By Kareen Richard.

Recently I attended a lecture by Pieter Kohnstam about the Holocaust. Pieter is a German Jew who was born in Amsterdam because his parents had to suddenly flee Germany on some trumped-up charges by the Nazis. In Amsterdam, the family lived on the Merwedeplein, a few doors down from Anne Frank, who used to be Pieter’s babysitter and playmate. When the Kohnstam’s and the Frank’s received orders to report to the train station, a quick decision had to be made. The Kohnstam’s decided not to go into hiding with the Frank’s, but rather to flee from war torn Europe.

They went to Maastricht by train and from there—mostly on foot—made it to their final destination, Barcelona. It took them a year. Pieter was only 6 years old but still remembers walking during the day and staying at farmhouses at night. Sometimes they had to sleep in the open air when the “underground movement” could not provide accommodations. They had nothing but the clothes on their backs. Once they reached Barcelona, it took them a while to book a passage to Argentina—something that could only be accomplished if they were Roman Catholic. With the help of the Police Chief in Barcelona, the Kohnstam’s were introduced to the Bishop and were provided with Roman Catholic Baptismal Certificates. Pieter’s great uncle, on his mother’s side, lived in Buenos Aires and provided the necessary funds for the family to sail from Barcelona to Argentina.

The entire story of fear, hunger, and perseverance can be read in Pieter’s book, A Chance to Live. The lecture turned out to be a very emotional one; other members of the audience also recounted what happened to their loved ones. Given his age, Pieter does not know how long he can keep giving these lectures. However, he urged the members of the audience to keep on telling their stories for generations to come: for this genocide must never be forgotten.

I immediately drew a parallel between the Jewish people and our own Indos. What happened to our grandparents and parents during WWII was genocide. First by the Japanese who systematically starved people to death, deprived them of medical care, and treated prisoners with indescribable cruelty. Then, after the Japanese capitulation, the “Pemudas” took over—slaughtering thousands of innocent women and children because they were the hated colonialists. This was also known as the Bersiap period.

The difference, however, is that the Jewish people all over the world are united in keeping the stories of the Holocaust alive. They do this by giving lectures (as Pieter does), writing books, etc. We, as Indos, are not so united. I read some of the comments on an article in “De Telegraaf” about the ceremony that was held at the Indisch Monument in Den Haag, last Saturday, in commemoration of the end of WWII in Asia.

Many of them stated that “it was such a long time ago”, “we need to go on”, “let bygones be bygones”, and more of the same. THIS is the difference between the Jewish people and the Indos. We SHOULD NOT let bygones be bygones, we should never forget! We Indos are a people without a country and a dying breed. We intermarry with Americans, Dutch, Australians, Canadians, etc. and soon our progeny will not know anything about our history and culture except for nasi goreng and satay.

We, at The Indo Project, are all about “honoring the past and preserving the future” for our children and grandchildren. We cannot, however, do it without your support: be it monetarily, in the form of stories or pictures, etc. so that we can realize our dream of being able to spread the word by getting documentaries translated from Dutch to English and, our ultimate wish, for an Indo Cultural Center in the U.S. There are so many Holocaust Museums in the world, but we have nothing except Bronbeek in the Netherlands.




  1. Dear Kareen,
    With all due respect, I do support the whole of ” we Indo’s “, after all I’m one. “Your”, or Pieters Jews, have no drop of Dutch blood. Every Indo has it, be it a drop, that was enough to have the Indo started. Think of the shameful act of the Hollander having had sex with a native/ indigenous girl, and subsequently turning his head on the consequence. That my dear is the main reason for the Dutch to treat the Indo’s the way they do. Accepting that would be very costly. Admiring the Jews is for free…

    • Billy Boy (as John calls you), het gaat om het feit dat het Joodse volk verenigd is en dat zij samen een stem hebben. Wij Indo’s hebben dat niet. Het gaat niet om het feit dat je of een druppel of honderd druppels Indonesisch bloed in je hebt. Het gaat om het feit dat wij als Indischen niet verenigd zijn. Kumpulans, Indische dans avonden, de Pasar Malams, etc., zijn goed bezocht, maar als het om serieuze dingen gaat zoals back pay en andere erkenningen laten velen het afweten met hun soedah laat maar “attitude.” Als we nu gezamelijk voor onze rechten opkomen, zouden we veel meer kunnen bereiken.
      Enfin, je hebt mijn email adres mocht je hier verder over willen corresponderen.

  2. Some History:

    Japanese starved “people” to death, e.g. civil and military prisoners (POW) of all nationalities, don’t forget the Romusha’s. So Indos were not privileged of Japanese treatment in the WW2. Fundamentally the Japanese camps were death camps.

    After the Japanese surrender 15/08/1945 not only Dutch people, but also Chinese and Indonesian people, were killed in the Bersiap period. Indos were not the chosen people in that time.

    The historian William H. Frederick commented 2 years ago on this website the use of the word Genocide. He wrote: The whole issue of the definition of ‘genocide” is too huge to discuss here, but I think common sense usage is defensible, at length.

    I believe you can use it to get attention but that’s it. Otherwise why don’t you use the word Holocaust to make parallel!

    • Althoug I do agree with the fact that Japanese Camps were death Camps and encompassed people other than Indos’s, the parallel I wanted to draw is that the Jewish people are united whereas the Indo’s are not. There are too many that have the “soedah, laat maar” attitude.

  3. But I must say that I’m very pleased and proud, while visiting one of my children’s family in Colorado, my 15 year old grandson just told me that he choose as eight grade school project the Japanese prison camps in Dutch East Indies and the extermination of all prisoners. He asked me to be the person to answer his questions!
    Hope this will not be an exception.
    I just bought a book about the camps I was in that’s not only an adult book but also for older children and gave it to his mother for screening with my written introduction to the book.

  4. Kareen, what a great description of the attitude between the Jewish and the Indo’s! I agree 100% with you. And not even the Indo’s think “let bygones be bygones”. More people accept the Jewish fight for recognition, but do not want to hear the same about all atrocities done by Japan. For one the European war seems to get all the attention, books, movies, etc.

    • Thank you Willem. It was a very emotional session and I’m glad I went. I know Pieter personally and we have often had discussions about the subject.

  5. “There so many Holocaust museums in the world , but we have nothing except Bronbeek in the Netherlands.”

    I want to tell you, and others, wanting to visit “Bronbeek” that it’s disappointing.This National Institute told us nothing about Eurasians, not even the slaughter of the defenseless people in Indonesian freedom struggle. They were good and clear about the agriculture projects in NW Guinea and Kiselir that failed, but there were no further reasons why this “failure” happened. I hope this shows the importance of coming forward about these events and issues.
    With warm regards.


    “Er zijn zo vele Holocaust musea in de wereld, maar wij hebben niets behalve Bronbeek in Nederland.”

    Hierbij moet ik U en anderen die ”Bronbeek” bezoeken helaas teleurstellen. En wel ,dat dit Rijksinstituut niets maar dan ook niets over ons Indo’s verhaald.Zelfs niet over het afslachten van deze weerloze mensen in de Indonesische vrijheidsstrijd . Wel luidt en duidelijk,dat het Landbouw projecten in Nw.Guinea en Kiselir mislukt zijn. Waarbij verder geen redenen daarom/van deze ”mislukking” naar voren komt.Hierbij hoop ik,dat U dit ook duidelijk naar voren laat komen bij Uw verdere berichtgeving hier omtrent.
    Met hartelijke groeten.

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