IN THE MATTER OF THE SEIZURE OF BOOKS ENTITLED "LEBENSRAUM!"
BY DR. INGRID RIMLAND
BY REVENUE CANADA PURSUANT TO THE CANADA CUSTOMS ACT
I, INGRID RIMLAND, MAKE OATH AND SAY AS FOLLOWS in the matter of the trilogy of detained novels, Lebensraum, A Passion for Land and Peace, Lebensraum, The Theft of Land and Peace, and Lebensraum, The Dream of Land and Peace:
1. I am the author of the three Lebensraum novels detained by Canada Customs, a branch of Revenue Canada. These novels comprise an ethnic trilogy about a Russian-German sect, the Mennonites, five centuries old and known for their ethnic cohesion. These novels were written between 1981 and 1994.
2. I hold a bachelor's degree, magna cum laude, from Wichita State University, Kansas (1971) and a master's (1973) and doctorate (1979) degree, respectively, from the University of the Pacific, California. My professional training was in educational psychology and foreign languages.
3. Upon concluding my formal education, I worked first as an educational psychologist in California public schools and later as an educational consultant and testing specialist, serving six county-wide school districts and approximately 40 schools. I specialized in the needs of both gifted and handicapped children as well as minority children, particularly Mexican migrant children and refugee children from Southeast Asia.
4. Simultaneously, I ran a private practice in child psychology, receiving most of my referrals from county-wide medical doctors and social agencies. Thanks to a widely read Sunday column of mine, Children in Focus, that was published in the Stockton Record for several years, I became a respected, high-profile child psychologist in the agricultural San Joaquin Valley, known for its many minority agricultural workers, particularly Mexican and many Southeast Asian groups.
5. I also spent approximately 12 years as a nationwide keynote speaker and workshop leader, sometimes addressing audiences in the thousands. Additionally, I established myself early as an author of some name recognition with an ethnic, award-winning novel, The Wanderers, (Concordia Publishing House, hardcover, 1977, and Bantam Books, paperback, 1978, and an immigrant autobiography, The Furies and the Flame., Arena Press, 1984)
6. In the early 1980s, I concentrated my creative energies on Lebensraum., first envisioned as a rather small novel based on my own ethnic background, the German-Russian Mennonites, that eventually grew into a trilogy because the topic was so vast and the historical dimensions so important. In order to make the Lebensraum trilogy historically authentic, I interviewed approximately 200 people both in the United States and Canada and spent weeks in February of 1981 and again the entire summer of 1981 in the Washington, D.C. area where I studied important historical documents in the U.S.Library of Congress. Additionally, I studied documents belonging to noted Russian-Germans such as the late historian Reuben Goertz of Freeman, South Dakota, who before his death willed his entire, very valuable collection to one of the South Dakota Historical Libraries. I was a guest in the Goertz home many times, and Mr. Goertz arranged for me to speak in colleges, churches and famous historical places such as the agricultural museum in Yankton, South Dakota.
7. As an ethnic writer with ever increasing public name recognition, thanks to The Wanderers, a very popular novel that was recommended by professors as supplemental text in history classes in several universities and colleges, I was sponsored by many educational institutions for history-related lectures, including Mennonite-related colleges and universities such as Bethel College and Tabor College in Kansas, Freeman Junior College in South Dakota, Pacific College in California, and The University of Winnipeg and Winnipeg Mennonite Brethren College in Manitoba, Canada. I also lectured in college, high school and even junior high school classrooms on my childhood experiences as a Mennonite refugee from behind the Iron Curtain. Upon such occasions, it was common for me to address faculty at luncheons or specially arranged seminars etc. as well.
8. From the early 1980s to 1994, I was frequently booked as the main keynote speaker in hundreds of events, conventions, conferences and seminars, including regional, national and even three international conventions - Parent Care, a non-profit organization serving families of handicapped children, The Association for Learning Disabilities, an advocacy group serving the needs of youngsters of various childhood disorders, and the International Hutterite Convention, comprised of public school teachers specializing in the educational and emotional needs of children of religious fundamentalists.
9. I have received the following awards and commendations, among many, for my literary work and for various lectures pertaining to my writing:
A. The California Literature Medal Award for my ethnic novel, The Wanderers, as ". . . best first novel by a California writer in 1978" -
B. Two National League of American Penwomen awards, Third Prize - one for The Wanderers, (Fiction, honorable mention, 1982) and one for my regional educational Sunday column, Children in Focus (1983) -
C. Third Prize in an international journalistic essay competition spanning the entire globe. Writers and journalists from 24 countries participated in this competition, sponsored by the International Association of German Media. (1983). The theme, as I remember it, was "The Experiences of German Immigrants." This essay of mine, written in German, was later anthologized by a publishing house in Germany -
D. Numerous awards and commendations for historical lectures to local and regional social service clubs, including Soroptimist Woman of the Year (Redding, 7th Regional Conference) and Soroptimist Woman of Achievement, Hollywood -
E. A California State Senate Certificate of Recognition, ". . . in honor of her extraordinary accomplishments as an author and lecturer. . ." -
F: A Certificate of Appreciation from the 9th Annual Multicultural Awareness Conference, 1994, San Francisco, sponsored by Chapter I, a federal educational program serving special needs children, particularly underprivileged and poverty children.
10. Prior to the publication of the Lebensraum! trilogy by Samisdat Publishers Inc., my writings have been published by many publishers. Examples are Concordia Publishing House, Westminster Press, Arena Press and Bantam Books, the world's largest mass market publisher who published a paperback edition of my award-winning ethnic novel, The Wanderers. An anthology published by the Department of Mennonite Studies, University of Winnipeg, included an historical essay of mine. The Los Angeles Times selected one of my book reviews to be included in an annual LA Times book review anthology.
11. In my early ethnic novel, The Wanderers , I depicted the German Army of World War II in an unconventional way - as liberators, not destroyers. The reader response to this novel was overwhelmingly positive, and I am not aware of a single negative review, although this story was extensively reviewed.
12. Similarly, my three Lebensraum novels are literarily acclaimed by U.S. reviewers for fine style and complex content. I have received hundreds of letters of appreciation and gratitude from readers who have purchased these books, many of whom were expellees of many nationalities from Eastern European countries. These novels were based not only on extensive research but also, in part, on personal, ethnic experience on three continents spanning over 60 years of my life and parallel the personal experiences of many of my readers.
13. The German Mennonite wheat-growing community depicted in these novels - for centuries reflecting an uncompromising ethnic cohesion and a fundamentalist and pacifist approach to life and war - was founded in the Ukraine in 1789, and was substantially eradicated in the Communist ethnic cleansing purges of the 1930s and early 1940s. In my trilogy, I bring to life the tumultuous events and the vast changes which occurred in that area, as well as the attitudes of the Mennonites' "American cousins" who had left the Ukraine in 1874 and settled in the plains of Kansas, again as wheat farmers specializing in the hard winter wheat they brought as immigrants from Russia.
14. Civil wars, depressions, famine, anarchy, conflicts between religion and atheism, between capitalists and communists, between traditionalists and liberals, between nations and between peoples led to enormously bloody strife in Europe - an era hardly ever covered fairly and objectively in the Western world simply because most ethnic-German intellectuals, at least in Russia and largely in Germany, did not survive those times. My own father, a high school principal in the Ukraine, was exiled to Siberia in 1941 - for no other reason than that he spoke German and was part of a savagely persecuted religious minority. I never saw my father again. Many members of my family and ethnic group perished for the same reasons in genocidal purges.
15. I have spent 17 years researching, writing, and eventually assisting in the publication of these novels that depict the suffering inflicted on a small ethnic minority due to political and religious persecution, making sure that my characters correctly reflected the spirit, attitudes and feelings of the times. As a first generation eye witness immigrant who lived in Mennonite communities on three continents and who witnessed German ethnic genocide first hand, I have a duty to write about what I saw, honestly and truthfully, and to use my talent to give voices to those Germans and German-descent peoples who were tortured, exiled and killed in large-scale, Soviet-style ethnic cleansing - brutalities of which the Western world knows very little.
16. In writing these three detained books, I did not intend to promote hatred against any identifiable group. I tried to eliminate hatred against Germans who have been falsely broad-brushed in unfair and simplistic ways by Hollywood and certain vested interest in one-sided, simplistic stereotyping of Germans. In fact, I went out of my way to describe good Germans and bad Germans, good Russians and bad Russians, good Jews and bad Jews. I expressed a literary opinion based on my upbringing as a surviving member of a savagely persecuted and decimated German-descent Mennonite minority, my ancestors, and on the effects of religious and cultural values clashing with craven politics not of my ancestors' making and often far beyond their understanding.
17. Any complex, intelligent novel will depict complex characters. The basic historical truth of my novels is that this small German-descent Mennonite community - uncompromisingly ethnically cohesive, inoffensive, apolitical and pacifist - was caught up and destroyed by the Communist regime intent on ruthless eradication of cultural differences and ethnic values that were not state-approved and, hence, brutally criminalized. This is one of the most important themes which runs throughout my three detained novels - the brutal social intolerance and legal punishment inflicted by politically empowered censors on victims holding politically deemed "undesired" views.
18. A novel is a stylistically artistic rendition of true-to-life experiences where motives propelling its characters run deep. My individual characters in my ethnic novels experience a complex range of emotions - some of them entirely appropriate and legitimate, given the circumstances of the times in which they lived and died. As a fiction writer who takes enormous pride in her work, I tried to give texture and substance to times and sentiments that in our days are very poorly understood and cravenly misrepresented. I tried to create characters who come across as living, struggling, bleeding human beings - not one-dimensional, grotesque, simplistic cardboard automatons straight out of Hollywood.
19. I am willing to come to Ottawa and testify as to these matters.
I declare that the foregoing is true and correct.
Ingrid A. Rimland, Ed.D.