Fonds voor Buitenlandsche Nooden (Dutch Relief Fund for Foreign Needs)

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The Fonds voor Buitenlandsche Nooden was a substantial relief undertaking of the Dutch Mennonites for the aid of persecuted and suffering foreign brethren. The history of this important fund has not yet been written. The [[Amsterdam Mennonite Library (Bibliotheek en Archief van de Vereenigde Doopsgezinde Gemeente te Amsterdam)|archives of the Mennonite Church in Amsterdam]] contains several hundred documents, the description of which occupies about 300 printed pages. A few of these were described by A. van Gulik (Doopsgezinde Bijdragen 1905, 1906, and 1908), and de Hoop Scheffer wrote an account (Doopsgezinde Bijdragen 1869) of the relations between the Fund and Pennsylvania.

The sufferings of the Mennonites in the 17th century in Switzerland, the Palatinate, Poland, and Prussia, usually caused by persecution by the state, induced the Dutch Mennonites to raise collections, e.g., in 1660 for Danzig, 1662 for Poland, 1665 for Moravia, 1672 for Switzerland, 1674 and 1678 for the Palatinate. A persecution of the Palatine brethren in 1690, which was repeated in 1694, was the occasion for taking up two collections by the entire Amsterdam Mennonite Church, in which 52,279 florins was raised.

In 1709, when the severe persecution in Bern began, the Amsterdam Mennonites invited delegates to meet in a conference in Amsterdam on 24 February 1710. There were delegates from Rotterdam, Leiden, Haarlem, Gouda, Alkmaar, Hoorn, Enkhuizen, Monnikendam, Zaandam, Koog-Zaandijk, Wormerveer, Krommenie, Wormer, Jisp, de Rijp, Graft, and Harlingen. Resolutions were passed: (1) that the Amsterdam representatives (Willem van Maurik, Jan Willink, Abraham Fries, Frans van Aken, Herman Schijn, Jacob Vorsterman, Cornelis Beets), with the support of the Rotterdam delegation (Hendrik Toren and Jan Suderman), Haarlem, Gouda, Hoorn, Alkmaar, Dordrecht, and Monnikendam present a petition to the States-General requesting aid to the Swiss Brethren through diplomatic channels; (2) that the Amsterdam congregation should bear the chief responsibility for the negotiations. But Amsterdam's ensuing attitude gave rise to some dissension, since the delegates of Rotterdam, Leiden, and Haarlem thought the conference had decided that these three congregations were to work together with the Amsterdam representatives. At a second meeting held on 5 November 1710, this disunity was eliminated by the conciliatory talks by Steven Cremer of Deventer. Amsterdam was given the authority to act. If anything unusual should arise, two representatives of the Haarlem, Leiden, Rotterdam, and Zaandam congregations were to be called. In the following year two Frisians were called (Hans Douwens, Sieuwerd Edens) together with Steven Cremer.

Fifty thousand florins was at once collected, letters were sent to Switzerland with intervention made by the mayors of the cities, and correspondence carried on with Runckel, the Dutch ambassador in Switzerland. To ensure good management of the funds, the congregations were divided into seven classes:

  1. Amsterdam (Lamist), Beverwijk, Emmerich, Middelburg, Vlissingen, Enschede, Cadzand, Zierikzee, Brouwershaven, Rees, Zutphen, Deventer (Flemish), Almelo, and Ameland.
  2. Amsterdam (Zon), Hamburg, Zwolle, Uithoorn, Dordrecht, Goes, Brielle, Aardenburg, Kampen, Aalsmeer, Harlingen (Flemish), Blokzijl, Hazerswoude, Zoetermeer, Emden.
  3. Alkmaar, Hoorn, Enkhuizen, Medemblik, Monnikendam, Edam, Purmerend, de Rijp, Graft, Westzaan, Koog-Zaandijk, Zaandam-Oost, Zaandam-West, Wormerveer, Uitgeest, Krommeniedijk, Knollendam, Durgerdam, Ilp, Graftdijk, Barsingerhorn, Niedorp, den Hoorn, Burg, Vlieland, Terschelling.
  4. All the Frisians in North and South Holland.
  5. Haarlem, Leiden, Rotterdam, Schiedam.
  6. Harlingen, Leeuwarden, Hindelopen, and Groningen Old Flemish.
  7. Deventer, Old Groningen (Danzig Old Flemish), and Jan-Jacobsvolk.

On 2 August 1711 four boats with 400 refugees from Basel arrived at Utrecht. From Amsterdam as headquarters they were sent out to Deventer, Groningen, Hoogezand, Kampen, and Sappemeer. In 1713 another troop of refugees arrived.

In 1714, 10,000 florins were raised for Polish Prussia, and in 1715 and 1717 about 12,000 florins were raised. But since this money was soon spent, it was decided in 1726 to take a general collection for the purpose of establishing a permanent fund. The occasion for this decision was the oppression of 1714 in Polish Prussia, causing many to emigrate to Lithuania, who by 1724 had been compelled to flee again in order to avoid military service. Some fled to Elbing and Thorn in Polish Prussia. In addition there were new complaints from the Palatinate. The general collection of 1727 amounted to over 30,000 florins, that of 1733, 64,000 florins, and 1736, 51,000 florins. In 1734 the Dutch congregations which had not yet contributed raised over 1,000 florins. In a half century more than 270,000 florins were contributed by the Dutch congregations for relief of foreign distress.

The Fund supported many brethren in other lands and saved them from starvation. Numerous Swiss and Palatine brethren were helped to come to the Netherlands through this fund. It also enabled three dozen Mennonites out of 156 from the Palatinate who left Rotterdam in May 1731 to survive their trip to Pennsylvania. (See John L. Ruth The Earth is the Lord's 2001, 228). A twofold colonization of Prussians on Walcheren, an island in Zeeland in 1732, and at Wageningen failed through the inadaptability of the settlers, depleting the Fund by about 50,000 florins. It was therefore decided in 1744 not to assist persons who of their own free choice wished to settle elsewhere, but to give aid only to those who were banished from a country for the sake of their faith, or were impoverished through war, flood, fire, etc.

When the persecution in foreign countries ceased, the Fund ceased to operate. The last meeting was held in 1758. Eleven representatives from Amsterdam were appointed as managers of the Fund. Since for nearly a half century there had been no use for the money, Amsterdam decided to liquidate the Fund. In its name a circular letter was sent to the congregations by P. Lugt and B. de Bosche in March 1803. After voluminous correspondence, about 27 1/2 per cent of the contributions made in earlier years was returned to the congregations in 1803. The sum amounted to about 40,000 florins. (ML I, 659-61.) -- Karel Vos

After World War I the situation of the Mennonites in Russia had become very critical; much suffering was caused by the Revolution and civil war. In 1919 the American Mennonites organized shipments of food and clothing and other relief. In Germany the Mennonitische Hilfskasse had begun to function. Soon the Dutch Mennonites too became aware of the situation of their Russian brethren through publications in the Mennonite press of America and through letters written by Benjamin H. Unruh. The congregations in Holland were informed by the booklet by T. O. Hylkema, De Geschiedenis van de Doopsgezinde gemeenten in Rusland in de oorlogs- en revolutiejaren 1914-20 (Steenwijk, 1920), and by reports in the Dutch Mennonite weekly, De Zondagsbode. On 7 November 1920, a Dutch relief committee was founded, which was named the Algemeene Commissie voor Buitenlandsche Nooden on 8 December 1920. The first executive board consisted of Pastor A. Binnertsz Sz of Haarlem, Pres.; D. Woelinga of Vlissingen, Sec. Treas.; and Pastor T. O. Hylkema of Giethoorn; in March 1921 J. W. van der Vlugt of Haarlem became the treasurer, and in October 1921, Pastor F. C. Fleischer secretary. Contacts were made with the Mennonite Central Committee, the German Mennonitische Flüchtlingsfürsorge, the Quakers in England, and soon also with the Dutch Red Cross. Jacob Koekebakker, then pastor of Middelburg, Zeeland, succeeded in penetrating into Russia and reaching Moscow on 13 September 1921.

In the meantime money had been collected in the Netherlands. Between October and December 1920, the sum of 5,383 Dutch guilders was collected, and in 1921 nearly 22,000 guilders. When relief work ended in February 1924, a total of 239,991 guilders had been collected, besides clothing sent to Russia. In October 1922 a total of 1,576,180 kilograms of food and clothing was shipped from the Netherlands to Sevastopol and distributed among the Mennonites. With the Mennonite committee a number of other organizations co-operated: the Dutch Red Cross contributed 10,000 guilders. F. C. Fleischer visited Ukraine in the spring of 1922 and organized the relief. R. J. C. Willink of Haarlem had charge of the work in Russia, staying there in 1922-1923. In the summer of 1922 a children's home was founded at Ohrloff, under the special care of the youth group of Amsterdam. Relief ended in the summer of 1923, when it was no longer possible to get into Russia.

Then another activity was laid upon the Dutch Mennonites. Many Russian Mennonites escaping from Russia came to Holland, hoping to go to America. Many of them stayed for some months in Dutch Mennonite homes. Then in June 1924 the Hollandsch Doopsgezind Emigranten Bureau (Dutch Mennonite Board of Emigration) was founded to aid the Russian refugees in obtaining transportation to the New World. The Board of Emigration was founded by the Mennonite Church of Rotterdam in cooperation with the Algemeene Commissie voor Buitenlandsche Nooden. After World War II the Algemeene Commissie was replaced (1947) by the Stichting voor Bijzondere Noden in de Doopsgezinde Broederschap, which raised funds for relief in Germany and Austria. -- Nanne van der Zijpp


Archives of the committee.

Doopsgezinde Jaarboekje (1922): 71, 78-93; (1923): 43-78; (1924): 61-78.

Hiebert, Peter C. Feeding the hungry : Russia famine, 1919-1925: American Mennonite relief operations under the auspices of Mennonite Central Committee. Scottdale, Pa. : Mennonite Central Committee, 1929.

Kühhler, W. J. "Dutch Mennonite Relief Work in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries." Mennonite Quarterly Review XVII (1943): 87-94.

van de Water, A. P. "Relief Work in Holland." Proceedings of the Fourth Mennonite World Conference. Akron, PA, 1950

Author(s) Karel Vos
Nanne van der Zijpp
Date Published 1958

Cite This Article

MLA style

Vos, Karel and Nanne van der Zijpp. "Fonds voor Buitenlandsche Nooden (Dutch Relief Fund for Foreign Needs)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1958. Web. 26 Feb 2024.

APA style

Vos, Karel and Nanne van der Zijpp. (1958). Fonds voor Buitenlandsche Nooden (Dutch Relief Fund for Foreign Needs). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 26 February 2024, from


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, pp. 344-346. All rights reserved.

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