The Never Before Told Story Of A Forgotten Period After WWII And A Gruesome Discovery In The Mountains Of Java.

By Hans Vervoort.

The War Cemetery, Kembang Kuning, in Surabaya is impressive. Thousands of white crosses for World War II victims stand in neat long rows and if you walk past them they regroup in different patterns of diagonal and vertical lines. “Mass Grave” is an often seen engraving. In the middle of all this, stands the WWII Memorial with the inscription: “I attack, follow me”. These remembered words of Admiral Karel Doorman, led many sailors to their death during an ill prepared battle on the Java Sea.

Right at the front, lie the children. Their crosses are smaller. The girl’s crosses end in a flower pattern. It’s nice that the boys and girls are grouped together. My brother lies in row BBB, number 22. He died at the age of six, in 1944 in Camp Ambawara #6 and I have only one memory of him. He sat up in the infirmary, always a cheerful and busy child, and excitedly told me that something strange had happened: he had to sneeze and laugh at the same time! “And what did you do?” I asked in anticipation. I was his younger brother; I had a lot to learn.

What he actually said has been erased from my memory. I have to live with this one image of him. He lies in his grave at Kembang Kuning, for 70 years now, but he is not a day older than when he died. I visited him in 1974 and recently again in 2004. Both times I was struck by how many children were around him. There were eight in total: five girls and three boys, ranging from 3 to 11 years old. What kind of disaster had befallen them? All of them labeled deceased on October 29, 1945. It appeared that they all had died during the Bersiap—a violent period of six months that followed the surrender of Japan on August 15, 1945 and the proclamation of the Republic of Indonesia by the nationalist leaders, Soekarno and Hatta.

1. Six of the eight Engelenburg children

The British “liberators” of the Dutch East Indies, were only able to handle and control a small part of Java and the other islands. The brand new government of the new republic did not have enough resources to maintain order in its newly claimed territory. (Translator note: The British had made an agreement with the USA to let the British handle the Dutch colony instead of the American forces). In this sudden power vacuum, fanatical young Indonesians formed groups and called themselves Pemoeda’s. In an uncontrolled reign of terror, these Pemoeda’s targeted many of the Dutch and Indo populations—liberated from the Japanese camps. The violence resulted in an estimated 20,000 deaths. This unrest eventually led to the exodus of the Dutch and Indo communities to an unknown fatherland. Once in Holland, they soon realized the Dutch had little interest in the war that had taken place in their colony overseas.

Today, people are becoming more interested in what actually happened. Commemorations are now held annually, on August 15, to memorialize the one hundred thousand Dutch citizens who spent the war in Japanese internment camps. Details from the Bersiap period are still unknown in the Netherlands, although this period was one of the worst for the Dutch and Indo populations. I wondered why one never wrote about this horrible period. The reason might be that the portrayal of violent Indonesians doesn’t fit the guilt of a three-century colonial period. When the native Indonesians claimed their freedom, the Dutch sent an army of 100,000 men and called the movement a “police action.” In contrast with the many regrets about what happened, is the image of the young Pemoeda’s who attacked—always in groups—and murdered thousands of Indo, Dutch, and European women and children. For six months unregulated violent groups took advantage of the power vacuum, which led to abuses that do not fit the picture of colonial guilt. I imagine the Engelenburg’s and all the other Bersiap victims waiting for their story to be written.

At the cemetery, I promised my brother that I would find out the drama of his cemetery neighbors. It became a long journey. None of the hundreds of “Engelenburg” searches on Google had any result. The victim’s registry of the War Graves Foundation gave a little clue: the Engelenburgs were deceased in Ngadireso, a tiny village in the mountains of East Java. “Ngadireso” didn’t show up on the Internet either. I wrote to the War Graves Foundation, the Oorlogsgravenstichting, and asked if they knew a bit more about their deceased. They told me that the Engelenburg’s lived in Toempang, another village in Malang, and were transported to Ngadireso—where they were eventually killed. Although this information eventually turned out incorrect, it triggered a breakthrough.

I hit an article by the historian H. Bussemaker in which Toempang was mentioned as the place where 39 Bersiap murders had taken place. He did not know the names, but it was a start. Searching the name Toempang in combination with “October 1945” gave me the genealogical website of the Moormann family. There, I found a fifty-year-old woman who had died on October 1945 in Toempang. Died so young and exactly in that same month? I emailed the Webmaster and asked if Mrs. Moormann was perhaps one of the Toempang victims. He answered that this was Geertruida (Riep) Moormann Vlaanders, who was indeed murdered together with her son Clemens (11 years) by the Pemoeda’s. Through him, I got in touch with Ineke Moormann the youngest daughter, who was 15 years old at the time. She escaped the massacre by sheer circumstance.

Suddenly all the pieces fell into place. Ineke told me that she was in Malang, at that time, with a certain Roos Engelenburg. Roos was thirteen and lost her entire family in the riots. Roos Engelenburg! She was the ninth child, the eldest. And she was still alive! With the help of Ineke Moormann and Roos Engelenburg, now 86 and 84 years old, I was able to reconstruct the last years and days of their murdered relatives. It was not easy and Roos had to drop out after some time because the memories were too much for her to handle. Here is their story.

A Bit Of War

Malang is one of the most beautiful places in Indonesia and was traditionally the center of fertile farmland. Higher up from Malang, in the foothills of the highest mountain of Java, the Semeru (3,600 meters), are several mountain villages surrounded by rice paddies and plantations. Tumpang is the lowest, at about 600 meters above sea level.  Before WWII, a steam trolley went from Malang several times a day to this village, a journey of 20 kilometers. To get from Tumpang to the higher villages (900 meters elevation), you had to take a dokar, a horse-drawn carriage. The villages were about five kilometers apart. In 1942, the Moormann family lived in Watesbelung—in a large stone house.

2. Surroundings of Watesbelung. photo 2006

“It was lovely there, very beautiful and peaceful.” Ineke recalls, “We lived on a small river and behind our house up to the mountains were all rice paddies or sawah’s. My father and my oldest brother, Sam, had some land that they tended. The plantations nearby did grow mostly coffee, tea, sugar, kapok, oranges, pineapples, and bananas. All this certainly did not belong to us! The Indonesians owned land here for growing produce and of course they had their own rice paddies and cornfields. We, the Moormann’s, were mostly in sugar. The Vlaanderens’ (my mother’s side) had more coffee and tea”. Moormann and Marie (Riep) Vlaanderen married in 1914 and had 12 children. 11 were alive in 1942, four daughters and seven sons, including Ineke. The eldest sons helped with the plantation. It was always busy at home.

3.Wedding photo Riep and Sam Moormann

The war put a sudden end to the pace of a planters’ life. The two oldest sons, Sam and Alex, were drafted into military service at the beginning of 1942. Alex, previously a seminary student, became a medic and got on one of the ships of Admiral Karel Doorman. After the war, the family was sent a medal and a certificate. Alex had “distinguished himself at the time when the ship was sinking and he continued to take care of the injured and help them into the lifeboats and refused to abandon ship. He gave up his life jacket, while the ship went under.” After the capitulation of the Netherlands Indies, Sam was transported as a prisoner to the mines in Japan and subsequently to Burma to work on The Death Railway. He survived.

Father Moormann and the younger sons entered the Japanese civilian internment camps—like all men from 17 to 60 years of Indo, Dutch, or European origin that didn’t serve in the armed forces. All the women and children of “Totok”, that is of 100% Dutch or European origin, were locked up immediately in about 250 Japanese prison camps across the islands. Only some of the women and children of Indo descent were allowed to live outside the camps and in their own homes. They kept themselves alive by selling their belongings, because the male earners were gone. It was a struggle to stay alive. As a 100% Dutch woman, Riep Moormann-Vlaanderen should have been interned as well—but the Japanese left her alone. She probably had an important function in the village. Ineke: “My mother was loved all around. She acted like a nurse and administered the medication depot. She always took care of the people, day and night. If someone died, she helped prepare for burial. She gave away her last white sheet for the burial rituals of the native people.”

4.Riep Moormann in the 1930’s

In Ineke’s family picture album you see Riep as a sturdy, steadfast mother and housewife. As the war progressed, the daughters noticed that her forces began to dwindle. Ineke: “In her youth, my mother had severe pneumonia and had to live with only one lung. Now with my father and brothers gone, my mother was alone and it was not easy. The plantations stopped production. There was lack of food and you could tell that mother was at wits end and felt miserable. Finally she did send my older sisters away because there was not enough food in Watesbelung. Jo worked as a nurse in Toempang and Trees was with grandma Deuning. There she learned to cook very well!” Grandma Deuning lived at a higher altitude in Ngadireso. She was sixty years and could use help. Before the war, the Moormann boys were friends with grandma’s Indonesian foster son Appi. But Appi started to behave anti-Dutch. The Japanese invaders encouraged nationalism in order to make the leaders rally behind Japan. Many younger men joined paramilitary groups.

In the big house in Watesbelung, Riep was alone with the youngest daughter Ineke and the youngest child, Clemens, also known as Clem. He was almost eleven. Ineke would haul buckets water from the river, keep the garden clean and cook if mother was too weak. A little further down the road is the only other stone built house in the village, where a gentleman of Javanese nobility lives. His full name is much longer, but he lets himself go by Atema. He liked the Moormann family and helped as much as he could. Riep sometimes sells him a piece of furniture so that they have money for food. The deal is that when all the misery is over, she will buy back the furniture. Riep does not have a lot of contacts with other Indo people in the neighborhood. Her only contacts were Grandma Deuning and the Engelenburgs who also lived in Ngadireso.

5.Country road to Ngadireso. photo 2006

Grandpa Engelenburg had some paddy fields and an orange grove on a hill. He lived in the house at the top of the hill, with his second young wife Annie and their daughter Felicienne (3) and son Robbie (6). Lothar, the eldest son from his first marriage, lives with his wife Miene down the hill. They have seven children. Roos is thirteen years and the oldest. She has four sisters and two brothers: John (11), the twins Benita and Evelien (10), sister Willy (8), Richard (6) and Irene (4). “We lived next to the forest and played with each other,” Roos recollects later. “There were no other kids around to play with. We had fun with the dogs, goats, and chickens. We had a very happy childhood.” Father Lothar Engelenburg who was drafted at the beginning of the war, ends up as a POW sergeant of the KNIL army (Dutch Indies Army) in Sumatra, where he was killed in a Japanese camp in 1944. The Engelenburgs hear this—of course—only after the liberation. Just as the Moormanns, they too had to struggle to get through the war. Thanks to Grandpa’s efforts on the land, there was still some income.


Finally, in 1945, the war ends. The Japanese army capitulates. Just for a short moment it looks like that on 15 August, normal times have returned. The Engelenburg family hopes that their father Lothar will soon come home. The Moormann family reunites quickly: father and the younger son’s return on their own from the Japanese interment camps and the daughters come home as well. The men make plans to restart the plantations again. Of course they heard about the Declaration of Independence and the founding of the new Republic of Indonesia. Because of their isolated locations in internment camps, they have heard little of the surge of nationalism among the Indonesian youth. Ah, it will probably not go too fast they think but soon the situation changes. After the declaration of independence, Sukarno gives a couple of radio speeches in which he calls for freeing the country from the Dutch. Bersiap or “be ready” is his slogan. Soekarno the 44-year-old leader, with older nationalists who were willing to compromise with his government, established that he could maintain law and order in the republic. The committee’s consisted mainly of older, moderate nationalists but the impatient young people did not like these policies.

Pemoeda groups, the machete and bamboo spears wielding young men, started roaming the country and warning their countrymen that nothing may be distributed to the non-indigenous people. Armed with bamboo spears and Klewangs (Machete’s) they gathered in front of the homes of the Indo, Dutch and European citizens. Merdeka (freedom) was yelled all over the place. The revolution also catches on in Watesbelung and other mountain villages. The “Soto” food seller Bienki, who used to be thought of as mentally unstable in the village, suddenly emerged as a true hater of the Dutch authorities. Also Appi, the Indonesian foster son of Grandma Deuning, joins the Pemoeda’s who terrorize the mountain villages. The situation in the country becomes more threatening by the day.

The English victors realize that they have stepped into a hornet’s nest. Many interned Europeans, especially women and children, are still kept in the civilian camps scattered over the archipelago—and are still waiting to be evacuated because it’s too risky in the current situation. The English army commander finds a solution: he orders the capitulated Japanese guards to protect the just liberated prisoners against the charging Pemoeda’s. That solves the safety situation for the camp inhabitants, but the Indo and Dutch still living outside the camps are fare game. They soon become the main target. “The Pemoeda’s stood in the evening in front of our home yelling ‘Bunuh Orang Belanda’ or ‘kill all Dutch people’”, Ineke recalls. “They were making noise with everything they could lay their hands on to keep us awake all night. Fear and more fear dominated all of us.”

In Ngadireso, grandfather Engelenburg goes along with the suggestion of mother Miene to send Roos, who is 13, to Malang for safety. The Pemoeda’s would probably leave younger children alone, but Roos could run a risk with the agitated Pemoeda’s. Father Sam Moormann is also worried and sends his daughters to Malang, where he hopes that the situation will be more stable. The youngest daughter Ineke also leaves. She had just turned fifteen and gets a job in the kitchen of the Sawahan hospital in Malang. There she meets Roos Engelenburg. They know each other from the nun’s school in Malang. Together they go through perilous times because the situation in Malang is far from safe and stable. Japanese military, by orders from the English military command, guard the hospital that’s surrounded by a barbed wire fence. On October 1st the Japanese have to defend against the charging Pemoeda’s who attack the hospital with weaponry previously owned by the Japanese army. The nursing staff lives in the staff residence, which is located outside the fence of the hospital and is directly in line with the gunfire. The battle goes on for three days and nights. Ineke and Roos were in constant agony as they listened to bullets hitting the walls of the house and the threatening battle cries of the Pemoeda’s. The Japanese minority fights back, but when the number of casualties and injured keeps rising, the Japanese give up.

The regulated Indonesian army (TNI) takes possession of the hospital. The situation is tense and unfriendly, but they allow the wounded to be cared for. Ineke and Roos, basically just kitchen helpers, take care of the wounded and prepare the deceased for burial. Even the hospital corridors are full of bloody victims. It is a horrible experience for the girls. When they walk past a ward with wounded Japanese, Roos began whistling a pensive melody. Apparently one of the TNI soldiers who stood guard didn’t like it. He thinks they are whistling to the Japanese. The girls are marched off to the Marines camp with a bayonet pushed in their backs and to an internment camp further down the road.

After a nasty interrogation they are locked up for a week in a concrete cell with a concrete bench and a little bamboo mat. They only get some rice and soup. Fortunately, after a week they are released. The stress endured from captivity and the horror of all the injured and dead people they had to take care of, left the girls with a traumatic mental breakdown. Meanwhile the situation in Watesbelung also got worse.

The End

On October 10 the chief government of Malang announced an official boycott of the (Indo) European community. Nobody was allowed sell them anything. Water and electric power was cut off, taxis and betjak (bike driven rickshaw) drivers were forbidden to take Indo and Dutch passengers. Their deceased were to be carried manually to the cemetery and buried by themselves. In Watesbelung, Bienki and his cronies ensured that these regulations were followed. This was just the beginning. On October 17, a general arrest warrant is issued for all Indo, Dutch and European men and boys over fourteen. Father Moormann and his sons, just returned from the Japanese prisons, were taken to the prison in Malang. Grandpa Engelenburg was also interned. His young wife and his daughter-in-law were left alone and unprotected with the eight children. With the men gone, Riep Moormann in Watesbelung felt unsafe in the big house. Ineke heard this later from the Indonesian neighbors who sympathized with them, but could be of little help. Any aid given to the Belanda’s, the non-Indonesians, was a betrayal of the republic.

Fortunately for Riep, Tineke Boogaard, Ineke’s best friend from the convent school, was staying at her house. “She was an orphan,” says Ineke. “When the war broke out she was put in a foster family. The 18-year-old son of this foster family got her pregnant. For us Roman Catholics that was considered a big scandal. I was not allowed to talk to her after Sunday mass. Big nonsense of course. Tineke was only 13 or 14 years old, it was a huge burden for her. The baby was stillborn and my mother took care of Tineke.”

6. Clem and dog Hector

In the large city of Surabaya, a half hour drive from Malang, the tension between the population and the English troops increases and fighting erupts. The rage in Surabaya is broadcasted over the radio and spreads among the Pemoeda’s in Malang and the neighboring mountain villages. The terror gets fiercer. Riep and the two children are ordered by the Pemoeda’s to permanently stay indoors. There were no exceptions for getting water from the river. Fortunately the rainy season just started, which helps, but after a while the hunger is unbearable. Riep and the children wait in fear of their fate. Ineke: “Mr. Atema did put his life on the line in those days to provide mother, Clem, and Tineke with food and drink, during all those nights. He deserves Eternity in Heaven.”

7.Possibly the house of Oma grandma van Deuning. photo 2006

And then, suddenly all hell broke lose! Ineke: “What I know I have heard from Mr. Eliasar, our Indonesian neighbor (he is not alive anymore). Seven Pemoeda’s went through the villages. Against all orders, brother Clem was outside in the street when they arrived. Clem was dragged into our house and there they began working their machetes on him. Mom tried to get help from Mr. Eliasar. She went to his house with big head and neck wounds from the machetes. His house was five minutes from ours. As good as he could, he helped her with the wounds and sent her back home. Yes, it’s understandable, he was terrified that they would do harm to his family. Indonesians who helped Caucasians were not safe. In great anguish mother, as good as she was able, stumbled back home. Other residents in the neighborhood later told me that my brother Clem and Tineke Boogaard were then still alive—although both were mortally injured. They had thrown them in the bomb shelter, the one we built behind the house, and were left to their fate. That’s where they all died. Out of fear, nobody in the neighborhood dared to do anything. The Pemoeda’s, in rage, destroyed everything in the house and then set it on fire. And then they went to Ngadireso, where the Engelenburgs lived”.

It took a long time for Roos Engelenburg to gather her strength and continue to describe what had happened. The text she sent me is touching in its sparseness and precision. “What happened on the 29th October 1945: I heard from our nanny who I’d met in Ngadireso in 1991. My mother was not present at the time the children were murdered. She was washing our pots and pans at the well (about fifteen minutes walk from our house). She saw what had happened when she came back. Our nanny had run away as fast as she could and was in hiding for a week before she returned. Then they killed my mother. People in our village told me that one of the murderers committed suicide later in his life. A few kilometers from us lived a woman, who we called Grandma Deuning. She was murdered by her foster son.” Grandma Deuning (63) was not cincang-ed (hacked in pieces), but they hanged her. Perhaps this was meant to be a less gruesome death than being hacked to death with machetes?

There were more victims than the fourteen in this ‘Macabre Orgy in the Mountains’ story. At the end of October 1945, the Pemoeda’s murdered a total of 39 people in the four mountain villages: Tumpang, Watesbelung, Ngadireso and Poncokusumo. The victims were mostly women and children. After my query about the list of names of those murdered people in the four mountain villages in October 1945, the Oorlogsgravenstichting or the War Graves Foundation, sent me a complete list of the casualties. In 1948, the ODO (Investigation Service for Deceased War Victims) with directions from Eliasar, who himself had buried 28 victims with his two sons at the time, exhumed the bodies. Eliasar felt that it was his Christian duty. He paid dearly for that act of charity. Suspected of “anti-republic feelings” he was arrested and imprisoned for more than three months in one of the cells of the Field Police barracks in Tumpang. When he returned to his house in Watesbelung, it was completely looted. This was all accurately noted in a police report in 1948, when Malang was again under Dutch rule. At that time, several Indonesian witnesses were interrogated. In those police files are several reported names of possible perpetrators. One of those was a certain “Bini—a 40 year old Soto-food seller.” Nobody was arrested. Too much time had past.

8.Alex drowned in the Battle of the Java Sea

Alex drowned in the battle of the Java Sea and Clem was murdered before the Pemoeda’s started on their rampage for the Moormann and the Engelenburg families. Although violence had already taken place in the lower lying town of Toempang, Ineke and Roos could not inform the others about anything. In a 1948 police report, a witness, Doelsaid Gondongan, described what he had seen in Toempang. He recounts “a murderous orgy that I have personally observed. It was the murder of Mrs. W., Ms S., and their relatives.” Before the massacre started, the Dutch were not allowed to buy food and water (because of the boycott). Two or three days after the extremists arrived at Mrs. S’s home they asked the sister-in-law of Mrs. S., a Menadonese woman from one of the Indonesian islands, the following: “Madam, what is your ethnicity? If you want to be saved, you must leave from here and not mingle with the Belanda’s, Dutch, or Indo’s. If you don’t leave, you’ll find out what the consequences shall be.” The sister-in-law of Mrs. S. replied: “I’m married to ‘Tuan’ (the brother of Mrs. S.). How can I leave him in these difficult circumstances? I lived happily with him and should I now leave him in these tragic circumstances and divorce him? Is that not humane?” After hearing these words, the extremists left.

After a few days they reappeared and the massacre took place. The extremist’s armed with machetes massacred the women. One of the victims was the twelve-year-old Bobby (grandson of Mrs. S.). Bobby’s body was gebatjokt (pierced with a machetes) but he was not killed immediately. While he was still standing on his feet, the extremists buried him alive. “Oh, it was so barbarous”.

9. Graves at Kembang Kuning

The bodies of all 39 victims were reburied in 1948 at Kembang Kuning, Surabaya, where they now lie together. Because regulations have to be followed, I saw the eight Engelenburg children at Kembang Kuning all together and not the two mothers. They are buried separately from them in the adult section. “I felt so sad”, said a relative of the Moormanns family who attended the reburial. Riep Moormann, her son Clem, and Tineke Boogaard all lie together. They escaped the regulations. The Bersiap time lasted from October 1945 to March 1946. In that short amount of time, 20,000 Dutch and Indo’s disappeared on Java and the other islands—mostly women and children. Only 4,000 slain bodies were found.

End Notes:

Hans Vervoort:

Translated from “Dodentocht In De Bergen” by: Willem ten Wolde

Black & White Pictures: Collectie Ineke van Oers-Moormann

Color Photo’s: Theo Bakkenes

Other pictures of this story can be found at:

If you like to get more documentation (for ezample the complete list of casualties), you can mail

Literatuur: Bersiap, door H. Bussemaker (Walburg Pers 2005)


  1. Thank you Willem and Hans. Stories I have heard all my life. It took my family a long time before visiting Indonesia again in the late 1970s – early 1980s but for most it remained a no go area. The memories were just too horrific. My father always said that the Japanese occupation was horrendous but what followed was much worse.

  2. Hi Kees,

    I have been visiting the nearby Kasih Agape Orphanage routinely since 2017 and during one visit I brought a few of the kids into the Dutch War Cemetary so they can learn some Indonesian history. But until today I had little knowledge of the background of any of the souls buried there. I had assumed they all died in Japanese Internment camps but you have clearly documented that several of them were murdered by the Indonesian Pemuda. Even today Pancasila Pemuda remains a dangerous group. You never know when their anger will flare up or at whom. I was not aware that surrendered Japanese troops had been ordered to protect the Dutch. Our 60 KA kids live in the Kembang Kuning Cemetary right next door. I was just there last week and shot this clip of our kids three of whom are in Nursing College at Stikes-Hang Tuah in Surabaya. Surabaya – Kasih Agape Home – June 2022

  3. Hello Kees,
    I understand your feelings!
    When I read the story that my school vriend from Surabaya, Hans vervoort wrote, I was shocked about the harsh reality and asked Hans if I could translate the story in English so that part the Indo and indische Diaspora descendants who were not fluent in Dutch were able to read it also.
    Hans also wrote more about the time in Indonesia.
    See his Indische Hoek:

    Here is another short story about some experiences of the Bersiap Period.

    I understand your feelings very wel. My family, at that time when I was a war child, and we all came together after the camp years, my father survived Birma, all hell broke lose in Surabaya where bung Tomo yelled over the radio to murder all Blanda’s, brown and white and everybody that “collaborated” with them.
    This caused the young Pemuda’s to become violent and they planned an attack on a transport of women and children who would be on their way to the boat that would bring them to Holland. The infamous Gubeng Transport.
    At the time my parents and I did’t know that our dear close friends, a mother and two teen age daughters and a little boy, my age, Harry were victims.
    The two girls were murdered. Harry escaped in the ditch heavy wounded by bambu rucing spears. He got saved by some older Indonesians who took him away from the burning chaos.
    Harry and his mother were reunited on the boat and on the way to Holland they heard that Harry’s father was murdered by the Kempeitai months before capitulation.

    When I later was sent to the Netherlands with my younger brother in 1955, we lived a couple of years with Harry and tante Fré. We were like three brothers.
    We never talked about what happened then. Never about the whole war time and Bersiap. Silence. I always had to look at the photo of the two little girls she lost.
    Harry and I and two other friends also from Indonesia, never talked about the war or camps.
    I only found out much later that Harry’s PTSD, a word established much later, became more intense by the years. It influenced his marriage and extremely difficult for his children.

    One of Harry’s cousin’s daughter, Inez, who was a professor at Berkeley, and who was interested in her family’s history in the former Dutch East Indies, started her research, interviewing family members and she then heard some about the story about her “uncle” Harry and the “silence” around him.

    But Inez took the daring step to contact him and asked him straight away, if she could talk with him about the war and Bersiap period for her book. Harry’s wife had passed by that time and Harry lived alone at his home.
    Inez was able to penetrate Harry’s meticulous “bunker” as Harry later told her, and he opened up. It was very emotional and stressful but also a relief. I went to join the book signing of the Dutch version.
    A month before Harry passed in 2012 I went to the Netherlands to see him and to actually say farewell because I knew the end was near.
    I went back a month later to speak at his funeral.

    Willem ten Wolde

    Inez Hollander wrote her book in English and Dutch

    Silenced Voices, Uncovering a Family’s Colonial History in Indonesia

    Verstilde Stemmen en Verzwegen Levens, een Indische familiegeschiedenis

    • Hello Willem
      Thanks for your reply. We Indos have had so many bad experiences and are still fighting them, that it’s almost impossible to stay calm and reserved. One thing I will keep doing, is to make sure that the many younger ones whom I meet, will KNOW what atrocities were committed during the bersiap period. We still have a long way to go!
      Take care, regards, Kees.

      • Kees,
        Do think about your personally well being in the first place.
        Then calmly inform others with this forgotten history.

  4. Hello, I’ve read this account of the atrocities by the pemudas, after the Dutch king apologized to the Indonesian government about the atrocities that the Dutch troops allegedly have committed. Needless to say that for “convenience sake” we Indos are again being ignored and used by the Dutch government! May all our people rest in peace! Personally, I still have trouble with flashbacks from those days although our family did not by a long shot went thru such an ordeal.

  5. Thank you for the translation, my father , Joseph Moormann occasionally shared this story of what happened to his mother and brother Clemens. Now I can share this rather sad story with my family.

  6. Thank you for writing and translating the story. As the grand daughter of Mr J Eliasar, I can pass this piece of history to my son Sean (grandson of Mevr Roos Engelenburg). We know that asking Oma Roos about this story is very painful for her. And as my father Nono Eliasar (Mhr Eliasar’s 11th son) has passed on 6 years ago, there is no one else I could ask about this piece of history that involved my family.
    Again, thank you very much.
    Elizabeth Sharp-Eliazar.

  7. I was a victim of the Bersiap era in Mr Cornelis, a suburb of Batavia (Jakarta) at the age of five in the first week of Nov 1945. One night my granddad’s villa was invaded by a gang of “rampokkers” or “peloppors” (robbers) armed with “goloks”, a native type of machete. It was just after dinner when our dog started barking. My dad went around the back of the house to see what was going on. Apparently he already knew what was taking place because these home invasions and the slaughter of their inhabitants had been going on in our area since the war ended on Aug 15 of that year. It was always preceded by the sound of somebody hitting the steel lamp post with that machete, as if to instill fear into the people. We had no weapons and no military protection what so ever because the Japanese who were ordered to do so refused or had left for their collecting locations to be transported back to Japan. There were some British Indian troops stationed at the convent “de Goede Herder” nearby, but they were instructed not to interfere. When my dad came back inside he must have had a look of fear in his face when he told my g’dad, “they are here”. My g’dad who was reading his Bile calmly got up, gathered us together in the front room and walked to the front door. When he opened it we saw them standing there, dressed in black pants, white shirt with black “pitjih” (Nehru caps) with their weapons in hand. My g’dad looked them in the eyes and, addressing them in the Malay language, he asked what they wanted. Of course he knew what they were there for. Then he addressed one individual in particular. After talking to the guy my g’dad told them, “take whatever you want but please spare my family” (my parents, my two sisters and me, and my g’dad himself). They took anything they could take with them, ripped all the matrasses in the front yard just for the cloth and left the yard covered with the kapok filler that made it look like it had snowed. What they could not take with them they smashed to pieces. As an act of defiance and humiliation, when passing my g’dad on his way out, the leader pointed his machete at him. My mother thought that he was going to butcher her dad right there, instead he made him drop his pants in front of all of us. After they had left us shaken to the core my dead went to the “Goede Herder” to get help from the Gurkhas there. Only then did he come back with a corporal and a soldier to escort us in the dark to the convent. We spent three days there with other victims who had survived. After three days we were all taken by military convoy to a displaced persons camp in central Batavia called “10de Battallion” or “10th Batallion”. Before the war it was a military camp of the KNIL Mobile (bicycle) Brigade. During the war it was a Japanese prison camp for women, children and old men. There were already hundreds of people and for protection the camp was only surrounded by a six foot high palisade with two gates. The camp was surrounded by buildings flying the Indonesian Red and White flag, not the Dutch Red, White and Blue. On the morning of our second day my dad and I were at a barber when a shot rang out. For a few minutes it was still, then all hell broke loose and a small scale war broke out the lasted three days. It was a war of revenge by Ambonese and Manadonese KNIL soldiers who had returned from the mountains and the jungles where they had fought guerrilla warfare against the Japanese, only to find that their families had been raped and slaughtered by Indonesian terrorists. The day after the shooting stopped we heard a convoy of deuce and a half military vehicles approach an intersection near the camp. Everybody ran to the palisade to climb on it and see what it was about. We saw men and boys jammed like sardine in a can in the open vehicles dressed in all white with black “Nehru” caps on. As the first vehicle stopped at the intersection one soldier dropped the gate, stepped back and ordered the people down to the ground and when they were all on the ground a machine guns opened up. This happened with every vehicle. At one point so many people had climbed on the palisade that it collapsed under their weight. Not far from where I was I saw my g’dad go down with them. As my parents had told me not to go to the palisade I ran right home after it had come down. Not long after people came to my mother telling her that my g’dad had had an accident. They had carried him to the place where he was staying. It appeared that he had suffered a heart attack. The next morning on November 10, 1945 I was told that he had died from a massive heart attack. After managing to survive the war without being imprisoned and the Bersiap (massacre) era he succumbed by witnessing the slaughter of the same people who had committed the same thing to thousands of innocent, emaciated and unarmed men, women, children and babies, many of whom were still in the Japanese POW camps waiting to be rescued. Many years later my mother told me about the miracle the kept us out of the Jap camps and the one that kept us from being slaughtered by terrorists that night of November in 1945. Many years later yet I learned how my g’dad kept his family from starving to death during the war years. I may write about it another time. God bless.

  8. Thank you, Mr. Vervoort, for documenting this gut wrenching account of the atrocities that occurred during the Bersiap period. I visited Indonesia for the first time from September – November 2015 and was able to find my Dutch grandfather’s (J.C. Jaarsveld) grave at Ereveld Menteng Pulo in Jakarta. My Indo mother spent WW2 in a Japanese concentration camp in Central Java, while my Dutch/Surinamese father was a KNIL soldier and was a POW for 3.5 years. Both survived the war, left Indonesia in 1949, and have since passed on in 1992 and 2009, respectively. Although we do not know the exact cause of my Opa’s death, the fact that he died in October 1945 at age 60 makes me want to further research Bersiap to find out if he too was a victim of the genocide.

  9. Hans Vervoort is a longtime friend from our school years in Surabaya. When Hans thinks that something is really important to be published he will pursue it and not let go before he has all the facts together. And he did and put a lot of time into it.
    Most of his stories and books are written in Dutch. You can check his website,,
    for stories and books relating to Indonesia. A free downloadable book in English, Farewell to the Indies, Hans paid for by himself for the Indo diaspora.
    Translating this story was important to me for several reasons, one of which is the forgotten Bersiap Period where so many forgotten people were killed AFTER the war, several very good friends of us (read Inez Hollander’s ” Too Late to Ask is Worse than Afraid to Ask” ) on this site.
    And also, the Bersiap that led to the infamous Police Action wars and made us leave our motherland Indonesia.
    Also for people like Harry Mertens and Eric Wiggers who are related to the main victims in this now, not forgotten story.
    I’m glad that this story is important to you and your family. Thank you Harry and Eric!
    For more information about the Bersiap period you can read, in English, Silenced Voices by Inez Hollander who is a TIP volunteer and board member, and a book in Dutch, BERSIAP, by Herman Bussemaker another good friend who just passed on.

  10. It is our hope, Harry Mertens, that the English speaking world starts learning about the genocide that transpired in the former Dutch East Indies and that it will spark an interest in Indo history & culture. Thank you for your post.

  11. As a 2nd cousin to the wife of Joseph Ferdinand Moormann (a son of “Sam” Moormann and “Riep” Vlaanderen), my grateful thanks and appreciation to all involved in the research and publication of this article. Necessary knowledge – and well done!

  12. Thank you to Willem ten Wolde for translating this very important story and to Hans Vervoort for writing it down so the younger generation Indos can learn from this part of their history.

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