Guests who visited Indonesia in search of places of the past.
The colonial times ended many years ago. However many people have memories of this period as it was part of their lives. Some returned to Indonesia to search with memories tours for the places where they, or their parents or grandparents, had lived. They were looking for old houses, hospitals, plantations and former prison camps where they or their family had stayed during the Japanese occupation.
Since 1992 Tri Jaya Tour and Travel has received guests who were in search of former Japanese civil internment camps. Most of them stayed in camps on Sumatra, some on Java. Below is a list of guests who travelled with Tri Jaya Tour & Travel over Sumatra and Java in search of these places.
Japanese camps in Indonesia
The first part of the stories below is a shortened version of my presentation Twenty Years of Return Tourism on Sumatra and Java. This text has been presented at the conference “Travelling Heritages. Return-tourism of WW II-veterans, survivors and relatives to and from Indonesia and Japan”, October 20 and 21, 2011 at Dutch Institute of War Documentation in Amsterdam.
In the text I use initials, if people would like to get in touch with one of the persons listed below you can send me an email. The information about Rudy Kousbroek and Hans Vervoort are quotations of publicized work, therefore I present them with their full name.
Memories tours Indonesia
The second part consists of people who travelled with Tri Jaya from 2012 on and who were looking for places of their past or their family. Part of this group of people had lived in Indonesia before, during or after the war. Some of them were looking for Japanese camps, many others were just in search of the ‘memory lane’ of them or their family.
Rudy Kousbroek. (1929-2010)
In 1993 Tri Jaya assisted with research for the documentary Het meer der herinnering (The Lake of Reminiscence), about the youth of the Dutch author Rudy Kousbroek. The following year the filming took place in Sumatra. Rudy Kousbroek was born in 1929 in Pematang Siantar on the island of Sumatra. During the Japanese occupation of Sumatra, Kousbroek was interned in the Sungai Senkol camp near Medan and the Sirengorengo camp near Rantau Prapat.
Kousbroek was the best known of the Dutch who later wrote about Indonesia’s colonial period as well as about the experience of the Dutch in Indonesia during the Japanese occupation.
Rudy Kousbroek: “In March 1942 when the Japanese arrived, something happened which must eventually happen: the world I had grown up in collapsed. The former rulers were interned by the new ones and the war was fought out somewhere beyond the horizon… So it was. The toetoep (closed-collar) jackets were worn for the last time. No more four-handed clavier extracts of concert music would be played at the piano on the front gallery. That safe world, with its faithful servants who so lovingly cared for our children, while we never looked after theirs, it was all over…. It must have happened directly; in a few chaotic weeks everything was blown away.” (Kousbroek, R. in: NRC Handelsblad, 29-2-1980)
(The Sirengorengo camp was located on a swamp around 8 km. from Rantau Prapat at the Bila River. It was built on the then-uncultivated plantation in Si Ringo Ringo, consisting of primitive bamboo barracks covered with palm leaves. In October 1944 all men and boys from the camps at Soengeisenkol, Belawan Estate, Lawe Sigalagala and Medan’s Saint Joseph’s school were transported to Si Rengo Rengo. Beginning in December 1944, boys ten years and older (some although were only eight and nine years of age) who were still in the women’s camps were transferred. The Japanese surrender was announced in Sirengorengo on August 24, 1945. (Dulm 2000: 50))
“My father was district officer in Pajakoemboe on Sumatra. In April 1942 my father ceded civil authority over Pajakoemboe to the Japanese Army. Shortly after we were interned. We were taken to a school in Bukit Tinggi (Fort de Kock) and later we were moved to Padang. In December 1943 we were moved to Bangkinang. There we stayed until September 1945. We had lost all our material possessions and after the war had nothing. But my parents were able to give us all a good education, including university studies.” Mr. F. visited Sumatra in 1993 to look for the places of his youth.
(Bangkinang. In October 1943 European men and boys, who earlier had been interned in the prison in Padang, were brought to a new prison camp near Bangkinang, around 70 km. west of Pakan Baroe on the way to Bukittinggi. On the site there was a rubber factory. The women and children followed in December 1943 to Bangkinang, where they were housed in newly build sheds around 3 km. west of the rubber factory. By the end of 1944 there were nearly 3.200 civilians interned in these camps. In 1945 alone approximately 140 persons died from disease and exhaustion. The Japanese surrender was announced on August 22, 1945. (Dulm 2000: 58,59)
Ineke van L. (1941)
“I spent the first three years of my life in Japanese civilian internee camps in Indonesia. I was born in Kotaradja (Banda Aceh) in August 1941. When I was six months old my family moved to Medan. After the Japanese invasion of Medan in March 1942, my father was taken prisoner and transported to Burma. We who remained were put in the camps in Poeloe Brayan.
At the end of the war, in March or April 1945, transported to the rubber plantation Aek Pamienke. When I saw in 2005 news about the tsunami on Sumatra, I suddenly wanted to return to the country of my birth and I contacted Tri Jaya Tour & Travel. On Sumatra I visited in 2007 all the places of my youth during what was for me such an important psychological journey of three weeks. Although I cannot remember anything from my earliest youth, I still felt a tie to this country.”
(The Poeloe Berayan (Pulo Brayan) complex of the Deli Spoorweg Maatschappij (DSM) (Deli Railroad Company) was build in 1918 as workshop and housing compound for indigenous Indonesian and European personnel; Aek Pamienke. All interned European women and children (with the exception of boys from 8 or 10 years of age) from Aceh, Tapanoeli and East Sumatra were held in the camps of Aek Pamienke for the last month of the Japanese occupation. The camps were located on a rubber plantation of 3.316 hectares in Aek Pamienke. (Dulm 2000: 49)
Han de B. (1923-2014)
“Since the generation of great-great grandparents, my family has had historical ties with Indonesia for about two hundred and fifty years. My late wife was also born in Indonesia. My father and I were prisoners of war; my family was in the civilian camps of Gedangan and Tjideng. I myself had to work on the Pakan Baroe railroad. Family and friends died during the sinking of the Yunyo Maru. My parents never went back but my wife and I, as well both my brothers, children and grandchildren, all made the journey to Indonesia several times. During these travels we visited former classmates and friends. I also visited former Indonesian Romushas (forced labourers for the Japanese) in the villages. On my travels through Indonesia I never encountered any complaints against me as a descendant of colonial suppressors of the indigenous population, Not even from Tentara Nasional Indonesia (Indonesian National Army) officers. I have visited many old Indonesian school friends and made new friends during my ten journeys through Indonesia. I have had dinner with them, stayed with them in their villages, and attended their marriages, funerals and cremations. I visited fields of honor of the Indonesian army. I will not be able to come to my motherland again. But I will stay in touch with my Indonesian friends.”
(The European quarter Tjideng in Batavia (Jakarta) in August 1942 became the first camp for women and children prisoners; Pakanbaroe Railroad. The 220 km. long railroad was constructed from Pakan Baroe to Moeara, the end of the railroad of West Sumatra. The railroad was planned to connect Pakan Baroe with the west coast and to facilitate exploitation of the coal mines near Tapoei in the central mountain area. The start of the construction was in March 1943 by Romushas from the Pakan Baroe camp. Construction of the final track started in March 1945, around 70,000 Romushas died for the construction of this railroad. At 18 September 1944 the Japanese cargo ship Junyo Maru was torpedoed off the coast of West Sumatra, in Bencoolen district near Mukomuko. Approximately 1796 POWs and around 4000 Romushas drowned during this disaster. (Dulm 2000: 65; Hovinga 2010: 42, 50-60).
Marietje P. (1940)
“I was born in Jakarta in the quarter known as Matraman, and interned in the Cideng (Tjideng) camp from March 1942 until August 1945. My family (father, mother and my brother) were reunited in the autumn of 1945 in Batavia (Jakarta) and went back to the Netherlands in March 1946. In the family we never talked about the camp years. My parents never said anything, my brother and I never asked. I have been back three times to the Cideng quarter in Jakarta: in 1994, 2003 and in 2009. I have walked through this quarter and felt no memories at all. I am an optimistic person; I finished schools and university without problems, married and had a normal family life.”
Marietje P. wrote two books about her ancestors. One about her greatgrandfather Anske Hielke Kuipers, captain at the Gouvernements Marine who sailed in the 19th century
through the Indonesian archipelago. The other book deals about her greatgrandfather the missionary who worked in the 19th century in Pakantan in Sumatra’s interior and built a Mennonite church in this place.When the area of Pakantan was hit by an earthquake she arranged via her contacts that financing from the European Union was send to Pakantan so that the demolished village could be rebuild. Hereafter Pakantan made her honorary citizen.
Dirk G. P. (1929-2012)
“My father M.B. P. was planter on Sumatra. I was born in 1929. In March 1942 the Japanese entered Brastagi and all the women and children were put in the boarding school in Brastagi. The boys had to give their mattresses to the women and sleep on mats. After a year the boys of fifteen years and older, including myself, were moved to Sungei Senkol and Belawan Estate where I found my father again. In December 1944 we were moved to Sirengo-rengo and the women in early 1945 to the Aek Pamienke camp. In the 1950s we went back to Indonesia and I worked till 1958 on Sumatra on rubber plantations. In 1983 I went back to Medan on invitation of the Indonesian rubber plantation association, as an advisor. In subsequent years I revisted Indonesia in 1988, 1995, 2003 and 2006.”