Grandson: "Grandma is sitting right next to me and is ready to answer (almost) any question about her while I do the typing (Proof). Her memories are very special and by remembering we can commemorate her relatives and other victims of the Japanese occupation of the Dutch East Indies."

I was born on the 23th of august 1924 on the Dutch island of Saba. My father was a Surinamese government physician. I had one younger brother born on St Martin. Here is a picture of my parents and I during our stay on Saba. This is me in the Dutch Indies.

Because my father worked as a medical doctor in the tropics, we never stayed anywhere for long. When I was two, we lived for a half year in Paramaribo, Surinam. Then we stayed in Leiden, the Netherlands. Then to Aceh, in the Dutch Indies (first Kota Radja, then Lho Soekon, then finally in Lokop). Then we then went to Batavia. Then we stayed in Switzerland and the Netherlands for a couple of months and went back to the Dutch Indies to Tjimahi, near Bandung.

In 1941, the Netherlands declared war on Japan. The Dutch capitulated in march 1942 to the invading Japan. My brother was arrested in the night and my father was also taken away. Me and my mother were put on a transport and ended in internment camp Tjihapit in Bandung until 1944, when we were placed in camp ADEK. Then we were sent to a camp near Tangerang for three months before we were sent back to ADEK until the Allied liberation.

After the events my family went to Tjimahi where my father worked in a plundered hospital. We migrated to the Netherlands by boat. This is me in Ataka, Egypt in 1946 on our way. I was determined to stay independent and studied dentistry. Me and my husband ran a dental office in Tilburg for 41 years and raised 6 children.

See every photo and some more here.

Grandson: "Please be respectful to Carmen. We will do our best to answer your questions accordingly."

We will begin answering questions by 17:10 GMT.

We are ready and standing by for your questions.

Grandson: My grandmother is tired and we will stop answering questions now. We had a lot of fun and will try to answer some interesting questions in the following days. Thank you very much for your time. It was a special experience for us.

Grandson: Update (22-2-2017, 16:14 GMT) Wow! Carmen and I are astonished by the amount of positive attention this AMA has generated. We will try to answer more of your questions this friday at 15:00 GMT.

Grandson: I want to thank all of you for your responses. The AMA was an adventure for me and my grandma. We have had a wonderful time and I've learned more about Carmen in a few days than I did in my entire life. Feel free to send me a private message if you really want your message to come through. Until next time, goodbye!

Comments: 739 • Responses: 32  • Date: 

Snowbank_Lake402 karma

You look amazing for 92! I know very little about the Japanese-run Dutch camps. What was your experience like?

blikk541 karma

I learned that there are two types of people. Bad people and good people. I have seen terrible things. Maybe I have pushed away things. But the most important thing for me is that I discovered that there are a lot of good and sweet people that help each other. Especially in the camps where we could sleep in spots of 65cm from each other and were heavily undernourished with no prospect.

dj2short294 karma

How do you view Japan now?

blikk896 karma

Normally. Like every other country with different cultures. They are our allies now and you should be respectful to allies. I will not go there though.

MattBaster250 karma

With your brother and father taken separately from your mother and yourself, how long did it take to reunite the four members of the family? Were you together in the camp, or were you only able to reunite after the war?

blikk337 karma

We were separated for three years from each other. After the war we were reunited. My father was placed in a military camp. My brother in a civilian camp. My mother and me in a female camp. There were no phones or any other form of contact.

courtlandj247 karma

Did you interact much with the guards? How were you treated? Was the camp only for Dutch females, or were other types of women there too?

blikk414 karma

No. We didn't interact with the enemy.

I was horribly treated. Undernourished. Heavy work. Much was forbidden. We had no contact with outsiders. No radio, no phone, no letters, no newspapers.

There were many foreign people in the Dutch Indies. Some were allied, some were axis. The allied were put in the camps. Wether they were German, Italian or whatever. Now that I think of it, every white woman wanted to be in the camp because they would be arrested. In some way it was safe to be in the camp.

darian6697 karma

What was unsafe outside the camps?

blikk269 karma

Yes. Especially for white women because they would stand out. The Japanese would arrest them immediately. Often they would be illegally outside of the camps. Indigenous people could also betray you out of fear. This also made it hard to get access to food.

ForgedbyMizuno222 karma

How did you mentally get through each day? I ask because I just can't imagine being a prisoner. Thank you

blikk440 karma

Especially in the beginning I convinced myself that the war would be over in months. As the war continued you try to keep that hope and continue to tell to yourself that the allies would win. The last six months were hopeless. I was convinced that we would never get out. That would have been so if the war continued for two months more. The Japanese were planning to transport us to rocky islands to die.

SJTUer182 karma

Have you visited Indonesia since being interned? If you have, did you go out of your way to see what the areas that used to be internment camps turned into?

blikk366 karma

Yes I have. 29 years later. I haven't been to the locations. I saw no reason in revisiting the awful memories. But I did enjoy the contact with the population, the atmosphere and the mountains. It was like coming home but unable to stay.

SJTUer115 karma

That must have been a confusing feeling. To be honest, if I were you I probably wouldn't have the courage to return. You've lived with amazing courage. Thank you so much for taking the time to relay your experiences to strangers on the Internet!

Another random question: I remember a friend's grandmother who was indonesian tell her that as soon as the Japanese invaded, they were all forced to learn Japanese in school and all Dutch lessons stopped. Did they force you to learn Japanese in the camps? Or was it all focused on heavily working the interned?

blikk167 karma

Thank you for your compliment.

It wasn't confusing because I am a sober person. I savored the Indonesian people who asked whether I liked it there and I could speak Malay again.

What your friend's grandmother said is true. People were forced to learn Japanese but we weren't.

MartijnCvB142 karma

I am Dutch. I learned surprisingly little about these events in high school (2002-2008). When talking about world war 2, we mostly talked about the European side of the war - not the fighting with Japan on the other side of the world. What is your opinion on this... undervaluing of this subject in my and my generation's education?

For clarification; we did learn something about it, just not a lot.

blikk131 karma

I think it is very normal that you understand little of a country far away. Because the cultures and daily habits are so different.

ArcticSaint128 karma

Were any of the guards partially mean hearted? Were any noticeably kind?

blikk259 karma

Most of them were mean. Only some were humane. But we became annoying as well once we found out they were mistreating us.

WaitWhatting112 karma

Bot to sound rude but: How was the sexual life in the camp? That is one aspect that is never shown in documentaries.

Even in prisons you have sexual trading and what not. did people have urges at all?

blikk271 karma

I was 18 when I came into the camp (and even younger in my behavior). We were protected by each other so there were not a lot of rapes. The Japanese had their own brothels. Ofcourse you had people who made love to each other in the camps though. They had to do it very carefully because it was not allowed. Remember that sexes were kept separate from each other. I know that there were women who engaged in sexual activity but never really saw anything. Maybe I did but I was naive.

s1m00n3103 karma

What kind of meals did you eat in the camp?

You look amazing! Thanks for sharing your stories!

blikk195 karma

Sajur (soup) drawn from intestines. A little bit of vegetables where sometimes you would find a piece of intestine. In the morning we ate muddy porridge. In the evening the blackest rye bread. It was never clean.

Kyrtp99 karma

What experience can you tell about cooperation between prisoners? How united or apathetic were towards each other? Thank you in advance.

blikk143 karma

There was a lot of smuggling in and out of the camps. As much as it was possible. Most people traded for food. But there were also people who smuggled not for themselves but for others.

Kyrtp28 karma

What kind of punishment did you get if you got caught smuggling?

blikk4 karma

It's very macabre. I don't like talking about it and it depends on the camp but I can give an example. If someone was caught the whole camp would have to stand in the sun for hours while the offender was punished (with chains or something else). I recall pencil being pierced through the ear too. I will never forget these things but never really think about it.

scrimage6995 karma

My grandma was also a survivor of the Dutch indies interment camp, I'm not sure on the camp name but it was closer to Java as I recall. She said they sang to piss of guards and would practice their religion in groups in secret. Were you religious? If so how much do you think it helped you in to keep your mentality from going crazy? Also did the allies every fly by and drop notes saying the war was almost over? If so how much did this change the peoples moral?

blikk316 karma

I know of these religious practices. I was not religious however.

The allied did spread messages but it did not say the war was over (we heard it from within the camp). I still have one! As I recall it said: "Tomorrow there are droppings of food and medicines. Clear a field where we can drop them." It lifted to our morale, yes.

We made sure to clear the field. The working ladies stood at the sides and while the planes flied over the packages dropped which we quickly retrieved. Sometimes the parachutes didn't go open.

Quite tragically: the first package landed on a nurse. She died instantly.

rickmuscles92 karma

I read a book about how the Japanese slapped people a lot. Did you get slapped?

blikk190 karma

Yes I got slapped. From a rearing horse with a whip. I was more afraid of the horse than of the Japanese man though!

Fattsanta83 karma

What did you take away from the experience. Also who ser you free and how did that happen/feel?

blikk195 karma

We weren't freed because there were no saviors. Our camp head said that the Japanese would stop fighting and advised us to stay in the camps. We had kitchens and the indigenous people didn't. They could break in and set it on fire. The Japanese even got weapons to defend themselves. The camp was public so relatives could come to visit though. We came into contact with someone we knew (Nel Paat, someone who was in the resistance) who said we should go to Bandung ASAP. The next day we walked through the camp entrance (praying we would not get shot) and took the last train to Bandung.

AlexatheVA53 karma

Could you elaborate a little more in this? Why were the camps public and how did they not notice you guys leave?

Also, thank you so much for this AMA. It's very eye opening!

SuperKato1K172 karma

I suspect it meant that at a certain point, when the Japanese were withdrawing/surrendering, that Japanese control of the camp effectively ended... but that people were told it would be safer to stay in the camp. As the Japanese were no longer strictly controlling the camp, it became possible for civilians/relatives to enter to visit camp residents. When they decided to leave, they were still afraid someone might try to shoot them.

I could be wrong, but I think that's probably what she meant, more or less.

(Edit: Wanted to add, since Carmen's grandson responded that the above was correct, once the camp had been effectively abandoned by the Japanese it was still considered "safer" to stay because Indonesia immediately entered into a period of revolution against the Dutch. During 1945-1946 there were many massacres of Dutch citizens by revolutionary Indonesian militants. That may have been who the camp residents feared being shot by as they left the camp, as the Japanese would have at that time already been disarmed throughout Indonesia. Just an interesting, and tragic, period of time in that part of the world.)

blikk135 karma

Grandson: I can confirm this is what Carmen meant. Thank you for your elaboration.

J_Golbez71 karma

Are you part of the group that is still seeking restitution from the Japanese Government? Do you ever expect to get it?

I don't have a great question, but thanks for doing this.

My grandmother and her family also suffered in these same camps, as her father served in the Dutch navy, in Indonesia (his boat sank at sea). She lost some sisters and her mother, but she survived and moved to Canada to start a new life. She doesn't ever expect the Japanese government to ever apologize or acknowledge these camps.

blikk93 karma

No I am not in that group. I understood long ago that it's not possible by law. I did follow it a little bit.

It's my pleasure :)

What is the name of your grandmother, maybe I can remember her or her family.

KamehameBoom69 karma

What is your favorite food?

blikk152 karma

Sigh... I love everything. But I especially love meat and fish.

KamehameBoom28 karma

What is your favorite meat?

blikk152 karma

Kogelbiefstuk (round steak). As red as possible!

forava765 karma

How did you get through day by day?

blikk179 karma

In a workgroup. We did gardening. We worked in the kitchens. We carried wood. We digged holes. We loaded an unloaded cars. Feeding pigs. I was also an assistant to a dentist for a couple of months. Later when we were freed I continued that in the ravaged hospital. It convinced me to become a dentist.

Guy_We_All_Know62 karma

while i don't want to bring in politics, whats something in your experience, that is important to always keep in the back of our head as we move further into the future, to make sure past atrocities do not happen again?

blikk231 karma

We can't prevent these atrocities to happen. It happens everyday still. With the knowledge we have now we can be more aware of what is happening though. The only thing you can do is reach out to the person next to you. Be good to your children and parents and treat every person around you with respect and honesty.

bloodw3rx62 karma

What freedoms did you have in camp?

blikk122 karma

We had practically no freedom. The guards could intrude anytime but we illegally practiced pastime. We did have a sports day once but everything was unpredictable. You often wouldn't know what the reaction of the guards would be on your behavior.

goldrotmgonly52 karma

How cruel were the camps? Did the Japanese overwork you? What did you eat?

blikk96 karma

We were definitely overworked. We had to gather at 7:00 and stop by sundown. In the afternoon we got tea in a bowl where we could scoop from. There were other camps that were more horrible however.

Vietmarc45 karma

What are your thoughts on your Japanese captors? Were there good people among them?

blikk136 karma

Yes there were good people among them. But they were our enemies. We had as little contact with them as possible. Because they did not speak our language (however sometimes they spoke Malay, which I could understand) there were a lot of misunderstandings. That often resulted in awful confrontations.

Vietmarc43 karma

What was the usual end result of a confrontation? You don't have to answer that if you don't want to! I really appreciate your time.

blikk117 karma

Often it was because the Jap thought that we had no respect for them. If you didn't bow they would hit you. Some Japs were crazy. I heard a mother got shot when her child sticked his tongue out while she got scolded at. I don't know if this is really true but I believe it.

DongleNocker35 karma

Have you ever had the ability to sit down with a Japanese American who was interned in the USA during the war to compare your experiences?

blikk112 karma

No I haven't. I have read about it. I don't believe that they have been treated as bad as us. I can imagine however that for them it was just as horrible. And that is terrible.

HerrShmid31 karma

Hi Carmen, thanks for sharing your experience with us! Do you think your family was treated differently because of your Dad's medical training? Were all Dutch families reunited after the camps? Did the Japanese commit similar atrocities to Dutch women as they did the Chinese?

blikk50 karma

Hello HerrShmid. I don't think so. Absolutely not. That would not be possible because there was no contact between the camps and the hospitals. I never got a special treatment in any case.

No. I remember that women in our camp heard that their families died. And there were partners who didn't get along with each other anymore. Or a child died and the father would accuse the mother of being guardless.

pilotfighter91118 karma

Denk je er nog vaak aan terug?

blikk43 karma

Ik denk elke dag maar ik wil het niet. Het hoeft niet van me. Meestal is het in positieve zin want ik heb ook veel geleerd en ik heb veel goede en lieve mensen gekend.


I think every day but I do not want it. I don't have to. Usually it's positive because I have learned a lot and I have known many good and kind people.

ericdevice1 karma

Will you see the new King Kong?

blikk11 karma

Sure I will.

ericdevice-8 karma

Do you have ptsd? What do you think about Kung foo movies

blikk21 karma

I don't think so.

I find kung fu movies flauwekul (baloney)