Author: Harry A. Poeze1
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  • 1 KITLV/Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies
Open Access

Karina H. Corrigan, Jan van Campen, Femke Diercks with Janet C. Blyberg (eds), Asia in Amsterdam. The culture of luxury in the Golden Age. Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum / Salem, Massachusetts: Peabody Essex Museum, 2015, 356 pp. Distributed by Yale University Press. ISBN 9789491714559 (Rijksmuseum, paperback), 9780875772295 (Peabody Essex Museum, paperback), 9780300212877 (Yale University Press, hardback). Price: EUR 40.00 (paperback); 65.00 (hardback).

‘Azië in de Hollandse huiskamer’, special issue of Kunstschrift, volume 59, number 5 (October/November 2015), pp. 1–54. ISSN 01667297. Price: EUR 10.75 (to order via

Asia in Amsterdam is the result of a cooperative effort of Rijksmuseum Amsterdam and Essex Peabody Museum, Salem, USA that has resulted in an impressive collection, exhibited in both museums from October 2015 until June 2016 documenting and analyzing the Asian luxury goods brought to Amsterdam and the Dutch Republic in the seventeenth century. Thanks to the VOC Amsterdam had become the center of global trade networks. The imported goods had a tremendous influence on cultural life, and its spread and enjoyment were not solely the privilege of the well-to-do citizens of Holland. In the catalogue of more than a hundred objects, brought together from all over the world, and with thirty expert authors sharing their expertise, the hitherto less-explored subject has now been allotted its rightful place in art history. The luxury goods that are given attention include porcelain, lacquer, jewelry, silk, and spices. These are all discussed, and included in the catalogue, as objects-an-sich, but often also as a regular feature in portraits, interiors and still-lifes, made by Dutch painters. These paintings also provide proof of the widespread inclusion of these exotic Asian goods, in particular porcelain, in Holland’s households. The catalogue also includes seven topical essays, about the VOC, its diplomatic encounters in the East, the role of Batavia, the Amsterdam collectors, the Asian shops in Amsterdam, the representation of exotica in paintings, and the development of an own porcelain industry, using eastern motifs, adapted to Dutch taste, which was later called chinoiserie. The ‘official’ English language catalogue offers more than companionship to the exhibition, but will be a standard reference volume to the subject. The Dutch-language companion, a special issue of ‘Kunstschrift’, offers in five short essays similar information as the English-language catalogue offers, but, of course, cannot go into much detail in the fifty pages available. However, the heart-breaking story in ‘Kunstschrift’ of 17th-century collector and expert Willem Witsen accidentally shattering a unique 1500-year old Chinese mirror is not easily forgotten.

Harm Stevens, Gepeperd verleden. Indonesië en Nederland sinds 1600. Nijmegen: Vantilt, 2015, 180 pp. ISBN 9789460041570. Price: EUR 24.50 (hardback).

Tristan Mostert and Jan van Campen, Zijden draad. China en Nederland sinds 1600. Nijmegen: Vantilt, 2015, 248 pp. ISBN 9789460042294. Price: EUR 24.50 (hardback).

The History Department of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam has embarked on an ambitious eight-volume project in which it describes and analyzes its relationship, since colonial times, with eight countries in South America, Africa, and Asia. The first volume on Ghana is now followed by the volumes on Indonesia and China. The books are not catalogues, but contain accounts of the fate of selected artefacts in the collection of the Rijksmuseum. In the Indonesia volume seven chapters show how a one-dimensional colonial view has changed to become a balanced recognition of the interaction between the Netherlands and Indonesia. In an imaginary trip through time and place these shifting perspectives are shown, discussed, and explained. The artefacts selected cover a wide range. A colonial painting of the Banda Islands introduces the 1621 VOC massacre. The Pieneman painting of the surrender of Diponegoro (1825) is followed through the years. Unfortunately the painting of Raden Saleh of the same event is not discussed, although mentioned as a counterpart in the foreword by Ayu Utami. The gallery of 67 portraits of governor generals, once a Batavia symbol of Dutch rule, ended ingloriously in 1949 in shipment to Rijksmuseum storage. Portraits of the queens Wilhelmina and Juliana in a 1960 raid on the Dutch diplomatic representation in Jakarta were heavily damaged and are as such revealing historical documents. The provenance of a flag and a shield, possibly from the Indonesian opponents in the nineteenth-century Aceh War, are examined. The model of an imposing iron lighthouse serves to illustrate the role of technology in the colonial world. The official robes of Dutch and Indonesian officials, prescribed in detailed rules, served to maintain a static colonial order. All these case studies also make present a formerly hidden content, which is new and surprising. Harm Stevens, a curator with the Rijksmuseum History Department, admirably enlightens these histories of the Museum artefacts, in a well-researched volume. As is to be expected, about half of the book is adorned with full color illustrations.

The same high standards are upheld in the China volume, for which a curator Jan van Campen and a former junior curator Tristan Mostert are responsible. Their approach is different from Harm Stevens’—not selected case studies but a more conventional and chronological account of the relations between China and the Netherlands since 1600, continuously coupled to artefacts as kept by the Rijksmuseum and other collections. These reflect the changing interest, often even fascination, with China. In this respect, of course, financial considerations were preponderant. Trade with China looked to be a profitable enterprise as was clear to the Dutch from the successful commercial endeavors of Spain and Portugal. The VOC was keen to break their monopoly and soon extended its activities, in the well-known mixture of military force and trade prospects, to gain a foothold on the Chinese shore. It was not a success: the Portuguese could not be ousted, and the official Chinese interest in a VOC contact was only slight. The VOC was successful in building a stronghold on the island of Formosa, which slowly became the capital of a territorial VOC colony that lasted till 1662. After the VOC was ousted it gave up its territorial ambitions, and contented itself with the promotion of the junk trade, with Batavia as its staple market. In this way the highly praised silk ware, porcelain, lacquer goods, and tea were brought into the European market. Chinese porcelain was very popular and became a common part of the Dutch household—and were even made according to Dutch orders by Chinese craftsmen. Luxury products were made for collectors and these became part of the ‘chinoiserie’ trend, popular among the rich, especially in the nineteenth century. As for trade Dutch firms kept offices and warehouses in Canton, including the VOC even after its demise. In the meantime many Chinese had settled in the Indies, especially in Batavia, and were essential in keeping its economy running. The relations between Dutch and Chinese were endurable, except for the stain of a bloody massacre in Batavia in 1740. Real knowledge about China, its language, and culture only was gained in the nineteenth century, with the first scholarly sinology studies, to replace the unspecified awe and stereotypes for the beauty and opulence of China’s culture. The Netherlands were involved, but only for a small part, in the opening-up of China and were represented in the extraterritorial treaty ports. Private collectors visited China and bought antiquities. In 1918 they organized in the Vereniging van Vrienden der Aziatische Kunst, from which quite a few members enriched the present Rijksmuseum collection by their donations. The book closes with the travels of filmmakers Joris Ivens and John Fernhout during the Civil War of the 1930s, making rare recordings of a country in deep turmoil. It is all well-done by the authors, and beautifully illustrated.

Klaas Doornbos, Schipbreuk in Oman: De overlevingstocht van 30 drenkelingen van ’t VOC-schip Amstelveen door de woestijn van Zuid-Arabië, 1763: Gebaseerd op het journaal van Cornelis Eyks. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2014, 184 pp. ISBN 9789089647917. Price: EUR 24.95 (paperback).

Klaas Doornbos, Shipwreck & survival in Oman, 1763. The fate of the Amstelveen and thirty castaways on the South Coast of Arabia: Based on the notes of Cornelis Eyks. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2014, 147 pp. ISBN 9789089648389. Price: EUR 19.90 (paperback).

On a trip from Batavia to Kharg, a trade station of the VOC in the Persian Gulf, the East Indiaman ‘Amstelveen’ shipwrecked on the south coast of Oman in August 1763. It clearly was a case of an inexplicable navigational error, for which the captain was responsible. He was among the 75 casualties of the accident; 30 survived, of whom third mate Cornelis Eyks was the highest in rank. His group set out for a long and arduous trip to safety in the desert—barefoot, almost naked, without food or water, under a blazing sun, harassed and robbed by local Bedouins, and with only guesses about the length and direction of their journey. After a month’s walk of 500 kilometres when they reached Muscat, about twenty had survived. When back in the Netherlands in 1766, Eyks published a short account in Middelburg of his exploits. His journal was included in a magazine and subsequently forgotten until it was rediscovered in the 1990’s, and Klaas Doornbos, an emeritus professor of education, started to investigate the background and context of this tragic accident. The results of Doornbos’s efforts are impressive, and open up one more chapter on VOC history. He recreates Eyks’ journey, using his notes, along with useful comments, context, and analysis to present a lively story about endurance under nearly unbearable conditions. The book closes with the thirty pages verbatim copy of Eyks’ original journal in the contemporary eighteenth-century spelling. The English-language edition closely follows the Dutch-language text, but does not include Eyks’ original journal. Many illustrations add to the quality of this book.

Nizaar Makdoembaks, Mohammed smeekt om genade. Gruwelen van strijders van Oranje. Zierikzee: De Woordenwinkel, 2015, 203 pp. ISBN 9789076286235. Price: EUR 27 (paperback).

Physician and public writer Nizaar Makdoembaks understands today’s followers of Islamic State as contemporary versions of the Indies’ colonial state and army that ruthlessly oppressed the Muslim population of Indonesia. The Dutch authorities and the Dutch community at large supported and promoted violent reprisals against the indigenous population, many of whom were Muslim. A striking example is that of Hendrik Colijn (1869–1944), who as a soldier in Aceh and Lombok, and as the leading statesman of interbellum Netherlands endorsed the repression of Muslim Indonesia. Makdoembaks documents Colijn’s record in this respect and points out the war crimes he committed but for which he was absolved. Impunity for such crimes was the rule in similar cases, although there are a few exceptions, one of which is extensively described. It ended with the perpetrator, a KNIL lieutenant, going to jail in 1929 after questions in the Dutch Parliament made the case public. For a number of instances the torture, rape, and execution are described in detail, with drawings to illustrate the treatment. Many documents, all from the Nationaal Archief, are included in text and as appendixes (70 pages). Unfortunately, the presentation of the material suffers from a lack of coherence and the polemical tone of the writer does not make his thesis more convincing.

W.J.M. Michielsen, Een buitenbezittingse radja. Herinneringen van W.J.M. Michielsen (1844–1926). Introduced and edited by W.R. Hugenholtz. Hilversum: Verloren, 2015, 331 pp. ISBN 9789087045081. Price: EUR 29 (paperback).

Willem Michielsen (1844–1926) grew up in a Catholic middleclass family in the Southern Netherlands town of Breda. In 1857 he enlisted as a cabin boy, the lowest rank on a sailing ship, bound for the East Indies. He made three trips before changing in 1861 to a civilian life on Java. He worked as an overseer on plantations and of railway construction projects, before trying to gain admission to the civil service. He succeeded in passing the required two examinations in 1867 and embarked on a career that would end with his retirement in 1904, when he filled the second highest rank in the Indies’ civil service as Vice-President of the Raad van Indië. This was indeed a remarkable career, and around 1914 he set himself the task to write his memoirs. Two volumes of these have survived. They end abruptly with the description of events of 1875. A third volume has either got lost or was never completed. This certainly is a pity. Michielsen was known as authoritarian and straightforward, but his memoirs convey an impression of clarity and informality, with irony and humor, in a refreshingly modern style. He writes at length about his Breda childhood, his life on board a yacht, and the hard labor on Java. He describes his work as a civil servant in a remote area of North Sulawesi under extremely primitive conditions, followed by a posting on West Sumatra. And with this narration the story ends, in 1875. His next postings, in ever higher ranks, brought him to Aceh, Kalimantan, East and West Sumatra, and, at last, to the Raad van Indië. This part of his life is well-described by W.R. Hugenholtz, in an introduction of thirty pages. In sum, these memoirs add to our understanding of the ‘normal’ life and its customs in the Indies.

Fred van Lieburg, De wereld in. Het Nederlands Bijbelgenootschap 1814–2014. Amsterdam: Prometheus-Bert Bakker, 2014, 400 + 32 pp. ISBN 9789035140639. Price: EUR 39.95 (hardback).

The Nederlands Bijbelgenootschap (NBG) asked Fred van Lieburg, Professor in the history of Dutch Protestantism at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, to write a scholarly book to commemorate two hundred years of activities concentrated on the promotion of the Bible. It is a study on the cutting edge of religion, language, and culture. It has many international connections, at first with similar organizations in the major European countries, in particular England, with the British and Foreign Bible Society (BFBS), founded in 1804, and already soon with the Dutch eastern and western colonies.

NBG was founded in 1814, in the wake of the French occupation of the Netherlands and the constitution of a new Kingdom of the Netherlands, including what was later to become Belgium. From the protestant elite of politicians, clergymen, and businessmen came the impetus to follow the British example. With the lasting and even growing divisions in the Dutch Protestant world, NBG had to be cautious, and the first article of its constitution forbade all changes and explanations, even the addition of chapter titles, to the sacrosanct text of the Bible. Although NBG was close to the official Hervormde Kerk, it kept its distance for the sake of its umbrella function. After two chapters on the rivalries and activities of the first years, the author presents the story in a thematic way, a choice that makes sense. Thus the external relations are discussed, with a major role for the BFBS, which was a fierce competitor on the Dutch Bible market with its own Dutch-language editions as well as the organizational set-up of NBG. Distribution was a core concern of NBG, but was gradually extended with activities to promote the use of the Bible in manifold ways, as it has done until the present day. The text of the Bible editions was hotly contended. A number of Protestant denominations were reluctant to part with the monumental early seventeenth century Statenbijbel. Only in the last decades were new translations prepared and launched with great success. The last chapter (35 pp.) deals with NBG activities in the Indies colony. NBG was responsible for about forty translations in Indonesian languages. The details on these translations and the translators are related in J.L. Swellengrebel’s two-volume In Leijdeckers voetspoor (Swellengrebel 1974; 1978), to which Van Lieburg refers for the details. He sketches the outlines of NBG activities, especially in relation to the problematic Malay translations. NBG took the initiative to train prospective translators, who to that end soon enrolled in universities. In all, an appendix lists 26 Bible translators, of whom the greater part earned praise as philologists and anthropologists. In the Indies NBG also transcended its modest Dutch pretensions by becoming the coordinator of missionary and Bible activities in the Zendingsconsulaat (Mission Consulate), established in 1906. Even in the secular Netherlands of today, NBG is still an active and innovative part of the Protestant organizational world, as the competent author concludes.


Swellengrebel, J.L. (1974) In Leijdeckers voetspoor: Anderhalve eeuw Bijbelvertaling en taalkunde in de Indonesische talen. Deel 1. Leiden: KITLV.

Swellengrebel, J.L. (1978) In Leijdeckers voetspoor: Anderhalve eeuw Bijbelvertaling en taalkunde in de Indonesische talen. Deel 2. Leiden: KITLV.

Marie-Antoinette Willemsen, De lange weg naar Nusa Tenggara. Spanningsvelden in een missiegebied. Hilversum: Verloren, 1915, 220 pp. ISBN 9789087045197. Price: EUR 24.00 (paperback).

In the 1970s the Katholiek Documentatie Centrum started an ambitious interview project to record the experiences of older missionaries who had been part of the great mission effort to christianize indigenous peoples in Dutch colonial realms. Among them were the missionaries of the Divine World Missionairies (SVD), who from 1913 on had worked on Flores with considerable success. Author Willemsen, who already published a biography of linguist and SVD priest Jilis Verheijen, has made use of these interviews and many more personal documents, archival material, and published sources (as accounted for in 600 notes) to give an overview of SVD activities in four double portraits of Dutch mission men—active in education, agricultural development, the administration of church affairs, and in auxiliary functions such as as bookbinder/documentalist and captain of the SVD motor ship. Three of them took up their vocation before the Second World War, in a colonial setting where stereotypes about western superiority were taken for granted and the European clergy did not question its task to indoctrinate the animist and supposedly primitive natives. But this process didn’t go as smoothly as the Catholics had hoped. In the early development of the educational system and the establishment of seminaries, the foreign teachers met with resistance when students tried to integrate the Catholic creed (agama) with traditional adat. This process of indonesianisasi, reinforced by the Japanese occupation and in independent Indonesia after 1950 became ever stronger, until all Flores-based functions were filled by Flores people. The last of the missionaries left the island in the 1980s. They were not all active in strictly religious fields. Specialists in agriculture were also sent, and acted as development workers avant la lettre, and to have success they had to cooperate and enter into dialogue with the population. They ran into problems when the Indonesian regional officials did not support what the missionaries called a ‘welfare plan’. The highest church officials also had their share of problems in contacts with the government—during the Sukarno as well as the Suharto era—and the Islam community. Fearful of being expelled from the country if they challenged the government, they remained silent regarding the massacres carried out after the coup of 1965—and Flores had between 800 and 2,000 such victims (as described on pp. 127–132). So the missions continually struggled to achieve a secure position in local society, while the adat persisted in daily religious practice in an ongoing process of adaptation and inculturation. Willemsen’s account nicely combines the biographical approach with a discussion of general problems of the mission and their results today.

A.M.A.J. Driessen and G.P. van de Ven, Zusters van JMJ. Geschiedenis van een congregatie 1822–1962. Hilversum: Verloren, 2015, 448 pp. ISBN 9789087044701. Price: EUR 35 (hardback).

In 2008 historians Anneke Driessen and Gerard van de Ven were commissioned by the Netherlands Province of the congregation of Sisters of JMJ (Jezus, Maria, Jozef) to write the history of JMJ from the establishment of its direct predecessor in 1822 until the division of JMJ in 1962 in three separate provinces: the Netherlands, Indonesia, and India. It took a number of years but now the solid volume, in a fine design and amply illustrated has been released. The authors concentrate on early JMJ history and the developments in Indonesia and India. JMJ itself was one of the greatest sisters’ congregations in the Netherlands, which in 1935 had 2300 members in 73 houses, with about 110 active in Indonesia, and another 40 in India. JMJ concentrated on education, in particular for girls, but not exclusively as JMJ sisters were active in a wide range of schools. A second and important activity concerned medical care, even extending to the operation of hospitals. The experiences in Indonesia are described in detail in a hundred pages. The first sisters arrived in 1898, at the invitation of two Jesuit priests working in the Minahassa (North Sulawesi). They were not welcome as Minahassa was a Protestant bulwark. The highest Dutch officials, also Protestants, were for nine years able to block the opening of a Catholic school. When, at last, they had to allow it, the school grew quickly, with its centre in Tomohon. A significant part of the educational effort was to attract and incorporate Minahassan sisters in JMJ, also at the behest of the Vatican. This was a slow and sometimes painful process, as, probably predictably, the Westers sisters felt themselves to be superior, and on the other side Minahassan sisters felt themselves discriminated against. The outcome was clear, and especially after Indonesia became independent, indonesianisasi set the norm. Again it was Vatican pressure that sealed the formal severance of the Dutch-Indonesian cooperation in 1962. A similar fate met the Dutch-Indian relations in the Telugu region, where Driessen and Van de Ven in another 100 pages describe comparable developments. In their heyday many Catholic congregations published rather uncritical memorial volumes. Now such volumes are a rare phenomenon, which is all the more reason to praise JMJ for this initiative and the two authors for their perseverance.

Antoine Weijzen, De Indië-weigeraars. Vergeten slachtoffers van een koloniale oorlog. Utrecht: Omniboek, 2015, 208 pp. ISBN 9789401905930. Price: EUR 19.50 (paperback).

After the liberation of the Netherlands in May 1945 attention shifted to the Netherlands Indies, where after the Japanese surrender, the Republic of Indonesia was proclaimed. The Republic enjoyed considerable support, and the Dutch got involved in a process of simultaneous negotiations and military action to restore their authority in the archipelago. It quickly became apparent that the available military force, known as KNIL, and the volunteers brought in from the Netherlands were inadequate for their mission. Thousands of conscripts were called up and sent overseas, which inevitably created groups of conscientious objectors and deserters. Fear for a great number of such objectors—not unjustified when hundreds of soldiers did not report to their ships on the eve of their journey to Indonesia—led to a harsh policy towards the objectors with threats of long imprisonment under a severe regime. Moreover, they were depicted as weaklings, mentally handicapped, or communists. It all showed the deep contempt of the authorities for these men, labelled as traitors of their country, whose conduct touched on the very foundations of military discipline and societal unity. In fact, the number of objectors remained low. For the whole period of 1945–1950, only 3,200 objectors were counted, of whom 1,500 retracted their refusal under heavy pressure and went to the Indies. The 1,700 who persisted in their refusal were given sentences of up to seven years, and were excluded from amnesties and conditional release. The last prisoners were only set free in the second part of 1953. Weijzen, an independent researcher, is not the first to write on the fate of the Indies objectors, but these accounts primarily concentrate on the plight of a particular person. Weijzen has done research on an impressive scale in archives and contemporary published sources. Step by step he describes and analyzes the procedure an objector had to pass through. The ordeal includes facing the armed forces, the military/medical examination, psychiatrists, military courts, clergy, the counsel for the defence, and even the opinion of political parties, of whom only the social-democrats and communists showed any sympathy. The communists initially supported the political objectors, even to the extent of supplying them with underground addresses. When this threatened to result in government measures to curb the party, inspired as well by the Cold War climate of the time, the communists changed their policy. In fact, all those involved shared a negative attitude that belittled the motives of the objectors, whether these were principled or political, or found the basis of their opposition in social, psychiatric, medical, or economic backgrounds. Weijzen makes this all very clear in his concise treatise, without neglecting to voice his own amazement and critique. It is a pity that he has not enlivened his book with more personal impressions of objectors, since many are available.

Gert Oostindie, in cooperation with Ireen Hoogenboom and Jonathan Verwey, Soldaat in Indonesië 1945–1950: Getuigenissen van een oorlog aan de verkeerde kant van de geschiedenis. Amsterdam: Prometheus, 2015, 383 + 16 pp. ISBN 9789035143494. Price: EUR 29.95 (paperback).

Gerrit ter Haar (ed.), De oorlog ver weg, 1942–1949. Nederlands Indië, de Japanse bezetting en de Politionele Acties: Interviews van militairen en burgers die deze oorlog zelf hebben meegemaakt. Broek op Langedijk: Gigaboek, 2013, 242 pp. ISBN 9789085483755. Price: EUR 20.00 (hardback).

Gerrit ter Haar (ed.), De oorlog ver weg, 1949–1962. De Molukken en Nederlands Nieuw Guinea: Waarheidsgetrouwe verhalen van Molukkers, Nieuw Guinea veteranen en anderen. Zwolle: Scholten Uitgeverij, 2015, 259 pp. ISBN 9789079859238. Price: EUR 22.50 (hardback).

Soldaat in Indonesië is the first tangible result of a KITLV Project that began in 2012. It was meant to be part of a greater project together with the NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, and NIMH, the National Institute for Military History, to research impermissible violent behavior by Dutch military in Indonesia. But as the government declined to subsidize the Project, it became necessary to reconsider its objects and aims. On a more modest scale KITLV continued the research. This modest scale, nonetheless, involved a handful of senior researchers and a far greater number of trainees. I am one of these researchers—hence my cautious review. A great number of relevant archival collections of the Nationaal Archief have been meticulously combed for relevant data, with remarkable results Moreover, diaries, correspondence, memorial volumes and personal memoirs, when published, have been examined, adding up to a total of 659 titles, with an estimated 100,000 pages, contributed by 1,362 people. The results have been arranged systematically and commented upon, not only regarding the often shockingly violent behavior as such, but also sketching the background with the circumstances that led to violations of the laws of war. The book has attracted a lot of attention and publicity, which resulted in a third printing within a few weeks of publication. Its conclusion that war crimes were committed in a far greater number than hitherto estimated already caused a furor, and will probably resonate for a long time. This may also serve as an impetus to commence with the comprehensive study that should have been undertaken decades ago.

The number of 659 personal documents on the conflict is certainly stunning, but to this number even now titles are continually added. Two of these, titled De oorlog ver weg, were compiled and edited by Gerrit ter Haar, who was assisted by the Historisch Centrum Overijssel in Zwolle, continuing a tradition of publishing accounts of experiences by military from villages, towns, and regions. Ter Haar, himself not a veteran, but whose brother died in Indonesia in 1947, includes the text of interviews, which are also available via The first volume, on the years 1942–1949, collects the memories from a broad range of military, describing their rank and duty, as well as the duration and region of action. The second volume, on the years 1949–1962, includes about twenty personal accounts, and prints the reminiscences of Moluccans who were forced to leave Indonesia for the Netherlands, as well as those of military, mostly marines, who were sent to West New Guinea to patrol the island and to prevent Indonesian infiltration.

The books are not listed in Soldaat in Indonesië, and would have added a few cases of war crimes to the database. The books are well illustrated. They do not and cannot add much to the collected information on the subject, but the second volume is original in its focus on the post-1950 military experiences. One must be grateful to Ter Haar and his colleagues for the immense voluntary effort that went into the careful collection of all these personal documents.

René Kok, Erik Somers and Louis Zweers, Koloniale oorlog 1945–1949. Van Indië naar Indonesië. Second edition. Amsterdam: Carrera, 2015, 224 pp. ISBN 9789048832552. Price: EUR 17.50 (paperback).

First published in 2009, Koloniale oorlog 1945–1949 was one of the first titles to concentrate on the photographic aspects of the decolonization war in Indonesia. Three experts joined hands to give this overview: Kok and Somers from NIOD, and Zweers, an independent expert and author of a solid book on the policy of the Dutch military to control publicity, De gecensureerde oorlog (2013). Koloniale oorlog is first and foremost a collection of suppressed photographs of actual fighting, of prisoners, of wounded and dead, and of destruction. These were not published at the time. The photographs that passed censorship showed law and order brought about by the Dutch, and the friendly relationship between Dutch army and the population. Independent photographers were absent. Those active were in Dutch service or dependent on Dutch logistics. Still, the authors have collected an impressive number of ‘forbidden’ photographs. Together these show that a dirty war was carried out, of which a propaganda war was part and parcel. Since the first edition of this book of 2009 new evidence has come to light. This was accompanied by a lot of publicity, also in connection with the demand to set up a research project on Dutch military violence, transgressing the laws of war. A direct impetus to reprint was the exhibition ‘Koloniale oorlog: gewenst en ongewenst beeld’ (Colonial War: Desirable and Undesirable Images) at the Amsterdam Verzetsmuseum (November 2015-April 2016). The reprint of this text is almost unchanged. Also, about ninety percent of the photographs edition have been retained. Thus, in comparison, the reprint only differs slightly from the first edition. However, this does not detract from its value, then and now.

Sytze van der Zee, Harer Majesteits loyaalste onderdaan. François van ’t Sant 1883–1966. Amsterdam: De Bezige Bij, 2015, 446 + 24 pp. ISBN 9789023496854. Price: EUR 29.90 (paperback).

François van ’t Sant (1883–1966) was an enigmatic and mysterious person around whom many rumors circulated, in which he was ascribed extraordinary roles in a great lot of secret and dirty affairs. After he died all his personal papers were burned, as he had ordered his daughter to do. This regrettable loss, however, does not mean that he and his exploits will forever remain secret. Through painstaking research, journalist Sytze van der Zee has reconstructed Van ’t Sant’s life and uncovered many details behind the rumors. At first he was an excellent police superintendent in Rotterdam, Utrecht, and The Hague. When in Rotterdam during the First World War he was active as a secret agent who helped neutral Netherlands to maintain a precarious balance between the warring countries. Special assignments were entrusted to him, and when in The Hague, he became the confidante of Queen Wilhelmina. He ably arranged that possible scandals involving prince consort Hendrik, involving debts, gambling, and in particular extra-marital excursions, resulting in a number of children, and as a follow-up blackmail, were hushed up. He remained a most loyal servant of the House of Orange, even at the cost of his career. He followed the Queen to her exile in London in 1940, when the Germans occupied the Netherlands. He became her private secretary, as well as the head of the Intelligence Service. Among the small circle of Dutch authorities in London he was feared and detested and the subject of all kinds of malignant gossip—never substantiated. After the war he held no public offices, but his relationship with the House of Orange remained close. In the fifties he was again involved when the marriage of Queen Juliana and Prince Bernhard was on the brink of breaking up.

In 1946 Van ’t Sant played a role in another affair directly connected to the Indonesian decolonization drama. Rumors were circulating about a coup to replace the Catholic-Labour coalition government by a government that would unswervingly hold on to Dutch sovereignty over Indonesia. Emotions ran high in November 1946 when the Dutch and the Indonesian Republic concluded the Linggadjati Agreement, which in the near future would lead to Indonesian independence. Fingers were pointed at the organization of militant opponents of the Agreement who united in the Nationaal Comite Handhaving Rijkseenheid (National Committee for the Upholding of the Unity of the Realm) in December 1946, under the chairmanship of P.S. Gerbrandy, Prime Minister of the Dutch government in exile during the war years. Support for its aims was also forthcoming from the prominent military C.E.L. Helfrich and H.J. Kruls, who directly appealed to Queen Wilhelmina. But in research up until now, with its latest representatives the biographers of Kruls (Hoogenboezem 2010) and Gerbrandy (Fasseur 2014), no pertinent proof was discovered of a concrete coup design (see my reviews of these titles in BKI 167 (2010):374–5 and 171 (2015):161–2). The file thus seemed to be closed, but in a separate chapter (pp. 295–307) Van der Zee comes up with new evidence that sheds almost sensational new light on the affair. In a letter that accidentally escaped the destruction by fire of Van ’t Sant’s papers Van ’t Sant is requested to act as an intermediary to the Queen, to inform her about the plans. Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema was the main executor of the plans—a wartime confidante of the Queen, who escaped from occupied Netherlands, and whose role is immortalized and romanticized in an immensely popular movie of 1977, and a musical theatre ‘Soldier of Orange’, which has been running since 2010. The coup was to take place on April 24, 1947. Part of it was a plan to liquidate Labour Party Chairman Koos Vorrink, and thus expose the gravity of the situation? In any case, it is not quite clear why the plans were aborted. It may be that the Military Intelligence Service was the prime factor, as it had collected information on the plans. Upon publication of Van der Zee’s book it was this particular chapter that drew a lot of publicity. As to its credibility, Fasseur, first as a critical reader of the manuscript and then in his comments after publication, is convinced that Gerbrandy was involved in this coup attempt. It all begs for new research, on the basis of Van der Zee’s findings, but specifically directed at the role of Handhaving Rijkseenheid, and its protagonists from the political and military and from former resistance circles.


Fasseur, Cees (2014) Eigen meester, niemands knecht: het leven van Pieter Sjoerds Gerbrandy, minister-president van Nederland in de Tweede Wereldoorlog. Amsterdam: Balans.

Hoogenboezem, Jaap (2010) H.J. Kruls, een politieke generaal. Amsterdam: Boom.

Bart de Cort, Genie en trauma. Leven en werk van Lode Brakel (1940–1981). Hamilton, Canada: Bart de Cort, 2015, 62 pp. ISBN 9781329683938. Price: EUR 10.00 (paperback). (To order via

Among the readership of BKI, Lode Brakel is probably remembered as a talented scholar in the field of Indonesian languages studies, whose career was tragically cut short by his early demise. Bart de Cort now adds more background in his small biography, concentrating on his facts of life. He was stamped by his wartime experiences, with his Jewish parents murdered in Sobibor in 1943, and he himself surviving as a child of a Dutch family. This all developed into a trauma of the extremely gifted Lode, who for a greater part of his life struggled with his Jewish identity, and experienced a slow move from indifference to liberal and in the end orthodox Jewishness. He studied in Leiden, and in 1975 defended his PhD, which was published by KITLV. At that time he had been a lecturer at Monash University in Melbourne since 1966. In 1979 he became a Professor at Hamburg University. He never held a position at Leiden University, probably because of some animosity. De Cort bases his biography for the greater part on information of relatives and acquaintances, which still leaves open some questions. A bibliography of Brakel is included. It is a good thing that the facts of his life have been recorded, both for the sake of the history of Indonesian Studies in Leiden and in the wider world.

Peter Bootsma, De Molukse acties. Treinkapingen en gijzelingen 1970–1978. Second edition. Amsterdam: Boom, 2015, 366 + 16 pp. ISBN 9789089537966. Price: EUR 24.90 (paperback).

In 2000 a documentary film about the Moluccan actions was released, titled Dutch approach. Nederland en de Molukse acties. The complete four-volume film, almost four hours long, is still on view on Youtube. The director of the film, Hans Dortmans, was the co-author, with Peter Bootsma, of De Molukse acties, a book based largely on the documentary. It was a lively account of the events that shocked the Netherlands and became world news. The roots lay in deep frustrations among the Moluccans who were brought against their will to the Netherlands as a legacy of the four-year decolonization war that only ended in December 1949. But there was no room then for the aspirations of the Moluccans to establish an independent Republik Maluku Selatan (RMS). Supporters of the RMS among the Moluccan military in the KNIL that was to be dissolved, ended up in the Netherlands in barracks, without a rank, and with a great many grudges against both the Netherlands and Indonesia. The second generation resorted to violence: occupation, hijacking, and hostage-taking. There was the occupation of the Indonesian ambassador’s residence in Wassenaar (1970), a train hijack in Wijster, together with the occupation of the Indonesian consulate in Amsterdam (1975), another train hijack together with the hostage-taking of an elementary school in Drenthe province (1977), and the last one, the occupation of the Drenthe province office in 1978. The death toll altogether was eight civilians, one policeman, and six Moluccans, these last killed in 1977 when the train was attacked by the Dutch army to free the hostages. This second edition differs considerably from the first edition of 2000. More archival material has become available, as well as the result of a thorough official investigation of the train hijacking of 1977. Moreover, the whole text was revised and rewritten. Thus, this edition is a necessary replacement of the 2000 edition. A similar general account is not available. Peter Bootsma, a political scientist, closely follows the series of events, and lets more than sixty people involved tell their stories, in frank and revealing interviews with hostages, hijackers, officials from the central and provincial governments, as well as police and military. Thus, a sometimes absorbing day-to-day, or even hour-to-hour account is reconstructed, in which the author takes a neutral position, focusing on historical facts, a description of events, and letting a wide range of participants speak for themselves. This is probably the best way to tell these stories, which still trigger hot and emotional debates.

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