HerStoriaMagazineIssue9_japs.pdf (Mar. 2014) - Page 4

Postscript Pen drawing by woman in Camp Tangerang. Image: Image Bank WW2 – NIOD-C.W.C.A. Augustijn. www.geheugenvannederland.nl were appointed to guard us from the Indonesians. Prior to this, there was a chaotic period when many civilians were massacred by the native people. God knows what would have happened if we had got separated then. It took three days to get to Batavia. The train stopped at night. The rails were broken We caught and boiled snails for food Eventually lists of missing people were distributed around the camps by the Red Cross. We searched for father’s name. He was not on any list but we received a postcard from the hospital in Batavia (modern Jakarta) informing us that daddy was very sick. A Sister had written that he desperately wanted to see us. Camp security warned us against leaving the camp. But my mother was a very determined woman. We got a lift from the camp to the station on the back on an ox wagon. It was chaos on the station platform with hoards of people squashing onto the train. My sister and I managed to squeeze through the crowd to get on the train but mum was crowded out and left on the platform. We had to haul her in by her arms though the window. Need to Know Angela Williams lives in Amsterdam. She is a writer and teaches English as a foreign language. Her mother-in-law Dee de Smalen (née Kiesling) is now in her eighties and lives in Heiloo (North Holland). Two years ago she and her husband celebrated their sixtieth wedding anniversary. and had to be repaired in places. By the time we reached the hospital in Batavia we were told that daddy had died a week before of starvation. The professional care that the allied doctors gave him came too late. We had missed the last chance to see him alive. We did not know what to do then. Going back to camp was not an option and we needed to be safe. Mum asked around in the hospital and she found some old friends that we could stay with in Batavia. We stayed there for a month and put our names on a list to get a ship back to Holland. After a few weeks of waiting and hoping, a handsome young man walked up the garden path, dressed in a white sailor’s uniform. Everything about him was fair, his skin, hair and clothes. I had my hairpins in and looked a total sight. He had sailed over as First Mate on a Dutch ship bringing allied forces to Indonesia. The people we were staying with were relations of his. He was looking for surviving family members. Mum said ‘Rob de Smalen, you’re the spit of your dad!’ She was a friend of his father’s. I had forgotten by then, but Rob and I had known each other as kids and had played together. He had three days leave before his ship returned to the Fatherland. Fate took over from In the 1990s, the former internees were offered compensation by the Dutch government which had effectively abandoned them to their fate. Unlike other colonial powers in the area, no evacuation plan had been organised by the Dutch authorities. My mother-in-law is always very dismissive of her time in the camps - merely saying that they did what they had to do in order to survive: existing day to day, trying to get enough to eat and keeping their heads down. Around 80,000 Dutch civilians were imprisoned on Java during World War Two and approximately one in six did not survive the ordeal. Mortality rates reveal that women had a better survival rate; this can perhaps be attributed to their flexibility and domestic skills. Mothers were also able to stay with their children (until sons turned ten at least) and this must have given them a reason to keep going even when despair beckoned. On the whole women generally took better physical care of themselves and, where possible, their loved ones. Unlike many men they did not experience the same loss of a professional identity and purpose after imprisonment. It is over sixty-five years since the internees were liberated from the camps. Perhaps a fitting time to remember that they, like so many women war victims, expressed their bravery not by heroic deeds but by their stoical tenacity and will to survive. there. We heard that we could sail back to Holland on his ship! During the journey back to Holland we fell in love. In 1949, after a long engagement, we got married and a year later I gave birth to my first son. HerStoria magazine Summer 2011 19