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12th IVU World Vegetarian Congress 1950

Oosterbeck, Netherlands

From the Vegetarian Messenger, (Manchester) :


THE International Vegetarian Union Congress, held at De Pietersberg, Oosterbeek, was a strenuous affair, for our Dutch hosts had arranged a full time-table.

The first thing which impressed me was the peaceful beauty of our surroundings. Less than six years ago the storm of war descended from the skies on Arnhem and Oosterbeek, but time and the astonishing energy of the Dutch have effaced most of the scars. De Pietersberg stands in its own wooded grounds on a bluff above Rhine, and its wealth of trees and flowers made a most appro-priate setting for a Vegetarian Congress.

Next came the self-sacrificing labours of the Preparatory Committee, with Mrs. M. H. Van Borrendam as its Secretary. Her efforts were nobly seconded by Dr. Kaayk, Mr. and Mrs. Kooy-and Mr. H.A.M.C. Dibbits, the other members of the committee, backed by Mr. Nederveen and Mr. Fischer (past and present Presidents of the Netherlands Vegetarian Society), and by others too numerous to name.

A third impression concerned the way in which English, on this side of the Iron Curtain anyhow, is becoming the international language. It was the official language of this Congress - a compliment which the English and American participants greatly apprecjated.

Fourteen nationalities were present, and except for one speech in French, one in German and one in Swedish, English - though of all varieties - was spoken throughout.

Most interesting, in content as well as in their clear expression English tongue, were the lectures by Dr. Kirstine Nolfi, of Denmark, on " The Raw Food Treatment of Cancer and other by Dr. C. J. Schuurman, of Holland, on "'The Psych-ology of Vegetarianism, especially Relations between Parents and Children", a fascinating subject which produced some controversy; by engineer Dibbits on Dutch Polders," a subject on which he speaks with authority and from experience ; and by Dr. Voute, of Holland on " Biological Equilibrium." All these speakers were themselves vegetarians, and if some may think that the last two subjects not strictly vegetarian ones, their bearing on the problems of food supply is nevertheless most real.

Of direct application were two eloquent addresses, by Kaj Dessau, the retiring Secretary of the I.V.U., on "The Future of the International Vegetarian Movement " - this was a clarion call to vigorous action - and by Roy Walker, the retired Secretary of the Vegetarian Society, on the gloomy but inescapable fact of "The Coming World Famine.''

More than all else, the Congress was noteworthy for the partici-pation, for the first time, of delegates from North America. The new American Vegetarian Union was represented by Mrs. Clarence Gasque (widely known as Mother Gloria) who for sheer eloquence and vitality is not easily to be surpassed, and by Mrs. Sorge and Mr. and Mrs. Henry Sorge. The Canadian Vegetarian Union was vigorously represented by Professor Arthur Stevenson. of Toronto, and in Dr. and Mrs. Edal Behram, India had two worthy delegates.

Another aspect of the Congress, both in its meetings and in the buses which took us to Rotterdam and De Hoge Veluwe, was the entire and blessed absence of tobacco smoke. There is no logical reason, perhaps, why vegetarians should avoid the fragrant (?) weed but the happy fact remains that most of them do so.

During the Conference proper, which lasted a full week, one whole day and one afternoon were given to excursions. The 1ong excursion, in two fifty-seater single deck buses, was to Rotterdam with an interesting cruise round the harbour when there, and a visit to an extraordinary array of twenty-two windmills, used for draining the polders, at Elshout, south of the Maas.

The other shorter excursion was to De Hoge Veluwe, the well wooded and hilly part of the Netherlands which contains the National Park, and a sort of Dutch Chequers, architectually a most extraordinary mansion, on which its first millionaire builder spared no cost, situated in the rather wild country of forest and heath lands north of Arnhem. Near this, too, we saw a most comprehensive collection of Van Goghs and of some other modern art: many of these pictures having been bought before Van Gogh won general fame.

The Youth Camp, three miles from Oosterbeek, where vegetarian from several countries spent Spartan but happy days under the leadership of Henk Volkers, brought to the Congress -itself something of the critical vitality of youth.

The Concert given by three talented Dutch artists, all vegearians and professionals, on the Saturday evening reached high level, and it is long since we have heard more delightful music.

Within a mile of De Pietersberg were two other most impressive places. One was the vegetarian home for old people being developed (under the leadership of Mr. J. H. Bolt) in two fine mansions, set in restful woodlands.

The other was the Airborne Cemetery. There, fringed by forest trees, is a spot

"of green access
Where, like an infant's smile, over the dead
A light of laughing flowers along the grass is spread".

It is indeed a beauteous place, tended with loving care, with roses and other blossoms about the long lines of crosses, a place of pilgrimage both for the British and the Dutch, for there lie some of the noblest and bravest men who ever fought for liberty.

After the Congress proper had ended with farewell speeches snd entertainment on the Monday evening, some of us, guided by Mr. Kortman, of Amsterdam, drove northwards through Alkmaar almost to the Helder, and to the great dam built to reclaim the Zuider Zee. We returned through picturesque Volendam, and through many a sunlit pasture where herds of Friesian cows stood in the open fields for milking.

Apart from the possibilities of vegetarian progress and propaganda revealed by the Congress, my own most vivid impression was the peaceful beauty of fair Holland itself, with its quaint landscapes, its attractive clean towns and villages, its large-windowed ceiling houses, and its truly civilized and cultured people.

To the Netherlands Vegetarian Society and our Dutch friends our gratitude is sincere and deep.