In December 1945 Anneke van der Laan, Eida's eldest sister, delivered a radio speech in English based on the letters she had received from her husband, Thijs van der Laan, from Batavia between November 4th and December 2nd 1945. As a jurist working for the Dutch Government, he was dispatched from Curaçao to Java in 1944 in order to restore Dutch law and order after the capitulation of the Japanese. He was promoted to lieutenant-colonel to allow him to travel in war time (1944) and became a member of Lord Mountbatten's staff stationed in Kanay, Colombo. He travelled with the US armed forces to Java via Australia, New Guinea and Borneo (Balikpapan). As a military, he visited the concentration camps in Batavia in November and December 1945. [ed.]



Extracts from a Diary of a Dutch Officer in Java


4 October 1945. Here I am, back in Batavia, Java, after an absence of seven years. What a change have I noticed already on my way from the airport to NICA (Netherlands Indies Civil Affairs) Headquarters: all of the formerly neatly whitewashed homes looked grey and dirty, the gardens were overgrown with weeds and grasses, the streets full of holes and the filth of years. On the streets we met several trucks loaded with Indonesians, crying "Merdeka"(the Malayan word for Freedom). The tram wagons were painted with slogans to the same aspect: "We don't ask for freedom, we have the right to freedom", "We don't want NICA", "Van Mook what are you doing here" – not such a nice welcome for us! And we met too several beautiful gleaming big cars.... with Japanese officers who saluted and bowed correctly without any attempt to conceal their triumphant smiles!
In Headquarters we had one bathroom for 150 men and for our food we had to walk 10 minutes to an Army-kitchen where we got after waiting in a row some rice with a kind of vegetable sauce over it.
Here I found the first Internees-camp, where our fellow-country-men still live as they did under the Japs, because outside the camps there is no safety for them – only the food has improved a little, thanks to the Red Cross. It was in one word horrible. All was filthy, dirty, decrepit : barbed wire all around, no beds, only mattresses, but no one for each person, mosquito's in millions and no nets. Most of the internees walked miserably and nearly senseless around, unaware of their surroundings, a few of them, though physically as badly off as the others, recognized me; one could only whisper; another was nearly blind, all because of vitamin shortage – an awful reunion!
6 October. Today I visited Camp Tjideng which is the worst I have seen so far. It consists of several very small houses in which are squeezed as many women and children as could go into it: in one small house of five rooms of about 25 m2 surface I counted 86 women lying on their mattresses on the bare floor with children crawling over them leaving not an inch of walking space. Not a single chair or table, cooking they had to do in the heat of the sun outside on wood or charcoal. Thus 10.000 women and children have lived for more than three years under the Japs who wanted to starve all of them, and diminished the food every day until they have got absolutely nothing but one heaped dessertspoon full of dry rice for the whole day! The worst cases of starvation had already been taken to the hospitals, but what I saw was a challenge to heaven. The women looked old and tired out with grey hair and hollow eyes, clothed in a few rags; the children are all bones: arms and legs thin as twigs and they have become some sort of savages, growing wild without any schools. The putrefaction is incredible: the Jap has shut off the water pipes and destroyed the sewerage-system. The women had to carry their excrement to holes, belonging to the old sewerage-system and if these got clogged they or their children were forced to go down into it to open them up again. The water they had to carry from wells in buckets that were too heavy for their diminishing strength. I have never in my life seen as many flies and at night they have myriads of mosquitos.
I met some of our old friends there who had come over from Bandung during the time that the Japs surrendered and there was a great confusion. They tried now to help their wives who are at the end of their resistance. The men have been in the mountains in cooler spots and are a little better off than the women, the boys over 13 years of age were in separate boys-camps in the middle of Java. Whenever I visit a camp I have my pockets full of soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, cigarettes etc. You cannot imagine the elation they show when they receive these presents. And the only thing to do next is to listen to their tales – which they can tell at last, ...... to keep silent over so much misery. For hours at a stretch they had to stand attention in the sun with the children, some of the women's heads were shaved bald , some days the Japs put down the food in the middle of the camp, forbidding them to touch it unless they were naked. When they asked for firewood they brought them whole tree trunks without any tool to work.
4 November. Today I have been here a whole month and when I look back over this month I feel a great disappointment over the situation. Instead of improving, living conditions are getting worse by the day. The internees are still living in their miserable camps, the food is diminishing, because the Indonesians prevent their good-willing fellow countrymen from selling anything to white people, thousands of families still live separated, no work can be done because of the complete anarchy and every day some of us are murdered in plain daylight. The internees that are the fittest have tried to do some office-work, but after 1 or 2 hours they had to give up and every day they achieve less. The food for all of us consists of porridge of starch in the morning and two times rice with a watery soup, at noon and in the evening. Our only beverage is water: no coffee or cacao or tea in this country where these foodstuffs grow!! The Red Cross-workers are unable to help, because they are the aim of the hatred of the population wherever they show themselves.
And the future looks worse still, for the Japs have destroyed our carefully organized distribution-system by creating all over Java a system of closed areas that had to be self-supporting, causing a rice-shortage in some and a rice-abundance in other parts of the country. But because the Jap took away the surplus, the Javanese in the rich [2] areas planted less and less every year and now production is insufficient. If we had been able to put in the distribution-system that the government planned in Brisbane present provisions could have lasted until next harvest – as it is now, famine is inevitable.
16 November. It was officially announced today that since the 1st of October 116 persons have been declared missing, the real figure will undoubtedly be much higher still. Nobody has the faintest idea of what happened to them, but it is pretty certain that all of them have been murdered. Even women are kidnapped, and Red Cross-workers. The extremists fire on us from passing cars, from trees and even throw sharp knives into passing cars, from behind hedges! We are not allowed to go out into the streets unless at least two or three are together and with our weapons ready for use, and we stay in our quarters after 6.30 p.m.
Sukarno has occupied all vital public utilities: the waterworks, the electricity-company, post-office, telephone- and broadcast-installations and all governmental buildings – and they function pretty badly: the light is weak and many days we have no water at all. The Indonesian newspapers incite to murder every European, the Indonesian broadcast spits heaps of dirt over British and Dutch alike and what they have done to prisoners of war and internees is worse than the Japs have ever done!! Hundreds of women and children have been murdered in Surabaya with bayonets, kidnapped men are cut into pieces alive and the chopped-off limbs are thrown away in all directions, men have to walk between two rows of Indonesians, armed with sticks, clubs, spears, knives until they die. The food in the camps is according to a report of Prof. van Veen, head of the Medical Service of the RAPWI (Rehabilitation of Allied Prisoners of War and Internees – already carrying the nickname of "Retaining All Prisoners of War Indefinitely"!!) worse than it has ever been under the Japs – and we get, as is reasonable, less than they got.
19 November. Yesterday I happened to drive in a car into the middle of a street battle, luckily the driver drove on at full speed and so we arrived safely in our lines, where we could not proceed further and had to witness the fighting from behind a tree – after a while the street was full of wounded and dead. In the streets you see no people anymore, the shops are empty, it seems that Indonesians flee from Batavia, the police does not dare to intervene out of fear of their countrymen and it is just the same with the servants: they are threatened if they co-operate with us – and so we do the housework ourselves: making our beds, mopping the floors, washing our dishes and our clothes. They smuggle Indonesian troops into Batavia by train under the pretext that they are policemen. In a Japanese truck that brought food to the Vincentius-hospital were found underneath the foodstuffs 4 machine-guns and 2 boxes filled with hand-grenades!
Luckily the British have now declared: "The gloves are off now" and "The whole world must know how these uncivilised barbarians slaughter innocent women and children" which expressions have succeeded to give back a little hope to the ex-internees who have endured the maltreatment of the Japs admirably but cannot stand very much more of this misery.
2 December. Today I got the bad news that our brother-in-law (in the town of Bandung) has been murdered (or burned alive? nobody knows exactly how it happened) by a yelling bunch of Indonesians. Your sister is in a hospital with a shot through her elbow and their eldest boy has glass wounds. But communication with the hospital is impossible –Bandung has no traffic anymore: battle and fighting all over the town. Especially the camps are ready targets for the rascals for they are mostly built of straw and bamboo and burn after a few hand-grenades and shots! In the neighbourhood of the Hospital 38 houses were burnt down by throwing "Gasoline-bombs" into them; in one of the houses the extremists locked in 14 Europeans and burnt them alive.
Some of the pavilions of the Hospital where women and children from the burnt houses had taken refuge were fired upon from machine-guns. The whole white population of Bandung, consisting of ex-internees and ex-prisoners-of-war live on British army-ration: no vegetables, fruits, eggs or milk are obtainable.
Thus live thousands of Dutch citizens nearly 4 months after the Japs surrendered without any hope of liberation from their plight!


  • Plaats: -
  • Auteur(s): Thijs van der Laan
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  • Soort: -
  • Bijzonderheden: Transcript radiotoespraak