Grandson here: To give people the oppertunity to ask question about a part of history that isn't much mentioned - asia during WWII - I asked my grandmother if she liked to do an AMA, which she liked very much so! I'll be here to help her out.

Hi reddit!

I was born in the former Dutch-Indies during the early '30 from a Dutch father and Indo-Dutch mother. A large part of my family was put in Japanese concentration camps during WWII, but due to an administrative error they missed my mother and siblings. However, after the capitulation of Japan at the end of WWII, we were put in an interment camp during the so called 'Bersiap'. After we were set free in July 1946, we migrated to the Netherlands in December of that year. Here I would start my new life. AMA!


Hi reddit!

Old ID

Me and my family; I'm the 2nd from the right in the top row

EDIT 18:10 UTC+2: Grandson here: my grandmother will take a break for a few hours, because we're going to get some dinner. She's enjoying this AMA very much, so she'll be back in a few hours to answer more of you questions. Feel free to keep asking them!

EDIT 20:40 UTC+2: Grandson here: Back again! To make it clear btw, I'm just sitting beside her and I am only helping her with the occasional translation and navigation through the thread to find questions she can answer. She's doing the typing herself!

EDIT 23:58 UTC+2: Grandson here: We've reached the end of this AMA. I want to thank you all very much for showing so much interest in the matter. My grandmother's been at this all day and she was glad that she was given the oppertunity to answer your questions. She was positively overwhelmed by your massive response; I'm pretty sure she'll read through the thread again tomorrow to answer even more remaining questions. Thanks again and have a good night!

Comments: 1296 • Responses: 32  • Date: 

clintVirus660 karma

Do you have any lasting ill will against the people of Japan?

M_Marsman1186 karma

Yes, I try to fight against it, however without much success.

gleenglass311 karma

I read the title and wondered why my husband's Oma was doing an AMA. She also survived the concentration camps and relocated to the Netherlands afterwards. Do you keep in touch with any other Dutch-Indonesian concentration camp survivors?

M_Marsman344 karma

There are only two left. One lives in Florida, the other in Amsterdam and we are still close and in touch.

Vanchiefer32144 karma

Wow, I am pretty sure the one in Florida is my Opa! I honestly don't know which interment camp he was in, I just know it was in Indonesia. He never has told me the story about his time there but it was always apparent at his house, we would have to ask permission for everything from going to the bathroom, to leaving the dinner table. He always yelled at me for not finishing my plate of food and I never appreciated why.

M_Marsman17 karma

If your Opa is a lady called Loes it might be the same person, but I don't think that is the case! Could you tell me who he is?

RM_Dune274 karma

Having lived in Indonesia until the revolution before returning to the Netherlands, were you in favour of Indonesian independance? If yes, how did people in the Netherlands respond to that opinion. If no, how come?

Daarnaast, bedankt voor het doen van deze AMA, het is niet vaak dat men de kans krijgt om dit soort vragen te stellen, aan mensen die zoveel hebben meegemaakt.

M_Marsman313 karma

I was only fourteen years young and politics were far beyond me. Of course it was horror to be forced to leave the country I love. I felt part of it. Those days I followed the general opinion.

Achteraf kan je pas zien wat "we" toen fout zagen en deden.

Viticetum267 karma

Did you experience a culture shock after migrating to The Netherlands?

What were your hobbies when you lived in Indonesia and The Netherlands?

M_Marsman675 karma

We were raised as 'Europeans', so there was not really a culture shock. But we were astonished of the ignorance and the desinterest of the Dutch people. They considered us as monkeys and some where even amazed that we could speak and read their language at all. This led to situations multiple times, but these were mostly funny to us since we had a strong sense of humour.

In hindsight, we felt more "Dutch" in Indonesia than in the Netherlands.

Hobbies during the war and right afterwards? Struggle for life.

CourageousKoala261 karma

How do you feel about the dutch attempts to retake Indonesia as a colony after WW2?

Wikipedia for those who don't know what I mean.

M_Marsman345 karma

Politics were far beyond me since I was only fourteen years young, so those days I followed the general opinion: that Indonesia was a colony of the Netherlands. Only in hindsight you can see "our" faulty actions and views.

1girlx212 karma

Have you gone back to visit Indonesia?

M_Marsman293 karma

No, I've never been back. Perhaps because I'm too afraid for the nostalgia.

poop_hadouken195 karma

Hi Oma, what aspects of Indonesian culture did you try to carry into your own family?

M_Marsman419 karma

Courtesy, decency, sensibility, inner refinement :-} AND THE RICE TABLE!

starlinguk36 karma

Talk about rice tables, what's the best recipe for sajoer boontjes?

M_Marsman133 karma

There is not really one recipe for it, you can make it in many different ways. I'll give you some recipes from the best cook I have ever known (besides my grandmother), my mother:

She's made several cooking books containing recipes of traditioinal Indonesian food. If you're lucky you can still find or buy some of them on the internet.

kaistal172 karma

How was daily activities in Japanese concentration camp? Did you get to meet your mother and your siblings after you're set free? Was it true that Japan also kidnapped those woman to turn into their comfort woman?

M_Marsman330 karma

My Mother and siblings have never been in a Japanese camp. We were "captured in freedom" in a isolated village where we had to work for a Japanese "boss", weaving and spinning and gardening. We had to rely on ourselves so we had to produce our own food too.

What they did to women . . . I don't think that 'kidnapping' is the right word, they were simply confiscated. Especially young girls were taken out of the camps to benefit the Japanese brothels.

dikkers4139 karma

Where were you born? My Opa was born and also in a camp also near Perbaungan. Did you have any good experiences (relative to the circumstances) with the any Japanese soldiers? Opa told a story where the Japanese were burning art and he took a snowy mountain painting from the fire, cause it made him feel cool in the Indonesian heat. One of the soldiers wasnt impressed, but another said something to the effect of 'let the boy have it'. Interesting contrast to the usual story of the Japanese soldier.

M_Marsman201 karma

I was born in Lumadjang, East-Java.

Japanese soldiers are human beings as well. The main reason why it is difficult for me to forgive is because of how they make my Father suffer. He was one of the "1000 of Amahei".

NewSuperhero109 karma

Did being mainly Dutch help you at all in your time at the camps? Also, do you forgive your captors?

M_Marsman254 karma

All the people in these camps were mainly Dutch, since the natives at that time wanted to get independent from any Western influence. However, I've never had any animosity or hostility from the Indonesian camp-guards! They even smuggled food into the camps to help us.

My captors were only Indonesian, of course I forgive them. But the Japanese I can not forgive that easily.

NewSuperhero64 karma

Also, is your grandson or granddaughter helping you with this?

M_Marsman159 karma

Yes, I am computer illiterate.

Meissner_san103 karma

Hello there! I am a 20 year old Indonesian currently living in the same province as where you were born, though I live in Surabaya (Soerabaja). As an Indonesian, the bersiap period is indeed one of the less known and less studied event in our history despite being really important. For example our history do acknowledge that atrocities were committed by the Pemudas against the Japanese but the details are very hazy when it comes to the atrocities commited to the Chinese and the Indos. Here are my questions:

1) What is life look like in the Dutch part of Lumajang? How is your daily life during that time?

2) How close are you the native childrens? Do you only knew the ones from the upper class (priyayi)?

Anyway that's all for now.. Selamat malam from Indonesia!

M_Marsman27 karma

In regard of what you stated about the atrocities by Pemudas against the Japanese, are you sure you are well informed? According to me the Pemudas were recruited by the Japanese and were a product of their propaganda, which encouraged them to hate the Belandas. As a matter of fact I'm sure that this is the truth.

  1. I was born at the plantation Kadjaran, part of the municipality of Loemadjang but we left when I was only two years of age. So I have no memories.
  2. At the plantation where we lived before the war there was no kampung nearby and I can't remember native children of my age being around. In september 1947 my parents went back to Indonesia (Kali Selogiri near Banyywangi) with my little brother en he had lots of friends from the dessa. He spoke fluently Madurese and also Oesing. Is that a dialect?

Selamat pagi. Tidur dengan baik?

rimarua97 karma

Woohoo this is finally happening!

Good evening, Madame, from the Indies! I'm a student from Indonesia currently writing my undergraduate thesis about the migration of Europeans to the Netherlands Indies in the 1930's and the related economic state of the colony at that time. Growing up under Indonesian history curriculum, I don't think that we here ever speak about the Europeans during the Japanese occupation and after independence. I want to bring up this issue to try to show that history books we have in schools here is not completely true and unbiased.

Anyway, I have several questions, some are kinda specific, so I hope you don't mind answering them.

  1. What was your family business/your parents occupations?
  2. Since your father is a European (not an Indo), I assumed he was born in Europe. Do you know why did he move to the Indies?
  3. Where in the Indies did you live?
  4. What was it like to live as a European in the Indies, who at that time enjoyed special higher status than other ethnic (like the Chinese and Inlanders)? Was the social distance between the Europeans and the natives really great (as implied by my history books) or not?
  5. This question is the "hole" that I never learn about in school, so I'm gonna ask: Why did your family leave the Indies? Did the new, natives-dominated Indonesian government force you? And what happen to your house and business left?

Bedankt voor deze AMA. I have a lot of questions left though. :D

M_Marsman82 karma

1 My father was in charge of a British firm that hold several plantations (kina, coffee and rubber) where he was the administrator. Some pictures of him can be seen here.. My mother was his wife, so she lived with him of course as a 'plantersvrouw'.

2 His parents were divorced and there was no place for him. He ran away from home and went into military service at the age of 20, that brought him to Indonesia. After his service was ended, through several jobs he landed in the 'bergcultures'/mountian cultures (plantations).

3 I lived in East-Java, on several estates.

4 The relation between the Dutch and natives were like two separated worlds that lived together. They worked together and respected each others lifestyle, but in general they would not mix social life and traditions.

My family were not city people, we were always living in the mountainsides. We had people working for us, but there was no surpression. They actually ment much to and there were certain unwritten rules, but always with good understanding between us and the natives. This is how I remember things. There was a good bond.

When my parents went back in the '50, our former "pemantu's" found them by kabar angin and were glad that they could join the family again.

5 We were not wanted anymore. It was also too dangerous to stay; many of our friends were slaugthered there. There have been many guerilla actions against Dutch people, especially in the mountainside where there was not much protection. Entire vilages have been massacred. For example Tumpang, near Malang. We simply left everything behind. The lands around Ketapang were my grandfathers property. Ketapang used to be a coconut plantation, but now houses the ferry between Java and Bali; it was all confiscated.

If you'd like to ask me more questions, feel free to send me a PM so I can contact you!

IllIll88 karma

What's your favorite meal/recipe?

M_Marsman241 karma

Sambal goreng peté/udang!

phasingly87 karma

What main 'side effects' did this experience give you? What types of trauma have come into your life?

M_Marsman133 karma

Luckily I have no trauma, but there are still very strong and emotional memories of the bersiap.

justchloe84 karma

My Oma also grew up in Indonesia to Dutch-Jewish parents. For obvious reasons they decided not to move back to the Netherlands in the late 30s and stayed in Indonesia instead where they were also interred in a Japanese camp. At the end of the war she migrated with her remaining family members to Australia. My Oma is now 94 and has never spoken much about her time in the camps but now that she is getting alzheimers she is getting flash backs occasionally. I am never sure whether or not to ask her about her experiences so I wanted to ask you what motivated you to do this ask reddit?

M_Marsman110 karma

Your Oma is ten years older than I am, and at the age of 9 - 19 that means a lot. Her memories must be totally different compared to mine. I've experienced nasty things, but I stayed free from trauma's.

HK_Pauper71 karma

How old were u when the Japanese took over? 11y old? Do u remember how the relation between the Dutch and native Indonesians was?

M_Marsman112 karma

I was 8 years old when the Japan invaded Indonesia.

As for the relation between the Dutch and natives, it were two separated worlds that lived together in harmony. It was the same kind of relation you see as an employer and it's employees nowadays. They worked together and respected each others lifestyle, but in general they would not mix social life and traditions.

xx253xx65 karma

Would you consider yourself dutch or Indonesian?

M_Marsman220 karma

I would not say 'I am Dutch', since the Indonesian culture still stays strong inside of me. Let's say I feel myself an Oriental enriched Dutch.

HardcoreHazza35 karma

Besides Dutch and Indonesians; Was there other nationalities with you in the internment camp & if so, was there much of a language barrier?

M_Marsman58 karma

In my camp there were only Dutch people, so we spoke the Dutch language. Since many were also raised bi-linguar (Dutch and Javaans/Maleis/Madurees or another language used by the natives) there was not really language barrier.

Lousyliar34 karma

A friend told me an anecdote of his grandfather's experience in one of those camps. I don't recall it clearly enough to feel justified in including much detail, but the gist of it was that food was so scarce that they had to eat peppers in order to stay alive. This was difficult for some, so they refused to eat them and subsequently died. Can you confirm (or deny) this kind of situation occurring?

Thank you for sharing

M_Marsman59 karma

Peppers were the last remaining plants in the camps, but they didn't last long, full of vit.C as they are. Moreover, they didn't satisfy any hunger. With or without peppers, many starved.

M_Marsman34 karma

Someone asked me: "What's your happiest memory from the camp?"

Two happiest moments. The reunion with 1. one of my sisters and 2. one of my brothers. They were internated in different camps and arrived just in time for the evacuation.

Cristal133731 karma

I'm Dutch and we recently found my great grandfather's real and fake passport (he was Jewish). We sent it to a museum with the whole story. Have you thought about doing something like that? Do you have any interesting artifacts from that time?

M_Marsman40 karma

I think I have a lot of interesting documents. Still considering what to do with them. Give me a hint, please...

M_Marsman29 karma

Yes! Marius was my father, and Jan "Tabak" Marsman was a cousing of my father. Thanks for showing me that website, I've never known they were put in the same POW camp!

Melanterite21 karma

Prior to being imprisoned in a concentration camp, what did you do to survive and hide during WWII?

After you migrated to the Netherlands, what did you miss about Indonesia?

M_Marsman44 karma

What I missed was my homeland.

FlyingRainbowLlama18 karma

Do you still go to Indonesia to visit? Or did you never return?

If you did, how did you like it? :)

M_Marsman24 karma

I have never gone back and don't feel the need.

manuperc15 karma

What was the profession of your father in Indonesia before the war? Did you have a chance to flee before the Japanese invasion and if so, why didn't you? Did any of your family members serve in the KNIL (Royal Netherlands East Indies Army) and if so, how did they fare?

Bedankt voor het geven van waardevol inzicht in een tijd waar inderdaad te weinig over gesproken wordt.

M_Marsman21 karma

My father was in charge of a British firm that hold several plantations, cocntaing amongst other kina, coffee and rubber where he was the administrator. Some pictures of him can be seen here.

My family and I did not flee; Indonesia was our home. Eventually this led to my father ending up in a Japanese concentration camp. And I did not have any relatives that had served in the KNIL.

AscendingSnowOwl10 karma

Did you hear about the "comfort women" system while you were at the camp? Did anyone you know get taken?

M_Marsman13 karma

Yes and yes.

Goetia__6 karma

Have you ever been told you looked like the original Jennifer Lopez?

Thank you for doing this AMA it's been pretty informative

M_Marsman6 karma

If only!

CharlieThunderthrust-9 karma

Do you like to party? I bet you like to party.

M_Marsman4 karma

No! I do not.