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|Netherlands Indies in WW II|
Also see Verhalen (stories):
Han Bawits and WW II
Camp notes by prof.dr. I.J. Brugmans
Memories of Friar Angelus
Experiences during the war of Max Tauran
Witness Jacob Litamahuputty
Men of ten years and older
The heiho flogged with well aimed lashes
Ten year old boys behind an army truck.
By incomprehensible decree they were
declared a man - and men
don't belong with their mother anymore.
He was in line with in his one hand his teddybear
clenched around the one paw left
In the other hand a bag with in it
The final bit of sugar and some malaria pills.
His mother put it in at last
He forced back his tears
After all, he was a man now.
His mother prayed and intensily hoped
To once see him again.
At his birth she had
thought of such a nice name for him.
She, she died of malnutrition and malaria
Lacked the pills that saved his life.
He ended up in a Dutch contract pension
Cold, wet, uncomfortable and not so nice either
The hunger winter was more important in conversations
Than his story of his – cruel - departure.
About good and evil he always thought differently
All his relations broke down
Booze and drugs sometimes helped, for a moment avoiding reality.
His career failed over and over
The only thing he missed was his old, one-armed, soft teddybear.
From: 'Fragments, memories of a camp boy', by Govert Huyser (2005). Publication made possible by financial support from the Military Victims of War and Related Purposes Foundation.
General b.d. G.L.J. Huyser (Surabaya 1931) stayed during the war in the Japanese internment camps 'Darmo' in Surabaya, 'Karangpanas' in Semarang and in the boys camp 'Bangkong' in Semarang.
Decorated Netherlands Indies
Civilians and military men and women from different groups in the Netherlands Indies, who were decorated for their behaviour during the war (only letter A)
For detailed information and the persons with the letters B to Z see www.onderscheidingen.nl
A-Tjak, M.G.. Born in 1917. Flyers Cross. Reserve-first lieutenant-observer of the Weapen of Military Aviation
Aalbertsberg, Gerard. Born in Malang on 17 Februari 1908. Died in The Hague 6 April 1978. Resistance Star East Asia 1942-1945, Resistance Commemorative Cross. Journalist
Abdoel Sakoer. Bronze Cross. Native servant, on board of Hr.Ms. 'Piet Hein'
Abdullatif-Nji Raden [noble title] Enong Tjitjik, Mrs. Resistance Star East Asia 1942-1945. Civilian from Bandoeng
Adjoen (alias Pang Linggan). Bronze Lion. Native civilian, involved with the underground resistance in the Netherlands Indies
Adriani, Paulus Lambertus Grimmius. Born in Makasser on 17 January 1914. Died on board of the Hr.Ms. Hydroplane 'X29' near Soerabaia on 11 February 1942. Flyers Cross. Officer-pilot 2nd class Navy Aviation Service, on board of the Hr.Ms. Hydroplane 'X29'
Agerbeek, Jacques Rola. Born Batavia on 21 March 1880. Died in Koepang on 17 August 1942. Resistance Star East Asia 1942-1945. Capitain of Infantry-titulair ret. from the Royal Netherlands Indies Army, authority of the Home Guard
Akoeilia Torey. Bronze Cross. Native civilian, member of the resistance in the Netherlands Indies
Akolo. Bronze Cross. Ambon sergeant 2nd class from the Royal Netherlands Indies Army
Alan. Bronze Cross. Native kampong leader, member of the resistance in the Netherlands Indies
Aliet, Hendrik. Born in Paleleh, Makassar, on 20 August 1912. Died in Monrovia, Los Angeles in March 1983. Resistance Star East Asia 1942-1945. Soldier with the Coast Artillery of the Royal Netherlands Indies Army
Alstede, Paulus Simon. Born in Buitenzorg (Bogor, Java) on 20 June 1906. Died on board of the Hr.Ms. Cruiser 'Java' in the Java Sea on 27 February 1942. (also see Jan Frederik Haayen at The Netherlands Antilles). Bronze Cross, War Commemorating Cross, Officers Cross XV. Lieutenant-at-sea 1st class, navigation-officer on board of Hr.Ms. Cruiser 'Java'
Altman-de Moet, Mrs. Lena Cornelia (“Corrie”). Born in Malang on 1 September 1911. Died in Benidorm on 24 April 1996. Married on 11 June 1929 in Amsterdam to Friedrich Heinrich Altman. Divorced in Djakarta on 20 May 1952. Resistance Star East Asia 1942-1945. Civilian in Soerabaja
Amag Darminah. Resistance Star East Asia 1942-1945. Town head of the dessa Pengantap, district Geroeng, West-Lombok
Amag Lebih. Resistance Star East Asia 1942-1945. Town head of the dessa Bengkok, district Geroeng, West-Lombok
Amag Redam. Resistance Star East Asia 1942-1945. Town keeper of the dessa Pengantap, district Geroeng, West-Lombok
Amag Sibah. Resistance Star East Asia 1942-1945. Town head of the dessa Blangas, district Geroeng, West-Lombok
Amahorseja, M.B.. Bronze Cross. Sergeant-telegrapher of the Royal Navy
Amak. Cross of Merit. Servant, on board of the m.s. 'Madoera'
Amat. Bronze Cross. Native civilian, member of the resistance in the Netherlands Indies
Ament, Cornelus Carolus. Born in Paroendjaia, Java, on 29 March 1896. Executed in Batavia-Antjol on 23 September 1943. Resistance Star East Asia 1942-1945. Employee of the General Agricultural Syndicate
Aroen. Bronze Cross. Native inland boy, with the Submarine Service of the Royal Navy
Asbeck, Thomas Karel baron van. Born in Kedongdjati (Java) on 14 October 1899. Died in The Hague on 23 October 1966. Knight in the Order of the Dutch Lion, Officer in Order of Orange Nassau and many other decorations. Officer in the Order of Orange-Nassau owing to: “Under difficult and often dangerous conditions in a competant and tactical way commander of our Escort vessel ‘JAN VAN BRAKEL’ and before of our Minelayer ‘VAN MEERLANT’ during over three years. capitain-lieutenant-at-sea, commander of Hr.Ms. Escort vessel 'Jan van Brakel'
Asjes, eng. Dirk Lucas. Born in Soerabaja on 21 June 1911. Died in The Hague in February 1997. Military Willems Order, Knight in the Order of the Dutch Lion, Flyers Cross and many other decorations. Military Willems Order owing to: “Distinguished himself during battle by excellent deeds of courage, tact and loyalty by during the period from 27 February 1944 until 22 September 1944 taken part personally in an exemplary way in a large number of operational flights of the Netherlands Indies 18th Squadron bombers from Australia to the by the enemy occupied area in the South Moluccas, on Timor and Flores and on islands in the Banda Sea and the Arafoera Sea, as well as on New-Guinea...”
Ayal-Nahuwae, Costavina ("Coosje"). Born on 15 April 1926. Cross of Merit, Resistance Commemoration Cross, Honorary Token for Order and Peace, Mobilisation-War Cross, Badge Wounded. Civilian. Cross of Merit owing to: "Acted brave and very meritorious during many months of guerilla fights against the Japannese in the Vogelkop-area of New-Guinea, and sharing all dangers and hardships of the guerrilla-fighters."
Netherlands Indies during Japanese occupation
The capitulation of Japan on 15 August 1945 makes an end to what is called the Second World War. This capitulatie was officially commemorated in Holland only in 1970, and only once. Up til then the attention had mostly been aimed at the events in the home country. Only an urn with soil from Indonesia was added in 1950 to the other urns in the monument at the Dam. From 1980 the 15-August commemoration has been held every year and since 1988 there is monument for the Dutch victims of the world war in Asia, the Indies monument in The Hague. The money for it was raised by the victims themselves. Also in other places, like Arnhem-Bronbeek, Roermond, Amstelveen and Den helder monumenten were erected or commemorations held. Finally in 1999 the date of 15 August was recognised as a historical day: the ende of the Second World War. The last erected monument (Bronbeek, 17 August 2004) commemorates the thousands of victims from the Japanese prisoner transports at sea.
The Japanese capitulation also made an end to the Japanese occupation of the former Netherlands Indies. After the attack of Japan at the American Navy Basis Pearl Harbor (Hawai) and the American declaration of war (8 December 1941) afterwards, the Japanese warfare extended from China to the Asian areas of British, Americans, Dutch and their allies. Parts of the Indonesian islands were already attacked in January and February 1942. On 27 February the battle of the Java Sea took place: under leadership of the Dutch admiral Karel Doorman the allied fought a desperate battle against the much better equipped and prepared Japanese (see also Surinam, KNIL). On 1 March 1942 the conquest of Java started, on 8 March the colonial authorities capitulated.
The occupation of the Netherlands Indies (by some 300,000 Japanese and Korean military men and civil servants) was welcomed by a part of the native population. The nationalistic part of the elite cooperated with Japan: it would bring independence from the Dutch yoke. Indeed the foundation for an independant country and army (‘Peta’) was layed. Others mistrusted the motives and methods of the Japanese occupation and were less enthousiastic. Especially Moluccans, Manadonese (Sulawesi) and Timorese actively resisted (see story Litamahaputty).
A talisman given by family, friends and acquaintances to a Japanese soldier. It is full of the names, with our without wishes and encouragements, from these people. The large text on the right hand side of the flag says: "In honour of Mr. Tirasaki Hiroharu" and next to it "Keep courage". Wished to him by Narita Kinjuro, who probably was the initiator. It is very likely Tirasaki Hiroharu has been a camp guard because the flag was taken by an ex-prisoner to Holland - www.museumverbindingsdienst.nl/leven3.html
The major part of the 70 million inhabitants, ‘the people’, ‘rakyat’, was illiterate, and suffered increasingly under the occupation. Almost all men were put to work, usually a ‘force labourer’, ‘romusha’, or as aid soldier, ‘heiho’. Hundreds of thousands were deported to other parts of the archipel, to New Guinea, Birma, Siam, the Philippines or Japan. Many women were forced to become prostitutes, ‘consolation girls’ (‘yugun ianfu’) for the Japanese soldiers. Farmers were forced to deliver rice. The military police, ‘kempetai’, led a reign of terror in some places. The economic situation worsened. From 1945 there was a acute shortage of food and textiles.
The majority of the 300,000 Dutch and other Europeans in the colony, whites (‘totoks’) and coloured (‘Indo’s’), saw the Japanese occupation comparable to what the Germans had done in Holland. Some saw though that the colonial was nearing its end or sympathised with the Indonesian strive for independence.
Like the Germans in Surinam and the Netherlands Antilles – often anti-nazi’s and jewish refugees – were imprisoned from May 1940 in internment camps (see there), and like Japanese civilians in the United States from 9 December 1941 were interned, this also happened to a part of the highly educated European top in the western colonies of Asia. Their fate was much worse though. About 16,800 of the 100,000 interned didn't live to see the end of the Japanese occupation, which is about a sixth of the camps population (see also article Liesker and Slors).
Compared tot the occupied British and French colonies the largest number of civilians were interned in the Netherlands Indies: about 100,000. 35,000 of them were younger than seventeen years. There were separate camps for women, where also the younger children stayed; and there were also boy camps.
Sub-camps for religious
Less known perhaps is there were also sub-camps for religious, as for instance the camp Blitar on East-Java and in camp Kuching in the Maleisian part (Serawak) of Borneo. Below is informatie which concerns camp Kuching.
The attack from the Japanese at Java starts on 1 March 1942. Other islands, like Borneo, are attacked much sooner, in some regions just after the bombing of 8 December 1941 on Pearl Harbour.
From the diary, written in stenography, of friar Bernulfus Bosman from Broeders van Huijbergen:
“19 December 1941. The war starts here (Pontianak (Kalimantan, S.-Borneo)) devestating. While walking on the gallery of the school, we here planes. There's no air-raid alarm. A bombardment on the Chinese quarters follows. The Dutch-Chinese school receives a direct-hit: the schoolrooms of the youngest are in ruins (the children were already sent home) and among the older students there are 15 dead. In town there are hundreds of victims and big fires. All friars work day and night to offer help. Pontianak becomes a dead town. On 27 January 1943 the Japanese occupy Singkawang (about 100 km north of Pontianak). Two days later it's Pontianak turn. The friars get house arrest and barbed wire prikkeldraad straight next to the house. We can't even get into the garden. All the time about four men are on guard. The friars house in Pontianak becomes more and more crowded, because all arrested inland civil servants are brought here. After a couple of months there are over 100 occupants in a friars house that used to be too small to accomodate 15 men.”
Kuching (at that time British Borneo, Serawak)
Camp Kuching (drawing: Broeders van Huijbergen)
In July 1943 the friars from Singkawang and Pontianak (Kalimantan) are housed in a internment camp near Kuching (about 200 km north-east of Singkawang). The camp has almost 3,000 inhabitants, half of them die during the following years. The camp is devided into 10 sections, one of them a section of about 100 religious (also missionaries). The sisters and nuns are, not seperately, housed in the womens section. The camp inhabitants have to work hard: they have to enlarge the airfield and build roads, during which there's more and more shortage of food. Especially in 1945 many of the prisoners die of exhaustion, dysentery and hunger oedema.
Camp Kuching with waving men just before the liberation (picture: Broeders van Huijbergen)
On 25 March 1945 a first sign of hope: during mass high up in the air two shining American bombers fly over the camp. Everyone runs for the trenches but the bombers drop pamphlets. But camp life in Kuching still continues for almost half a year. On 11 September 1945 the survivors are liberated. Next the survivors can recover for some months on the island of Labuan at the coast of Brunei. The friars camp on the beach, 10 meters from the sea. The ones who suffered most, are in a field hospital to regain strength.
Already in December 1945 the School of Economics in Pontianak reopens (thanks to the help of many ex-students) and in January primary school starts again.
The story of friar Angelus van der Zanden about his experiences during the war in the prison in Kediri, the men's camp Tjimahi and the camp Blitar (Java) is elsewhere on this website.
1 dead, 1 damaged
Eventually in 1946 friar Claudius Sommen still dies of dysentery because of the hardships in the camp. Friar Ireneus van de Avoird had a hard time during the rest of his life as resulte of the inhuman treatments he was given because he always stood out for his fellow-friars in the camp.
After 15 August 1945
After the liberation from the Japanese occupation the colonial Netherlands Indies heads for its down fall. The battle for independence is mainly fought on Java. The Broeders van Huijbergen on southern Borneo hardly notice anything. After the transfer of sovereignty in 1949 new rules apply. The official language becomes Bahasa Indonesia and other school books arrive. Finally the friars have to choose in December 1951 whether they want to have the Indonesian nationality. The ones who want to stay Dutch citizens, won't formally be able to teach after 1960. The bishop of Pontianak advises all religious to ‘adapt to the people’, but gives everyone freedom of choice. Eventually half of the Broeders van Huijbergen accept Indonesian citizenship.
Note: The congregation of the Broeders van Huijbergen
The congregation of the ‘De Broeders van Huijbergen’ was founded in 1854 in the Brabant village of Huijbergen (Netherlands). From 1888 the emphasis was on ‘good education’ and within a few years friar primary and secondary schools appeared. Already in 1892 a private teacher college was founded.
In 1921 the first friars left for the Netherlands-Indies, the emphasis of the mission again with education. In Indonesië there are still friars in 8 towns: Singkawang (Serawak), Pontianak (Serawak), Pati (Java), Yogyakarta (2 - Java), Kuala Dua (Kalimantan), Sekadau (Kalimantan) and Putussibau (Kalimantan). Closed are: Bandjarmasin (Kalimantan), Blitar (Java), Kudus (Java), Njarumkop (Serawak) and Sanggau (Kalimantan).
In the beginning the camps were enclosed town parts. Also about 160,000 civilians from Holland or elsewhere in Europe stayed outside the internment camps. Their life also wasn't free of hunger, humiliation and oppression. European women also were forced to work as ‘consolation girls’ for the Japanese and Korean troops. Men usually were, as prisoner of war, interned.
Thousands of men were forced to work in Sumatra ('Pakan Baroe') and Birma/Siam (‘River Kwai’) to build the railways through the jungle. 3,000 Dutch lost their lives during this forced labour at the Birmese railway, 1,000 in Sumatra. Many thousands romusha's also lost their lives.
42,000 colonial military men and women, white and coloured Dutch, Surinames, Moluccans and others were imprisoned as prisoners of war in the Netherlands Indies (20,000 British civilians and 50,000 prisoners of war on the Maleisian peninsula, 27,000 French in Indochina). From the occupied regions in East-Asia in total 68,000 prisoners of war and civilians were transported by ships to other parts of the Japanese Imperium, to China, Taiwan and Japan, some to Nagasaki (see speech Han Bawits in Stories). During the transports at sea thousands lost their lives by lack of air and food, and especially by attacks from the allies. The ships also carried weapons and couldn't be recognised from the air as prisoner transports. An notorious transport was that of the Junyo Maru. All fifteen ‘hell ships’ had a name ending on Maru.
On 16 September 1944 the Japanese ship Junyo Maru with over 6,000 passengers left Tandung Priok, Java. 4,200 of them were Javan forced labourers, ‘romusha’. The others were Dutch, Surinam, British, Australian and American prisoners of war. On 18 September British submarine HMS Tradewind torpedoed the ship. It sunk and only 880 persons survived. It would turn out to be the third biggest shipping disaster ever. Among the drowned were about 1,000 KNIL-men, four of them from Surinam. The major part of the survivors were put to work at the 'death railway' on Sumatra.
Most memories of the Japanese occupation of the Netherlands Indies have been written down by civilians from the internment camps. There were kept, despite the prohibition, many diaries, as for instance the camp notes of prof. dr. I.J. Brugmans.
Images of the Japanese occupation of Indonesia. Personal testimonies and public conceptualizing in Indonesia, Japan and the Netherlands. Editor: Remco Raben Waanders-NIOD 1999.
Information Broeders van Huijbergen, prior friar Eduard Quint
Data private collection John T.S. Brouwer de Koning version 5.3
15 August and the war in South-East Asia
Commemoration 15 August 1945 Foundation
Why commemoration on 15 August?
The 5th of May is the day for the annual official commemoration of the liberation from the German oppression. But when the Germans capitulated on 5 May 1945, the Japanese oppression in the former Netherlands Indies still weighed heavily upon all the people living there. To the Dutch from this former Indies therefore the date of capitulation of Japan, the 15th of August 1945, and with it the actual end of the Second World War, is the turning point in their history.
Unlike in Holland, the date on which the oppressor capitulated brought no liberation. When Japan surrendered, no allied forces were in the Netherlands Indies yet. The Japanese soldiers weren't allowed to strive for the Japanese goals anymore, but were ordered to keep rest and peace until the allied forces could take over.
But two days after the capitulation of Japan, an influential group of Indonesians decided to declare the independace of the Republic of Indonesia, independence from Holland and independance from Japan. As a result of this the Indonesian forces tried to do everything possible to lay their hands on the weapons of the Japanese army, in order to prevent the Dutch to return to their former power over the colony; the start of the independance war was a fact and went hand in hand with terrible violence.
So, for the Dutch in the former Indies the 15th of August 1945 didn't bring liberation, in fact it marks the date of the beginning of the definitive end of the Netherlands Indies they'd grown up in, lived in, worked in and suffered in during the war. Many of them blamed - and still sometimes blamed - the Japanese for the loss of their home country.
Every day the 15th of August is the day on which all these far-reaching events for the Dutch in South-East Asia and the people who died because of this, is commemorated.
What caused the Japanese agression and what were the consequences?
Few people dwell on the fact that Holland in the 19th century gave an important contribution to the metamorphosis which happend to Japan, that is, from a from the outside world secluded country to an internationally important industrial power. Among other things Holland tought Japan a lot on shipbuilding and thus enabling Japan to become a formidable navel force.
By the strong industrialisation Japan was confronted with the fact it hardly had any essential commodoties. Looking at the western powers which supplied themselves around 1900 through their colonies (The Netherland was fighting in the Indonesian archipel for the rich oil supplies in Atjeh), Japan had an eye on Manchuria, where also Russia wanted an interest however. This resulted in the Japanese-Russian war which was mainly fought at sea and was won by Japan in 1905.
With this feat Japan put itself on the world map. But the western powers didn't allow Japan to annex Manchuria; though they did agree for Japan to colonise Korea and Taiwan (Formosa).
This belittleling of Japan by the west was an eyesore to the Japanese military. After the death in 1912 of the Japanese emperor Meiji, under who's government Japan developed industrially, his physically and mentally weak son becampe emperor. During his weak governement, which is called the Taisho-period in Japanese era counting, the military arranged his son Hirohito, and grandson to the glorious Meiji-emperor, was raised and trained from child on in a strong military way. Though Hirohito didn't have a martial appearence, he turned out to be intellectual military gifted.
When Hirohito in 1926, after his father's death, became emperor - the Showa-period - the military seized the opportunity to gradually mold the Japanese state to their will. Eventually the result was a military dictatorship, under which the Japanese civilians, by means of indoctrination of self-sacrificing for the emperor, would groan until mid 1945. The indoctrination even went this far that everyone was expected to give ones life for the emperor. One of the results was that many military men didn't repent for the acts of war and atrocities committed in name of their emperor.
In 1931 the Japanese army succeeded, by a provoked 'incident', to annex Manchuria and in this manner as yet obtain the 'rightful prize' of the Russian-Japanese war. After this happened, and the international community protested but stayed idle, their eyes were turned at China. Also the western powers were extanding their influence in China - in Shanghai there was a British, German and French enclave and the British tried with the import of opium to tackle the weak Chinese gouvernment. But Japan wanted to be 'Asia for the Asians'.
In 1933 Japan deliberately left the Nations Union. In this way it withdrew itself from the international fleet treaties, by means of which the international community tried to block the expansion of the Japanese fleet. Japan now planned a very strong armed force, and executed this. It built the heavy cruisers which were 30% larger than their probable adverts, their super battleships even almost 50%. The new Japanese torpedo was almost twice as big, with a three times larger range and it had no visible bubble track. The army, in the mean time hardened in years of campaigns, specialised in jungle war fare; for which purpose an effective gun was developed. The Mitsubishi fighter plane, the 'Zero', was to be a great surprise in the first year of the war to the allies because of its manoeuvrability.
Despite this military superiority the advance started in 1936 in China stagnated, a thrust inland and the moved capital Tsjoengking failed to occur. Despite more landings and mass-executions like the 'Rape of Nanking' - where hundreds of thousands of civilians were murdered in a horrific way - the army and navy had little successes to report to confirm their heroism.
To free themselves from this pressing situation the Japanese military decided, with the knowledge of emperor Hirohito, to control entire South-East Asia. The first step of this Nanjo-plan was the occupation of some strategical islands south of China in the spring of 1939. Because of the alliance with Germany next free entry to French Indo-China in September could be exorted from the collaborating Vichy-government in France. This led to negotiations with the United States, which threatened with an oil-boycot when China and Indo-China weren't vacated. In the mean time Japan sent a delegation to Batavia to arrange the supply of oil from the Netherlands Indies. The rejection end June 1941 by the Indies Gouvernment and the oil-embargo from the United States in August 1941 were explained in Japan as a conspiracy of what at that time were called the ABCD-countries (the Americans, the British, the Chinese and the Dutch).
This caused the daring plan to, with an attack on Pearl Harbor, eliminatin in one blow the entire American fleet in the Pacific, after which the passage would be free to Malakka, Singapore, the oil-rich Netherlands Indies, the Philipines and even Australia.
On 7 December 1941 the planes from the Japanese navy bombed Pearl Harbor and with it started the war in the Pacific. The Japanese attack was a great succes, also because in the days after the attack the Japanese airforce destroyed half of the American bombers in the Philippines and sunk the British battleships at Singapore with torpedoes and bombs. Indeed within a few weeks Japan conquered Malakka, Singapore, the Netherlands Indies and the Philippines.
The battle was only short because the allies - among them the Dutch - completely underestimated the power, the technical equipment and the tough perseverence of the Japanese military system. In the Netherlands Indies the gouvernment also hadn't taken into account that the local population at first saw the Japanese as 'liberators' and would welcome them. On 15 February the Dutch fleet was defeated in the Battle of the Java Sea and on 8 March 1942 the Royal Netherlands Indies Army (KNIL) capitulated.
The Japanese policy concerning the Europeans
Because of the quick surrender of the allies tens of thousands of prisonors of war fell into Japanese hands. The Japanese soldiers were indoctrinated never to surrender themselves, but litteral fight till their death. Therefore the showed little respect to the allied prisoners and at first didn't know what to do with these large numbers of prisoners of war either. Soon was decided to use these prisoners as forced labourers. It started with loading and unloading of ships, next the building of airfields (for instance in the Moluccas and on Flores) and of railroads (for instance the Birma-railway and the Pakan Baroe-railway), and eventually also the work in the mines and shipyards in Japan.
With the capitulation on 8 March 1942 the Japanese army on Java made almost 90,000 prisoners of war: 67,000 KNIL-military men and women and almost 22,000 British, Australians and Americans. From the KNIL-men 9,200 escaped and 15,000 local people were recruited al Heiho aid-soldier to the Japanese army. Eventually almost 43,000 men were imprisoned, among them almost 5,000 local military men who stayed loyal to the Netherlands Indies.
The circumstances under which thes prisoners of war were put to work were, as well as for the housing in the camps as for food and health care appalling. There also was a reign of terror in the camps, where a persons life didn't count as much. From 8 March 1942 until 15 August 1945 about 8,500 KNIL prisoners from the Netherlands Indies died (3,100 at the Birma-railway; 1,000 at the Pakan Baroe-railway; 3,100 at the torpedoeing of the prisoner ships - just only the sinking of the Junyo Maru cost 1,600 prisoners their lives plus about 4,000 Indonesische romusha's - , 600 at the building of airfields etc. and 700 in the camps in Japan). From the Dutch, Britisch and American prisoners of war one in four or five didn't live to see the end of the war.
Between mid 1942 and the end of 1943 gradually also all Dutch civilians were interned. Also the Indo-Europeans, who's ancestors were whites for more than 50%, had to share this fate. In fact the Japanese wanted to make the Dutch 'invisable' for the native population by interning them. In total they were about 100,000 people, 33,000 men and boys, 67,000 women and children. The age limit for internment of boys in men or boys camps gradually sunk from 15 years to 10 years (see also poem of Govert Huyser - it didn't happen everywhere because in some camps mothers successfully resisted. Also the transport from girls to brothels was successfully blocked in some cases by mothers. Still in early 1944 girls were transported to brothels).
In the beginning many internments camps were only strictly shielded parts in town; in 1944 the occupants of a few hundred areas were concentrated and crammed into some crowded barrack-camps. During the years of war also food supplies and hygiene worsened. Also the brute attitude of the Japanese and their accomplices (Koreans and Indonesian aid soldiers or Heiho's) provided an atmosphere of constant fear.
At the end of the war it turned out about 16,800 civilians died, comparatively more men than women and children.
For those with Indonesian blood who could stay outside the camps, the situation often was evenly precarious. Because of the breadwinner usually being interned as prisoner of war, many families were deprived of an income and the women had to find out for themselves how to make a living. Also they were subject to the arbitrariness of the Japanese masters, among it forced prostitution.
The mutual misunderstanding of each others cultures had in many situations devestating effects. The compulsary bowing equalled the compulsary greating in the army and wasn't meant as nagging. In the Japanse army hitting, heavy physical punishment and even putting to death, were normal rules of discipline. In the eyes of the occupier beating up was a humane punishment, and jailing a bigger disgrace because it caused more loss of face. When you had to be put to death decapitation was more honourable than a bullet which was more honourable than bayonetting.
The 'humane' punisment of beating and flogging could happen to anyone, any Japanese could do this to someone. It could also happen to an innocent person: if the 'guilty' person wasn't found, soon someone else was caught or an entire group was punished. For the prisoners of war these punishments were already hard to swallow, but for the women, young boys and girls and old men this was almost even more horrific. Many of them suffered from psychological damage. The recovery from it - if possible - still went on many years after the war.
A systematical resistance was almost out of the question. But there have been small groups everywhere who manly tried manhaftig to give the Japanese a hard time. Because the Japanese were convinced - wrongly - that behind the resistance was a strict organisation with a strategic plan, they tried everything to eliminate this resistance. Many of these groups have been rounded up by the Japanese military police, the Kempei Tai, and the persons involved had, during their 'interrogation', endure the most gruesome torturing.
Almost none survived. Also many innocent lost their lives this way, especially on Sumatra and Borneo. One of the reasons why the resistance and guerilla units often didn't stand a chance, was the passive attitude from the native popluation. Part of this population welcomed the new authority, especially in the beginning. The sympathie of the population for the Japanese gradually declined though, especially from 1944, but the Kempei Tai had established a cunning 'blabbing' systeem which left the population no way to go.
Political developments outside the camps
Shortly after the capitulation of the KNIL here and there an Indonesian flag waved and the national anthem was sung. But already on 20 March 1942 these expressions were prohibited by the occupier. The striving for autonomy for Indonesia was smothered professionally. The recruiting and training of Indonesians for the Heiho aid-army and the PETA volunteer-corps was, as seen by the Japanese, exclusively meant to support the Japanese war efforts.
It wasn't anymore 'Asia for the Asians', but 'Japan the light, the protector and the leader of Asia'. The founding of many sorts of federations was ordered: for all Moslems, all Chinese, Arabs, and also for the (yet) free Indo-Europeans. Also there were federations for all sugar factories, shop owners, merchants, journalists, doctors and chemists.
Rice distribution was introduced and the exclusive sale of agricultural products to Japan. Private estates were expropriated and controlled. Prices, salaries and rents were lowered and frozen. All schools were requisited.
In 1942 the Keibodan (aid police)was established, the Barisan Pemoeda Asia Raya (great-Asian youth corps), which later fused into the Seinendan (military youth movement). Als the Tonarikumi system was introduced for sectioning the kampongs and dessa's in an Aza (or neighbourhood). This way the Japanese influence could penetrate deep into society.
Prominent Indonesians were ordered in December 1942 to design an umbrella organisation the 'Poetera' (Poesat Tenaga Rakjat, or center of the peoples strength) to bundle to peoples activities and cooperate with Japan. This umbrella organisation at first was exclusively meant for Indonesians and had an Indonesian signature; a year later it would be transformed in an organisation of Japanese design: the Djawa Hokukai (National Peoples Movement).
Many odd jobs for Japan were carried out by the organisation. Recruitment for PETA, Heiho, Keibodan and Seinendan (army, aid militia, aid police and youth) were forced by the Tonarikumi system; indicating for romusha forced labour was intensified, actions against non-loyal Indonesion Dutch started. Also compulsary rice supplies were enforced, harvesting and forced cultivation were supervised; the Seinendan searched for hidden food supplies. The cultivation of Djarak-plants (an oily ricine-plant) was compulsary for the production of motor oil for the Japanese planes. In 1944 a compulsary saving action started, Indonesians with a saving account book had to hand over their credits.
The recruitment of romusha's took place at an unprecedented scale. Most of them were forced to work on Java and Sumatra for the building of airfields and railways. Also for the cole mines in Borneo, the nickel production in Celebes and for airfields in New-Guinea. The romusha's had to work under appalling circumstances (even worse than the prisoners of war who were forced labourers) and died by the sackful. According to Indonesian estimates from 1951 during the war some millions of romusha's have been deported and many hundreds of thousands died.
Despite the many meetings from a large number of organisations from the Djawa Hokukai economy worsened. After the internment of the Europeans and the increasing Japanese forced regulations cultures dwindled, and public health worsened. The prices in 1944 during the Japanese occupation were a sixfold of the prices in 1938 under the Netherlands Indies Gouvernement. Rice rations already were lowered and food riots started. There was no more clothing available. Gold, silver and jewelry had to be handed over. Car tires and oil were only available to the army and the authorities.
In July 1944 48 Heiho's were shot because of objection to labour, and also at the end of 1944 still some executions were carried out. In January 1945 a revolt started in Blitar among the PETA; during the fights 68 Indonesian military died. The population of rich Indonesia were weighed down during the last year of war by an enormous shortage of rice and other necessities, like textile and fuel. There was openly criticism on the tyranny of the occupator, its inhuman treatment of the romusha's. This could happen most of all because more and more information seeped through which indicated a lost war.
Early 1945 Japan proposed to replace the Hokukai by the organisation Angkatan Baroe: the New Conscription; in May 1945 the first serious actions were undertaken with a promise of premier Koiso of September 1944 (eight months before!) for more independence. The red-white flag was allowed, the name Indonesia was introduced, commissions made proposals and organisations prepared for the national cause.
The war scene, the capitulation, but no peace
While the Japanese were lord and master of the Indies Archipel, the fights with the allies, and specifically with the Americans, happened on the edges of the archipel. Because the advance of the Japanese to the south in May and June 1942 already stagnated by respectively the lost battle in the Coral Sea and the battel of Midway, and this news was known in the internment camps through illegal radio's, the prisoners had the idea the war would soon be over. They couldn't be wrong more.
The Japanese defended the conquered territories with everything possible at the cost of enormous losses, also on American side. Therefore the American supreme command decided not to liberate the Indies first, but to push through via two attack routes as quickly as possible to Japan itself. The western route went along the Phippines, the eastern route along the islands in the Pacific. Small islands became of enormous strategical importance because they could produce airfields from which bombers could shell the next target and finally Japan.
One of these islands, the notorious island of Iwo Jima (from the picture where 5 marines planted the American flag) was conquered in four weeks on the Japanese occupiers, during which the entire Japanese forces of 22,000 men fought till their death and the Americans mourned for almost 7,000 dead and 19,000 wounded. These incredible huge losses, which also happened during the conquering of New Guinea and the Phippines made the American supreme command realize that an invasion of Japan itself would be a massacre never seen before. When at that moment the first atomic bombs were operationally available, it was decided to deplore the weapon. Thus on 6 and 9 August 1945 the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were razed to the ground. The number of victims at that time (and also later as a result of radiation) is many times less than the number of victims that would have fallen during an invasion.
The shockeffect was so that the Japanese emperor, against the will of the army, decided on 15 August 1945 to capitulate.
For many people in the internment camps, but also for those who weren't interned, the capitulation was just in time. The health situation was that bad (dysenty, malaria, hunger-oedema), the number of dead would have been considerably larger if the war had continued for a couple of months.
Because of the interned being cut off from the outside world during the years of war, they weren't able to observe nationalism in Indonesia had taken root in large parts of the population. When the Dutch, after the capitulation of Japan, believed to continue their lives frome before the war, they were confronted with the fact that on 17 August 1945 the Indonesian nationalists Soekarno and Hatta had proclaimed the independant republic of Indonesia.
Thereupon Indonesian forces ('Pelopors' or front fighters) came into action, who set out to murder the Dutch and their Indo-European 'followers', in such a way the colonial gouvernment couldn't be restored. In this bitter, confusing and bloddy period, the 'bersiap' ('bersiap' is the Indonesian command 'attention'), meanwhile the here and there landed English and Ghurka's tried - together with the Japanese - to protect the Dutch and evacuate them. In the cities Bandoeng and Semarang it even were the local Japanese commandanders (respectively general Mabuchi and major Kido) who effectively protected the Dutch against the Indonesian forces, despite the fact they were in favour of independance.
Many Indo-Europeans and Chinese, who stayed during the war outside the camps, were now interned by the Indonesian police to protect them against those forces who wanted to butcher them together with the Dutch.
Though the Dutch gouvernment end 1945 had returned to Batavia (Jakarta) and some parts of the country were functioning under Dutch administration again, the Indonesian 'gouvernment to be' was in command in many regions.
Holland didn't as yet want to face reality, that Indonesia had become an independant state. Despite the fact the Dutch had just been going through many years of war and oppression, a force of 100,000 men was sent to the Netherlands Indies.
After many failed negotiations and two military actions (the so-called 'Policing Actions' of July 1947 and December 1948), which were forced to stop within ten days because of external international pressure, Holland recognized in 1949 the legitimate existence of the Republiek of Indonesia. In December of the same year authority was handed over, and came an end to 350 years of Dutch involvement in the Indonesian archipel.
A huge stream of repatriants from Indonesia to Holland was the result. The at that time common word 'repatriant' though passed over the fact that many of them never had set foot on Dutch soil and that the arrival in Holland and the 'loss of the Indies' brought about emotional shocks, from which many of them never completely recovered. Many of the repatriated had to overcome many problems in finding a new way of living, for their stories about what they had went through was no attention and when applying for job they often met explicit, unreasonable distrust.
And than there were the Moluccans and the Indo's who, after fifteen years of uncertainty about their existance, still had to take refuge in a cold country which they knew only from stories.
And finally the youngest, who felt lost for years in an incomprehensible and indistinct whirlpool; who didn't know safety in their youth, but only uncertainty and fear and who often carried this shortage for many years with them.
In another way such shock awaited also the military men and women of the KNIL and the Royal Forces, who did their duty for Gouvernment and Queen, and were treated during the following years many times on emotional and often injust criticism on their 'dirty' war.
Therefore the commemoration on the 15th of August has its own comprehensive meaning to the Dutch-Indies community in Holland, a meaning which never can be replaced by the commemoration on 4 and 5 May.
Text: Hans Liesker and Peter Slors
Commemoration 15 August 1945 Foundation
Speech by dr. Bernard Bot,
minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of The Netherlands
15 August commemoration at the Indies Monument, The Hague, 15 August 2005
Dear attendance, ladies and gentlemen,
I’m grateful to have been given the opportunity by the Foundation Commemoration 15 August 1945 for making today this memorial speech. To me, as the minister of Foreign Affairs en representative of the gouvernement, it’s a honourable task. But, like many of you, I’m also here as a child of the Indies. Just as with you this commemoration brings to me feelings and emotions, surface today positive as well as negative memories to Indonesia, 5 time zones and 14,000 kilometers away from this place, but emotionally so near. They are the memories you’ll carry the rest of your life, but who don’t have to interfer with an optimistic and forward looking attitude to life. After all, commemorating is, besides remembring, also looking forward.
First the past: with the capitulation of Japan, exactly 60 years ago, there also came an end to the Japanese occupation of the Netherlands Indies, an occupation which brought grief to so many of us. We remember the members in our families and our friends who gave their lives of died during the Japanese occupation. We also remember the countless forced labourers, the Romusha’s, who often died nameless.
After the capitulation the suffering, contrary to what was so dearly hoped for, wasn’t over yet. Right after the capitulation a vacuum of power existed which could only partially be filled by the British. During this so-called Bersiap period many thousands of innocent Dutch-Indies and Indonesian civilians, mostly women and children, lost their lives.
In the years after a painful, lenghty and violent separation of roads between Indonesia and Holland followed. For a great part of the Dutch-Indies community we thus speak about many years of physical and psychological suffering.
For myself, I look back on my time in the camp Tjideng with mixed feelings. Perhaps as a child you’re less quickly touched by the sorrow and the hardships around you, perhaps you take things more easily. But you also grow up very fast. A stay in an orphanage, when my mother was hospitalized, made me streetwise very early.
Probably that’s why this period is still so sharp and vivid in my memory. I vividly remember the internment, the departure of my father to Birma, the koempoelans in the morning and in the evening, the hours of waiting and afterwards the bow for camp commander Soni. I also know you died a thousand deaths when you couldn’t attend the koempoelan because you were ill, because the Japanese could find out with a check. The memory of the hunger is something that, I believe, with my generation lives on strongly in the sense that you won’t throw away easily anything that is still a bit edible.
A small anecdote. We were forced to maintain some allotments supposedly to grow some vegetables. I was ordered to help in a tomato bed. I was very dissapointed when some morning almost ripe tomatoes had dissapeared.
I suspected the boy next door of this evil deed and decided to retalliate. Only, his tomatoes were all still unripe and green. I still ate them which I repented afterwards. It’s wasn’t for long when I felt sick to death and had to confess to my mother what I had done. “Boy”, she said, “you’ll always get what you deserve”.
A lot is written again about the Japanese capitulation. Ofcourse it’s terrible what happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But I also know that war couldn’t have gone on for a bit longer, otherwise we wouldn’t have survived this camp. And for sure my father wouldn’t have returned from Birma and Siam. To me therefor, 15 August is a day with a special meaning.
The liberation, the return of my father, who I didn’t recognise ofcourse when we first met again, the return to Hoalland, are likewise uneraseble memories I’d like to share with you today. The welcome in Holland was something of a cold shower. And I don’t say this because of the cold climate I went to. It was hard to explain what we had gone through. The regular reaction was, that with us in the Indies, at least the sun had been shining, while they suffered from cold during the hunger winter. In shor, nobody in Holland was waiting for that group of Dutch from the Indies. Soon you learned not to talk to much about your experiences, but listen with sympathy to the stories about the war in Holand, the Germans and the destruction camps.
Maybe that’s the reason why we were able to integrate so well and so quickly in Dutch society. Maybe therefore we quickly stuck plasters on all those wounds and picked up our lives. And ofcourse there also were reasons to be grateful. We had survived and at least found a new home. Personally therefore, I’m grateful to stand in front of you, that I like so many of you endured this period well, and have shown you can come out of this ordeal even stronger.
Sixty years, ladies and gentlemen. The distance in time between today and the events in the past is growing all the time. And doesn’t this bring the risk of oblivion, like Mr. Boekholt pointed out two years ago on this occasion? I hope and trust this won’t happen. I think future generations will stay interested in the common past ot The Netherlands and Indonesia. I think our youth is willing to adopt this history, like the students from the Liberal Christian High School adopted the Indies monument and like so many other schools for instance maintain the militairy cemetaries. But to convincingly cherish the history, the past and the knowledge about that past also must be relevant today and in the future for our youngsters.
Winston Churchill once said it like this: the further one is able to look back, the further one is able to see in the future. Indeed: historical knowledge isn’t a superfluous luxury, but the condition for a clear view on the future. And this certainly meant for the relation between Holland and Indonesia. When the Dutch will come in contact with Indonesia and Indonesians, in whatever way, they’ll have to know something about the history of this country, and therefore also about centuries of shared Indonesian-Dutch history. Dutch people, who think they can succesfully go into business or diplomatic channels in Indonesia, without knowing anything about the history, usually come away with a flea in their ear.
When a society wants to meet the future with faith and optimism, it must be prepared to be honoust about the less favourable sides of its own history. Certainly in a time when we in Holland – at work, in the sports cantine and at school – want to bridge the diverse ethnic an religious communities in our country. In the context of this commemoration it means that we dare admit that even after the introduction of the so-called ethical politics the interests of the Indonesian population for most Dutch was at best a second degree item.
Working on a mutual future. That shouldn’t only be the motto within our own society, but als in the relation between Holland and Indonesia. The challenges we have to take up are manyfold, like the battle against intolerance, extremism and terrorism.
Indonesia is important. It’s a driving force behind regional cooperation in South-East Asia. As a secular state Indonesia houses more moslims than any other country in the world, but it’s also the guard of centuries of budhist, hinduist and christian traditions. As such Indonesia has a say in the dialogue between the cultures. During the Dutch chairmanship of the European Union last year therefore, we’ve payed a lot of attention to intensifying the connections with Indonesia.
(Message to Jakarta)
Ladies and gentlemen, to further intensify the relation between Indonesia and Holland, it’s helpful to remove whatever is left of old sores, as far as it’s within our power. Therefore, as representative of our country and as representative of the generation who experienced the pain of the separation, I’ll take a plain today, travel through those five time zones and cover these 28,000 kilometers. On the 17th of August then, I will represent our country at the Indonesian celebration of the proclamation of independence on the 17th of August 1945. I will explain to the Indonesian people that my presence can be seen as a political and moral acceptation of that date.
But what really matters now is that we clearly show the Indonesians our opinion. Already for decades Dutch representatives join the celebrations of the Indonesian independence on 17 August. With the support of the Cabinet I’ll clearly explain to the Indonesians that Holland realizes the independence of the Republic of Indonesia already started on 17 August 1945 and that we – sixty years to date – genrously accept this fact in a political and moral sense.
Acceptance in a moral sense also means that I will join the former expressions of regret about the painful and violent separation of Indonesia and The Netherlands. Almost sixthousand Dutch militairy lost their lives in this battle, many lost limbs, or became victim of psychological traumas, for which, again, was only little interest in Holland.
By the large scale deployment of militairy resources, our country ended up on the wrong side of history so to speak. This is especially wry for all people involved: for the Dutch-Indies community, for the Dutch militairy, but first of all for the Indonesian population.
Ladies and gentlemen, only when we stand on the top of the mountain, we’re able to see the simplest and shortest way up. This also goes for the people who were involved in taking decisions in the fourties.
Only in hindsight it’s clear the separation between Indonesian and Holland took far too long and was achieved by much more militairy force than needed.
This is the message I’ll take with me to. I also fiercely hope for the understanding and the support of the Indonesian community, the Moluccan community in Holland and the veterans of the policing actions.
After all, to keep our mutual history alive, we also need a mutual perspective on our future. Working together for a healthy and safe futer, and for the good relation with Indonesia, will help us to bear even the most painful aspects of our past.
I thank you for you attention.
Sources: www.pelita.nl, www.sh15aug1945.nl and Ministery of Foreign Affairs
Commemoration speech by prof. dr. B. Smalhout
The Hague, 15 August 2004
Today it's exactly 59 years ago the Japanese empire surrendered to the allies. Only at that day came an eind to the Second World War. This war had been so terrible that even today some generations still suffer from the physical but especially also psychological damage they sustained between 1942 and 1945.
In our country there are two groups of people were the sorrow never wears off. That is the relatively small group of jewish civilians who survived the holocaust. They are less than ± 30,000. Over 80% of our jewish population has been murdered by the Germans.
The second group comprises of you, the Dutch-Indies people. You spent an important part of your lives in our former Netherlands East Indies. By much of the progressive media you have been blamed for almost 60 years, having cooperated with a colonial system which, seen in the light of todays views, would be objectionable.
But they forget most of you loved the former Indies as their second homeland. What Holland achieved in that tropical archipal over 300 years, can still be named with honour. Holland led the foundation, in that giant country which embraces over 1/8 of the earths circomference, for what is now the republic of Indonesia.
It is amazing at that time we governed that huge area which already had ± 70 million inhabitants, and developed with a comparatively smaal group of Dutch working there. A group which was seldom larger than 300,000 people! Schools were established, education was stimulated and hospitals were built. An excellent legal system was introduced, in which specific Indies traditions were considered, the so-called 'Adat'.
In Holland at universities there were professorships for Indies law, tropical medicine, tropical agriculture and Indology. Scientists and doctors managed to fight diseases as smallpox, cholera, pest, typhus, beri-beri, dysentery, malaria andn lepra in that enormous archipel. They saved the lives of millions. Even nowadays, almost 60 years after Holland left Indonesia for good, Indonesion law is still partly founded on the work of Dutch jurists. And prominent Indonesians still send their children for a higher education to Dutch universities.
Ofcourse in todays light a colonial system can't be justified anymore. But it is something we never can blame the Dutch for who worked in the Indies. Not even a hundred years ago opinions about this were completely different. Still after-war left-progressive views led to a taboo on the concept of 'Netherlands Indies'. And this is one of the causes the Dutch-Indies community is continuously frustrated by. The reception in Holland at your repatriation after the war was very cool, almost hostile. For many of the completely broke old-Indies people there was hardly human relief. After years in Japanese camps or horrible forced labour in the entire Far East, there was no money for you, no pay of back salary, hardly any clothes, hardly any housing en hardly any compensation.
And also with it is many of you hadn't been terrorised solely by the Japanese, but after the liberation on 15 August 1945 as wel by the so-called 'freedom fighters', the pemoeda's of Soekarno. That was the notorious bersiap-period. The frustration stayed. Because you as an Indies community bore a different culture. Achievements like discipline, good manners, courtesy, politeness, traditions, loyality, respect for and loyalty to the royal house can be found more with you than with the Dutch who don't have an Indies past. This all led to a feeling of not always being exepted. Or in the worst case pure discrimination. In our strongly devaluated education nothing is told anymore about the 300 years of Netherlands-Indies history. Even the word 'national history' is banned. That was, according to our pink-red education experts too nationalistic, too authoritarian and therefore objectionable.
It was also very frustrating the Indies community had to wait over 55 years before our governement allowed to commemorate the 14th and 15th of August as official remembrance days. The same left policy is also the cause why the old KNIL military men and women never received their back salary from the years they were imprisoned. And also that one of the greatest heroes of war, the KNIL-officer Jack Boer never received consideration for a fitting Military Willems Order. In November 1945 he liberated from the Werfstreet prison in Surabaja 2,384 Dutch civilians who were imprisoned by the pemoeda's from Soekarno to be murdered massively. Jack Boer conquered the heavily guarded prison with the help of only 10 British-Indies Gurka's and one old Stuart tank. He saved with it almost two and a half thousand Dutch lives. Jack Boer died in 1993, but his widow is still alive. But until now not even a posthumous decoration can be given.
This is why many of you aren't able to share your experiences with your children and grandchildren. They often hardly know what it's all about. And they even often don't want to hear it. They think it's moaning about what used to be. Because your stories are about a time and a country they can't imagine, because of seriously lacking any historical insight. In my archives are heartbreaking letters from old-Indies people who have, already only because of this, a disturbed relation with their offspring. The consequence is these people often timidly block their past and never want to talk about it again. The same phenomenon can be seen with jewish people who survived the holocaust. They feel their experiences arte too terrible to speak about or they are afraid others might not believe them.
Also there's in Holland the completely wrongly belief that the past should be left alone by now. That one can't live with what's gone. That one should only keep an eye on the future and forget about the rest. That is the most stupid thing to do. Because we're all products from history. One can't build a meaningful future without knowing about the past and taking lessons from it. Therefore knowingly disregarding the subject historiy on schools, what has happen for almost thirty years, is a crime to our younger generation.
Only by knowing what has happened, one can learn to think critical. For example about the sociological riddle that highly developed cultures, nations, like the Germans and the Japanese, could descend to such a low moral level during the war. Only thinking about this, makes it possible to unmask lifethreatening political psychopaths at an early stage and by that preventing large scale calamities. The deliberate oppression by the state of that knowledge seems to suspect the gouvernement is aiming for a young electorate who don't know a thing. People being kept ignorant are ideal for ambitious politics with dangerous ideas.
Therefore I want to impress on you not to conceal your experiences. Tell about them. Publish them or just write them down for yourself, so they won't go lost. You can be proud of what you've done and about what you've survived. You are an indispensible cornerstone in the building of our national history. Like all survivers, both from the Japanese as from the German terror. Only if we've come to terms with those experiences and sublimated them into our self-consciousness, than we can raise the subject of mutual approach, understanding and perhaps even a cautious form of forgiving our former enemies. It is the painful process of growing up from peoples and nations.
In a minute we'll leave for the Indies monument. There we will commemorate in respect the ones who didn't live to experience the joy of the liberation on 15 August 1945. But also you've to proudly realise you're an unerasable part of Dutch history. A history indeed of sorrow and misery. But worth to be told a thousand times over.
A dark page in the 400 year history of relations between the Netherlands and Japan
(Japanese emperor in The Netherlands)
Experiences of victims during the Japanese occupation of the Dutch East Indies 1942-1945
Japanese version 1 2 3 4
On December 8, 1941 the American base Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese after which the United States and The Netherlands declared war on Japan. In March 1942 the Japanese landed on Java and after a three month’s battele, the Dutch East Indies were forced to surrender.
Of the approximately 350,000 Dutch the Japanese first interned the men and later on the women and children followed. Cruelty and violence were often typical for the behaviour of the Japanese guards. Especially in the last year of the occupation the internees in the overcrowded and insanitary camps suffered from chronic malnutrition, hunger oedema, dysentery and malaria. Many thousands have died as a result of these diseases.
Although the majority of the Eurasian men were interned as prisoners of war, many Eurasian women and children were able to remain out of the camps. Because of loss of income many of these families got into difficult situations. Forced labour, forced prostitution, torture, chronic malnutrition and diseases took their toll. The Indonesians' behaviour was also increasingly hostile, which culminated in the so-called Bersiap-period (battle of independence) after the Japanese occupation had ended.
After Indonesia's independence, approximately 300,000 Dutch citizens out of sheer necessity left for The Netherlands, a country still recovering from the war with Germany. They left behind over 42,000 deceased.
Even after 55 years the impending visit by the Japanese emperor appears to evoke fierce emotions among the Dutch who fell victim to the Japanese war. 'The Vereniging van Kinderen uit de Japanse Bezetting en de Bersiap 1941-1949 (Association of Children from the Japanese Occupation and the Bersiap 1941 -1949) also known as the KJBB has, in co-operation with the Province of North-Holland, asked Mr F.A. Begemann to conduct a survey among those who lived in the fonner Dutch East Indies as children during the war.
Thirteen members of this Society were interviewed at length. A report of these interviews was presented to 80 members of the KJBB during their meeting of March 25, 2000. The report was discussed extensively and commented on by those present. These comments have been incorporated in the final report, which is considered to be representative of the opinions of all KJBB members.
During these interviews the participants were not just asked about their views on the coming visit of the emperor, but they were also asked about their personal backgrounds and especially their experiences during the war were discussed at length.
What did they experience as children during that period?
All children, whether interned or outside the camps have suffered hunger during the Japanese occupation. For many of them this has resulted in physical illness but in many cases it has also affected their mental strength. This in part explains why decades later so many of these children are still troubled by their traumatic experiences during the Japanese occupation.
Besides hunger these former children have also frequently experienced violence. In and outside of the camps children were beaten and abused. Frequently children were made to watch others being abused, for instance their parents.
During the Japanese occupation most children were separated from one or both of their parents. Nearly all fathers were interned, including those of Eurasian children. In many cases the children also lost their mothers: temporarily, because of illnes or malnutrition or permanently when they died as a result of the war. In many cases the separation from their parents appears to have seriously affected the development of these children.
Because of the Japanese occupation children were torn from their normal lives. Besides being separated from one or both of their parents most of them also lost their family homes, their schools and their schoolmates. The children who were interned had to adapt to completely new living conditions. Life outside of the camps also changed dramatically, even when just taking into account the loss of regular income.
In as well as outside of the camps the children had to learn how to survive, for instance by trading or stealing food. In war conditions children are often forced to adapt in ways they are not yet capable of in terms of their development. This has resulted in both psychological and physical damage. Many of these children continue to suffer the effects in later life, such as recurring insomnia, nightmares and anxieties. As a result many have had to give up their career prematurely.
After the capitulation of Japan many families were reunited but this was a difficult process. The men returning from the camps often found it difficult to share their experiences with their wives, who had also gone through a lot themselves. The children noticed the change in their parents and how it affected the atmosphere at home. In many cases the parents were unable to help their children deal with their war experiences.
After the Japanese capitulation in August 1945 the struggle for independence in the former Dutch East Indies broke out. This conflict not only resulted in many casualties but it also caused a great number of people to flee the country. The reception of the victims from the Indies was difficult since the Netherlands had also suffered severely as a result of the war in Europe. Their experiences and problems generally fell on deaf ears. This resulted in social isolation for this group of people which in turn has aggravated their problems.
How do the KJBB members feel about the impending visit of the Japanese emperor?
Although opinions on the visit of the emperor among KJBB members differ there is consensus on one point:
It is important that during his visit of the Netherlands emperor Akihito apologises to the victims for what was done to them by Japan during the war. These apologies are required from the emperor himself because the acts of violence have been committed in the name of his father, Hirohito.
Why is this so important to the KJBB members? The arguments turn out to be connected with the years of war:
This is a summary of the publication:
‘Vanuit een behoefte aan rechtvaardigheid – Reacties binnen de KJBB op het voorgenomen bezoek van de keizer van Japan aan Nederland’
(‘From a need for justice – Reactions within the KJBB to the intended visit of the emperor of Japan to The Netherlands’)
NPI/KJBB, April 2000
Please do feel free to comment on our English translation. We welcome any improvement!