BETA

Feeding starving Germans changes enmity to charity

"I was just recovering from a severe lung illness which I had contracted while in a German prisoner of war camp for Dutch naval and army officers. I was incarcerated from 1942 to 1945.

"In 1945-46, the situation in Holland was terrible. Many of my relatives starved to death because the Germans had closed all traffic and supplies to the west of Holland."Part of the Dutch people had been friendly to the Germans and joined the Nazi political party. These Dutch people had supplied the names of Jews and Dutchmen who were secretly in the underground army against the Germans. This led to many casualties. After Holland was liberated by the Allied forces, the Dutch Nazis were chased and imprisoned by members of the Dutch underground. Many took revenge at this time, and the hatred between the Dutch and the Dutch-Nazis and Germans was very strong."

In this atmosphere, the Dutch received welfare relief from the United States, and instructions about the welfare plan. The Dutch decided to plant potatoes.

"Mission Pres. Cornelius Zappey tried to get the people to work for a good activity. This was to combine efforts in growing potatoes and green vegetables to feed the poorest of the community. During the war every family had a vegetable garden to grow vegetables. But not the older nor the handicapped people, and many of them starved to death.

"This service activity had been organized by the elders quorums of several cities, and our ward in Harlaam was one of them. Before starting work, a hymn was sung, a prayer was given and the potatoes and vegetables were planted. After some months word came that a large harvest was expected, more than we had expected.

"Then came the day that Pres. Walter Stover of the German Mission came, and with tears in his eyes he told of the hunger and desolation of Church members in Germany.

"Pres. Zappey then asked the Dutch members whether they would supply some of their potato harvest to the Germans. For many members, this caused some eyebrow raising! But they agreed.

"The harvest took place with enthusiasm. Often the trucks arrived late at night but immediately the male members were willing to help.

"So in the first weeks of November 1946, 10 trucks with more than 70 tons of potatoes started to the border.

"But there trouble started. The Dutch government prohibited the export of its valuable food supply. Pres. Zappey, with assistance from Elder Alma Sonne, then president of the European Mission, labored for days to receive permission. Pres. Zappey was in panic! He traveled to many offices preaching brotherly love for the once-enemies. At last he received permission on stringent condition that these potatoes would have to be consumed and not planted.

"Eventually 90 tons of donated potatoes and 60 tons of donated herrings were shipped to Germany."

Speaking of this donation, President David O. McKay said:

"This is one of the greatest acts of true Christian conduct ever brought to my attention. The Dutch Saints are to be congratulated that they can perform this act of welfare service to members of the Church who live in a country which has caused them so much suffering and hardship during recent years."

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