This weekend, as often happens to me, I randomly came upon a website which documented the deaths from spotted typhus among the Mennonites in the Ukraine.
Mennonites in the Ukraine?? Of course I had to learn more about this. It turns out that after Catherine the Great defeated the Turks, in the late 18th century, she invited Germans to come to Russia and settle in the newly acquired lands. Among those who accepted her invitations were Mennonites from Prussia and other northern European lands.
The Mennonite colonies prospered and all went well until the unrest of the early 20th century. The prosperous Mennonite farmers were targeted by both Communists and the anarchist bands of Nestor Makhno. Facing extinction, the Mennonites begrudgingly abandoned their pacifist religious beliefs and with the help of the retreating German forces in the Ukraine formed a Selbstchutz, an armed self-defense force.
It is hard to say whether ultimately these militias did more bad than good. Much like the Jews, the Mennonites really could not hold out against the onslaught of the murderous bandits, and the reprisals of the angry mobs, angered by resistance from their victims may have been worse than if they had not fought back. On the other hand, the pogromschiks were intent on killing, raping and pillaging, so it was probably a lose-lose situation altogether.
The Mennonites survived the violence of the Civil War, but they were decimated by Stalin's collectivization drives. Many Mennonites wound up killed or exiled as part of the struggle against the Kulaks.