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ArabicIsaac.P. Friesen and Henry.P. Friesen

Fangs of Bolshevism

Meine Reise nach Palästina

The two books Fangs of Bolshevism and Meine Reise nach Palästina are not available anywhere on the Internet. Therefore, I have digitized and uploaded them in order to preserve family history. My family name is Friesen, which is a common Mennonite name. My mother was also a Friesen, and my mother’s father was Isaac P. Friesen. Isaac died in 1952, before I was born, so I had no chance to meet him personally. Isaac had a younger brother called Henry P. Friesen.

Fangs of Bolshevism

In 1924, Isaac Braun, a Mennonite immigrant from Russia accused Henry (my great-uncle) of owing him $5000. This resulted in the infamous Friesen-Braun trials. This series of trials lasted five years, which was the longest in Saskatchewan until that time. Eventually, Braun was convicted of fraud, sentenced to prison in Prince Albert and deported back to the Soviet Union. Henry Friesen wrote a book about the trial, known as Fangs of Bolshevism. This is a rare book. I have digitized the copy that my parents received from Henry’s daughter which can be viewed or downloaded. The quality of the scan is not perfect but it is definitely readable. There is also a letter from Isaac Braun to Henry Friesen written in prison dated December 1931, in which he says that he just had a Christian conversion experience and begs for forgiveness.

Meine Reise nach Palästina

In 1910, Isaac (my grandfather) took a three-month tour of Europe. He went by train from his home in Saskatchewan to New York, where he joined a Mediterranean cruise on the S.S. Arabic, a ship of the White Star line. The Arabic was launched in 1903 and sunk in 1915 by a German U-boat. The ship stopped at Madiera, Spain, Gibraltar, Algiers, Malta, Greece, Constantinople, Beirut, Jaffa, Alexandria, Naples, and Nice. From Nice, passengers had the opportunity to travel across Europe by train and catch any White Star line ship back to New York from Liverpool, which my grandfather did. There is an interesting historical twist to this because Isaac wanted to travel on the Titanic on her maiden voyage from Liverpool to New York, and his ticket would have allowed him to do so. However, the Titanic was not yet finished. She took her fateful maiden voyage in April 1912, while my grandfather returned from his European trip in April 1910, on the RMS Baltic.

My grandfather wrote a book about his trip, entitled Meine Reise nach Palästina (My Journey to Palestine). ¼ of the book describes Isaac’s time in Palestine, which was then part of the Ottoman Empire. (The modern state of Israel was founded in 1948.) This book is especially interesting because Isaac took his trip during a window of time when modern technology coexisted with monarchy and medieval society. On the one hand, Isaac traveled as a modern tourist on a comfortable ship that was equipped with the brand-new invention of wireless telegraphy (it cost $2 to send 10 words to shore). On the other hand, the Ottoman Empire that Isaac visited was a historical relic of the medieval mindset. Isaac was able to take photographs of his trip and travel to most locations by train, but when there was no train, then the only alternative was horse and buggy, and Isaac repeatedly mentions the camel caravans and overloaded donkeys that he sees carrying goods and people in what he calls 'the Orient'. This juxtaposition of old society and new technology came crashing to the ground four years later when the first world war began, and four monarchial empires came to an end in this war: the Ottoman Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the German Reich, and the Russian Empire. (I examine this juxtaposition from a cognitive perspective in the book Natural Cognitive Theology.)

Isaac’s book is out-of-print. It was also printed in the dreadful Fraktur font, which was designed to look German rather than be legible. I found a program that is capable of recognizing this font and have uploaded a digital version of the book.

The relevant links are:

Meine Reise nach Palästina in the original German.

A Google translation into English of Meine Reise nach Palästina.

A diary written in English by a lady who took the same Mediterranean cruise as Isaac on the same ship two years earlier in 1908.

Isaac’s Canadian passport for the trip. This was a single large sheet of parchment paper with a wax seal: Smaller Picture, Larger Picture.

A scan of a nine page book of color photographs and dried flowers that Isaac brought back as a souvenir, portraying Palestine at that time: cover, page 1, page 2, page 3, page 4, page 5, page 6, page 7, page 8, page 9.

Some luggage stickers that Isaac kept from his trip as souvenirs: Athens, Baalbeck, Cairo 1, Cairo 2, Damascus, Genova, Jericho, Jerusalem 1, Jerusalem 2, Luxor, Nice 1, Nice 2, Rome 1, Rome 2, Rome 3.

A menu from the S.S. Baltic, the ship on which he returned from Europe: cover, menu.

A letter he wrote on the S.S. Baltic on ship stationary on April 10, 1910. The text is in written German which is hard to read. The last sentence says that he is catching the train for Montréal at 5 o'clock.

Another letter written on February 3, 1910 on his Rosthern store's stationary to I.P. Friesen in Cairo, Egypt. The text says: Dear uncle, everything okay. Weather fine. Business slow – yesterday $22, day before $44. The only thing going on in town now is talk about local option. There was an awful large meeting regards the same night before last but I do not think it will pull through. You have a new kitchen girl down the house. The one you had when you left evaporated. Lena was pretty sick yesterday and to make sure there was nothing serious we called Dr. Stewart but it was only an attack of a cold. She’s all right and fully on deck this morning. Closing with best regards, Henry.

Finally, in November 1925, I.P. Friesen bought his five-year-old daughter (my mother) a Canadian government annuity, from which mother received $300 four times a year from 1940 until she died in 2017. I have looked on the web for a picture of one of these annuities and could not find anything.