By Jamie Stern

On Tuesday evening, May 26th, 2015, the Crystal Cove auditorium at UC Irvine filled with guests eager to visit with each other and enjoy the evening’s presentations. This was a very special event, because The Indo Project (TIP) was holding its Second Annual Lecture Series, titled, An Evening With TIP. The Indo Project gives special thanks to Ms. Henny Neys who partially sponsored the event.  We could not have covered the expenses if not for her generosity, thus enabling us to host the Third Annual Lecture Series in 2016. Guests were treated to the first round of TIP TALKS featuring speakers Priscilla McMullen, Jamie Stern, and Dr. Inez Hollander. Watch the TIP TALKS presentation video HERE. TIP TALKS was filmed live in the Crystal Cove auditorium. Highlighted topics of the evening included TIP’s groundbreaking research, celebration of our community, and our urgent work to prevent the whitewashing of the Indo Dutch legacy in popular world culture; specifically the realm of Hollywood. These exciting topics were followed by the exclusive screening of The Railway Man, a highly moving film which shares a story that dovetails with our own. After the movie, a Q and A period was held with the audience given the opportunity to voice opinions, ideas, and feelings. It was a warm and supportive environment that may have even allowed for some healing. Exhilarated from the interactions, a raffle prize drawing was held. Congratulations to our raffle prize winners who took home one basket filled to the brim with Indo goodies and one gift certificate for spekkoek donated by Island Bunny Products. The evening came to a close in the reception room where guests enjoyed spekkoek, cookies, hot coffee and other Indo treats. It was a fun opportunity to mingle, take photos and chat with TIP staff.

The slides used in the presentations can be accessed via the links below. To watch the presentation, click here. Transcripts from the presentation were typed up and appended to the end of this article.

Jamie Stern, M.A. —  Indos Today: The Development of Our Present-day Geographical Portrait

Inez Hollander, Ph.D. — The Indo Dutch Fate at the 70th Anniversary of the Ending of WWII: Footnote or Legacy?

TRANSCRIPTS from the Presentations are below:


By Priscilla McMullen, President of The Indo Project (TIP)

TIP TALKS, May 26th, 2015 – UC Irvine, Irvine CA

I know that I always talk about my obsession about our history. I just want to tell you a little bit about why I have that obsession. When I was growing up, being called an Indo was certainly very negative. It wasn’t until I matured and dug down deep into my family’s history that I realized it was a badge of honor. How many of us…how many of our families have overcome the atrocities of WWII, the genocide called the Bersiap, the loss of a homeland, repatriation, and for those in this audience…immigration? We have overcome these five traumas…and we have overcome the pain, and have done well. I hear some people say that we share a past that doesn’t exist anymore. I can’t help but chuckle when I hear that. Look at each one of you here. The past lives within us…and we carry it with us, and we will pass it on to our children. We Indos are resilient, tenacious, persevering, and hard-working. It is time that we pat ourselves on the back. It is time to honor our heritage rather than look down on it. Tonight we honor Indo history, our culture and resiliency. Tonight at the 70th year commemoration of the end of WWII, we feature and discuss part of our history that’s hardly talked about, or that the world knows about. We will hear from Jamie Stern, our very own third generation Indo. We’re so proud of her. She’s conducting a survey to map where we all ended up globally. I will leave it up to Jamie to tell you all about this. I want to thank Henny Neys for partly sponsoring this program because she made us realize that we needed to go through with this; because we were wondering if we should or not…but she gave us the impetus. Thank you Henny, thank you so much. I would like to thank the Indo Project team. You don’t know how hard they work. We spend hours and hours talking about how we want to share our history and our culture every meeting for two hours straight. We plan and I hope that you will enjoy what we have planned for tonight. So I will give you now, Jamie Stern, who will tell you all about her Master’s thesis that she did and what she’s doing now.



Indos Today: The Development of Our Present-day Geographical Portrait

By Jamie Stern, M.A.  Director of Research, The Indo Project (TIP), (c) 2015, The Indo Project, Inc.

Co-Author – From Brown Dutchmen to Indo-Americans: Changing Identity of the Dutch-Indonesian (Indo) Diaspora in America, (International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society)

TIP TALKS, May 26th, 2015 – UC Irvine, Irvine CA

Hi Everyone,

I’m so happy you were all able to come out tonight. I know traffic was terrible out there. Thank you for being here. I started with The Indo Project about 5 or 6 years ago now… and I have just completely fallen in love with our culture. I started off not knowing anything about it. I knew that Opa was from Indonesia and I knew that Oma spoke Dutch so I figured, “Ok, don’t know how that happened, but ok.” And so much of the third generation echoes this thought process…this is so common and it’s unfortunate because after studying and learning about what our pioneering generation experienced, I found out we’re so rich with stories, with the most incredible examples of perseverance, love and family, and everything that makes us so very unique. We’re a very unique people. I celebrate this by being a part of the Indo Project…and I also get the opportunity to feel close again to my grandparents. I feel I lost them too early. (Most of us feel like that though, if we could keep them forever, we would!) But I lost my Opa who I was very close with, when I was five. And my Oma (who I was able to develop a very deep close relationship with), I lost her when I was 14. This was all before I had the opportunity to even think of all the questions I wanted to ask them. So I feel I missed out on that and by being a part of the Indo Project and keeping up with all that we’re doing, talking with people and meeting other Indos, I feel like I’m getting the opportunity to be with them again and it’s beautiful…

I’m the Director of Research with the Indo Project. I finished my Master’s Thesis on the Indo migration, our Diaspora out of Indonesia after it had been the Dutch-East Indies. We’re picking up a lot of traction in these most recent years. Today I’m going to talk to you about:

“Indos Today: The Development of Our Present-day Geographical Portrait”

We had a professor over at La Roach College recently reach out to us. This was a couple years back. His name is Dr. Azlan Tajuddin, and he is a professor of Sociology. He is the chair of the department at his school and he contacted us wanting to find out if we would help him connect the dots. At this point our very first ground breaking research had been started and completed. It was the 2012 Indo Survey that many of you had participated in. And we were able to use that as the base for all of the topical studies that Azlan and I did together. We were published back in March 2015, this year, in the International Journal of Politics, Culture and Society. It’s very exciting because the Indo Project is all over it! The Indo Project was an integral part of it. It’s magnificent, we’re pick up momentum…we’re highly “googleable”!

Summary of Article Abstract:

– Indos are people of mixed Dutch-Indonesian descent.

– Our history can be traced to the Netherlands’ 300-year colonization of Indonesia (Dutch East Indies). As an “in-between” people, Indos were accorded the privileges of a Dutch colonial class situated above the native Indonesians, but placed below Europeans in terms of status.

– Despite their Dutch citizenship, the Indos were often marginalized due to their distinctly hybridized culture and “mixed” physical appearance.

– During the Japanese occupation of the East Indies, however, the Indos’ political-historical association with the Dutch subjected many among them to numerous persecutions. Similarly, this “Dutch” identity would also place the Indos on the opposite side of the Indonesian independence struggle, creating their massive exodus to the Netherlands after the Second World War.

– In Holland, Indos were treated more like foreigners than compatriots and often referred to as “Brown Dutchmen.” This drove many Indos toward further migration across the globe, including to the USA.

– In America, first-generation Indos were reluctant to share their traumatic history.

– They encouraged their sons and daughters to fully embrace “Americanhood” and by their silence urged them to leave the past behind.

– Despite this, many among the younger generations have begun to show a collective interest in reconnecting with their Indo heritage.

– Without an existing homeland to serve as a cultural anchor, the scattered Indo community has resorted to intense cultural imaging and social networking to define our place as Indo-Americans.

– This is what The Indo Project (TIP) is actively doing. TIP sponsored the 2012 Indo Survey and individual interviews which formed the basis for the multi-theoretical approach used to produce this scholarly article.

– We present our work as a critical analysis of the Indo-American Diaspora from the end of WWII though the present.



Moving on to what I’m doing right now: This map is a compilation of everything that we have been collecting over the last four years. It is constructing our geographical portrait. We’re seeing where everybody is distributed. We like our coastal regions. California is most heavily concentrated with Indos. We like Florida too.


Detailed map:

Moving into the map a little more deeply, I want everyone to be able to get an idea for our time-frame of data collection. All of the square diamond shaped blue points were taken in 2012; that was our very first Indo Survey and then we used that information as a basis to start our next phase of research which is the Worldwide Indo Challenge. I encourage everyone who hasn’t already participated in it to go take the Worldwide Indo Challenge. It’s anonymous and it helps us to continue to establish our point that we are here. We want to show that off: WE ARE HERE! I also want to point out, in case anyone is concerned about duplication of answers, we actually only have a 16% chance that some of the points of data are duplicates. This is good, because in a way, it speaks for some who might have not taken the survey. It doesn’t in anyway damage our distribution or statistical results. So this really is what we’re looking at. This is our distribution. (Nobody really likes North Dakota or South Dakota.)

Thank you all so much. This is what we’re doing. This is our research. I just want to mention that this is pretty ground breaking. This is the first time worldwide the Indo population is being mapped out. We had something close back in the 1970s. Dr. Greta Kwik did her dissertation on the Indo population in California. Unfortunately, (to me) she left it on a very dismal note. And she suggested that this was it and we’d just fade off into the sunset. I disagree greatly. To that I say, this is not the end of the Indo saga and with your help and interest we continue.

Thank you, Dank je wel.



The Indo Dutch Fate at the 70th Anniversary of the Ending of WWII: Footnote or Legacy?

(c) 2015, Inez Hollander, Ph.D., Author of Silenced Voices (Ohio UP)

Academic Director, The Indo Project (TIP), TIP TALKS, May 26th, 2015

UC Irvine, Irvine CA

The year 2014 was an extraordinary year with not just one, but two movies coming out of Hollywood that dealt with WWII in Asia. While both UNBROKEN and The Railway Man weren’t necessarily blockbusters or stellar in critical acclaim, they were extraordinary in that they were quite accurate in portraying the struggle of two POW survivors, who, crippled by PTSD, nonetheless redeemed themselves and were able to forgive their Japanese captors.

Our relatives, the first generation who went through the war and who are now in the winter of their lives, went through a similar ordeal, but, and this is where Hollywood got it historically wrong, the survivors cannot redeem themselves and reconcile with Japan, since recent setbacks under the leadership of Prime Minister Abe have triggered a whitewashing of Japanese atrocities during the war. In recent textbook reforms by Abe’s government, the Nanking Massacre has been downgraded to a mere incident, and comfort women whose existence Abe has repeatedly denied, have been edited out of current textbooks altogether.[1] When Angela Merkel visited Japan this year she had compelling advice for Japan: “Coming to terms with the past is a prerequisite for reconciliation.”

In this talk, I want to address how the Indo Dutch legacy has reached a state of extinction through the lens of popular world culture, but since many of you don’t know me, I should first tell you how my back story is closely aligned with yours. [SLIDE 2]

Growing up in the Netherlands, my Indies family background was shrouded in silence. However, when I started digging, I found that more than three generations of my maternal family had been there, as administrators and planters. While I had started the story with my grandfather, the story soon became Harry’s, a cousin of my mother’s, who was part of the next-to-last family to run the family plantation and whose father was tortured by the Japanese and whose sisters were brutally murdered by Indonesian revolutionaries during the massacres that took place at the time of the revolution in Surabaya (October 28th, 1945, now called “The Day of Heroes” in Indonesia).

As a child of seven and eyewitness at the time, Harry had never shared the details of this story with anyone — not even his wife or children, and although my mother advised against me contacting him, I wrote him a letter whereupon he wrote back and said: let’s talk. On a rainy Sunday afternoon in The Netherlands, he told me the entire story, sobbing—a story so gruesome and incredible at the same time, that it had all the hallmarks of… a Hollywood movie.

That story became the book, Silenced Voices, and before I sent the manuscript to my American publisher, I told my husband that Harry had to approve it. After reading it, he e-mailed me back within 24 hours and said this:

“I had three guardian angels in my life: my sister Willy who always looked after me, the Indonesian who rescued me, and you because you see me… It’s as if I have been living inside a bunker all my life and you have been the only one who has hit a hole in that bunker through which love and light now come pouring in. That love consists of interest, compassion and contact like I have never experienced in my life.” Fellow historian and camp survivor Winnie Rinzema-Admiraal added to this: “You have not only opened the bunker, you have been on a journey with an imprisoned man and you have acknowledged him fully […] It is called recognition, but it’s so much more. He has become centered in his own life because of this. This is something that no one has been able to understand in Holland of the people who had been through the war in the Indies. One didn’t know what it was.”

Due to all sorts of reasons, the Indo Dutch legacy in the US is hiding in a bunker as well, and is screaming to get out. There are all sorts of reasons for this, which I won’t go into now but I want to share with you how the international movie industry is complicit in the silencing of our story. Of course, movies are only one reflection of our shared popular culture, but as a barometer as to what gets exposure and is shared with mass audiences around the world, movies are a good indicator of what people know or may not know about a topic like WWII.


So, I tallied all the WWII movies that have been made in the last twenty years (242 total). Of these, 192 are set in Europe, and 50 in the Asia-Pacific theater. 18 of the latter are made by Japanese, which leaves us with 32 movies made by non-Japanese studios.


Of the 32 movies, I sifted through the topics and found this: 10 deal with the Sino-Japanese war, 4 with the Filipino-Japanese war, 3 with the US-Japanese war, 2 with the Taiwanese-Japanese war, 2 with Thailand/Burma, 2 with the Malaysian-Japanese war, 2 with Emperor Hirohito, 2 with Japanese war crimes trials, 2 with Hiroshima, 2 with other topics and 1 with… what’s missing here?


Of the 42 movies on WWII in Asia, there is only one dealing with the Dutch-Japanese war, namely Paradise Road (1997) which deals with (according to the American movie description) an Allied (not Dutch) POW-internment camp in Sumatra, even though most of the internees were Dutch. In fact, this is the only movie that was ever made about WWII in the Dutch East Indies, which is telling if you compare it to the 300+ movies that have been made about the Holocaust since 1945 (interestingly, these include a few Japanese movies about the plight of the Jews (and Anne Frank in particular).


This contrast is jarring if we consider the following:

– 80% of all people who were interned by the Japanese found themselves in camps in the Dutch East Indies

–  The total number of war dead in the DEI is 4 million (this includes 2 million Indonesians)

–  The DEI is #5 in the top 10 countries with most war dead (Japan is #6 in that list)

– The majority of Dutch war casualties (excluding Dutch Jews, 73% of whom died in the Holocaust) rest in war graves all over Indonesia, and not in the Netherlands


Astoundingly, while the DEI was a major war arena and site of suffering for the Indonesians and Indo Dutch, there hasn’t been a single feature focusing on that war in the Indies by a Dutch filmmaker or studio.

So, while the whole world probably wants us to “move on” and stop whining about something that happened 70 years ago, that is a hard thing to do and may not be an option for us at all. Our story is not complete and hasn’t been fully told, shared or seen by the world. As such, we’re still withering away in Harry’s bunker.

With the absence of popular narratives available to mass audiences and Japan’s recent denials of our suffering, the Indo Dutch legacy may well be on its way to becoming a mere footnote in history, especially in countries outside of the Netherlands, like the US and Australia. This has been exacerbated by the fact that we don’t have a lobby: while China and South Korea have been very vocal about protesting abovementioned and recent textbook reforms in Japan, the Dutch East Indies are no more and, compared to other countries, the Dutch government has had a shabby record when it comes to fighting for the recognition of the suffering of what many in the Netherlands still consider “former colonizers”.

In my view, we have 30 years to correct the fact that the Indo Dutch legacy becomes extinct, so by the time the 100th anniversary of the end of WWII rolls around, we can hopefully speak of the Indo Dutch legacy having entered the mainstream. But this takes effort and a huge commitment of the Indo Dutch community in the US, that, in the past, has not been a good advocate for itself. We have to do a number of things which I want to call the Triple A of Indo organizing, i.e. affirmation, advocacy and activism which involves:


1) Cross-generational dialogue and education to end the Indies silence of the first generation and provide context and history to the next generations of who we are and how we ended up here (The Indo Project is doing some of that by organizing nights like tonight, which is an annual event revolving around a, no, not a TED-Talk but a TIP TALK)

2) Preservation of the past by collecting and storing oral histories (The Indo Project is doing that already: send us your stories, we can store them in the cloud—the last witnesses of the war are dying, so we can’t afford to have these stories fall through the cracks, especially in the light of Japan’s recent revisionist reforms)

3) Community building locally and worldwide, including connecting and synergizing with the large Indo Dutch community in the Netherlands (The Indo Project is trying to do this with however few means we have)

4) Taking a stand with regard to the past, in the form of guarding our history (The Indo Project has been doing that with the Unbroken petition to get Jolie’s movie shown in Japan, and with community organizing around the recent visit by PM Abe to US Congress)

5) Claiming our spot and heritage as part of the multicultural fabric of the US: No, we aren’t Latinos, our sambal rocks way more than salsa and our history maybe painful but it’s rich, multicultural and old

6) Building a memorial and Indo Community Center, which can also serve as a global center for dialogue, truth and reconciliation with Japan (and the Netherlands) (This is one of the ultimate goals of The Indo Project and while Priscilla and I have had talks with potential stake holders in the Netherlands and Indonesia, to build such a memorial in Indonesia, The Board has discussed that such a center in the US is a higher priority)

7) We need a movie, in English, a real feature that tells our story truthfully and grippingly. Since we’re down the road from Hollywood here in Irvine, I did want to mention I have a full script and an award-winning filmmaker who’s ready to get started if we can find the funds [SLIDE 9]

[SLIDE 10]

Finally, Indo Pride is also putting your wallet where your heart is: The Indo Project is an all-volunteer nonprofit, but to realize some of the abovementioned goals, we need to become a formal organization with an executive director and staff.

Our destiny is what WE make of it and, to honor the pain and suffering who went before us, we need to stand up for ourselves and claim ownership of the Indo Dutch legacy in the US. Remember this: those who gave their lives during the Japanese occupation and Bersiap, made freedom and peace possible for us. We would be squandering that if we don’t try and put our culture, community and contributions on the US map once and for all.

We have our work cut out for us, but to speak with the words of Multatuli: “De parelvisser vreest de modder niet” (He who fishes for pearls doesn’t fear the mud). I am ready to start fishing for pearls: the question is: are you?!


(NOTE: Video recording ended a few seconds early due to technical difficulties which unfortunately cut off the last sentences of Dr. Hollander’s powerful presentation. We are fortunate to have her last two sentences documented above.)


[1] Even in the US, there is a tremendous blind spot as to what people know about WWII in Asia, in spite of the fact that the US declared war on Japan after Pearl Harbor and ended the war with the dropping of the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. While the recent visit by Shinzo Abe to US Congress did bring up the comfort women issue in US media, a Pew Research Poll showed that 60% of Americans were not familiar with the term comfort women.


  1. I commend the work that you are doing with TIP; carry on with a job well done. You should all be proud of the work that you are doing.

    With respect,

    Jack Profijt

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