, in Mennonitische Rundschau, November 25, 1936.
  3. English copy of A.A. Harder’s diary, translated by Justine Harder Rempel. – October 1965.
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