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Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany to Peter Pauls in Brazil

Verdienstorden der Bundesrepublik Deutschland Fuer Peter Pauls in Brailien

Pauls, Alfred. "Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany to Peter Pauls in Brazil." Volk auf dem Weg, January 2008, 42.

This translation from the original German-language text to American English is provided by Alex Herzog, Boulder, Colorado


Hans Gerhard Schorer (left) presenting the Order of Meirt to Peter Pauls
Thanks to the never-forgotten support from the German government, around 1200 Mennonites came to Brazil as German-Russian refugees. They were initially settled in the deep jungle of Santa Catarina on terrain owned by the Hanseatic Colonist Association.

Lacking any roads, bridges, houses, necessary tools and without money, they first built small straw huts for their initial shelter for their families. With arduous toil using axes and hoes they cleared small areas for planting some maize, beans and pumpkins, half of which had been destroyed even before harvest by wild pigs, ants and parrots. Nevertheless, the people were grateful and happy for their liberty in a strange country, following years of deep struggles and uncertainties under Communism in Russia.

A farmer of the steppes would become a hunter in the jungle, who soon learned to harvest his food from the river and the forest. Nuts and forest fruits, roots and leaves, fish, birds and hunted wild animals appeared on the table. Economic conditions improved, and roads and bridges, dams and factories were built. Added were hospitals and schools, a cooperative, their own newspaper and electric power.

Despite extreme efforts and hard work, living conditions remained difficult, causing many citizens to leave, not in the least due to the catastrophic consequences of WW II (banning of the German language and dismissals of all our teachers!). Most of those who left settled in the city of Curitiba, about 250 kilometers away [150 miles]. Others sought out the open Kampland for cattle and agriculture.

The final 60 families settled down as one solid group in the highlands of Pirana, about 70 kilometers [over 40 miles] west of Curitiba, where they founded the settlement of Witmarsum in the administrative region of Palmeira.

Within only a few years, economic and cultural life began to bloom in accustomed ways. Witmarsum became a solid model of multi-faceted progress and known far and wide through the missionary and social efforts on behalf of the poor populace in the area.

Peter Pauls is one of the pioneers who have highly distinguished themselves during the past five decades. Initially as a teacher and school principal, because to this natural pedagogue, a high priority was the care for and maintenance of the German language. His students enthusiastically sang German and Brazilian songs, appeared on innumerable stages and enriched the audiences with poetry and art, folklore and culture.

His gifts as a speaker were a blessing to thousands of people, as he constantly received invitations to speak to the youth and to married folks, at teacher and missionary conferences, but especially as guest speaker in many communities, schools and clubs, in South and North America and in Europe.

Pauls the writer published several books, at times our periodical "Bibel und Pflug" ["Bible and Plow"]. Additionally he wrote hundreds of articles for other periodicals in Brazil, Canada, the USA and Europe.

Much of his time was taken up by his work as a community leader, preacher and missionary. This service, often taking many extra hours, was largely done on a volunteer basis.

Still, his special life's work was and is still dedicated to the poor population in the South of Brazil. His founding of the Mennonite welfare projects "AMAS-Associacao Menonita de Assistencia Social" and "AMB-Associacao Menonita Beneficente" demonstrate his view of the big picture and his social engagement on behalf of innumerable families who live with their children in bitter poverty.

Education and assistance toward self-help are the mottos of both social projects. With total dedication and strong belief and trust in God he encourages his colleagues, who soon take up the service of their own conviction.

This life's work was the occasion for special honors for Peter Pauls from the Federal Republic of Germany, which occurred on July 5, 2007 in Witmarsum, through the offices of the general consul in Sao Paulo.

Consul Heinz Peter Behr of Sao Paulo had come to Witmarsum especially for the occasion of the awarding of the Federal Cross of Merit. He was accompanied by Honorary Consul Hans Gerhard Schorer of Curitiba.

In the presence of many friends they presented the order of merit and emphasized in particular Peter Pauls engagement on behalf of the German language and culture, as well as his social work in Witmarsum, Piranha and far beyond state borders.

The festivities included contributions by the cooperative and the settlement administration of Witmarsum, plus many stories and words of recognition. Musical performances accompanied the program, which concluded with a convivial meal.

The festivities were directed in a happy and humorous manner by Horst Gunther Kliewer, at whose request I am writing these lines, not in the last also as a special recognition of many other citizens of Witmarsum who have not been mentioned in this context, but who also contributed to the success of the Witmarsian settlement project with their selfless work and undaunted courage. To all of you, our grateful acknowledgement!

Our appreciation is extended to Alex Herzog for translation of this article.

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