1945 – 2020 The 75th Commemoration (Part 1 of 2)
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
It is only 5 weeks ago but it seems so long ago that the elaborate 2020 Herdenkingen events planned in the Netherlands for this year’s momentous 75th Commemoration of the end of WWII in the former Dutch East Indies, were curtailed or cancelled, due to the Covid-19 Pandemic. I was privileged to have been invited to two events that were held at De Dam Square in Amsterdam and at the Noorderbegraafplaats Cemetery in Hilversum. Two sites that have special meaning to me personally, Hilversum my “home” town in the Netherlands and De Dam, the historic heart of Amsterdam where since time immemorial it has been THE ideal place to demonstrate and to commemorate special events. The following article is about the Herdenking Ceremony held at De Dam.
By Priscilla Kluge McMullen, The Indo Project
Public involvement at the Indisch Monument in The Hague, the official site of the annual 15 August Herdenking ceremony, had been severely curtailed. Attendance there was limited to dignitaries such as the King, Prime Minister and special guests and only a few members of the general public were able to attend through a lottery. This made the commemoration at De Dam even more special!
Incredibly, there never has been a 15 August Herdenking ceremony held at De Dam. It is a shame considering that the “concrete conical pillar” memorial was dedicated to commemorate the end of WWII. and only the May 4th annual ceremony remembering the dead of WWII in Europe is held at De Dam. While the 15 August Herdenking ceremony commemorating the end of WWII in the Dutch East Indies has been relegated to the Indisch Monument in The Hague…until this year when the Actie Group Indische Kwestie 2.0 took the initiative to hold the ceremony on De Dam. The ceremony was not only poignant, but the organization hopes to have established a new tradition with this first commemoration on De Dam, in order to bring the suffering of the people of the former Dutch East Indies, during and just after the WWII, to the attention of a new generation.
The 12th Urn – An interesting fact about the monument on De Dam – not known to many – is that when it was built in 1947, in the curved wall around the column of this magnificent monument, 11 urns were placed containing soil from World War II cemeteries from each of the Dutch provinces. What is significant and meaningful for us Indos is that three years later, in 1950, a twelfth urn was added by Queen Juliana and Prins Bernhard, containing soil from war cemeteries (erevelden) located in the former Dutch East Indies now known as the Republic of Indonesia.
It was an honor to be asked by Peggy Stein to represent The Indo Project at this solemn ceremony. It was extra special to realize that there were of luminaries who were also participating. Below you will find the text of the speech made on behalf of The Indo Project representing Indos around the world. Here is the actual video of the speech. More highlights of the event can be found at the video links below
REFLECTIONS ON THE MEANING OF THE COMMEMORATION OF 15 AUGUST
75 FIVE YEARS AGO
Speech at the 2020 15 August Herdenking Ceremony at De Dam
On behalf of The Indo Project and Indos Worldwide
Dear Meneer Maresch, Meneer Bruininga, Meneer De Vries, Members of the Actie Group Indische Kwestie 2.0, and all of you gathered here in solemnity and unity in Commemoration of 15 August Herdenking. I come with greetings from The Indo Project.
The Indo Project is THE only international organization that focuses on our history, OUR INDO HISTORY, and we try to educate people in the English language on who we are, about our history and our culture, because not many people know our culture. I am Priscilla Kluge McMullen, Cofounder of The Indo Project in America. Thank you for allowing me to speak on this special day.
Each year, the 6th of August starts a chain of events that remind people of WWII in Asia. The media all over the world will start writing about Hiroshima and Nagasaki, both such very tragic events which we all do not wish to repeat, ever! For many of us, especially the ones who lived through WWII in the former Dutch East Indies, this chain of events culminates and reaches its apex, on THIS date, the 15th of August. The End of a nightmare that had brought pain, suffering, separation and, for many, even death.
My father, Friedrich Kluge, spent more than 3 years as a prisoner of war in Japan, working in the mines of Nagasaki until one day he surfaced from the mines to see that the city had disappeared. I would not be here if my father had not survived the horrific hardships that later he could barely talk about. My mother, Paulona Elvira Dias, as a Buitenkamper with 7 children, did everything in her power to keep her children alive, without help, without food, without shelter, without hope, without knowing whether her husband was alive or dead and not knowing what the next day would bring.
My uncle, Leonardo Alfonso Dias, from Ambon, gave his life in the service of the KNIL. His loyalty to the House of Orange knew no bounds just like many of his fellow soldiers. He was beheaded on the island Kilwik (Kei Eilanden), only twenty-four years old…there is no grave, no monument, no medals, no trace of him!
So, here we are, 75 years later. Many of you here have a similar story and some of you even lived through this hell called WWII in Asia. There are no words that can heal the wounds inflicted, no words that will work like a miracle and take pain away.
What we can do, is what we are doing today. Honoring the memory of those who gave their lives for their country. Respecting those who lived through sorrow that is hard to imagine. AND…ensure we do not forget their sacrifices, that we make sure the ones who fought so hard, in loyalty for their country, are rewarded for their faithfulness, for their allegiance, and for the losses they suffered
We are here today to keep alive their spirit and never forget. We are here today to remind the younger generations the sacrifices the older generations have made. We are here today to pay our respect to all who gave their all!
We will never forget and will continue to be the reminder and conscience of many who DO want to forget.
Tot Slot…Know that Indos across the globe are with YOU and are working to keep our precious history alive.
Thank you for allowing me to speak.