AAS Annual Meeting

Southeast Asia Session 739

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Session 739: Unpacking the Epilogue to the Netherlands East Indies

Organizer: William B. Horton, Waseda University, Japan

Chair: Frances Gouda, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands

For the Dutch, the final years of the Netherlands East Indies, 1945-1949, were dominated by resolution of wartime problems and by the effort to contain and defeat Indonesian nationalists. In a real sense, they were also years in which the Dutch tried to control wartime histories, even as Indonesians were forging a new nation-state and society. The power of periodization not only separates political events, but also makes scholars ignore continuities in dealing with social problems. This panel seeks to explore issues related to the Japanese occupation and postwar periods, and to challenge simple periodizations, dealing with a continuous period stretching from the late colonial period in order to better understanding social contexts; chaos, emotion, paranoia, and the end of both Japanese and Dutch colonialisms. Highly emotive, and often related to identity, issues related to the war have not been resolved for some individuals. However, if the Japanese occupation was important, other individuals have never relinquished the Indies. How did individuals and state institutions deal with Dutch citizens who may have suffered less under Japanese rule, or who engaged in sexual relations with the enemy? How were internees’ relations shaped during the war, and how did that play out in postwar legal resolutions? As Japanese were removed from the Indies, how were Japanese wartime activities imagined, and how did individual Japanese deal with postwar realities? Each paper related to postwar narratives on wartime experiences and socio-political psychology will be briefly summarized before engaging in a dialogue with audience members.

Fraternising with the Enemy. Post-War Judgements of a Wartime Dilemma
Eveline Buchheim, Independent Scholar, Netherlands

In hindsight, it is difficult to trace the reasons why Dutch women engaged intimately with Japanese men during the Japanese occupation of colonial Indonesia. Until today, secrecy has surrounded these unions; from the beginning those involved wanted to gloss over uneasy histories and forget about them as quickly as possible. Documents produced right after the war provide unique material on how these relationships, now in oblivion, were judged. How did issues of gender and class influence judgements on wartime collaboration and fraternization? Correct moral behaviour seems to become a chicken-or-egg riddle: is immoral behaviour the reason for the lapse, or is a disrespectable union the reason for increasing objectionable deeds? Rumours and hearsay are important ingredients of intelligence reports. Alleged collaboration expectedly seems to go hand in hand with political ideas, but are at the same time strongly connected with ideas on immorality and indecency. Women of a higher social standing seem to have had more possibilities to explain their relations with Japanese men afterwards. If relationships occurred due to the need to safeguard their husband’s valuables and properties, indecency seemed a less important element in their behaviour. In this paper I will analyze how Dutch officials evaluated behaviour of fraternizing women. How did they judge wartime faux-pas in relation to the social background of women engaging with the enemy?

Fences Inside the Fence: Postscript to the Semarang Comfort Women Incident
Mayumi Yamamoto, Miyagi University, Japan

In May 1944, Kota Paris Camp was opened in the cool “suburban” city of Bogor. The camp was occupied by 250 women and children categorized as “Japanese enemies’ citizens,” however unlike other small camps, internees were not local residents. The uniqueness was also apparent in food rations, medical care, and guards’ strict morality. Kota Paris was created for women from four Semarang comfort stations and their families immediately after high-level 16th Army officials discovered the problematic brothels. Whether or not the camp helped these women to overcome their tragic pasts, the isolation and protection soon ended with worsening war conditions. In November 1944, Kota Paris was closed. Subsequently, internees were moved to Kramat Camp where 3,400 women and children were concentrated, but were fenced-off and given special care. The Semarang incident was so well-known that even internees knew about it. Initially, the Semarang women received sympathy, however as camp conditions deteriorated after May 1945, sympathy gradually turned into envy. The envy generated suspicion of relationships between the women and Japanese servicemen; rancor even developed on the victim’s side of the fence as well. In September 1945, when the Allies reentered chaotic Java, Kramat internees were interviewed; some interviewees were clearly most interested in protecting their reputations. Despite the war’s end, the camp situation had not improved. In this presentation, I will examine postwar testimonies and describe former “comfort women” and their families’ wartime lives, focusing on how the camp atmosphere changed from sympathy to envy, and from envy to suspicion.

A Life Between Nations: The Genesis of an Indonesian Soldier from Kumamoto
William B. Horton, Waseda University, Japan

As the Netherlands sought to reestablish its authority in the immediate post-war period, Dutch officials branded Indonesian nationalists and the Republic of Indonesia as “Japanese creations.” Subsequently, “Japanese” have been little more than a minor footnote to the war’s epilogue. Rather, virtually all attention has been directed to Indonesia’s struggle to secure its independence, leaving little more than simple images of Indonesians seizing Japanese arms and Allied use of Japanese troops against Indonesians. In the 4½ years following the Japanese surrender, members of the complex prewar, wartime, and postwar Indonesian societies were sorted, identified and labeled; their movements were sometimes restricted, however at other times they were driven out, expelled, or encouraged to flee. Without exception, Dutch authorities required individuals identified as “Japanese” to leave Indonesia, although their use as supplementary troops, laborers, and translators delayed departures, as did war-crimes trials. Despite Dutch efforts to capture them, a small number of Japanese joined the Republic and its military forces, including Ichiki Tatsuo, a prewar Indies resident. Initially working with the Propaganda Section of the military government, Ichiki was important in training Indonesian defense forces, translating critical Japanese training texts into Indonesian. However, it wasn’t until eight months after the war’s end that “Abdul Rachman” joined the war, becoming a BKR and the TNI soldier. I will explore Ichiki’s wartime and postwar activities to better understand Dutch interest in Ichiki, as well as the meanings of the Japanese occupation and Indonesian revolution for Japanese who remained in post-occupation Indonesia.

Indisch Organizations in the Netherlands: A Prolonged Epilogue to the Colonial Era
Fridus Steijlen, KITLV, Netherlands

Between 1945-1963, some 300,000 people left the former Netherlands East Indies to live in the Netherlands or migrated further to other countries like the USA and Australia. Most of these individuals were from colonial middle and upper classes. Included were ‘pure Dutch’ (so-called totoks), Eurasians, Chinese and minorities like Moluccans. In the course of time, these ‘postcolonial migrants’ established ‘Indisch organizations,’ varying from religious and cultural organizations to reunion-organizations and self-help/interest groups. In fact, this process of organization started in the colonial era with special unions for civil servants and military and with a special union for former POWs (the NIBEG). Although most organizations had specifically identified goals, like organizing reunions or advocating for former soldiers, these ‘Indisch organizations’ also functioned as identity-movements. Some emphasized the difference between their members as former inhabitants of the colony vis-a-vis the receiving Dutch society. Others signified and kept alive the social hierarchies of the former colonial society. Over time the nature of the organizations changed and new sort of organizations were established. Because most of them still refer to the war, decolonization and the Netherlands East Indies, they seem to be an echo of the former colony in the present-day Netherlands; a prolonged epilogue of the Netherlands East Indies. In my paper I will outline the development of Indisch organizations starting in the colonial and post war period. I will show how changes in the nature of these organizations and the rise of new ones added to the prolongation of the colonial epilogue.