The history of the letters


Up until the digitizing process, the letters of Eida Tan-Schepers and Tan Sin Hok had been kept in a brown fibre suitcase by their sons Axel and Gijsbert Tan initially, and later by their daughter Lisa Tan. Once they emerged from their mottled folders - many yellowed and translucent, some ruled, some damaged, but each one completely covered with two even handwritings – they had travelled a long way.



In 1983, one month before her death, Eida told her daughter: “There are folders with letters on the attic, mind you. Do you reckon it would be a falsification of history if I left out a couple?” After her death three letters were found hidden between her handkerchiefs, along with an additional envelope containing six more letters. As Eida had explicitly alluded to the ‘history’ she was about to hand over and, in addition, had apparently decided not to destroy these nine letters, her daughter Lisa read the letters and put them back in the suitcase in chronological order. Thus the collection was complete once again.



Among the six hundred or so letters that were addressed to Eida’s parents in Holland (see photograph below),



Sari and Menno Schepers-Cohen,

Paterswolde, 1938


most were posted on a weekly basis from Bandung, where Eida and Hok lived from June 1929 to August 1943. Some were sent during travels on Indonesian soil, some from temporary addresses and a number are postcards. On exceptional occasions, such as the births of the children, Eida and Hok resided to telegrams. Except for some post-war letters, all were addressed to:


Mr and Mrs M.A. Schepers, PhD
32 Papaverhof
The Hague


After the liberation from Japanese oppression in August 1945, the couple resumes their correspondence with Eida’s parents, who by now are living in Amsterdam, from their guesthouse in Bandung. From early December 1945 Eida keeps writing her letters until she leaves Indonesia and arrives in Holland together with her children on April 16th 1946.


The counterparts of the six hundred letters, i.e. the answers that were sent from Holland to Java, were lost during the Japanese occupation of the Netherlands East Indies and the subsequent Indonesian uprising of the Bersiap period. Only the scarce letters that arrived from Holland after October 1945 have been preserved.


Sari Cohen-Schepers filed the letters by Eida and Hok and managed to keep them intact during the German occupation. After the Second World War, she gave back the letters to her daughter, who had returned from Java as a widow with her three children. They remained on Eida’s attic in Voorburg until het death in 1983.



It took more than twenty-five years until Eida’s daughter Lisa, having in mind an eventual publication of the material in some form or other, finally decided to digitize the collection. With the aid of her brothers Axel and Gijsbert, who took care of the initial copying and scanning of the letters respectively, and Marijke Sterman, who typed out Lisa’s dictate over a period of 106 weeks, she converted the letters into digital files. These were then uploaded to the present website.


The original letters were donated to NIOD in Amsterdam by Eida’s heirs on December 19th 2011.


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