THE NETHERLANDS: The Rolling Snowball

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Stephanus Saris, 34, a headwaiter by trade, is the kind of man who gets interested in far-off causes. In 1956 he raised $93,000 for Hungarian refugees. Recently, at the Roman Catholic boys' club in Rotterdam that he helps run, he showed the boys a newspaper clipping. It described how two Negro boys in Monroe, N.C.—David Simpson, 8, and James Thompson, 10—had been sent to reform school for having kissed a white girl (TIME, Jan. 26). Saris' young friends got as indignant as he did.

Taking turns at the Mimeograph machine, they ground out letters to pupils all over the country. "The Negroes of the U.S.A.," they said, "helped liberate us. Write in Dutch (but without politics) in your own words and ask President Eisenhower to set these boys free." They called it Operation Snowball, Rotterdam.

By the end of one week, Saris & Co. had received 12,000 letters. Last week ten high schools sent delegations to the U.S. embassy asking that letters be forwarded to Mamie Eisenhower. As the snowball grew, the U.S. Information Agency stepped flatfootedly into the picture. "Stripped of its emotionalism, distortion and heated charges," said the U.S.I.A., "this city's much publicized 'kissing incident' essentially becomes a question of the rehabilitation of two problem boys and their families." It quoted the vice president of the local N.A.A.C.P. as "not certain that the training school is not the best place for the boys."

Though Dutch newspapers greeted the U.S.I.A. statement with blunt disbelief, Saris began having his doubts. Was this or was this not a question of race discrimination? he wired the local N.A.A.C.P. "Positively race discrimination," came the reply. "Thank you," Saris wired back. "We will roll on." A Dutch Communist paper tried to get in on the act too. Snapped Saris: "This is a case between two good neighbors living in the same street. The neighbor on the other side of the street has nothing to do with it. Go to your own neighbor, the Soviet Union, and mind your own dirty business over there."