|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,
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.
Schorer (left) presenting the Order of Meirt
to Peter Pauls
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
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
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
Still, his special life's work was and is still
dedicated to the poor population in the South of
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
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
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
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
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.