Ewald Vanvugt, Roofstaat compact: De zeven grootste misdaden van Nederland overzee. Amsterdam: Nijgh&Van Ditmar/Top Notch, 2017, 248 pp. ISBN 9789038803869. Price: EUR 19.99 (paperback).
In 2016 Ewald Vanvugt published Roofstaat: Wat iedere Nederlander moet weten (reviewed in BKI 172(2016):411–412). In 856 pages he presents his definitive encyclopedia of Dutch historical crimes through the ages—a litany of violence, cruelty, perjury, broken agreements, and unscrupulousness, all meticulously documented. Many of these outrages were covered up in the literature, in the colonial as well as the postcolonial eras. This picture is slowly changing, and Vanvugt deserves ample praise for reporting on these dark episodes. His labor did not go unnoticed. Roofstaat was reprinted five times and more than ten thousand copies were sold. Next to the complete Roofstaat, now Roofstaat compact has been published. The bulky Roofstaat is condensed to 250 pages, making it more accessible to a general readership. The contents have been reorganized from chronological to thematic. Seven chapters document ‘the seven most glaring crimes of the Netherlands overseas’. The Dutch belligerence, as represented first by the East and West Indies Company, and continued by the colonial state, is the first subject, followed by chapters on economic exploitation, slavery, the abuse of women, and the officially sanctioned opium trade. The confiscation of Indies treasures is another practice, with a high topical value. At last critical voices through the ages—and these were there—are brought together. References and bibliography have been retained in this compact edition.
Kees Ampt, Ad Littel, and Edwin Paar (eds), Verre forten, vreemde kusten: Nederlandse verdedigingswerken overzee. Leiden: Sidestone Press, 2017, 408 pp. ISBN 9789088904493. Price: EUR 34.95 (paperback).
The Menno van Coehoorn Foundation aims to promote the preservation of defensive works in the Netherlands and beyond. A special commission within the foundation on overseas defensive works occupies itself with the defenses in the former Dutch colonies or areas where VOC and the West Indies Company (WIC) wanted to enforce its interests. In Verre forten, vreemde kusten, the Commission in fourteen articles presents an anthology of its research, of which seven concern themselves with ‘Eastern’ themes. Most articles are of a specialist nature, presupposing knowledge of the ground-plan, construction, location choice, and function of fortresses. For the non-expert an introductory chapter by Hans Bonke provides the useful and necessary background on types of fortresses and their geographical spread. The articles are about the failure of half-hearted VOC attempts to establish its presence in East Africa, present-day Mozambique, by Daan Lavies. Ranjith M. Jayasena and Pieter M. Floore survey the fortresses on Ceylon—a stunning total of 53 buildings, representing 11 types—and Mauritius. Erik Odegard reviews the plans to reinforce fortresses on Ceylon during the 1780s, to withstand foreign, European powers. All plans ended in a bureaucratic morass. Gerard W. Grim contributes an article on VOC Fort Tuticorijn in South India. Hans Bonke again, writes on the Defense System Van den Bosch/Van der Wijck on Java, 1830–1870, an ambitious and costly project to defend the island against a foreign intruder. It involved great fortresses, dozens of batteries and hundreds of kilometers of roads. It soon turned out to be too costly and was superseded by new defense concepts. Bonke describes all the fortresses and their fate, illustrated by photographs of the present-day state. Bonke is one of the first to write on this subject—and that deserves attention. John R. Verbeek contributes a long article about the VOC land artillery: cannons, mortars, and howitzers, and their use, spread, standardization, and production. The book contains a wealth of illustrations, old prints, and contemporary photographs, as well as original ground-plans and present-day drawings. Along with notes, bibliography, glossary, English summaries and index it results in an exemplary book.
Terwiel, Barend Jan and Peter Kirsch (eds), Terug naar de Oost: De reis van VOC-chirurgijn Gijsbert Heeck, 1654–1656. Zutphen: Walburg Pers [Werken van de Linschoten-Vereeniging 115.], 2017, 405 pp. ISBN 9789462491540. Price: EUR 51.41 (hardback).
Gijsbert Heeck (ca. 1619–1669) signed three times to serve as surgeon on VOC ships. His first two journeys to Asia, followed by tasks on VOC ships in the Asian region, lasted from 1636 to 1640 and 1641 to 1644. He visited Japan, India, Johore, and Palembang. He wrote about his impressions in a journal, based on notes he kept. Unfortunately the journals of his first two travels have gone lost, but, as he quotes extensively from these journals in the preserved journal of his third journey, parts of his impressions are saved for posterity. The third journal, about his third term, covers the period of November 1654-July 1656, and ends rather abruptly. The second part of the journal has not been located (yet). Heeck carefully reorganized his notes to become a rounded-off manuscript, probably intending to publish it as a book. It was never published, however, and in 1903 was added to the National Archives collection. S.P. l’Honoré Naber published it in 1910–11, but his edition needs correction and is incomplete, leaving out a chapter about Heeck’s experiences in Coromandel (March–June 1656). Heeck’s account on his two months’ stay in Siam, including a five-day visit to Siam’s capital Ayutthaya in 2008 was translated by Barend Jan Terwiel and published as A traveler in Siam in the year 1655. Terwiel and Peter Kirsch together prepared a new and complete edition of Heeck’s journal. With its inclusion in the series of historical travelogues published by the Linschoten-Vereeniging it obtains a mark of quality. Heeck is an accurate and detailed chronicler and keen observer, and his journey adds to our understanding of VOC life on board ships and the contacts with other powers in Asia, whether indigenous or European. Important are his accounts of his sojourn at the newly founded Cape Colony and his visits to Siam and the Coromandel Coast. An introduction of eighty pages puts Heeck into perspective. Special attention is given to the role and position of a ship surgeon, life aboard a VOC ship, the importance of intra-Asian trade, and the background of his observations on Batavia, Siam, and Coromandel. The text is in the contemporary vocabulary of the 1650s. With some exertion it is understandable, and in this respect 1,025 footnotes are helpful.
Anne Leussink and Wyke Sybesma (eds), Op reis met pen en penseel: Frans en Jan Hendrik Lebret als toerist naar Java, 1863. Zutphen: Walburg Pers, 2017, 524 pp. [Werken van de Linschoten-Vereeniging 116.] ISBN 9789462492752. Price: EUR 65.68 (hardback).
The KITLV manuscript collection contains the travelogue of the journey by the brothers Frans (1820–1909) and Jan Hendrik (1829–1904) Lebret to visit their brother Gerrit (1822–1896), a wealthy coffee planter in Pasuruan, East Java. They left their home town Dordrecht on January 15, 1863 and safely returned on June 15, 1863. They were among the first ‘tourists’ to make the still arduous and very costly journey. However, in comparison to sailing around Cape of Good Hope, their journey was far more comfortable. They boarded a French steamship in Marseille, and traveled ‘overland’ from Alexandria to Suez, to continue to Singapore, where a Dutch ship covered the remaining distance to Batavia. Frans Lebret was a professional painter, well-known for his depiction of livestock, and Jan Hendrik was an entrepreneur. Both were middle class and without the financial support of Gerrit, they probably would not have been able to afford such a trip. Both brothers kept notes, and Jan Hendrik reorganized these, after his return, to become a 356-page account of the journey. He added sketches, and, separately, 146 sketches, drawings and watercolors are kept by the Dordrechts Museum. Text and illustrations, of which 45 in color, are now brought together for the first time in a handsome and complete edition. It is a day-to-day, detailed account of their experiences: the life aboard, the transfer in Egypt, and the stopovers in Aden, Galle (Ceylon), and Singapore. From Batavia, after a visit to Buitenzorg, they traveled to Surabaya and after 51 days of travel they arrived in Pasuruan. They made trips to Malang and the Bromo. The return journey brought them to Yogyakarta, the Borobudur, Semarang, Cirebon, Bandung, and Buitenzorg. On April 30 they left the Indies. The travelogue was intended to give family members an impression of the land, culture, and inhabitants of the Indies—hence also the detailed description and explanation of the exotic land and culture they encountered. They were no experts, nor did they prepare for their journey by studying relevant publications. The common prejudicial superiority feelings found their expression without restraint (see, for instance, the remarks (pp. 308–23) on the Javanese and Java). But they do not forget to give accurate descriptions to document their astonishment, whereas old hands would have taken these for granted. Of added value are the notes on the life aboard ship, and there are more interesting episodes in the travelogue, such as a story about a ceremonial fight between a tiger and a buffalo. Although written about 150 years ago, Frans’ account is, without too much trouble accessible for a contemporary readership. The editors have added 691 notes and two indexes to lend support. They have done well, but a number of misspellings in Indonesian names should have been avoided.
André Kraayenga, Marius Bauer 1867–1932: Oogstrelend Oosters. Second, revised edition. Zwolle: W Books, 2017, 208 pp. ISBN 9789462582163. Price: EUR 29.95 (paperback).
This monograph on the painter Marius Bauer is a slightly revised edition of the first edition of 2007. The one-hundred fiftieth anniversary of Bauer’s year of birth is commemorated with exhibitions of his work and the reprint of the most comprehensive monograph on this unique artist, whose work has its own instantly recognizable identity. Bauer belonged to the ‘Orientalists’, the neutral name in Bauer’s time of the group of painters finding their inspiration in the Orient, long before Edward Said coined the term. Still, although soft spoken, Bauer would fit into Said’s category. His choice of themes was almost exclusively oriental, concentrating on the ‘unspoilt Orient’, in a selective and romanticized vision. Since his first travel to the East, in 1888 to Istanbul, followed by many, covering Morocco and Algeria, Egypt, India and the East Indies, he was successful as an artist who produced etchings, watercolours and paintings, as well as book illustrations. He was widely praised and well-to-do. Among his colleagues, who made oriental excursions in their work he was the only one who consistently stuck to his themes. Interest in Bauer decreased in the decades after his death, but in the 1970s interest grew again and will probably be lasting. Since 1996 the Bauer Documentatie Stichting, also a co-publisher of this book, has kept Bauer’s legacy alive. Bauer went to the Indies twice, in 1925 and 1931. The first time he was invited by the Dutch East Indies authorities, and commissioned to produce a painting and a few etchings, that were to be the Indies homage to the Queen and Prince Consort on their 25th wedding anniversary—a proof of Bauer’s prestige. The results of his 1931 journey were not too many, due to his death in 1932. He did, however, produce a series of 28 watercolors of Chinese opium smokers—certainly a surprising subject choice. The large-sized book, with its instructive text by Bauer expert André Kraayenga, is lavishly illustrated, and offers abundant proof of Bauer’s lasting legacy.
Philip Dröge, Pelgrim: Leven en reizen van Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje. Houten: Het Spectrum, 2017, 355 pp. ISBN 9789000353088. Price: EUR 19.99 (hardback).
Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje (1857–1936) is undisputedly acknowledged to be a great scholar, but also a man whose deeds were surrounded by secrecy and controversy. His legacy includes a list of more than 1,400 publications, a correspondence of 2,000 letters, and thousands of items of secondary literature—a terrifying prospect for a biographer. It did not daunt Philip Dröge, who wrote a fine monograph on the Mount Tambora eruption of 1815, from writing the first serious biography of Snouck, based on solid research, documented in 37 pages of references. Dröge allows himself, for the sake of readability, what he calls ‘a light dramatization’, following a common Anglo-Saxon biographical approach. Purists might complain about this, but probably a considerable non-scholarly readership is attracted. It is a pity that an index is missing. Is it (still) considered as deterring a general readership? The book opens with a chapter on Snouck’s circumcision in Jeddah in 1885—a key event in Snouck’s biography. He studied Arabic at Leiden University, and wanted to continue his studies of Islam by field research. The Dutch government opened this opportunity by commissioning him to write a report on the Indies pilgrimage to Mecca, a forbidden city for non-Moslems. For Snouck, eager to go to Mecca, the only way to get there was by converting to Islam, and to make this credible, he believed he needed the circumcision. Until now there is debate on the sincerity of Snouck’s conversion. Was this to promote his scholarly interest, and enabling him to fulfill his tasks as an advisor, or spy, for the Dutch government? He prepared his visit carefully, and as Abd al-Gaffar managed to settle in Mecca. Political intrigues led to his expulsion, after a five month stay, in which he became a Muslim student and Mecca citizen—even living together with a female slave. His book on Mecca was an international success, and is still highly acclaimed. Back in the Netherlands he was not happy with an academic career, and eager to accept an advisership of the Indies government. This was intended as a similar assignment as in Mecca, but with the protracted war in Aceh, it was called off at the last moment, due to conflicts on the military and political approach of the Aceh War. Snouck wrote advice on how to handle the Banten insurrection of 1888, and traveled widely on Java to study Islamic practices. He again plunged himself in the Javanese society. He twice, according to Islamic rites, married a Javanese woman, who also bore him children. When the Indies press reported his marriage, he publicly denied it—a lie that, until now, harms his memory. In 1896 Snouck at last went to Aceh and wrote a highly critical report on previous policies. His proposals, based on an analysis of Aceh society, and put into effect by General J.B. van Heutsz resulted in the establishment of Dutch authority. Snouck had no moral scruples about the application in practice of his specific knowledge. In this respect he was not an exception—KITLV itself is an institutional example of scholarly knowledge applied to smoothen colonial rule. Snouck only went to extremes in his combination of scholar, spy, and adventurer. In 1906 Snouck returned to Leiden to become a professor, widely feared by his students for his harsh criticisms, engaging in polemics, embroiled in conflicts. Dröge even suggests that he suffered from a borderline disorder. In these later years, however, Snouck became a vocal proponent of Indonesian autonomy. Snouck has always remained an enigma, and interpretations and evaluations still abound. The discussions between J.J. Witkam and P.S. van Koningsveld are a case in point. Dröge does not take sides, but gives his own praiseworthy account, that deserves a wide readership.
Vilan van de Loo (ed.), J.B. van Heutsz: Nota geheim 1903 en de Atjeh-rel in 1908. Leiden: Uitgeverij De Clerq Zubli, 2017, 48 pp. ISBN 9789082772005. Price: EUR 7.95 (to order from
Vilan van de Loo, recently the biographer of Pa van der Steur and Melati van Java, is now working on a biography of J.B. van Heutsz (1851–1924), which is long overdue. Two hagiographies by J.C. Lamster date from the forties, while the brief but useful biography by J.C. Witte, J.B. van Heutsz, leven en legende (1976) calls for a thorough and full-scale successor. This is more necessary as Van Heutsz now is almost invariably painted as the archetype of a colonial villain, who subjugated rebellious Aceh by violent means, transgressing the boundaries of humanity. Ostensibly contradictory with these accusations were his policies during his term as governor-general (1904–1909), when public opinion in the Indies attacked him as too lenient towards the indigenes, at the cost of Dutch settlers. As a motto and a program about Van Heutsz Van de Loo aptly writes: ‘Everybody has an opinion on Van Heutsz, but nobody knows who he was’. This booklet serves as an appetizer and brings together some of the key documents concerning atrocities committed when Van Heutsz was commander. KNIL officer J.J.B. Fanoy started the discussion in 1903 accusing Van Heutsz of a whole range of misdeeds. H. Colijn at Van Heutsz’ behest rebutted and refuted Fanoy’s claims in a long letter in which he also analyzed the Dutch warfare as to the guerrilla resistance by the Acehnese (pp. 18–40 in this booklet). In 1908 this all became an issue again, with Fanoy, now in the Netherlands, raising the subject another time. Van Heutsz, now governor-general, wrote an angry letter, hardly containing his annoyance (pp. 11–17). Van de Loo is sparingly in her notes on the document, and will let us wait for her interpretation of the controversial events until her biography is published.
‘Sport in (post)koloniaal perspectief’, Special issue De Sportwereld: Geschiedenis en achtergronden van de sport no. 82–83 (Herfst 2017). Nijmegen: Stichting De Sportwereld, 2017, 50 pp. ISSN 15697169. Price: EUR 10.00 (to order from firstname.lastname@example.org).
The journal De Sportwereld is the publication outlet of the organization of Dutch sports historians since 1997. It has succeeded in putting sports history on the agenda, with a growing number of books and articles. Recently with the appointment of Marjet Derks as Professor of Sports History it was awarded official recognition. For colonial sport history attention only recently has grown. On Dutch colonial history Nico van Horn was one of the pioneers. He recently retired as an archivist with KITLV. It presented the welcome opportunity to organize a symposium to honor his efforts. The contributions to the symposium, and a few other articles, have now been included in a special issue of De Sportwereld. Derks opens with a review of the mainly British studies on sports as part of colonial history. The reciprocity between motherland and colonies is stressed, and sports are connected to processes of civilization, fair play, and cooperation, thus conveying the values of ‘Britishness’. Jelle Zondag describes the completely forgotten history of the Far Eastern Championships Games, first held in 1913, and put under the auspices of the International Olympic Committee in 1920. It was predominantly an affair of Japan, China, and the Philippines, with the Dutch Indies participating in 1934, with a small and not very successful team. The only medals it won were in diving. The divers herewith earned themselves a place in the team for the Berlin Olympics of 1936. Van Horn himself contributed an article about the role of sports in the Dutch army, deployed in the Decolonization War of 1945–1949. High military authorities considered sport a useful means to maintain physical fitness, and to offer distraction. Moreover sport contests might help in obtaining goodwill from the population. However, divisions remained. Alongside the military sports were the civilian ones in Dutch-occupied territory, and the sports organized in the Republic of Indonesia. Apart from these, other articles deal with colonial sports in Curaçao, Suriname, and Algeria.
J.E. Landheer, Mathilde Gastmann-Wichers en leprabestrijding in Nederlandsch-Indië en Nederland. ISBN 9789076791166. ’s-Gravenhage: Q.M. Gastmann-Wichers Stichting, 2017, 195 pp. Price: EUR 25 (to order from email@example.com) (hardback).
In 1950 the Gastmann-Wichers Foundation was founded as the umbrella organization for no less than 15 associations that occupied themselves with leprosy. Although a lot has changed, the Foundation is still active. When in 2009 the archives of the Foundation, and its predecessors, were transferred to the National Archives, it was an excellent occasion to write a history of the Foundation, and a biography of Mathilde Gastmann-Wichers, who was, even among the board members of the Foundation, relatively unknown. Former chairman and board member for thirty years, J.E. Landheer, himself a leprosy doctor, took up the challenge and has produced a comprehensive history of the institutional leprosy care in the Netherlands Indies and the Netherlands since the 1860s. A permanent subject of discussion was whether lepers had to be isolated, as they were considered to suffer from an infectious disease. Experts already early agreed that the danger of contamination was limited, but other surgeons and public opinion long remained suspicious, and thus contributed to the necessity to build sanctuaries for the leprosy patients. There had been no cases of leprosy in the Netherlands since the seventeenth century. The cases that were discovered all had their origin in the Indies or Suriname—and this would remain so until now. The first efforts to found a leprosy date from the 1860s when plans to situate it in Bronbeek soon were replaced by the building of a leprosy in remote Veenhuizen, which only functioned for twenty years (until 1887), before being closed as the number of lepers was insufficient. Attention shifted to the Indies and here comes Mathilde Gastmann-Wichers, of Dutch nobility and with good contacts with the Dutch Royal House, in the picture. She married widower A.L.E. Gastmann (1854–1917), whose brilliant career in the Indies judiciary culminated as the chairman of the Indies High Court. He retired in 1911. As one of few women Mathilde was active in the male-dominated organizational world. As a board member she took an active part in the direction of charitable societies, with a particular interest in leprosy care. She was involved in the founding of leprosy organizations in the Indies and the Netherlands, and its management, including the ongoing debate on the isolation of lepers. In the Netherlands she was instrumental in the founding of the Dutch Association to Eradicate Leprosy. Controversies were intense, and were reflected in organizational dispersion. Landheer guides the reader in this quagmire and also deals with the international discussion, under the aegis of the League of Nations. Apart from Dutch specialists, two Indonesians were prominent on the international level: J.B. Sitanala and Sardjito. To give some impression of the scope of leprosy: in the 1920s in the Indies there were about 45 leprosariums with 4500 patients. In the Netherlands an initiative to build a facility to isolate and treat patient suffering from leprosy met with great difficulties, as well as a lack of funds and patients. Interest relived after 1945 with the influx of hundreds of thousands of former residents of the Indies. The Gastmann-Wichers Foundation became active and the leprosy ‘Heidebeek’ in Heerde was reopened. From 1950 until 1971 maximally 51 patients were housed of the total of 630 cases detected from 1946 until 1971. The Foundation still is active, now mainly subsidizing projects in education, information and research. Landheer has produced the first comprehensive monograph on the organizational aspects of leprosy care, with as well a case study of elite female involvement in charity. His research is impressive and documented in 493 notes, and published in a profusely illustrated monograph.
Wanda Dondorp, Getekend lot: Kinderen in de Japanse interneringskampen en de tekenanalyse. Heemstede: Pedagogisch Psychologisch Centrum Heemstede, 2017, 142 pp. ISBN 9789090303697. Price: EUR 24.95 (paperback) (to order from firstname.lastname@example.org) (paperback).
Litlle children, too, were traumatized as a result of their experiences in Japanese internment camps in Indonesia (1942–1945), caused by hunger, illness, violence, insecurity, and uncertainty. A general response in later years was to suppress and to be silent about these events. In many cases the ‘usual’ psychoanalytical therapies were not successful. This held true also for Berthe (born in 1938) and Erik (born in 1940). A few years ago they sought help with psychologist Wanda Dondorp, who had developed a new therapy based on analysis of drawings made by her clients about their trauma’s. In ten sessions Berthe and Erik produced 18 drawings. Dondorp made a thoroughgoing analysis of these drawings, based on psychoanalytical and psychodynamic theories. She detected the inconsistencies and defense mechanisms, and their identification resulted in a better coping with the past. Dondorp also points at the apparent success in these two cases of the therapy, which is not part of the usual psychological analysis. Dondorp first gives a survey of life in the camps, partly with texts of Berthe and Erik, with an emphasis on the traumatic events. She next analyses the drawings, and, in a scholarly way, expounds her drawing analysis, as to its methodology and theoretical bases.
Manon van den Brekel, Massa-executies op Sulawesi: Hoe Nederland wegkwam met moord in Indonesië. Zutphen: Walburg Pers, 2017, 175 pp. ISBN 9789462490093. Price: EUR 19.95 (paperback).
It is well-known that, the military position of the Dutch on re-occupied South Sulawesi became more and more perilous after 1946. In a drastic move to turn the tide the notorious Special Troops (Depot Speciale Troepen, DST) were sent to pacify the area in December 1946. The commander, Raymond Westerling, applied his bloody method of intimidation to force the civilian population to obey Dutch rule. His method was considered a success. Three other commanders, Jan Stufkens, Jan Vermeulen and Berthold Rijborz, were assigned the task to pacify other parts of South Sulawesi. Their interpretation of the Westerling method was still more indiscriminate and violent. In a few weeks in January 1947 they killed about 1,500 men, following a set pattern. The men were rounded up, and after a mock interrogation or none at all, executed. In the meantime the village was set afire. The journalist Manon van den Brekel came across these events, that at the time were kept secret by the Dutch government, during her studies. She found a wealth of material on the Dutch actions in the Dutch National Archive. Her next step in her research—and this is a new approach on the subject—brought her to South Sulawesi, where she collected a surprising amount of information from witnesses or narrators on these horrendous experiences. Understanding the geographical features or monuments erected for those who perished may also be clarifying. These testimonies combined with archival findings, lead to a better balanced picture, in which there is room for the Indonesian voice. And this fills a number of blind spots. Van den Brekel’s approach is chronological, where each local case of mass executions gets a chapter, with due reference to the archival source—with fruitful results. Not all of her findings, however, are new. The main developments already in 1984 have been analyzed in depth by Willem IJzereef in his De Zuid-Celebes affaire. As for the three culprits, Rémy Limpach’s De brandende kampong van generaal Spoor, is another rich source. And concerning the greatest massacre near Madjene Maarten Hidskes’ research (Thuis gelooft niemand mij: Zuid-Celebes 1946–1947) deserves a reference. Their publications should have been mentioned.
Marlies ter Borg-Neervoort, Pré-politionele actie in Palembang: Perang lima hari lima malam. Aerdenhout: Marlies ter Borg-Neervoort, 2017, 144 pp. ISBN 9789463422895. Price: EUR 14.62 (to order from
The author was born in 1948 in the oil town Pladjoe, near Palembang. Interest in her roots prompted her to research the history of the confrontation between the Indonesian and Dutch forces in the first week of January 1947. In Indonesian historiography it is recorded as the Perang lima hari lima malam, the War of Five Days and Five Nights. There are a few Indonesian accounts, quoted and translated by Ter Borg, but a 230-page account by the Dinas Sejarah Angkatan Darat of 2012 is overlooked, as well as the useful summary of events in Nasution’s Sekitar Perang Kemerdekaan Indonesia, volume 4. The addition of interview results with seven eyewitnesses, conducted by Marjolein van Pagee, is useful. Indonesian sources are complemented by newspaper reports and Dutch archival material, altogether making a rather motley collection filling a hundred pages. The situation in Palembang was a sensitive one. In October 1946 the British handed over their part of the occupation of Palembang—a precarious cohabitation with the Republican administration—to the Dutch forces. On another level, soon talks between the Republic and the Dutch made progress, which resulted in the provisional signing of the Linggadjati Agreement on November 25, 1946. A ceasefire was operative, and optimism set the tone. Developments in Palembang, however, were out of tune. The Dutch armed forces were looking greedily at the oil complex of Pladjoe, a possible source of much-needed income. Thus, military power was gradually expanded and in December 1946 the Dutch Navy started to control traffic on the Moesi River. In this respect, Dutch commanders of the armed forces followed their own policies, consciously creating a crisis, that would allow them to act. That they were contravening the spirit of Linggadjati did not bother them. They were well-prepared for action and busy creating facts on the ground, maybe already rehearsing a great-scale military action against the Republic. A pretext was found and on January 1, 1947 the Dutch attacked. The Republican forces were no match for the superior Dutch combat power. After five days the Indonesian army leaders admitted defeat, and withdrew 20 kilometers, leaving control of Palembang and Pladjoe to the Dutch. The number of casualties was probably around 200, but far higher estimates also circulate. There is also reporting of hundreds of Chinese victims, but accounts are contradictory on this subject. The spirit of Linggadjati received a serious blow and made the Republic very suspicious of Dutch ulterior motives. Among the Dutch, there was severe criticism of the unilateral military action, with an angry Van Mook in Djakarta asking The Hague for backing and measures. Ter Borg has summarized the train of events in the first part of her collection in a satisfactory way. However, sloppiness leads to numerous printing errors and worse. For instance, Chief Commander Soedirman is misspelled as Soerdiman. And the collection of documents, in Dutch, Indonesian and English, is presented chaotically. It is a pity, and a waste of effort.
Emma Keizer, Oorlog in Indonesië: Dekolonisatie in gedenkboeken van Indië-veteranen. Arnhem: Koninklijk Tehuis voor Oud-Militairen en Museum Bronbeek, 2017, 247 pp. ISBN 9789080227781. Price: EUR 19.99 (to order from
Based on 710 memoirs, diaries, and other personal accounts of Dutch veterans Gert Oostindie has reconstructed and analyzed the common features of their experiences during the decolonization war in Soldaat in Indonesië 1945–1950 (2015). Although opinions in these individual stories differ greatly, there is a lot of common ground. In the sensitive debate on war crimes committed by the Dutch forces, Oostindie does not contest the conclusion that these were of a structural nature—as he found 659 of such instances. Evidence continues to accumulate, and includes Rémy Limpach’s De brandende kampongs van generaal Spoor (2016), which documents the nature and scale of Dutch violence. Oostindie’s review is about the individual interpretation of the war in Indonesia. Emma Keizer, as a researcher with the Bronbeek Museum, took up a similar challenge for the memorial volumes that were published by army units until 2015. These add up to an impressive number of 185 volumes, of which 50 were analyzed in a representative selection. This analysis intended to identify the collective interpretation of military units of their experiences in Indonesia. In the process Keizer makes use of a number of concepts to elucidate her argument. She identifies the main discourses, and shows how these are framed. All the frames result ultimately in five master frames—the mission was legitimate, its execution controversial, Dutch political action was counterproductive, the decolonization conflict was an all-out war and excessive violence was the logical outcome of the decolonization conflict. In the separate chapters a lot of excerpts from the memorial volumes are included, concentrating on the Dutch mission, the ambivalent image of the enemy and the excessive violence applied. The common opinion on such violence would be that in individual accounts the number of incidents reported would be greater than in the collective accounts. Surprisingly such references in the memorial volumes are relatively more numerous than in the individual accounts. This begs for further research. In all, Keizer has written a useful supplement to the body of knowledge on the framing—to borrow Keizer’s term—of the war in Indonesia. The text could do with a bit less of theory, and is also repetitive, with conclusions stated over and over again. A lot of diagrams are included, but why do this twice?
Gerrit Valk, Vechten voor vijand en vaderland: SS’ers in Nederlands-Indië en Korea. Amsterdam: Boom, 2017, 176 pp. ISBN 9789089535719. Price: EUR 20.00 (paperback).
The deployment of Dutch soldiers, with a past as an SS volunteer or member of another (semi-)military German unit, in the decolonization war in Indonesia (1945–1949) and the Korean War (1950–1953), has for long remained a taboo subject among Dutch scholars and historians. Discussion flared up on a number of occasions, but was mostly brief and superficial or found its basis in indignation. Historian Gerrit Valk (1955), who has published on a wide range of subjects, has now produced a book on the subject that looks to become the definitive account on the subject. His research is exhaustive, covering the archival files, in particular the personal files on political delinquents, as well as collecting scattered information from interviews with surviving veterans and newspapers reports. The personal experiences of military with a German past enlighten the text and clarify the argument. No proof is found to confirm a persistent rumor regarding the active involvement of the Dutch government to enlist political delinquents. On the contrary, the defense authorities did their best to prevent them from volunteering or, later on, from sending them as conscripts, despite the temptation to enlist trained military eager to change their internment for service in the Indies. Curiously, it was the Catholic Church which in 1945 pleaded for the deployment of these military forces. The government choose to ignore the proposal. Nonetheless, partly due to the postwar administrative chaos concerning the settlement of tens of thousands of collaboration cases, and officers in charge of conscription, who used their own arbitrary rules, a number of delinquents made it to the Indies. As for Korea, initial screening to ban delinquents was lifted, as every military volunteer was welcome, due to the lack of interest to enlist. The only conscious deployment of delinquents was of a civil nature. In three shipments in 1947 and 1948, 250 men were sent as workers to New Guinea to assist in repairing war damage. It was no success, and they returned in 1949. Valk comes to educated guesses on the number of delinquents deployed—600 to 1,000 to the Indies and 40 to 70 to Korea—and thus effectively ends the number games played until now. On the basis of about 50 personal files on delinquents sent to the Indies and Korea some common features are identified: entering German service at a very young age, from problematic family backgrounds in impoverished circumstances, as well as from Dutch families with German sympathies. Their choice to go to the East was motivated by the wish to escape from the contempt in the Netherlands, from a wish to rehabilitate themselves, and in many cases from a desire to search for adventure. In general the delinquents were considered good soldiers, due to their thorough German training. Their war experiences made them conspicuous, as noted in particular in Korea. Acceptance by comrades in arms was mixed, but in general the common challenge to survive was stronger than the pro-German background. With the unfolding of the Cold War their anti-communist stance even became a positive asset. They were treated as the other veterans, and took part in reunion gatherings. Valk also reviews the development of public opinion on these veterans, which slowly evolved towards neutrality and even appreciation—as in two 2006 documentaries. After dispelling so many misconceptions Valk at last also dismisses the rumor about SS methods being applied by former delinquents in the Indies, finding no proof for the allegation. To support his conclusions, there are 375 notes, an extensive bibliography, and a useful index.
B.H. van der Braak and J.Th.J. van den Berg, Zeventig jaar zoeken naar het compromis: Parlementaire geschiedenis van Nederland, Deel II 1946–2016. Amsterdam: Bert Bakker, 2017, 960 pp. ISBN 9789035141827. Price: EUR 55 (hardback).
In the second and last volume of the history of Dutch parliament the authors provide their readers with a voluminous monograph, which serves as textbook and reference book on the subject. In this history a separate chapter is devoted to ‘painful decolonization’ from 1946 to 1951 (pp. 34–60). The parties’ attitudes regarding Indonesian independence had a great influence on the composition of the cabinet, and, due to a lack of alternatives, forced the Catholic Party and the Social-Democratic Labour Party to work together. The authors reject the theory that the Labor Party in its accommodation to the changing realities in Indonesia did not dare to break with the Catholics out of fear to lose its positions in the cabinet. This may be a matter of debate. In general the authors furnish reliable summaries of the train of events. The ongoing conflict with Indonesia, leading to the exodus of Dutch citizens in the 1950s (pp. 128–30) and the New Guinea crisis in 1962 (pp. 166–72) is given due attention. Looking at the objectives of the writers it is surprising that there are no references to the sources consulted—at least after each chapter such an enumeration would be very helpful. Judging from the bibliography, as to the Indonesian conflict mainly biographies of key players are consulted. The two volumes of J.J.P. de Jong might have added some new insights. The seminal overview by A. Stempels (1950) would also qualify for inclusion. Only a personal index is included; a subject index for such a book would be an essential addition.
Harm Peter Smilde, Helden van toen: The Tielman Brothers en de Nederlandse rock-’n-roll 1957–1967. Amsterdam: Uitgeverij SWP, 2017, 392 + 32 pp. ISBN 9789088507540. Price: EUR 19.95 (paperback).
In the history of Dutch rock ’n’ roll, the Tielman Brothers were pioneers. These four brothers, with occasional support of one sister, were born in the East Indies between 1933 and 1940. Their father was a musician too, and stimulated his talented sons to develop their musical skills. After the Japanese occupation and the bersiap, which caused a lot of suffering for this Indo-European family, the brothers were an instant success as the Timor Rhythm Boys. They were hired by the NIWIN, the Dutch organization that organized entertainment for the Dutch soldiers, involved in the decolonization war. After 1950, their prospects became dim in independent Indonesia. Still, their musical interest remained unabated, and they eagerly listened to the radio, that transmitted the first rock ’n’ roll songs. In 1956 and 1957 the family left Indonesia, to settle in a pension that housed Indies expatriates. They soon had their first performances, and became vocal parts of the breakthrough of Dutch society from status quo and restoration to resistance and renewal. The expanding mass culture, by means of records, radio, film and television, offered opportunities to the Tielman Brothers. They developed their skills by performing in the Netherlands, but more often in Belgium (six months at the World Exhibition in Brussels in 1958) and Germany. This choice was mainly motivated by the higher fees that the Germans paid. Their success, accompanied by the proverbial cars, girls, and money, was based on a performance of high musical value, presented in a stunning show. They adapted rock ’n’ roll in a spectacular way, similar to what Jimi Hendrix was to do seven years later. (You can see some performances on YouTube.) Their absence from the Dutch platforms, added with the lack of released singles and promotional effort, certainly detracted from The Tielman Brothers’ popular success in the Netherlands. A Dutch television performance in January 1960 caused a sensation. At the time a lot of bands with Indo-European members were active, but the superiority of the Tielman Brothers was undisputed—and thus they were paid the highest fees. Later on these bands were stamped as belonging to the Indorock—wrongly according to the author of this book. Slowly the tide turned, and rock ’n’ roll lost out to the pop music of the Beatles. The Tielman Brothers followed, but still neglected to record their own songs and promote these. Moreover, disagreements arose between the brothers. One left the band, and Andy Tielman aspired to a solo career. He mainly performed for an Indo-European audience, and recorded Indonesian songs. It all went downhill and towards oblivion. Andy died in 2011, and, the last brother died in 2014. Their story certainly deserves to be told, and author and musician Hans Peter Smilde (1966) has done so expertly. He had to separate fact from fiction, as many smoke screens were put up, including by the brothers Tielman themselves. The range of Smilde’s research is impressive: interviews, archives (with a lot of material available in the Dutch National Archives), films, and secondary literature, all accounted for in 278 notes. Smilde is an involved author and he allows his alter ego to travel backwards in time, to be part of the events related. In my opinion, these would have been wise to omit, but they can easily be skipped. A discography is added, but no index. Although the title of the book suggests that its subject matter is limited to the ten years from 1957 to 1967, in fact it covers the biographies of the Tielman brothers from the 1930s until the 2010s—and that is all for the better.