HerStoriaMagazineIssue9_japs.pdf (Mar. 2014)

J apan launched its entry into World War Two in December 1941 with a series of surprise attacks in the Pacific, most memorably on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. Japan was aiming to capture the resource-rich British, American and Dutch colonies in the region. Although the Dutch colony of the East Indies (modern Indonesia) was not included in these initial attacks, it was clear that these oil-rich islands would be high on their list of priorities. Japan was eager to capture Dutch-controlled oil fields on Borneo, Java and Sumatra, not least because of the USA-led economic embargo which was depriving Japan of the vital oil needed to sustain its military campaign against China. In Europe, Holland was already under German occupation and Britain stood alone against Germany and so neglected its colonial defences in the Far East. The US mobilised too late to offer effective resistance and by March 1942 the Japanese had successfully invaded West Java in Indonesia. After the invasion, the Japanese set about winning hearts and minds by turning the Indonesians against their Dutch colonists. All Dutch citizens on Java above the age of seventeen were required to ‘ register’ in April 1942. During registration a distinction was made between full-blooded Dutch (Totoks) and Dutch of mixed parentage (Eurasians). Dutch civilians were interned during 1942 and 1943; men between the ages of sixteen and sixty years first, then women, children and senior citizens. The members of the Eurasian community on Java were treated as Asians by the Japanese and only Eurasian military were interned in prisoner-of-war camps. My husband’s grandparents were living and working in West Java at that time. They worked for the Dutch government and ran two orphanages for a mixture of Dutch and Indonesian children. The Japanese made life for the Dutch colonists as difficult as possible. Their funds were frozen, all radios were confiscated and constant house searches were imposed. Alongside this the local population grew more and more hostile until they eventually attacked and ransacked many Dutch households. In a letter home my husband’s grandmother, Lisa Kiesling, describes her last night of freedom before being interned with her two daughters, including Dee (pronounced Day): When we were interned on 30 August 1943, it was almost a relief. Our lives in Indonesia had become untenable. My husband’s nerves were in tatters trying to keep everything together. The men were sent to a camp in Buitenzorg and I went with my two daughters Ems and Day to Bandoeng. It tore me apart to be separated from Willem. The last night that we were together as a family we prayed to God that he would look after us. We could only resign ourselves to the situation and hope for His Mercy. HerStoria magazine Summer 2011 16 Women behind the Wire Memories of life in a Japanese Internment Camp Dee Kiesling’s Story as told to Angela Williams I was sixteen when we had to go into the camp. We were all in shock. My mother was reeling from the trauma of being separated from father. We spent the first night in a monastery and after a few days were moved to Bandoeng, the capital of West Java province. Camp Karees was a collection of houses in the European section of Bandoeng, fenced off with gedek (plaited bamboo sheets) and topped with barbed wire. The camp held 6000 internees and the Japanese guarded the circumference. We moved into houses that had been recently vacated by the Dutch. My mother, sister Ems and I had to share a house with seven other families. Within that house each family was assigned a room. There was a camp kitchen which at first served one warm meal a day; later, after the poorly constructed ovens collapsed, we were given raw ingredients from which we had to prepare food for ourselves. My sister and I cooked over a charcoal fire and became very adept at making meals from our rations. Our speciality was ‘Crème de Trasi.’ Trasi is shrimp paste which we used to fry and mix with rice. To get extra protein we hunted frogs after sundown. The three of us sneaked out together, using a pillowcase to put our catch in. We usually caught about seven or eight and back at camp mother chopped off their heads and skinned them. Their little torsos, with their broad shoulders and thin hips, looked just like a man’s body. When you salted them their nerves twitched and made their legs dance. We boiled them in water and they tasted like chicken. After a while the Japanese forbade it as the frogs kept the insect population down and mosquito numbers were turning into plague proportions. For extra protein we hunted frogs after sundown My mother helped in the hospital, nursing the sick. The lean rations aside, conditions were fairly good at this stage. We made friends with a woman from the Jordaan neighbourhood of Amsterdam (equivalent to a London Cockney). She was a young newly-wed who still had potions and creams from the beauty salon she had run in Bandoeng before the area was ghettoised. She was always ready with a smile and a joke and helped to keep our spirits up. We traded cooked meals with her in exchange for beauty treatments. Ando-san, a Japanese guard was about eighteen years old. He confided in my mother that he hated the war and the way the women www.herstoria.com