Back to an innocent childhood spoilt by war and occupation
The Dutch East Indies of the nineteen thirties must have been paradisical. Certainly for children of Dutch parents. Every day good weather, mostly comfortable temperatures, roomy houses, several servants, garden – large gardens, often with all sorts of fruit trees.
School from 7.30 till 12 or 1 o’clock and after that always free – no homework. Therefore, lots of play and adventure. When we returned to the Netherlands in 1946, this paradisical vision of the Dutch East Indies was still common. There could have been little question of war trauma during the Japanese occupation. “You will undoubtedly have suffered somewhat, but in such a land with such a climate that can’t have been as bad as our suffering in Holland, think only of our last hungerwinter.”
We, repatriated people, often came up against this idea and soon made no attempt any longer to tell our stories. Besides, the future called and we were considerably behind in our schooling. We had not been to school for four years. Schools with Dutch as the teaching medium were closed immediately by the Japanese occupier when they invaded in March 1942.
Now, in 2005, it has slowly become common knowledge that paradise does not exist anywhere in the world. Not now, and not then either. There are paradisical places, regions; there are paradisical moments. But today or tomorrow we discover the reverse sides.
In the Dutch each Indies too there were reverse sides. Also already before the Japanese occupied the Indonesian Archipelago at the beginning of 1942. Not everyone by any means saw these dark sides. For that it was necessary to be able to look, listen and empathise well.
Most Dutch people were not good at that, certainly not where it concerned subordinates. Let us not forget that at that time life was lived much more formally in the Dutch East Indies as well as in Holland. There as well as in Holland life ought to continue as it always had. Much could not be discussed or remained hidden.
In this book I shall tell in chapter 1 about the attractive everyday life of children in the Dutch East Indies before the war with Japan; the dark sides of which will at best only become visible incidentally.
The following chapters will be about the Japanese occupation and the ensuing Indonesian revolution, the Bersiap-time, the consequences for the Dutch people, for our family, for me personally.
This book contains my war experiences in the period when I was 13 till 18 years old. It was “recaptured” and written down when I was 72 years old, and since then has been much checked with fellow-sufferers and historic documents.
Both the Enlish and Bahasa translations of this book are currently available only as a digital pdf. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we ‘ll send you a digital copy. The original Dutch version is still available as hard copy.