Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » “The Gospel Unites Us All” — part 3

“The Gospel Unites Us All” — part 3

By: Ardis E. Parshall - June 01, 2011

The last installment of this story told how the Dutch Saints raised 67 tons of potatoes and shipped them to the German Saints in 1947, in what might almost be called a miraculous act of brotherhood following the starvation imposed on the Dutch nation by Germany by the end of World War II. This installment will be short, because there really isn’t much to tell: The Dutch Saints did it again in 1948 – this photograph shows one Dutch branch at harvest time, with men, women, and children turning out to plow up and pick up the crop, knowing that every last potato was destined to go to someone else.

Only instead of 67 tons of potatoes, they grew 90 tons.

And even that wasn’t enough to satisfy their desire to help their German brothers and sisters.

While most of us today suffer from the too-easy availability of protein and fat, the opposite condition existed in much of Europe following the war. Meat was virtually non-existent, and fats of all kinds were in desperately short supply.

There wasn’t much the Dutch Saints could do to produce protein and fat in the odd lots and roadside strips they used to grow their vegetables, but there was one thing they could do. Even in the poverty of the post-war years, those Saints reached deep into their pockets and contributed what cash they found to a fund to buy herring for shipment to Germany. Herring was chosen especially for its high fat content, as well as its general abundance in the seas off the Dutch coast.

They bought nine tons of herring, enough barrels of fish to fill an entire train car. The packed fish passed strict Dutch government inspection standards – even in those years of need, the Dutch government would allow only the finest fish to be exported; anything less might have damaged their reputation and postponed economic recovery.

That fish and all those potatoes, in their bags and barrels, was loaded by missionary labor onto six train cars. The loaders had miscalculated the number of sacks they had, though, and they badly overloaded the sixth car in order to get all the potatoes on their way. The car was so overweight that it broke down – fortunately while still in Holland where other cars could be found. The sacks were divided between two new train cars, and those cars trailed the rest of the shipment into Germany a few days later.


Dutch Mission President Cornelius Zappey arranges for the purchase of herring with funds raised by the Dutch Saints.


Dutch members contributed enough cash to purchase nine tons of herring.


Loading the box cars with sacked potatoes, raised by the Dutch Saints wherever they could obtain plots of ground for their Welfare project.


Missionaries who contributed their labor – lots of it! – to load 90 tons of potatoes and 9 tons of fish onto train cars.


President Zappey watches a customs official seal the train cars of Welfare supplies bound for Germany.

(To be continued: How the German Saints responded)



  1. I love reading more of this story, Ardis. And the photos are terrific. Thanks.

    Comment by Paul — June 1, 2011 @ 7:56 am

  2. Thanks, Paul. As often as I’ve heard parts of this story, I still can’t quite believe it really happened — these people define the word “saint.”

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 1, 2011 @ 8:05 am

  3. Thanks Ardis.

    This is terrific!

    Comment by Mark B. — June 1, 2011 @ 8:21 am

  4. Wonderful story. Great pictures.

    Comment by Researcher — June 1, 2011 @ 9:08 am

  5. Very good story…can’t wait until the rest! Thanks Ardis.

    Comment by Cliff — June 1, 2011 @ 9:45 am

  6. I’ve heard this story many times before, but the pictures and the added detail here just make it more real, and all the more amazing. Great series.

    Comment by kevinf — June 1, 2011 @ 11:33 am

  7. One more thing, this is all the more amazing when you look at the pictures of the missionaries in front of the railroad car, and realize that some of them could have been in uniform fighting the Germans just three or four years before.

    Comment by kevinf — June 1, 2011 @ 11:36 am

  8. How many more years will it be until we saints rise to the same level of charity and sacrifice? (I’ve still got a LONG way to go before I could give something like this with a cheerful heart.)

    Comment by Clark — June 1, 2011 @ 12:05 pm

  9. Thanks for your responses. I love seeing the faces of the people who did this.

    The last two parts of this series, especially the last one, will be fun to see, I think, because they’re much less widely known than the incredible generosity of the people in these pictures.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 1, 2011 @ 12:20 pm

  10. #8 Clark, I’ve thought about your question, too. I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that part of the reason those Dutch saints could share as they did is precisely because they shared out of their deprivation. They had also lost a great deal in the war. Yes, the country Germany was the enemy, but saints in need are saints in need. And they likely understood the need. (I don’t mean by this to reduce in any way the remarkable nature of this incredible effort by the Dutch saints.)

    Ironic, I think, that it is often easier for us to give out of poverty than out of wealth.

    Comment by Paul — June 1, 2011 @ 2:20 pm

  11. The widow’s mite, indeed.

    LOVE the pictures.

    Comment by Ray — June 1, 2011 @ 6:33 pm

  12. Very touching and inspirational, thanks.

    Comment by Moniker Challenged — June 2, 2011 @ 10:07 am

  13. Love this site and articles!

    Just curious: Do you by any chance have any of the names of the people in the pictures? I’m particularly struck with the young man holding the sack on his left shoulder, with his pants on backwards. It seems like he has a great story to tell, and I would love to hear it!

    Comment by Howard — December 3, 2013 @ 1:47 pm

  14. Ha! Funny you should notice that, too — it’s been a recent matter of debate at the Church History Library. Unfortunately, the photos are not captioned with the names, but it appears very likely that the man is a missionary rather than a local Dutch member, because the records all suggest that while the Dutch members grew and harvested the potatoes, it was missionaries who loaded them into the train cars.

    The real question, of course, is WHY???

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — December 3, 2013 @ 2:37 pm