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The new book ‘Welcomed by the smell of endive’ by Dutch journalist Griselda Molemans (due on March 21, 2014) highlights the true story of how the group of 380,000 displaced persons from the former Dutch Indies (present-day Indonesia) were received in The Netherlands. Between 1950 and 1970, these Dutch citizens and loyalists were forced to temporarily live in camps and so called contractpensions, run by pension owners for a profit, until the government social workers deemed them ‘assimilated enough’ to move to their own house.

The book reveals how all these displaced persons were forced to pay 60 percent of their monthly wages to the Dutch government as a compensation for the food and lodging in the camps and contractpensions. Once they moved to their own rental home, they received a letter of debt, specifying the remaining debt to the government for the boat fare  to Holland, clothing, the purchase of the furniture for the new house plus the remaining debt for the stay in a camp or contractpension.

The epilogue of the book  contains information on the eight financial claims the displaced persons from the former Dutch Indies still have up to this day. Claim number 2 concerns the so called Siamese compensation for the approximately 18,000 Dutch POW’s who were forced to work at the Burma Railway between 1942-45.

In 1951, the Siamese (Thai) government purchased the Burma railway from the Allied Supreme Command. The money was divided between the allied countries where the formers POW’s were from: England, Australia, the USA and The Netherlands including the Dutch Indies. The Dutch government received 1 million guilders (USD $616,490) as a compensation for the 17,399 POW’s of whom 2,899 died during the forced labor. Per person, the amount of 61,75 guilders (USD $38) was paid out.

But was it paid out in full? As the Dutch government only had a list of the POW’s who had died in Burma and Siam, they had to publish an announcement in newspapers to all the survivors. On July 1st and December 31, 1954 a public announcement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was published in several newspapers in The Netherlands and Indonesia. Rightful claimants were requested to send a post card to the Ministry with their personal data and the names of the POW camps where they had been held captive.

My question to Dutch survivors of the Burma Railway in the US is this: Did you know about the Siamese compensation settlement? Did you receive the compensation? If you didn’t, may I receive your name and date of birth to include in a list which forms the basis of a court case against the Dutch State? Please note: The amount per person is not the most important aspect; there is a pattern in the way the Dutch government has handled several compensation settlements for displaced persons from Indonesia. Most rightful claimants have never been informed about these financial arrangements.

So far, I’ve received the names of 95 claimants with new names from the UK, Australia and Thailand to be added. You can reach me through  info@qna-news.com.

Sincerely,

Griselda Molemans

17 Comments

  1. I notice that only POWs from the Netherlands, Britain, Australia, and the US received the compensation. Seems like millions of laborers comprising of native Indonesians, Malays, Burmese, Nepalis, and Indians who equally suffered building roads and bridges throughout Asia were never considered. Would you know whether these colonial subjects received any form of compensation from their colonial governments?

  2. Hi Alan,

    We are not aware whether the groups you cited received compensation. When we passed this question on to Griselda, she explained that for the scope of the new book she only focused on the lack of rehabilitation for the group of displaced persons who had to leave their home country, Indonesia.

    Should The Indo Project come across any information that would shed light on your inquiry, we will let you know.

    Just a thought, Alan. You might want to pose that question on the Facebook page of The Indo Project as well as the Old Dutch Indonesian page. Who knows, someone might just have the answer to your question?

    Thanks for your interest!

  3. I wondered about the father of my mother (+ 2005 in Eindhoven) and my aunt (still alive in USA) so he is my grandfather of course! He was a prisoner in the Hintok River Camp (POW-Camp) and Hindat East Camp and also had to work at the Burma Railway but unfortunately died on 30-07-1943 and is now buried in Kanchanaburi Cemetery. We have a picture of his grave.
    My mother has visited the grave of my grand father several times with “De Oorlogsgravenstichting” and she bought there the books: 1. Hellfire Pass Memorial Thailand-Burma Railway 2. An Immortal Touch of The River Kwai Bridge and Hellfire Pass Memorial 3. The Thailand to Burma Railway built by P.O.W. in the Second World War. Is this important for you?

    • Arrogant words spoken by a retired Dutch civil servant whose self professed knowledge is incomplete. Little does Mr. Immerzeel know about sealed documents which reveal a far bigger story than only the earmarked compensation owed to the Dutch POW’s. “According to my knowledge”. Based on what exactly? As if a biased ex-servant is capable of judging documents which were retrieved in Thailand and Australia. As if his pathetic comment would impress anyone.

      • Almost two years have passed, and I read this very offensive comment of Mrs. Molemans for the first time. I think I have the right to say: ‘according to my knowledge.’ As a historian, I have to be prudent. My words were not arrogant, nor biased, and by far from being pathetic. As long as Mrs. Molemans does not prove I am wrong, somewhere, she’d better refrain from comments like these.

  4. I would like to mention here that my father Anthonij Jurgens was a POW and worked on the the Thailand-Burma railroad. Unfortunately he passed away on March 17, 1957 and never really opened up about his time in Burma. I still have clippings from his files about that period. I moved to the USA in 1960 and never gave it much thought until the company I worked for send me on a work assignement in Saudi Arabia which afforded me to make trips around the world. One of those took me to Thailand and on one of the tours they took took me to Kanchanaburi where there was a cemetary of the allied prisoners as well as museum of the baracks that housed the prisoners. The walls were decorated with memorybillias (sp) and assorted pictures. Low and behold, on one of those pictures I recognized that one of my father standing in a “chowline” with a mess-tin in his hand, I took a photo of it and when I returned home I showed the picture to my mother and she exclaimed “pappie” and was so excited. His camp was called: “Kaorin Siam” and he was interned from “28 Maart 1942 to 16 August 1945”. As far as compensation is concerned I have no information on that as my mother passed away in October 1987 in California. Hope thts information of some use to you. I welcome any contact for additional information.

    • Jacobus, My name is Chris I am based out in Kanchanaburi and have just carried out an excavation on the site your Grandfather was a prisoner. Kaorin. I would be interested to hear any information you have from him on the camp. I have found many interesting artifacts including personal items that may have belonged to people who your grandfather knew as it was a small camp.
      regards
      Chris
      kazandchris05@gmail.com

  5. I would like to mention here that my father Anthonij Jurgens was a POW and worked on the the Thailand-Burma railroad. Unfortunately he passed away on March 17, 1957 and never really opened up about his time in Burma. I still have clippings from his files about that period. I moved to the USA in 1960 and never gave it much thought until the company I worked for send me on a work assignement in Saudi Arabia which afforded me to make trips around the world. One of those took me to Thailand and on one of the tours they took me to Kanchanaburi where there was a cemetary of the allied prisoners as well as a museum of the baracks that housed the prisoners. The walls were decorated with memorybillias (sp) and assorted pictures. Low and behold, on one of those pictures I recognized that one of my father standing in a “chowline” with a mess-tin in his hand, I took a photo of it and when I returned home I showed the picture to my mother and she exclaimed “pappie” and was so excited. His camp was called: “Kaorin Siam” and he was interned from “28 Maart 1942 to 16 August 1945”. As far as compensation is concerned I have no information on that as my mother passed away in October 1987 in California. Hope thts information is of some use to you. I welcome any contact for additional information.

  6. My grandfather, Jacob Bebelaar, was working in Indonesia as an accountant and joined the KNIL. He was interned in Burma, near Moulmein. He was part of the first shipment of prisoners to Burma in 1942. He passed away a year later, in June 1943, and is buried in Thanbyuzayat War Cemetary. We were lucky to have some personal possessions given back to the family by survivors of the camps. There is interesting note in his duty roster, which lists items that the others took possession of. Some items were crossed out after being confiscated by the Japanese, including his gold band (wedding ring). To my knowledge neither my grandmother, nor grandfather ever saw any compensation. They immigrated to Canada during the 1950’s.

  7. The Dutch Government received 1 million guilders from the Burma Railway, which would be worth 3,418.692 euros in 2013. In/after 1954, the Dutch Government paid 61.75 guilders (208,54 euros in 2013) to each claimant (at least to those who were AWARE they could claim,as many emigrated the the States,Canada,Australia or were in Indonesia).

    Hypothetically, only 1000 claims (of the total of 2831 who died and buried; 621-314-1896 graves) were made. So, again hypothetically, the Dutch Government still has more than 3.2 million euros waiting to be paid out to(still living)claimants. I truly hope for all of you, you’ll get the money, as it sits in the coffers of the Govt waiting to be paid out.

  8. My father was in the KNIL and worked on the Burma Railway. He has passed away and never gave much information except that it was hell and that he contracted malaria during that time. I’m trying to find any information as to his KNIL army number and prisoner number. My mom and dad lived in the Dutch East Indies at the time. She was in 3 different prison camps. Anyway, can you recommend where I need to go for researching about my dad in the KNIL during that time? Am running into a brick wall with my research. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  9. All I know is that my father was taken from Java to work on the Thai-Burma railroad while his first wife and their 3 young children were taken to Tdijeng. I am his 5th child now living in Australia. My father died in June 1967.

  10. My elderly mother is still awaiting any sort of compensation for when her father was a POW. HOw do we go about obtaining this please help.

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