Dutch Potato Project Changed Lives and Hearts


At the close of World War II, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Europe faced crises both material and spiritual. The video “That They Might Be One” on the Church History website shows how the Saints overcame both kinds of problems.

In the Netherlands, people distrusted their neighbors and friends, as a consequence of the social upheaval of the German occupation. Dutch Mission president Cornelius Zappey wanted to restore unity among members as he distributed relief supplies from North America. Under his supervision, the Dutch members began a welfare project. The Dutch had easy access to potatoes for planting from the government and plenty of land that was uncultivated, so they got to work planting potatoes and rebuilding their relationships with each other.

Meanwhile, the Saints in war-torn Germany were starving. Walter Stover, President of the East German Mission, wanted to help them, and he mentioned the plight of his people to Zappey while on a visit. Zappey suggested that the Dutch members send their entire potato harvest to Germany. This proposal stunned the Dutch Saints because not only were they being asked to sacrifice the potatoes they had worked so hard to grow, they were being asked to send that harvest to their former enemies. Zappey expressed to the Dutch members that the people in Germany were in a worse condition materially than they were, and he asked members to put aside their prejudices.

In the end, the Lord blessed the Dutch Saints with an abundant harvest, and the Saints in Germany recieved as much as 100 pounds of potatoes per family. This success inspired the Dutch members to donate more potatoes as well as herring the following year. The German members saved some of the potatoes for their own planting. During the North Sea Flood of 1953 in the Netherlands, the members in Germany sent humanitarian aid to their fellow saints as a way of showing their gratitude.

The stories of service and sacrifice connected with this experience are retold beautifully in the video with firsthand accounts from people from both countries who went through this experience. Watch the video below:

Elizabeth Cole is a lifelong member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. She was born and raised near San Antonio, Texas. Elizabeth graduated from BYU with a Bachelor's degree in English and is currently a blogger for "The Geeky Mormon."