Sunday’s Yakima (Wash.) Herald Republic tells how Dee Schilperoort and her mother-in-law, Niesje Schilperoort, showed a little kindness to German prisoners of war in the Yakima Valley during World War II. Dee is a member of the Grace Brethren Church in Harrah, Wash. (Peter Touhey, pastor). The story also shares a bit of Grace Brethren history and how a young Grace Brethren pastor’s wife, Phoebe Schilperoort O’Neal, arranged for her brother to meet Dee. (Phoebe was the wife of Glenn O’Neal, who not only served as a Grace Brethren pastor, but was on the faculty at Talbot Theological Seminary.) Dee’s daughter, Teresa Marx, who is also interviewed, is a Grace College graduate. A portion of the story appears below. Click here to read the complete article.
Dee Schilperoort: An act of kindness in a time of war
Dee Schilperoort has cooked up untold batches of beef stew in her 90 years of living — after all, she feeds lunch to the farm hands every day — but none have been more memorable than the ones she prepared for the Germans.
The German prisoners of war.
German POWs were detained in the Yakima Valley during the latter years of World War II. When Dee was a young bride of 19, she briefly encountered a young group of them, and even after 60-some years, she still thinks about them.
“They were just kids; they didn’t start the war,” Schilperoort said. “They didn’t have anything to do with what happened.”
Back in 1944, about a dozen POWs were trucked six mornings a week to the farm of Schilperoort’s in-laws, William and Niesje Schilperoort, on Evans Road in Brownstown, to help weed and thin sugar beets. They came from a temporary prison camp located in Wapato, just south of where the high school now stands. Hastily constructed in the early 1940s, the camp consisted of Quonset-style huts and wooden barracks, surrounded by razor-topped double fencing.
The Germans had been captured on the battlefields of Europe. From 1942 through 1945, more than 400,000 Axis prisoners, mostly German, were sent to the United States. They came by ship to New York, then were distributed across the country, mostly to rural areas, where about 500 POW camps had been erected.
Prisoners were sent to work on the nation’s farms for two reasons: to keep them busy and to fill a need for labor. About 600 POWs came to the Lower Valley, beginning in 1943, to help bring in area crops while local farmers were off fighting for the Allies.
“I didn’t hear about this until I was an adult; she never talked about it,” said Schilperoort’s daughter, Teresa Marx, who lives in Grandview. “My first reaction was, ‘POWs? In America?’ I was incredulous.”
Click here to read the complete article.