FeaturedNewsWorld War II

On August 15, 2023, the victims of the Second World War in the former Dutch East Indies were commemorated in over fifty places in the Netherlands. The war experiences and the large-scale displacement that followed are still affecting two million people in the Netherlands with an Indies family war story and in the Dutch society as a whole. People were encouraged to see that the number of commemorations continue to increase every year as is the attendance count, as well as the attention it receives on broadcast media and social media. The Indo Project, Inc attended the commemorations in Amsterdam and The Hague, representing our international community.

August 14 at House of Parliament

On August 14, 2023, The Indo Project was invited to join the Dutch Parliament in their 15 August 1945 commemoration ceremony. At the special request of The Indo Project, a bouquet of flowers was  placed between the two wreaths formally placed by the Eerste and Tweede Kamer. The Indo Project was represented at this event by Edward and Inca Frietman and Co-founder / Chair Priscilla Kluge McMullen on behalf of all Indos worldwide and others who share this history to honor all victims of WWII in the former Dutch East Indies and Asia.
Special guests included Peggy Stein and Ton te Meij of the Indische Kwestie / Indische Platform 2.0. One of the esteemed presenters was Ronald Poetiray, brother of Bunny de Krieger a member of the Indo Project Team.

Program Highlights

in English from the Dutch website of the House of Representatives: tweedekamer.nl

The commemoration at the Indische plaque began with a speech by Thom de Graaf, Chairman of the Foundation National Commemoration of August 15, 1945. Vera Bergkamp, Speaker of the House of Representatives, followed and addressed the gathering emphasizing the need to better understand the tragic events that unfolded in the war years in the Dutch East Indies. She shared the story of Tineke Tempelaar who was imprisoned in a camp on Java during those years. Bergkamp underscored that the history of the two million people with a special connection to the Dutch East Indies is a part of the nation’s history and should no longer remain hidden. She concluded by quoting a poem by Amara van der Elst about her Dutch Indo grandmother, referencing the third generation that seeks to learn about their grandparents’ experiences in the former Dutch East Indies.

The Indische plaque marks the capitulation of Japan on August 15, 1945, signifying the end of World War II in Southeast Asia and the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Annually on August 14, the Foundation Commemoration of August 15, 1945 holds a private commemoration event attended by the Speakers of both chambers of the Dutch Parliament, members of parliament, and representatives of relevant organizations at the plaque located near the Binnenhof. Currently, the plaque is temporarily housed in the hall of the building of the House of Representatives on Bezuidenhoutseweg. Once the renovation of the Binnenhof is complete, the plaque will return to its original location.

August 15 in Amsterdam

Priscilla McMullen Kluge and Josina Hillsland (Board Member) represented The Indo Project at the Dam on behalf of our international community.

Program  Highlights

Organized by The Indisch Kwestie/Platform 2.0 Foundation, the commemoration in front of the Royal Palace of Amsterdam on de Dam, in Amsterdam, was led by Peggy Stein with co-host Victor Laurentius who was the first presenter. The Indo Project had been invited to take part in placing one of the five wreaths on the platform accompanied by Ferry Brouwer von Gonzenbach, at attention, in an original K.N.I.L. uniform. Priscilla McMullen Kluge and Josina Hillsland, presented the wreath in honor of all WWII victims in the Pacific. Among the number of presenters were Queenie Couzijn, Wieteke van Dort, and Palmyra Westerling.
The entire commemoration filmed by Omroep Bersama can be viewed here.

August 15 in The Hague

Priscilla Kluge McMullen, Josina Hillsland, and Ottilie Cools represented The Indo Project by laying flowers at the Indisch Monument in The Hague during the national commemoration.

Program Highlights

in English from the Dutch website of the National Commemoration: 15augustus1945.nl

Chairman Thom de Graaf reflected on the significance of remembrance and how the war continues to impact subsequent generations. Author and publicist Reggie Baay shared a personal and poignant story about his father, a survivor of the Burma-Siam Railway, and his promise to a British comrade who succumbed to the war’s hardships. Singer Frederique Spigt recited Wim Kan’s poem “Er leven haast geen mensen meer….”

Similarly to last year, singer Elize van der Horst performed the “Indisch Our Father” accompanied by the Royal Military Band Johan Willem Friso. Frederik von Maltzahn, a student from The Hague’s VCL school that adopted the monument, recounted his great-grandfather’s experiences in the Battle of the Java Sea, sharing a moving tale of their special bond. Bibi Breijman and guitarist Memru Renjaan concluded the commemoration with the song “Neem me mee.”

Musician Boudewijn de Groot, born in the Japanese internment camp Kramat, together with his daughter Caya de Groot and granddaughter Misha Ragas, laid a three-generation wreath at the Indisch Monument. Boudewijn de Groot also recited the lyrics of the song “Hoe meer ik dichterbij kom.”

This year’s three-generation wreath was the Melati wreath, crafted from hundreds of handmade Melati flowers by community members. Several individuals shared their reasons for contributing to the Melati wreath’s creation. The wreath for civilian casualties was laid by Mr. Leo Hoekwater, while the wreath for all military casualties was laid by Ronald Poetiray.

The honor guard this year was composed of the Royal Netherlands Navy Submarine Service.

Before the commemoration, different generations engaged in conversations and shared stories at the Indische generatietafels organized by the volunteers of Jong1508.

For the first time, the pop-up restaurant Bar Bungkus was open on the field, which provided a space for the public to gather and enjoy a “nasi bungkus,” a small rice meal wrapped in banana leaves which was distributed by the Red Cross at the end of World War II in the former Dutch East Indies.

The commemoration can be viewed via their Facebookpage or via NPOstart.

August 19 at Bronbeek Estate

Commemoration Burma-siam Railway and Pakan Baroe Railway

Josina Hillsland represented The Indo Project at this event. This ceremony held immense emotional weight for her due to her personal connection to the Death Railway, where her grandfather was forced to work as a prisoner of war.

Program Highlights

in English from the Dutch website of the Stichting Herdenkingen Birma-Siam Spoorweg en Pakan Baroe Spoorweg: www.shbss.nl

The commemoration event began at 10:00 with the estate opening its doors to visitors, offering coffee, tea, and spekkoek. Information stands, including a book stall, were available. Notably, Eric and Bas from the “spoorzoekers” team presented on their efforts to provide meaning to family members lost to the railways during World War II.

Ceremony master Thijs Meijer welcomed both on-site and remote viewers under the theme “why telling stories is important.” Chairman Lars Bannink emphasized the significance of storytelling in human lives.

The event featured a moving wreath-laying ceremony by railway veterans and various organizations, including government bodies and the Thai Embassy. A unique three-generation wreath was laid to symbolize the importance of passing down stories.

Emotional speeches by families, such as Tamara‘s touching account of her father’s experience on the Birma-Siam railway, highlighted the event.

The commemoration concluded with the laying of a felt melati wreath and a procession led by railway veterans. Musical performances by the Royal Military Band ‘Johan Willem Friso’ and others added to the solemnity of the occasion.

The commemoration continued with a lunch and the screening of the documentary ‘In de voetsporen van Abraham Olckers,’ exploring intergenerational trauma. Posthumously, Colonel Van Kuijck awarded the Mobilization War Cross to honor Abraham Olckers for his sacrifice.

The Importance of Commemorating

During World War II, the Dutch colony fell under Japanese occupation, leading to the capture of the majority of the men who had defended the former DEI against all odds. Over 42,000 men were captured, and as POWS suffered atrocities alongside Americans, Australians and Britains and hundreds of thousands local romushas (forced laborers), at the Pakanbaru and Burma Railways and other Japanese internment camps. In addition, more than 100,000 civilians were interned by the Japanese and were treated marginally better than the POWs, but their death rates were the same.

At these commemorations we honor all those who suffered and those who gave the ultimate sacrifice during WWII in the Pacific – Never Forget.

These commemorations are especially important to people whose roots are in the former Dutch East Indies (DEI). They are also opportunities for dialogue, education, and reconciliation among different generations and cultures. By sharing stories and listening to each other, we can learn from history and create a better future.

The Indo Project on the National News

The Indo Project Laying the Wreath

2 Comments

  1. Dear Victor,

    Thank you for taking the time to express your appreciation. The Indo Project (TIP) specifically chose to inform & pass on our history in the English language as much information can be found in the Dutch language. Please consider writing down your mother and her parent’s stories and submitting it to TIP as a testimonial to their suffering and courage. Here is the link, should you want to do so. https://theindoproject.org/stories/submit-a-story/

  2. We really appreciated the services in commemoration for the fallen during WW2. And to read in English was so, so very helpful.
    My mother & her parents were all placed (forced camps) in DEI.
    Anyway, in retrospect, there is so much we can learn and appreciate.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Post comment