EventsFeaturedNewsWorld War IIPoesaka - the liberation in the Dutch East Indies and WWII in Southeast Asia

Want to learn (more) about WWII in the Dutch East Indies, the Bersiap Period and the Independence War?
Watch the 40-minute documentary by Simone Berger & Armando Ello with English subtitles.

On December 3, 2023, The Indo Project hosted a live online Q&A session with the filmmakers. Over 60 people signed up and submitted questions, the majority of which were addressed during the event. Simone and Armando received numerous compliments from participants. One individual even remarked to her children, ‘If you ever watch one film to learn about your heritage, let it be this one.’ What a meaningful compliment and encouragement!

You can watch the Zoom recording below.

An Exceptional Resource

The Indo Project is excited to introduce an exceptional resource – the Dutch documentary, titled “The Liberation in the Dutch East Indies and WWII in Southeast Asia” by author Simone Berger and photographer/filmmaker Armando Ello with English subtitles. It features six eyewitnesses from their book “The Long Journey of the Pusaka”, who share their personal stories, offering a compelling overview of historic events through firsthand accounts. This makes it not only more engaging but also easier to relate to and understand.

Since 2010, The Indo Project has been collecting and publishing stories and resources on their website (theindoproject.org) to educate people worldwide about Indo history and culture. The website offers a wealth of information and now includes this valuable 40-minute resource for an engaging way to learn about this history.

To ensure a wider audience can access the Dutch documentary, The Indo Project has financed the translated version with English subtitles.

The Need for Such Resource

Many people with a shared family history in the Dutch East Indies have encountered bewildered reactions when they talk about their heritage roots. 

Depending on where they live, assumptions are made about their ethnicity and they may experience different cultural questions like, “Are you Mexican? “Are you Filipino?” Similarly, when these people mention their grandparents or parents were in Japanese internment camps, they may hear questions like, “Those camps in the US during WWII were awful. Are you of Japanese descent?

More confusion can also arise when they say they or their parents were born in the Dutch East Indies. They may experience questions like, “What country is that?” Or when they visit the grave of their grandfather or father in Thailand, they may be asked, “Why is their grave all the way over there?

Mentioning these historic facts typically creates confusion, and it can be challenging to explain this part of history to others, because it is not very well known worldwide. Now there is this documentary as a readily available resource that explains all this and dispels some of the confusion!

Summary of the Documentary

The documentary focuses on six different eyewitnesses from the book ‘The Long Journey of the Pusaka’. Each eyewitness shares their experiences from their childhood years in the Dutch East Indies and Indonesia. It recounts the transformation of the Dutch East Indies to Indonesia.

  • 1921-1941: The prewar years
  • March 8, 1942: Surrender of the Dutch East Indies and start of the Japanese occupation.
  • August 15, 1945: Surrender of Japan and official end of WWII
  • August 17, 1945: Proclamation of Independence by Sukarno and Hatta
  • 1945-1946: Bersiap period
  • 1946-1949: Decolonization war
  • December 27, 1949: Transfer of Sovereignty from Dutch to Indonesia
  • 1945-1968: Repatriation waves from Indonesia to the Netherlands
  • 2020: Eyewitnesses tell their stories in the book “The Long Journey of the Pusaka”
  • Transformation: The Dutch East Indies to Indonesia

Check out the trailer for a captivating glimpse of what the documentary covers!

Documentary Background

In 2020, the Netherlands celebrated 75 years of freedom since the end of WWII. It was the theme of that year’s national commemorations and celebrations throughout the Netherlands, organized and coordinated by the Nationaal Comité 4 en 5 mei  (National Committee for 4 and 5 May). The emphasis was on commemorating the end of the Second World War and celebrating the liberation of the Netherlands in 1945. However, while the Netherlands celebrated liberation from German occupation on May 5, the war in the Dutch East Indies continued until August 15th, followed by the declaration of independence of Indonesia and a four-year-long decolonization war.

Even though there are currently more than two million people in the Netherlands with a family history in the Dutch East Indies, many Dutch people are unaware of this part of their country’s history. This lack of awareness served as a significant motivation for Simone Berger to advocate for the creation of a dedicated educational package for Dutch high school students about the liberation of the Dutch East Indies and, more generally, WWII in Southeast Asia.

The educational package is built around the book “The Long Journey of the Pusaka”, which portrays individuals along with their pusaka (an “heirloom” that symbolizes their family history). These pusakas make the memories tangible and the personal stories provide an additional dimension to the war years, the Bersiap period, and the migration to the Netherlands and beyond. They vividly address themes such as hatred, reconciliation, human rights, and freedom – topics that are explored in the educational package.

Students are able to answer questions by using the information from the book. For the second half of the questions the students need to consult online resources, which teaches them where to look for reliable information on the internet.

The package came with this 40-minute documentary that vividly tells this part of history through interviews of six survivors from the book. While this film was initially made for high school students, The Indo Project recognized it to be a valuable resource for anyone who is interested in learning about this part of history.

3 Comments

    • Hi Marinus. If you register for the free online event, you will receive an email with all the instructions. The Q&A session starts on Dec 3 at 11AM (PST) and will be in English.

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