“The Power of Reconciliation”

11 oktober 2014 in Voorburg


  1. Opening words
  2. In the footsteps of Wim Lindeijer
  3. Some crucial moments
  4. Forgiving and reconciliation as a two-way process, not a one-man show
  5. The spirit overcomes all hardships
  6. Closing words

Opening words of the conference | By Rob Sipkens, member of the workgroup

Good morning ladies and gentlemen

My name is Rob Sipkens It is only since April this year that I was asked whether I could give some support to the 2 members of the organising committee of Dialogue N-J-I. Being a newcomer it therefor is a special honour for me to may provide the opening words for this 17th Dialogue Conference.

First of all I like to inform you briefly about today’s program.

The very first Dialogue Conference was organised in the year 2000. Wim Lindeijer was one of the founders of Dialogue together with prof. Takamitsu Muraoka. Having suffered from a long and lingering illness Wim passed away in 2013. For this 17th conference the organising committee has chosen to dwell upon how it all has begun. Therefor Mrs. Melinda Barnhardt is requested to tell us about the book she is writing about the life of Wim Lindeijer. Then Wim’s wife, mrs. Ada Lindeijer, will illustrate a few crucial moments of his life. After that prof. Muraoka, co-founder of Dialogue, will explain his engagement and motivation. It is noteworthy that after his retirement he started to give free lectures at various universities of former, Japanese-occupied countries in South East Asia and he still does. Finally the last two guest speakers, mrs. Patty Buchel van Steenbergen and mr. Andre Schram will tell stories about their fathers, who were both interned in POW camps at Nagasaki.

“The Power of Reconciliation” …….… that is the key theme of this conference

This conference serves the following purposes:

• that a platform is offered where personal stories can be exchanged between people, who are or who are not directly war victims

• a platform where time will be taken to listen respectfully to each other’s stories and experiences

• a platform where an atmosphere will be created in which understanding arises for each other’s experiences, emotions and views.

In short, a platform where mostly an open and respectful exchange of views can take place between people. All this with the intention that a foundation will be formed for the steps that might lead to reconciliation and peace.

I am going to tell you a story

……….. a story about how to listen, ……………. a personal story …… about reconciliation.

In the speech she made for the Indie commemoration at Rotterdam on August 15th, mrs. Hetty Naaikens-Retel Helmrich, an Indisch documentary maker, spoke about the “infamous’ Indisch taciturnity. A silence that has created a lot of isolation. A fact that many of you might recognize and acknowledge … .. but maybe not. In any case mrs. Naaikens holds an urgent plea to break that silence.

As a grandchild and child of direct war victims I grew up with that taciturnity and thus I was raised.

I am a child born of war – born in 1946 – …. an Indisch child with a Japanese father ……. or ……. to be more specific …. a child of an Indisch mother and a Japanese soldier. In the struggle with my origins and the search for my identity I have encountered that silence ……. during my whole life ……. until today.

After a long road of anger, pain, shame and inner struggle, I finally came to the realization that – in some miraculous way – I apparently succeeded in giving myself space to conduct a dialogue with myself. This discovery was a revelation for me both as a confrontation! Only after years I found out that this would mean that every person should first learn to listen critically to himself. Because if you are not able to really listen carefully to yourself, are you then able to properly listen to others?

And how do you learn to listen?

Maybe you should practice first …… by learning to listen to others ……. and then with attention and respect, so mostly without prejudice or. … worse. … condemnation! Only when listening from wanting to seriously seek to understand the message of the other well, only then understanding will arise for each other, only then there is room for genuine Dialogue and a chance for reconciliation.

On the process of learning to listen, I would like to tell you a short story. A story that was part of a lecture by mr. Wepster of Centrum’45.

It is an old Chassidic story about

….. a rabbi who spoke with the Lord ……… about Hell and Heaven.

I will show you Hell, said the Lord

…………and he brought the rabbi in a room where in the middle was a big, round table.

The people there were starving and desperate.

In the middle of the table was a large pot of stew, enough for everyone. It smelled delicious and the water ran the rabbi in the mouth.

All the people around the table had huge spoons with long handles. They could just come along to the pan to make a scoop to take, but because the handles were longer than their arms, they could not get the food into their mouths.

The rabbi saw how terrible it was for them.

Now I will show you Heaven said the Lord

……. and they entered another room.

There stood the same table and the same pot of stew.

People had, like in the other room, the same spoons with long handles, but they looked well fed and sturdy, and they laughed and talked.

First, the rabbi did not understand.

“It’s very simple,” said the Lord, “but some skill is required.

You see, they have learned to carry each other. ”

I will tell your what this metaphor means to me.

After a long way – during the process of digestion – I came in contact with others with similar origins like me, a group of peers. I have learned to listen to the stories of those peers, time after time. The effect was that they felt heard, because…………. attention is balm for the soul!

And the other peers have listened many times to my story. The prolonged isolation, shame, sorrow and all other painful emotions we learned to recognize together. Awareness grew that one is not alone with those nasty experiences. Often this is the start of a process.

One realizes that one’s own spoon is too long and ……… that one is too much occupied with handling one’s own spoon.

Because the act of going to tell their own story, often creates a situation that one gets rid of his role as a victim. In such a way the resulting isolation can slowly but surely be broken. Attention for each other and for each other’s story, noting especially how others have fared.

Mutual learning to feed each other with the spoons …. instead of stealing one another’s attention.

Gradually learning to listen to the story of the other. And so we helped each other in giving a new place in our memory to those painful experiences and emotions. A new place, for those scratches on our soul will of course never go away. However, I have learned to deal with it better.

During that process, I have learned to recognize and accept myself as I am. And I finally reconciled me with myself.

With this I have come to the end of my personal story.

In the expectation that you definitely want to listen to each other’s stories, with attention and without bias I wish you all a fruitful meeting today.

Thank your very much for your attention

“In the Steps of Wim Lindeijer” | Melinda Barnhardt Jud

Melinda Barnhardt Jud is a Independent scholar, she gave a colloquium in 2007 titled:

“A Gate in the Wall: The Memories of a Dutch East Indies Family, 1942-45 in Current Japanese Media and Society.” at the Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio, US

“In the Steps of Wim Lindeijer” Melinda Barnhardt Jud

Greetings, everyone; and many thanks to Mrs. Yukari Tangena, chair of the Dialogue Steering Group, and to the Steering Group members for this opportunity to speak about my personal journey in the footsteps of my dear friend Dr. E.W. “Wim” Lindeijer, Jr. Work on a book about Wim and his family has been one of the great honors of my life.

Before I talk about this, I’ve been asked to provide background on the Lindeijer family story during WWII in the Pacific, and during a surprising postwar sequel. The best way to do this might be through this photo [photo 1], taken in May 1942, in what was then the Dutch East Indies, now Indonesia, in the city of Bandung, Java. The reason the photo was taken was that the young mother in the picture, Wim’s mother Nel, wanted desperately to have a photograph of herself and her children that she might then attempt to have smuggled in to the Japanese camp in the same city where her husband, a chemistry professor, was held as a prisoner of war. (Wim, the oldest of the children, was six; Herman, four and a half; “Freddie,” now Fritz, three; and Joke, the youngest, less than a year.)

The photo did make its way into the camp to the husband and father, which may not be overly surprising. And it may not be surprising that it traveled with him when he was taken from Java – and he feared from the family permanently – on a horrendous voyage, via Singapore to Japan in October of that year. Or that he kept it with him during his imprisonment in Ohashi, near Kamaishi, on the northeast tip of Honshu, for the remainder of the war. Or that he brought it home to the Netherlands in January of 1946.

What is completely surprising is its emergence in Japan in the twenty-first century – and this time, far from anonymously (some of you know). You could say that it’s “migrated” across cultural boundaries, to appear on the cover of Wim’s father’s prison diary [photo2], shown here as it was published in 2000 by Misuzu Shobo, in Japanese (and only in Japanese, to date). And this isn’t the half of it, because the same photo and its related story have emerged multiple times since, in Japanese newspapers [photo3] and television, and most recently, in a complete dramatization of the diary, in 2005 by students in Kamaishi.

When I learned, in 2003, that this latter day sequel to the story was taking place, I had to ask myself why? What was it about this particular family, and about Wim himself, that caused the photograph to travel and emerge in the news media of the former enemy’s society? I’ve needed to journey quite a distance myself to understand.

My first contact with the earlier, wartime portion of Wim’s story was in 1969 in the U.S., where he and I were associated for a time with the same university. During a discussion of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the German Resistance to Hitler, the topic turned to the concentration camps in Europe. Ever gentle and genteel, Wim made a quiet remark: with his mother and siblings he had been in a camp in Java as a child, and while they were in the camp his mother had died. Like the other Americans present, I had no sense of the war’s circumstances in Indonesia, or what his Dutch family would have been doing there. I recall learning that his parents had come to Java in 1935, because his father found a teaching position there during a world-wide depression; that his father had been taken off to prison in Japan after that country invaded; and that the senior Lindeijer kept a prison diary in the form of letters to his family that he was never able to mail. But Americans tend to know more about the war in Europe, so the talk about that shortly resumed.

Something in his voice that night had stayed with me, however. When my husband, Hank, and I visited Wim and Ada in the Netherlands in 2003, I asked about the diary, and was able to read it in rough English translation and see the photograph. I was fascinated by the diary’s gripping first-hand account: of what it was like to be a medic in the midst of gunfire and bombing, without air support, during the 1942 Dutch defense of Java; what it was like to attempt to minister to the sick and dying in the lowest hold of a ship during a month’s journey from Java to Japan; and what it was like to survive three years including illness and hardship in an iron mining camp in the mountains of northeast Honshu. This was a priceless record by a remarkable individual who despite extreme worry about his family, kept his calm, consistently helped others, and while he didn’t gloss over ill-treatment, expressed no hatred or animosity toward his captors.

I had problems with trying to read the diary, however; a record written in secret in a camp necessarily leaves out a great deal. In private, I consulted with Hank. This was a story that people needed to know: not only the Japanese, who had greater familiarity with its geography and context, but Westerners who lacked background, as my Cincinnati friends and I had. Without a knowledgeable editor to fill in gaps and add historical background and maps, it might be lost. We broached the subject with Wim and his “second mother,” Adrie Lindeijer – van der Baan, both of whom favored the search for an editor. I consulted with experts for a year. All thought the diary excellent material, but were otherwise engaged. I tell you this by way of admission that the project became mine by default. I’ve had to journey a long distance, and hopefully, grow into it.

I wish I could say that when I did begin work on the story I had a clear grasp of its significance. But traveling to the Netherlands in November 2004, my goal was simply to learn as much as possible from Wim about the gaps in the diary, and to read an English translation of the powerful farewell letter his mother dictated a day or two before she died. This, I thought, would give me what I needed to complete the narrative of this outstanding family. To give you a sense of the story as I saw it then, I have to tell you that my first reading of Wim’s mother Nel’s letter overwhelmed me with sympathy. Like her husband, she expressed no hatred for her captors, concerned only with freeing her family to go on, guiltless, without her; telling her husband to “find a new wife,” and “a good mother for the children.” I still can’t get through the entire letter without tears. Yet the problem in 2004 was that I was overwhelmed to the extent of identifying with Nel and her family as victims. They were victims, of course. And the photograph [photo1] represented the separation and loss they experienced at the hands of their captors. Yet initially, my dual role as narrator and sympathetic friend caused bias. “At one” with these victims in my thinking, I lost the critical distance needed for objectivity. I knew better than to categorize all Japanese as evil aggressors, yet I was focused so entirely on the family’s suffering that I tended to think of “the Japanese,” during the wartime at least, as uniformly hostile.

It was Wim’s account of his recent experience that began to challenge my limited view. An incident in 1992, the murder of colleagues from a project he had worked on, triggered his post traumatic stress. He had nightmares that kept him captive every bit as much as the war had. To free himself to move forward, he made a conscious effort to learn as much as he could to acquire a calm, factual understanding of the events of his childhood. He began by rereading his mother’s letter and his father’s diary, amazed at the lack of animosity I’ve mentioned earlier. From the diary he also learned about a friendship between his father and a civilian Japanese camp liaison, Hiroё Iwashita. Some of you know about this. But in addition he went to camp reunions in the Netherlands, looking at maps and documents, and comparing his facts with those of others. Even more important, in 1995, Wim read a historian’s early account of events in central Java where his last camp had been located. This introduced him to an exceptional Japanese major, Shinchiro Kido.

Major Kido’s story is this: Japan had surrendered in Singapore in September 1945, but the Allies did not arrive in Java until late October. During the time in between, Sukarno declared Indonesia’s independence. Radical young Indonesians began attacking the European women and children still in the camps, considering them “colonial imperialists.” (This was a stereotype, of course, like the one that said that all Japanese were evil aggressors.) For five days in October, this amazing Major Kido led his unit in heavy fighting to defend the women and children former internees. Some two hundred and fifty Japanese troops were killed. When, in 2003, Wim told me about discovering this story, tears streamed down his face and he was barely able to speak: “hundreds of Japanese died, he said, “fighting to save me.” He was already aware of his father’s friendship with Iwashita. Now, the story of Major Kido widened his perspective, and produced strong fellow feeling and empathy – the qualities, I would come to realize, that motivate us as human beings to take action to promote dialogue and peace.

As a result, I learned, he decided to travel that same year, 1995, to Japan. “And once you went,” he said, “you suddenly felt that you wanted to go again.” In 1996, in Kamaishi, the city nearest his father’s Ohashi village prison, he asked groups to forgive him for the hatred he had harbored for them as a result of his mother’s death. I realized only later that Wim’s increased perspective had allowed him to create a new and enlarged personal story. It’s not that his grief over his mother’s death ever went away. The memory of severe loss doesn’t disappear. He never forgot her; the audience in Kamaishi would have heard the pain in his voice, as I had in Cincinnati. But he created a new story that included the loss and at the same time allowed him to move forward – to Kamaishi. His telling it generated empathy in Japanese audiences and ultimately (I’m condensing things, of necessity), resulted in the publication of his father’s diary in 2000, in Japanese, at the request of Japanese. (I should mention that this happened with the critical help of Professor Takamitsu Muraoka, who did the final translation and arranged for a publisher).

By the close of my 2004 visit, I was astounded to learn that townspeople in Kamaishi, who had their own trauma as result of the war and my country’s bombarding them, had followed Wim’s lead. They had worked to gain an accurate understanding of their past. Their students had gone out into the community to interview their wartime survivors. Students and teachers then read the Lindeijer diary, recognizing that there were other stories besides that of their own city. They gained added perspective and empathy for the prisoners, and this motivated them, like Wim, to take action. They created a dramatic and choral presentation that was a new story, including both their loss and their empathy for the prisoners, and sent this on video to the Netherlands for comment.

Back in the United States, I was amazed to learn in 2005 that the students had produced a complete dramatization of the Lindeijer diary. To do so, they had further refined their knowledge of their history, sending long lists of questions about pre-war conditions in Java to the Netherlands for answers. They found documentary film footage of the prisoners of war. They put together all that they had learned, and created a script that dramatized the Lindeijer story and acknowledged the suffering of all the Ohashi prisoners. By 2006, their townspeople formed an organization to continue work similar to theirs.

I was struck with the realization that my task was more than filling in gaps in the diary and adding maps: the marvelous unfolding of events in which Wim’s mother’s farewell letter and his father’s prison diary influenced him to work through his trauma and engage his former enemies merited a full-fledged historical narrative. And the narrative was not only the story of Wim and his family, but also the story of Kamaishi. To accomplish this, I would need to do as Wim had done: step back a moderate distance from the family’s suffering, look at the facts of the war as they related to my project, and – this was critical – at the stories of the Ohashi camp and the Ohashi-Kamaishi area.

I had been thinking about the importance of stories, since this is the form that our historical memory usually takes. Yet I was realizing the difficulty they could present in a situation like war, where there are winners and losers, and the winners’ story tends to dominate. Until fairly recently there has been one dominant narrative of WWII in the Pacific, with Japan as the evil aggressor. And for Americans, there is an accompanying myth, that this was our “good war,” a clear-cut conflict between Good and Evil, in which we were essentially “pure.” Though I knew better than to think in terms of clear-cut categories, the “good war” was embedded in my culture, and this no doubt affected my view.

However, in the records of the Ohashi camp’s Allied nationalities – Americans, British, Australians, and Canadians, in addition to Dutch – I found stories that showed human behavior on either side that contradicted stereotypes. I can’t gloss over injustices; there was a great deal of mistreatment at the Ohashi camp, the result of a harsh military authority and individual cruelty. Yet in addition, the POW stories show instances of kindness; of people helping people, revealing that things were more complicated than the dominating narrative of the war showed.

I’ll share one or two: I’ve mentioned that the transport from Java to Japan was a terrible experience for the prisoners. I was surprised, then, to hear about an incident recorded by Ben Kelley, of the Texas National Guard: there were returning Japanese troops in the front of the ship, prisoners in the back. One night when the ship anchored at Takao (then Formosa), the hungry prisoners saw piles of vegetables on the dock. Kelley told a postwar interviewer “It is very amusing now, but the [returning] Japanese soldiers in the front of the ship started coming back [to the prisoners’ portion of the ship], filtering back, and they were friendly [and also hungry]. One night. . . we formed a line to steal those vegetables, and . . . there would be a Japanese soldier standing guard and waving somebody along that the coast was clear—to get some vegetables—or a prisoner-of-war . . . would be waving the Japanese soldier to go and get some when the coast was clear. [There] was cooperation there between the two.”

Similar instances of kindness occurred at the Ohashi camp itself. In their records, the prisoners express gratitude for the Japanese Medical Sergeant, Neko, who they believed saved many lives. Both Neko and his wife risked punishment by purchasing medicines for the prisoners on the black market. A good guard is also remembered. The American James Reynolds’ secret prison diary tells of this guard’s purchasing two hundred oranges so that he could give one to each of the prisoners on Christmas Eve, 1944. “A pretty nice thing,” Reynolds says, “for a common guard to do.”

Something else is important. From late in the war come stories of empathy for the suffering of the local Japanese. James Reynolds’ diary tells about a speech by Prime Minister Tojo in early 1944. The prime minister said that the Japanese people should prepare for a five year war. “My God,” Reynolds wrote, “they aren’t getting enough to eat now!” During the bombardment of Kamaishi’s ironworks, Reynolds talked about homeless people heading for the hills, “with no place to go.” It was evidence like this that made me realize how much Japan suffered during the war. They also showed that during the course of the war the prisoners were changing, at times recognizing that there were other stories besides the story of their own suffering.

I myself was changing, becoming aware of my previous failure to understand the broader impact of the war on all participants, as well as my own implication in the events I was narrating. I’ve mentioned the United States’ bombardment of Kamaishi’s iron works. This happened not once, but twice, on July 14, 1945, shortly before the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, and again on August 9, 1945, the same day as the dropping of the second atomic bomb on Nagasaki. At the start of my project, the bombardments, and even the atomic blasts, had seemed the tragic and terrible misdeeds of others from my society in the past. I had given little consideration to any responsibility I might have to acknowledge the grievous wrong and take steps toward reconciliation. However, by 2007, I had learned that the U.S. shelling had sparked kitchen fires throughout Kamaishi, virtually destroying the city and producing terribly burned victims. In this context, the efforts by its townspeople to acknowledge the prisoners’ suffering caused me to think differently. I had also read The Day Man Lost: Hiroshima, 6 August, 1945, which traces hour by hour, the human catastrophe as it was experienced by numerous individuals in that city, some of whom you feel you begin to know as the book traces their movements through the day’s holocaust and black rain. (I’ll interject here, that later, visiting the Peace Museum in Hiroshima, I had the sense that the remnants of personal items exhibited belonged to them.) I was struck with humility and the importance of remembering, when I followed Wim’s path to Japan, that my relation to the war’s events was entirely different than his.

My plans for this journey were that in April 2011, Hank and I, with Fumi Hoshino from this Dialogue as our guide, would visit sites in Japan of importance to Wim. Clearly, after the March 11, 2011 tsunami, this had to be postponed! For days, we hoped desperately that Mrs. Naoko Kato of the city’s International Exchange Association and others had survived. Learning that they had, our relief knew no bounds. When we did go, in April 2012, expectations I’d had were overturned. Despite all that I’d learned, I’d continued to think of Japan as a fairly monolithic place, where the majority of people hedged at acknowledging their nation’s aggression during the war and supported their politicians’ visits to the Yasukuni Shrine. I knew of some efforts to counter this, of course: in Yokohama, there was the volunteer POW Research Network Japan; in Mizumaki, the yearly memorial ceremonies attended by Dutch visitors for Dutch prisoners who died in Japan; and in Kamaishi, the work I’ve described. Yet I had not grasped the extent of these efforts or – importantly – how they came about and how they grew.

In Yokohama, we were enlightened to learn that the POW Research Network Japan, now with forty members throughout the country, had originated through the empathy of two women, each of whom independently of the other came upon the graves of thousands of young Allied servicemen at the British Commonwealth Cemetery in that city. Finding each other by chance, they united in efforts to compile historical records on the camps in Japan and the deceased from those camps, provide information to the victims’ families, and escort former prisoners during therapeutic return visits to Japan. Their efforts toward reconciliation have been felt worldwide.

In Mizumaki, we were astonished at the extent of activities carried out in coordination with the yearly Dutch visits to the monument: the education of Mizumaki students about the war through locally developed materials; programs for the Dutch visitors at the schools; and an annual exchange program with schools in the Netherlands. Most telling was the revelation that all of this had come about through the efforts of one individual: a former Dutch prisoner, Dolf Winkler, who in 1985 re-visited his former camp near the city to overcome war-induced nightmares he suffered (as Wim had). Winkler discovered a monument to POWs who died that had been hastily erected at the war’s end by mine officials fearing war crimes convictions. It lay covered in weeds. Saddened, he returned the next year, and with the help of a local citizen, Hiroshi Kurokawa (whose family we met), pressed the town to renovate the monument and – this is important – with the help of a Dutch group, to add the names of the POWs who died in Japan.

From this and the prior experience in Yokohama came one of the most important insights from this trip: the extent to which the power of reconciliation (this conference’s resounding theme) can be released even through the actions of one individual. You see, there is an additional detail that is important here: the entire chain of events leading to Mizumaki’s Dutch exchange program was actually set in motion decades before, when a single individual, a guard at the Mizumaki camp named Minoru Tamura, shared his lunch and lightened the workload of a sick and weakened prisoner named Dolf Winkler. A primary motive for Winkler’s 1985 return journey was his desire to meet with his former guard.

From this came a further insight: as one individual, through empathy and enlarged perspective, takes steps toward reconciliation, the circle may widen; whole towns or cross-cultural networks may join in the dialogue. You might say that this should have been clear to me already, based on Wim’s story in Kamaishi. Yet it was on this trip that I saw the full reach of the effect. Wim made an impression in Mizumaki, through the powerful speech he gave there on behalf of his 1995 visiting Dutch group. As a result, Shoji Kurokawa and others interviewed him on video over a period of two days. Wim became part of the city’s history. But Mizumaki, with its memorial ceremony and moving programs by its young students, was a further influence on him. He asked forgiveness in Kamaishi the next year. You know already how the circle widened from there.

In Kamaishi, we were overwhelmed by the city’s warm welcome, despite its barely beginning to recover from the horrendous devastation of the tsunami little more than a year before. Mrs. Wada drove for two hours to Hanamaki to pick us up; Mrs. Naoko Kato overturned my notions of Japanese formality when she hugged me, looked into my eyes, and said “You are here!” One way that I can show our thanks is by calling attention to the trauma that remains in the wake of the devastation. I’ve mentioned that the pain of severe loss doesn’t just disappear. Even as we visited, rebuilding had started. Our renovated hotel near the bay was lovely. But the psychological trauma that goes unmentioned by the media was still there; it continues its hold now, like the trauma of war. I urge you to empathize and reach out, however you are able – even with moral support.

There is a final way that I’d like to give great credit to Kamaishi. This talk began with mention of the migration of the Lindeijer family photograph. I’d like to show it to you now as it appeared at the close of the students’ dramatic and choral presentation in 2004, and the diary’s dramatization in 2005 [photo4]. Seeing it like this in 2004, tears streamed down my cheeks: here was Nel, a woman stripped by internment of her family, her health (including loss of her teeth), and even her life – honored on a big screen; her victimization acknowledged, her dignity restored.

What I realize now is the larger significance of what Kamaishi and Mizumaki have done. By giving public acknowledgement of the wrong done their society’s victims, they’ve made it possible not only for the victims’ families, but also for their own cities to move forward. Sincere (not perfunctory) public mourning, I’ve come to realize, is essential in overcoming ghosts of the past that will otherwise haunt whole communities. Ceremonies of public mourning allow for the creation of new stories that honor the victims at the same time that they free communities to engage in healthy new life. A larger question as to the social and political processes that optimally could be put in place to support such ceremonies is well beyond the scope of my talk. I can simply say that none of the individuals I’ve spoken about – certainly not Nel Lindeijer or Minoru Tamura, or Wim Lindeijer himself – could have foreseen the results of the empathy they demonstrated. Like them, for the sake of our societies, we need to do all we can to widen the circle. Thank you.

Written background information for the 17th Conference Dialog Dutch-Japanese-Indonesia,


Wim Lindeijer and the letters of his father in the form of a diary

Wim was born in Bandung in Indonesia in 1936. With his parents, brothers Herman and Frits and his sister Joke he had a carefree period until the capitulation of Dutch-East-Indies to Japan. Wim was 6 years. There followed three and a half years in internment-camps and just before the end of the war, in July 1945, died his mother, mother Nel.

When his father returned as POW from in Kamaishi in Japan, he married Adrie and they began a new life in The Netherlands.

Wim grew up, studied civil engineering and worked in various places in the world and lived there together with Ada and his children.

After his retirement Wim studied the letters of his father he had written during the war in Kamaishi but which had never been posted.

Through these diary-letters Wim became interested in Japan and how his father survived. With the help of Japanese friends the letters were translated and published in Japanese.

In 1995 Wim and Ada made a trip to Japan. They made various contacts, also at a school in Kamaishi. Wim still made another 6 trips to Japan some with his ‘second mother’ Adrie, and they made good friends there.

Together with Japanese friends in the Netherlands and others who also visited Japan there started in 2000 the Dialogue Japanese-Dutch-Indonesian.

Unfortunately in 2005, they found with Wim ‘Dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB)’ and in 2013 he died. His ashes were scattered at the grave of his mother Nel, in Semarang in Indonesia.

Translated for the 17th Conference Dialog Dutch-Japanese-Indonesia, October 11, 2014

“Some crucial moments” Ada Lindeijer-Kruithof

Dear people,

I would like to tell you a few important experiences of Wim, my husband who passed away.

I will then show you a few photos and a short video.

I tell you about a few profound experiences which formed Wim and that he dealt with them in his life.

At a later age was this would motivate him to travel to Japan.

At the end of the war Wim was a boy of 9 years old and had survived three and a half years in internment-camps.

His mother was seriously ill and then he stood beside her deathbed, as the oldest of 2 brothers and a sister.

He felt anger rising inside him and said:

“Mother, don’t be sad . . When I get big, I will kill all Japanese!”

Mother Nel raised herself slightly and looked at him anxiouslyand said: “Wim, with hatred in your heart you can not really love other people.”

Back in the Netherlands there was no thought given to Japanese people any more.

It was only after his retirement that he got interested in the circumstances in which his father as POW in Kamaishi in Northern Japan survived.

Wim’s father wrote in the camps the diary-like letters to his wife and children, especially on their birthdays. Fortunately these letters were never sent, he kept them.

Back in The Netherlands the diary-letters remained in the bookcase.

Wim’s father died in 1981. In the nineties began Wim to study the diary-letters and came in contact with Japanese people who were living in The Netherlands.

Wim and I travelled In October 1995 to Japan. We were at the Cross-monument in Mizumaki.

Wim’s letters show how he developed.

I quote some parts from his letters that he sent to his second mother Adrie Lindeijer-van der Baan.

“A joyful and encouraging confirmation of a new beginning, meeting in peace with the land of Japan”

“Raising friendships”

The following quotes show his personal development as he actually tries to contribute to peace.

“The flames of hatred are extinguished”

“Making plans for the realisation of peace for everyone and every nation”

“It’s the perfect confirmation-trip of my life”

After 1995, Wim made another 6 trips to Japan, often together with his second mother Adrie.

Translated by Prof. Takamitsu MURAOKA


“Forgiving and reconciliation as a two-way process, not a one-man show” | Takamitsu MURAOKA

“Forgiving and reconciliation as a two-way process, not a one-man show” Takamitsu MURAOKA

Since the very first meeting of our dialogue we haven’t come together as historians, whether professional or amateur, and not out of purely intellectual interests. Our thinking has been guided by our concern about moral and political implications of the modern history shared by two nations, Dutch and Japanese, to which Indonesia has been added over the past few years. The addition of Indonesia is a most logical conclusion, since we are interested in the modern history that was played out in the present-day Indonesia.

There is a unique dimension to our meetings. A shared history can interest any two or more nations. For instance, Germany and The Netherlands, or Germany and Poland. What makes our meetings unique is that many historical issues which interest us concern international relationships which remain broken or are still calling for very serious attention on the part of the parties concerned.

This situation is proving to be a serious impediment for truly friendly and harmonious mutual relationships. This is a very grave matter indeed, when the relations got damaged more than 70 years ago. Shortly after the summer of 1991, when I arrived from Melbourne, Australia, to take up the Hebrew chair at Leiden University, I read an article in a local newspaper that in the east of the country there was going on a joint military exercise between this country and its eastern neighbour. A joint military exercise between the Chinese navy and the Japanese counterpart in the China Sea? Totally unthinkable. This means that our concerns interest, and should interest, not merely those among us who are particularly interested in history, but they should interest general, average citizens among the three nations concerned.

I would like to draw your attention to a third dimension which has characterised our past meetings. You may call the dimension personal. We are interested in how some of us personally experienced the past war. The first meeting was held back in 2000 in Nijkerk to mark the publication of two Japanese books which, without nobody so designing in advance, were brought out in Tokyo in a year which was celebrated in both this country and Japan to mark a 400-year long relationship between the two countries. One of the two books was authored by a well-known Japanese non-fiction writer, Hayashi Eidai, who undertook a special journey from Japan to interview the late Mrs Annie Goudswaard. As a young lass in Sulawesi she was interned with her family by the Japanese occupying forces and lost her father who was taken as a POW to work in a mine in Japan and passed away there. The other book was a Japanese translation of what largely consisted of a collection of letters written by the late Dr Evert Willem Lindeijer to his wife and children back in the Dutch East Indies, letters never posted, which, however, survived the confinement of the author, who had also been transported illegally just as Mrs Goudswaard’s father, to work at a mine in Ohashi, North-East Japan. The late Dr Wim Lindeijer Jr and his step-mother, the late Mrs Adrie Lindeijer, along with Mrs Goudswaard and her husband, Herman Goudswaard, also deceased, played all a major role among us until they were each called home. All these shining stars of our Dialogue with the exception of Mr Goudswaard, who didn’t have any personal roots in the Dutch colony in Asia, brought with them their very personal experiences to bear on the progress and evolution of our Dialogue. I wouldn’t be wrong if I said that the majority of speakers at our past meetings were returnees from the Dutch East Indies and spoke on the basis of their personal experiences.

Many of the stories we heard at the past sixteen conferences weren’t exactly cheerful, but painful. It couldn’t be otherwise. Nevertheless, we also heard encouraging and heart-warming stories, stories told by people who refused to run away from their painful memories, but courageously faced the music, faced the other party out of a sincere desire to forgive former enemies and to get reconciled with one another, and to restore harmonious, peaceful and friendly relationships. This is where the moral aspects of the issue and their possible, political implications I have mentioned at the start come to the fore.

To forgive is one of the essential components in the process of reconciliation. We all yearn for peace and harmony. Nobody would deliberately seek enmity and hatred for their own sake. And yet we all know, don’t we, that to forgive your enemies is quite a challenge. I happen to know a few Dutch returnees from Indonesia who, after so many years, can’t bring themselves to attend our meetings. Memories of what they suffered at Japanese hands still haunt them.

In 2003, after my first visit to South Korea as a voluntary teacher of Hebrew, I was given an opportunity to speak of this visit of mine at a regular meeting of the local chapter of Initiatives of Change, formerly known as Moral Re-armament. During the questions and answers period one elderly gentleman stood up and declared that he was the one who had chucked a bouquet of flowers into a nearby pond which our then Prime Minister Kaifu had laid at the Indisch Monument in The Hague. Subsequently this Dutchman invited me to a meeting of returnees from India. For a few people who were present at the meeting I was the first Japanese to meet after the war, and a couple of them admitted that in the night before the meeting they had had a nightmare of being chased by Japanese soldiers brandishing a sword.

In July 2005 there were a series of bombings in London Underground, killing 52 civilians. Some years ago I read a newspaper article about a curate of an Anglican church in London who had lost her only daughter in this tragedy. A few years afterwards she tendered her resignation. Why? She wrote that she couldn’t carry on ministering at the Lord’s Supper Sunday after Sunday where the death of Jesus is commemorated and the congregation would be exhorted to follow Jesus who had given up his life to ensure forgiveness for us, when she couldn’t bring herself to forgive the suicide bomber.

A few years ago the German ambassador to this country asked to attend the annual commemoration in Amsterdam on May 4, but his request was turned down on the ground that for many Dutch survivors and citizens who lost their dear ones during the Nazi occupation the time was not ripe yet for that. Isn’t this astonishing when you remember the joint military exercise I told you earlier about? How dreadfully difficult it could be to forgive and get over hard feelings and bitterness deep inside can be appreciated only by those who were really deeply hurt and wounded. Therefore, when genuine forgiveness occurs, you would feel as if you were on the moon.

How could such a blissful state be achieved? There are a number of things that need to be done before it becomes a reality.

1) The two parties, perpetrators and victims, must come as close as possible to an agreement that one of the parties wilfully did something that was morally, ethically wrong and unjust, something that ought not to have been done.

Guilt admitted must be specific and explicit. It cannot be something nebulous, amorphous such as what Christian theologians call original sin. One must be able to verbalise it in concrete, explicit terms and elaborate, if needed, with dates, locations, names and all the rest of it.

When we talk about guilt, it carries moral, ethical overtones, religious overtones if you like. In July 2007 I got an e-mail out of the blue from a lady who was a stranger to me at the time: Mrs Marguerite Hamer. She was the chairman of PICN (= Project Implementation Committee in the Netherlands), which administered funds made available by Asian Women’s Fund in Tokyo for Dutch victims of the Japanese forced prostitution, so-called comfort women. As she prepared a public speech for a commemoration on 15 August of that year, she read some relevant documents, in which she came across two Japanese terms: owabi and shazai. She wanted to know if they differed in meaning from each other. My answer was that owabi is ‘sorry,’ what you say for inconveniencing others, whereas shazai is written with two Chinese characters, one of which translates as crime or sin. You can offer owabi for missing a train and arriving half an hour late for a board meeting.

Three years ago the leading board members of Tokyo Electricity Company, which operates the nuclear power station at Fukushima, called a press conference and bowed deep, offering an owabi for inconveniencing the public, when at that stage there had already occurred a number of fatalities due to the company’s negligence and failure to take necessary preventive measures. The minimum required of them, in my view, was for them to tender immediate resignation and renounce their pension rights. For owabi you needn’t be taken to court, but shazai involves crimes and sins and needs to be formally and officially settled in a court, whether secular or religious.

ii) Just as to forgive can be tough and difficult, so is to admit your guilt. Your pride and sense of self-respect get into the way. This also applies not only to individuals, but also groups of individuals, nations and states. As a Japanese I know it perhaps a little better than Dutch or American people. Nearly 70 years after the end of the Pacific War we Japanese have yet to denounce in unambiguous terms the war we started and all evils that flowed out of it. Take just one example, the issue of so-called comfort women. For President Park of South Korea this is the no. 1 obstacle hindering any real progress in the bilateral relationships. Early this year she and our premier, Abe, attended an international meeting in The Hague without having a personal tête-à-tête.

To admit one’s guilt to one’s victim or victims is the very first step leading to eventual reconciliation. It is an absolutely essential step, without which no start can be made. When it comes to this sad failure to admit one’s guilt, we Japanese have no monopoly. It’s part of our universal human frailty. It may be just a difference of degree. Let me illustrate.

Germany is often and justly, I believe, hailed as a model nation admitting her guilt, especially with reference to what Nazism caused. However, how many of you know of one of the former German colonies called German Southwest Africa, Deutsch-Südwestafrika, present-day Namibia? Following a rebellion by two local tribes, Herero and Nama, Germans ruthlessly crushed and slaughtered rebels numbering between 30,000 and 110,000. There also followed innumerable casualties in concentration camps, a harbinger of later Nazi concentration camps. The aim of this policy was to exterminate the local population, and these systematic and organised massacres have been recognised by the UN as the first genocide of the 20th century. At a commemoration held in Namibia in 2004 to mark the genocide a German cabinet minister who attended the ceremony admitted the guilt of the German nation, expressed grief, asked for forgiveness, but ruled out financial compensation for descendants of victims.

What is surprising is that little is known and talked about this subject in Germany itself. In Darmstadt there is a well-known Christian organisation called Marienschwestern. Since its foundation in 1947 by Sister Basilea Schlink they have been very active in promoting reconciliation between Christians and Jews. My wife and I visited their home some years ago. A year or so ago I raised the question of the genocide in Africa with one of the members in Darmstadt only to be deeply surprised that hardly anything was known about the matter among her fellow sisters there. This is all the more surprising when one remembers what Germany has been doing and is still doing for the Jewish people. I dare suspect that the chief reason for this German indifference to their colonial history in Africa is also racism, this time directed to coloured people. I could go on about the excesses committed by the Dutch armed forces in Indonesia in the years following the independence of their colony. But I have no time for it this morning. The reason I have gone on quite a while on the German colony is not because I could now say, “Well it’s all the same with any nation. Why pick up the Japanese only?” I only wanted to highlight the enormity of the task we are all struggling with.

iii) When guilt is admitted, confessed, and an apology is offered, the apology must be sincere, and one should not be able to withdraw it lightly or attempt to water it down. The best apology offered is one which comes with no excuses attached. In 1993, under the then Premier Murayama, Chief Cabinet Secretary Kono issued a statement in which the Japanese government spoke of extending “its sincere apologies and remorse”. By the way the Japanese original uses the word owabi. There is something more shocking and disturbing here. On the same day as the Kono statement was issued, 4.8.1993, a section of the cabinet of the Japanese Government set up a bilingual, English-Japanese, homepage entitled ‘On the issue of “comfort women”’. One passage of it reads as follows:

“In many cases private recruiters, asked by the comfort station operators who represented the request of the military authorities, conducted the recruitment of comfort women. Pressed by the growing need for more comfort women stemming from the spread of the war, these recruiters resorted in [m]any cases to coaxing and intimidating these women to be recruited against their own will, and there were even cases where administrative/ military personnel directly took part in the recruitments.”

When I read this, my eyes nearly popped out. It effectively amounts to a crude justification of recruitment and exploitation of tens of thousands of those victims. I don’t doubt a moment that Murayama and Kono were sincere in their expression of remorse. But this is rubbing salt into still open, raw wounds of these ladies. It’s very hurtful and offensive to them, and it’s also an insult to women in general. To talk blatantly about the growing “need” for more comfort women is exactly what the current mayor of Osaka, Hashimoto, said a couple of years ago with his outrageous statement that in war situations such women were a necessary evil. This text appearing on an official home page of the Japanese Foreign Ministry came to my notice after Mrs Yokohata had spoken on comfort women at our conference in 2010, and I immediately wrote a letter, not an e-mail, to the then foreign minister of ours, asking him to consider deleting this outrageous clause, but I heard nothing from him. A few months later I sent a reminder to the new foreign minister, but all in vain. The text I have quoted is still there unaltered.

In June 2009 there was held in the town hall of The Hague a joint Korea-Germany-The Netherlands exhibition on comfort women. It ran twenty days. On the second last day my wife and I visited it and were told by a Korean receptionist that we were the first Japanese visitors. A few months later, I told a Japanese friend about this. He shared with us that he was there on the closing day of the exhibition only to be told that he was the third Japanese visitor. Were all our embassy staff on summer holiday for those twenty days? There is precious little sincerity here. It’s so pathetic and disgusting.

A sincere, heart-felt apology goes a long way towards healing the victim’s hurt. In 2003, when I was in Seoul, doing my voluntary teaching, my wife and I went to meet an elderly former Korean comfort woman. She yelled at the top of her voice that she was not after money; all that she wanted was for the Emperor to come, kneel in front of her, and apologise. She was dead right, I believe; every Japanese soldier during the Pacific War had the Emperor as the commander-in-chief.

iv) What is difficult is not only to admit your guilt as perpetrator and ask for forgiveness, but also not to forget your sufferings as victims. It is so human wanting to leave all your painful memories behind and forget about them. Earlier this year, when I was in Indonesia, teaching at four different theological schools in Java, some of my students may have wanted to take some moral pain off my chest. They said that their Indonesian philosophy of life encourages people burdened with memories of sufferings sustained in the past to forget them and work instead for a brighter future, looking forwards, not backwards. My reply to them was that I’m not going on about what you suffered as a consequence of tsunami, earthquakes, or flooding, for instance, natural catastrophes which are beyond our human control and you can’t blame anybody for. I’m talking about injustices and damages inflicted by others wilfully. If your grandmother starts whining about her experiences as a comfort woman of the Japanese army, would you tell her: “Grandma, not again. Enough of your dreadful stories. Please look after my baby.” Forgetting may work wonders. You may wish to recommend it as a marvellous psychotherapy. It may work with some, but not with every victim.

I have often quoted an ancient Chinese saying, which can be translated as “Forget your past not, but make it a guide for your future.” Why should we remember not only our glorious success stories, but also our wrongdoings and sufferings unjustly inflicted by others? In 2011 we were in Myanmar. One evening we watched in our hotel room a documentary on a local TV channel. It was about sexual harassment. The culprits were soldiers of the army of Myanmar and the victims were women of minority tribes in the countryside. I know for a fact that during the Pacific War a large number of local women fell victims to the Japanese Army. So yesterday’s victims are today’s victimisers. I was told that the Buddhist philosophy is “Forgive and forget.”

A year later we were in Bangkok, and one day we were taken to visit a number of sites associated with the infamous Thai-Burma death railway. At one such site, Kanchanaburi, we visited the JEATH war museum there; JEATH is an acronym for Japan, England, Australia, Holland. Among the exhibits consisting of some primitive work tools, photos of camps, drawings made by prisoners of war and the like there was not much that was new to us, because we had read up on the subject and had seen some videos. What surprised and disturbed us was what was not on display there. All the data concerned POWs of the Allied Forces who were made to work on the railway. We all know that, alongside some 60,000 western POWs, there worked labourers brought from surrounding lands—Chinese, Malaysians, Tamils, Indonesians, Thais, and Burmese; unlike in the case of western POWs there is no accurate statistics; a conservative estimate speaks of 200,000, of which a large contingent were Thais. And yet there was no exhibit testifying to the sufferings inflicted on locals, tens of thousands of Thais.

The museum was founded in 1977 by a distinguished abbot of a local Buddhist temple. Shouldn’t the museum reflect part of the national history? The tragedy happened in this country, affecting many locals, not only POWs of the Allied Forces. If little information leaked from the construction sites, after the completion of the railway, survived locals would have told horror stories. If this museum was meant as an expression of sympathies and compassion by the local Buddhist community for the Western victims, such a gesture would certainly be deeply appreciated by visitors from countries whose soldiers had suffered and died, building the railway. At Kanchanaburi cemetery alone, which we visited, there are buried 1,896 Dutch victims. However, shouldn’t the Thai Buddhist leadership care for the souls of the deceased and survivors among their own flock still being plagued with traumas from the past? In a sermon I preached at a chapel service of the seminary where I taught I mentioned an estimate of 50,000 Thai casualties, which means that even today a million or so Thais are still grieving and justly indignant: the victims’ wives, children, parents, brothers and sisters and so on. We also know that like Thais, tens of thousands of forced civilian labourers were brought from neighbouring Asian countries. Such labourers from Indonesia are known as romushas, tens of thousands of them. Unlike the deaths of the Allied soldiers nobody knows how many of these Asian labourers died, surely far more than some 13,000 Allied soldiers.

In the Western countries where these POW victims came from there has taken place a lot in terms of official commemoration, research, and publication. All the personal details of the victims are accurately chronicled. But in Myanmar, Thailand, and Indonesia I saw that there was very little published or researched on this tragedy in spite of the enormity of their national suffering.

The same can be said about comfort women. I have recently had an exchange of mails with Mr Hans Gieske about the number of victims of sexual slavery among the Indonesian population. He is of the opinion that there are no reliable statistics available. This indifference is observable not only among local Indonesian historians. Much worse is the fact that the Indonesian leadership, the government take little interest in the fate of the victims among their own electorate. I suspect two reasons for this state of affairs: 1) their fear of retaliation from Japan with its firm grip of the Indonesian economy and 2) the fear of their own old guards, among whom there are some who collaborated with the Japanese occupying forces. They would’t be happy to have their dark past exposed and come into the public domain. A recent NRC article darkly hinted that the president elect, now officially declared as winner, Joko Widodo, might need to keep in touch with some zwarte vrienden ‘dark friends.’ When can we forget for good another memorable saying, this time by a German philosopher, Hegel? He said: “We learn from history that we don’t learn from history.”

Whether you’re a Christian or not, injustices cannot be forgotten about, erased from history and memory, and pushed under the carpet. They must be properly dealt with. A life without moral accountability is not worth living, I think. In 1923 Tokyo was hit by a major earthquake leading to more than 100,000 deaths. After the quake a prominent Japanese Christian leader said that we shouldn’t be aiming at restoration, remaking, or rebuilding, but recreation, building something totally new. His message was that to rebuild Tokyo as it was was meaningless, a new Tokyo must be created. He would probably had said the same thing on 15.8.1945. He would have wept bitterly as he observed his compatriots being ecstatic over having risen out of the ashes like a phoenix. For us Japanese that war is not finished yet, but the current leadership of Japan sounds very eager to start a fresh war.

v) As announced in the title of my talk today, reconciliation takes two. It’s a joint venture, joint endeavour. You can’t get reconciled with someone else without confronting him or her. To forgive someone who committed an injustice or a sin against you is considered to be one of the highest virtues all Christians are supposed to nurture and aim at. That is part of the Lord’s prayer: Forgive our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. But can you forgive without confronting the sinner? Jesus, who stressed the absolute necessity of forgiveness, said something astounding as he was nailed to the cross. Looking at those who were jeering at him, thrusting a spear into his sides, he said: “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing.” How sad he must have been, realising that that was the best he could do, to say a prayer of intercession! He couldn’t honestly say: “I forgive you,” because they didn’t know they needed to be forgiven. To forgive someone who is not yet aware that he or she did anything wrong to you and to declare to yourself in a monologue that you will abstain from avenging him or her, from causing him or her to pay back their moral debt, that may relieve your mental, psychological hurt and pain. That may be praised and hailed as a virtuous act of love and mercy. But such an approach sounds to me a bit too sentimental. It is little more than a psychotherapy and one-man show. That way you are cheapening this precious virtue of forgiveness and reconciliation; you’re granting cheap grace. It’s like a court of justice pronouncing a suspected murderer innocent without calling him as a witness and investigating the case properly. It is no longer a court of justice, but a monkey court. However hard and painful on both the perpetrator and the victim, they must face each other. In a secular court there are three parties present: a perpetrator, a victim, and a judiciary team consisting of the prosecution and the judge. The same principle must apply to a court of morals and ethics. The third party can be personal, a mediator, for instance. Even without such a personal third party, there must be a third party in the form of a set of principles which transcend mundane human dealings and utilitarian interests. Such could be represented by a set of religious beliefs and fundamentals to which both parties are willing to consent. It could be a set of generally, more or less universally agreed basic human rights.

“THE SPIRIT OVERCOMES ALL HARDSHIPS” | Patty van Buchel van Steenbergen

Today I want to share the story of my father with you. My father is a survivor of “FAT MAN” the atomic bomb that fell on Nagasaki on 9-08-1945. He was a POW in Fukuoka 14.

My father never spoke spontaneously over the period 1942-1945 and always answered questions from a rational perspective. Actually as a child I thought it interesting to tell people that my father survived the A-bom. It was unique. None of my friends had a father who had survived the A-bom. Later I started to read more books about that period, and I thought, `How can any human being survive this. For me it really became interesting when the documentary “beauty within”was made by documentary film director Shizu Azuma. Afterwards I heard for the first time a comprehensive story from my father about “Fat Man”. It was a special day and I was surprised at the peace and attention that my father’s story generated. Later when we were able to see the movie at home, I was very impressed with the documentary.

Due to these circumstances, my father started to get the idea to visit Nagasaki once more. He is now 94, and he wanted to use the POW organization to visit the places where he spent such a dramatic time of his life. This spring I made a special journey with my father and sisters to Nagasaki. When I saw pictures I often thought: how could you keep hope and did you continue under those circumstances, incredible. . I was also very surprised about all the attention for this visit, and about all the people who have worked to fullfil my father’s wishes. Now that I have seen with my own eyes a little bit of what he has witnessed, I thought what are you mentally strong to overcome this without a feeling of hate to the aggressor. In my youth, my father never talked bad about the Japanese and his experiences over there. On the contrary he was a huge fan of the electronics and cars that they brought to the market.

I was asked to tell my story as 2nd generation and talk about the impact it has had on my life.

My father is well-structured and disciplined and demanded that also of his children. This caused certainly in puberty much friction. He was not a warm understanding father but hedid not burden us with his struggles, if he had any. When I look back at the life of my father and look at all he’s been through and I see how he now deals with his life and tries to keep up with the current times and trends, I say, what are you strong in spirit, hence my title, “The Spirit overcomes all hardships”.

In the next few minutes I will take you along in the spirit of my father, show his mind and tactics to survive and I would ask you to imagine what kind of impact this would have on you, if you would experience these events.

The story begins after the surrender of the Dutch East Indies in 1942. My father was a boy of 22 years old.

After an uneven battle the Dutch Indies capitulated in March 1942 and all the soldiers were interned. The general expectation was that the internment would last only a short while. Some people pointed at the old philosopher, Djojobojo, who referred to the duration of pregnancy.

When I reported in the camp, many thought that I had news about the duration of the internment. impulsively and without any basis I answered I bet you it will end in 1945. To remain credible, I gave the same answer to everyone who asked.


We lived in Bandung with my parents and four brothers.

My camp life began in the Jaarbeurs complex. About three weeks after the capitulation I enlisted in the camp, because of the threat to the rest of my family (they would have been killed) if I would not have enlisted. I was with my parents because I was recovering from a severe malaria attack that I caught in Djocjakarta. To set my parents at ease I went to the camp. I was interned in an area where the Pasar Malem was held annually, but we were moved soon to the nearby barracks complex of the infantry and aircraft artillery. It was not allowed to have contact with other inmates or persons from outside. In the beginning contact was still possible through the barbed wire, but later only at greater distances using gestures.

One day four persons fled. That same night three of them were arrested and they were tied to a tree. They stayed there for three days in full sight of all the camp mates. The Dutch camp leaders were not able to convert the punishment that they would eventually receive into a prolonged detention. A few days later three people were blindfolded and tied to the fence of the camp. Execution by bullet was not possible because the camp was right behind the barbed wire, with the risk that the executors would hit someone else. The Japanese stood at attention with fixed bayonets. On command they jumped like cats at the victims, and cut the victims with their bayonets. I could not bear to see the scene any longer and ran away.

Relocation to Tjimahi

After a few months the camps had to be concentrated in Tjimahi. In the early morning, around 05:00 hrs the exodus of thousands of prisoners from Bandung to Tjimahi began. A walk of about 8 kms. All possessions were taken along in suitcases, backpacks, but also wrapped in bundles. Despite the early hour family and friends stood at a considerable distance along the way in an effort to get a last glimpse of their loved ones.

The forced labour, which included a trip to Bandung for foraging, gave me the opportunity to have contact with family members using notes which were thrown to us. However, the Japanese quickly understood and this sort of contact was made impossible for us.

1st Transport to Batavia

After a month in Tjimahi, groups were composed that had to be transported. I was assigned to the 2nd group. I said goodbye to my two brothers who were also interned hoping to see eachother again after the war. I knew nothing about our destination or purpose. It became Batavia, a camp led by the infamous Sonei. He became known for his unpredictable behaviour.

Sonei often held inspections at midnight. You had to stand in rows, and then you were counted by the Japanese and the counting was repeated. I had the impression that they were illiterate. Mr Sonei also enjoyed to do so-called health checks, in the night or early in the morning, often followed by a transport. We called it ring stabbing. Lined up in rows you had to lower your underpants and bend over. A stick was then put in your anus. If there was blood on the stick than you were ill and you were not transported. Later you had to bring along your own faeces. The air was not pleasant at those times. To avoid going on a transport a solution was found. A small cut in your finger and you dropped blood on your faeces. Also faeces from other persons were brought along. This way friends tried to stay together. In the end this did not work . Everybody was transported if there was forced labour somewhere else.

2nd Transportation to Surabaya

After a month of hardship, we were put on a train. After 24 hrs we found out that we had arrived in Surabaya. What would be our next destination? After two weeks we were transported in closed heavely loaded trucks. We were quite astonished when we got out! We stood on the quay in the port of Surabaya, where a boat was waiting to take us elsewhere.

Like ballast about a 1000 of us were stowed away in the hold at the stern of the “Maebasi Maru”. You could lie down on two levels. The difference between the two levels equalled a sitting position and you were almost touching each other. Fresh air was blown in via through a large hose, but with so many people in the hold this had little effect. You were only allowed to get out to go to the loo. These rare moments you tried to use to stay out as long as possible. Outside a Japanese kept watch and when he thought: enough!, he would scream to you to go back to the hold. The toilet was a wooden shed that hung overboard. Soon there were diarrhea patients and rows formed before the toilet. These were the moments to be longer outside. It was a hellish journey. When submarines were spotted we stopped a few nights near the island of Bangka. We arrived in Singapore and were housed in the barracks of the British army in Changi.

It was located on a hill and if you were on the “open air” toilet-boxes you had a beautiful view on the bay. A pleasant side effect in all this misery. My first health problem revealed itself in the camp in Singapore. Vitamin deficiency caused a painful fungus infection in my mouth. Crude palm oil was recommended to me. It even appeared that you could buy this in the camp. Medicines were no longer provided. In the camp I heard that people who went to the train station were deported to Burma. So my destination: Japan, was actually not unfavorable.

3rd Transport to Japan.

This journey lasted a month and was sometimes held up by American submarines. The food we received daily was rice and fish soup. The Japanese stood near the hatch to distribute the food. You became sick from the smell of the air blown by the wind into the hold. Just before we had to leave Tjmahi I had used my last money to buy sugar. This I ate every day with the rice to maintain my energy levels.

Arrival in Japan

Upon arrival at Moji, Japan, we were disembarked in the afternoon to take a train to an unknown destination. It was spring and cold. We only had our flimsy clothing, but the Japanese did not care. In the spring of 1943, Nagasaki was my final destination. We were housed in an apparently new camp. We were really locked up then. No more fresh air! But in comparison with the food on board we even got decent food after arriving in the camp.

I also became acquainted with the pleasure of the Japanese to hit someone. I had done something which deserved punishment in their eyes and I was taken to the guard. I had to stand at attention and got hit hard in the face. The commander started and then all others were allowed to take their turns. I held out and did not give them the pleasure to fall over.

The journey that we made, the lack of food, the climate and the first meals in Japan gave me a new setback: dysentery. After a few days I got some opium that only eased the pain but gave no real improvement, let alone cure the disease.

Finally, I was admitted to the sick-bay. They had no medicines and I saw people suffering and dying around me. I wondered whether this would be my end too. I stopped eating. In order to get a little bit to eat, I asked the nurses to squeeze boiled soft rice through a cloth. At that time, an impossible demand! Fortunately I had a small supply of handkerchiefs. I gave them one every day to squeeze boiled soft rice through, so that a thick liquid mass remained. This was called Tadjien in the Indies. Two weeks later I miraculously recovered somewhat and was discharged from the sick-bay. I wonder sometimes whether I would still be alive if I would not have had those handkerchiefs. By the way they were never returned to me and I assume they did not throw away the handkerchiefs. The morality of persons was already at a low level.

In the camp I spent another week with my intestines grumbling, but then I had to go to the shipyard with the others who were already working there. To be ill meant for the Japanese you were worthless and therefore you did not need food. So I had to go to the yard to work and my daily walk always ended on the toilet to wash my pants and to put them on wet, so that I could go to work.At the yard I made good use of my illness. Because of the distance to the toilet, and because it took time to get down from the scaffolding of the boat where I was working, I needed more time to get to the toilet. I patted my belly and made a gesture near my buttocks. The “hantjou”, the leader of the group, then understood what was going on. He made no problems and let me go back to the toilet.

One morning I took him to the test. We stood on deck. A cover plate was not located properly. With a gesture he asked for a wedge. I kept playing stupid and shrugged to show ignorance. I did not see his face change, but he showed his anger by hitting me a few times in the face. I remained standing, but I could not see anymore. I feared to become blind. It was uncertain whether I could recover. A fellow inmate saw a bloodshot eye, but ultimately it slowly became better.

Punishing prisoners was a privilege for the Japanese guard. Noon was the opportunity to do this. This made you also miss your “lunch”. Apart from the usual hitting they had nastier punishments. They gave you a thin or sometimes a slightly heavier bamboo stick in your hands that you had to hold high. When you lowered the bamboo you were hit hard on your arm. Later you saw them use other methods, like kneeling on the aforementioned bamboo. Even worse was when the stick was placed in the hollow of your knee and you had to sit on your heels. Blows followed if you changed position. These were really sadistic methods.

This story does not show that our life was interrupted because of the air strikes. At irregular intervals during the night we were chased out of bed to spend some time in the air raid shelter. Since these were not waterproof, we often sat in the middle of winter, up to our ankles in water. We had less luck when a bomb fell near the camp. The lid on the shelter appeared not fixed and it detached from the box where we were in. Fortunately, only one person got killed, but life goes on.

After this bombardment it seemed that some chickens were killed. When we came out of the shelter and were back in camp I walked through the kitchen and saw chicken intestines in a bin. After all this is meat too. In our circumstances throwing away meat is a crying shame, I thought. Unnoticed, I took it and since the cooks were a little farther away so that I thought they would not see it I threw “the meat” in the fire. I already enjoyed the smell. My actions were not seen by the Dutch cooks but because I hung around a bit, they told me to walk on. But I did not want to let go of the “goodies” so I took the partially roasted intestines out of the fire with me. To avoid problems and possible consequences, I had to eat the “extra” immediately. The 1st bite did not taste very good. The content was too “spicy”!? Can you imagine this? I ignored this ‘spiciness’ and ate them all. This gave me some energy again.

By the end of 1944 our operations were moved to a factory next to the camp. Time passed, and there was not yet any prospect of peace. Around this time there were many deaths from pneumonia and other hardships. The number of deaths was so large that I calculated that at this rate the camp would not have any more inhabitants after 2 to 3 weeks.

When I was interned in 1942, I impulsively called 1945 as the year that this period would end. In July 1945 it did not even appear that the end was in sight. In my mind I decided to extend this period every time by one year. This I told my friends to keep our spirits up. Give in to depression would only lead to death. In the early stages of captivity I saw this happen to many fellow sufferers.


This day brought a sea change in our lives.

It was a bright sunny day. For some days already we were put to work in the surrounding area to clean up the chaos caused by earlier bombings. Someone saw high up in the sky the glittering of a B-29. There was an air raid alarm and we were ordered to go to the barracks, not to the air raid shelters as was customary. Strange? Nothing happened, so after an hour we were put back to work again. This did not last long since another plane was sighted. Also this time no order came to go to the shelters. Everyone could act as he thought wise. Some went to lie on the ground behind a rise, while others continued to watch. They saw that something came down on parachutes.

On an impulse I went into the factory to take cover. I stumbled and made myself as small as possible. I saw a flash, went numb and did not hear that the whole roof came down. When I regained conciousness I was lying in a square part of the roof and saw the devastation around me. In the lower part of the roof I crawled out of this space and stood in a totally darkened world. I stood in disbelief, totally stunned by what I saw. The first thought that occurred to me was to get my backpack with “precious” stuff out of the barracks. The barracks were skewed in the direction of the explosion point. There were several colleagues unharmed in the area.

There was an announcement to collect all red cross packages. I went back into the factory where I found a Japanese man who was slightly injured and was lying dazed among the rubble. I helped him out of there and he walked away. Also a girl came out of the chaos all by herself. I also discovered a camp-mate, who was trapped. With 8 camp mates we tried to lift the bar where he was lying under in order to get him free. He lay against a steel workbench approximately 40 cm thick with a steel beam of the roof across. His physique was such that we could not pull him out. The blazing fire and thick smoke necessitated us to leave him behind. For all a moment to never forget.

Among the people who were walking around, there was no panic. Everyone was aware of what had to be done. In that deserted area it was a miracle. We were just a small group. How and with whom the majority of the camp mates reached the hill at the crematorium I do not know and I did not care to know. I saw the chaos, but only had eyes for my fellow camp mates and my own well-being.

This story has been told by many of us and it has left a huge impression on all of us.

We then walked with a cart to the foot of the hill together with the Japanese guard and joined the people who were already there. They were not the most heroic soldiers who have saved their life. However, they did mention again that they were the bosses.

Here we had to spend the night. I did not sleep because of the explosions and intense fires that raged on all night.

The day after the bomb

The next day we returned to camp and we were united again with a group that had worked on a cave and had camped on the east side of town on a hill.

A stay at the cave meant that you would be killed. The Japanese had this intention also for the prisoners of my camp number 46. This I read in a diary of a prisoner from that camp. No made-up story in this case.

We passed the site where our barracks stood. They were not there anymore. There were only the steel skeletons of a factory and a valley where there was no house. On the east side of the Urakami River in a clearing we had to wait for orders. After 4 days we had to move on. The sick persons were carried on stretchers by the “healthy” inmates to a nearby hill. It is understandable that this was very difficult. In the end it took four walks that finally ended at 00:00 hrs. A Japanese soldier took this opportunity to have himself carried up. Whether he was injured, I doubt. It is understandable that a lot less pleasant wishes were called to him.


I believe that we had to gather in the courtyard of the camp around 15:00hrs. The Japanese camp commander announced with some emotion that the war was over. A modest cheer went up and there were among us who could not keep their eyes dry.

We were free but not yet home.

Any threat or nuisance from Japanese side was totally absent. You did not even see them. Many went into the “city” to look around. One night they took an American soldier back to the camp. He came from an aircraft carrier that had arrived in the bay. He had to answer many questions and everybody wanted to see the heavy weapon he was carrying. It was quite different from the “pop-guns” that we used in the war. Escorted by ex-prisoners, he was taken back to the port.

I spent my free time in nature behind the camp. I was there when after about three days a very low bomber came over and dropped packages. They were not real packages but two drums welded together, ach holding approximately 50 kilos. The content consisted of all kinds of food, biscuits, chocolate, cigarettes, etc.. Several drums burst open and now you could enjoy all these delicacies. My choice was the Herschi vitaminized chocolate. A gods gift after the harsh conditions, the fish soup and ‘spicy’ chicken intestines, on which I survived the past three years.

The reunion with my parents, where I had looked forward to, came only seven months later: after a period of three months in Manila, then a similar period in Borneo and finally a short stay in Australia.

This is the story of my father and I cannot say what impact all this had on my life, because this is my reference. I do not know who he would have become if things had been different. For me personally the invitation to speak gave me a beautiful, never-before-told story, with many details, delivered to me by my father. He tells his story with lots of humor and he enjoyed telling it it more and more. He called me immediately when he remembered a new detail.

I was never raised with feelings of hate towards Japan and I hope that this story helps others to show that understanding, respect and reconciliation can bring people together and that we thus hope to get a better world.

Translated by Tony Tangena

Closing address | by Yukari Tangena-Suzuki

Ladies and gentlemen, I hope you are not too tired after such a day. It has been a great pleasure for me and for my colleagues to organize this year’s Dialogue Conference again. We had a rather ambitious program but we survived!!

First of all I would like to speak about our activities in Japan. At the last conference I announced that we were planning to organize a Dialogue Conference in Japan. In November last year at the Dutch Embassy in Tokyo together with the Embassy we invited about 50 students to a study afternoon. The program was to show the film “arigato” which was also shown at the last conference. After a welcome address by Mr. Arjen van den Bergh of the Embassy, I spoke about the background and purpose of the Dialogue in Japan. Then Prof. Orita gave a lecture about what happened in ex-Dutch- East Indie and he explained how those events still cast a shadow over the Netherlands. The students were surprised to learn this part of their own history, just like I was surprised more than thirty years ago. In history lessons they never learned about it and modern internet service also does not seem to help to gain knowledge about their history. At the site the newly published book “Geknakte Bloemen” “Broken flowers” translated by Prof. Muraoka into Japanese were also for sale!!

Recently it is said that Japan’s politics drifted towards the right wing and I am afraid that this kind of attitude in teaching history is one of the hotbeds of right wing ideology.

Immediately after the study afternoon the students were invited to meet victims of the war from the Netherlands who were visiting Japan with the aid of the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The students were quite active in communicating with them and I am sure what they learned on that day will certainly stay in their minds and created something new in their lives. In their feedbacks I read deep gratitude for “a very precious experience; I studied wars from political and historical viewpoints but now I learned that wars are also about individuals who have sorrow and pain; as a Japanese I am glad to have learned something that I did not know before namely what the Japanese Army did; I noticed we learn about the war only with Japan as a victim”

I know we only have a little influence. But we hope to keep on working to encourage people to become aware of the aggression of our country in the last war. Fortunately the embassy asked us to do the same this year and we will have the Dialogue in Japan with a guest lecturer, Prof. Aiko Utsumi this November. In December I am also planning to show the documentary film made by a Japanese film maker under the title “Tears of Children” about children from the Dutch Indies with Japanese fathers.

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Now coming back to our conference today! It took us almost one year to prepare for this conference and it has also been a learning process for the working group again.

This year, we tried to go back to the starting point of the Dialogue conference. We also tried to put a spotlight on the POW camp in Nagasaki since together with the POW Research Network in Japan we decided to support the project to build a memorial monument for the POWs that died at the Fukuoka No. 2 camp.

At first it was only my dream to have Melinda as our speaker. But to my great astonishment she said immediately YES to my humble request to give a talk at this conference, even though we cannot pay for her flight tickets. She even invited Takemi Wada from Kamaishi.I am sure Takemi will bring back our message to Kamaishi.

I was thrilled to hear that Melinda started to look into her own life while she was tracing back the life of Wim. It seems that she is not just looking from the outside as an observer when doing the confrontation or reconciliation with her friend Wim, but she is now starting her own journey to look into her own life as well. Her sensitive and humble way of looking at things reminded me the word, “the poor in spirit” at the sermon on the mount. Sermon on the mount is what Jesus taught on the mountain according to the Gospel of Matthew. “Blessed are the poor inspirit for theirs of the kingdom of heaven”

As matter of fact Adrie, the second mother of Wim explained at the first Dialogue Conference how Wim needed to dig in to look for himself as his therapy to recover from the trauma. Then she said this happened to the occasional annoyance of his wife Ada, who, however, always supported Wim. This remark shows who Ada is. She not only supported Wim but also took care later and nursed him during his long suffering illness in the last 7 years of his life. And finally she took a long trip to Indonesia and scattered the ashes of Wim next to his mother Nel’s grave whom he loved so much and who was the source of inspiration in his life. “Meek” is the right word for her. ”Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth”

Prof. Muraoka posed the question what does reconciliation really mean. He tried to make it clear using the essence of forgiveness and reconciliation. With all injustice of the nations including Japan I really wonder what a nation/country is. A nation often is silent to cover the evil actions it practiced in the past. Last Wednesday I read in the Japanese newspaper that Minister Timmermans gave a press talk and reconfirmed that he supports completely the Kono statement that states the Japanese army forced women to be sex slaves during the war. I am sure we also stand behind this Kono statement. But why did the Minister have to reconfirm this matter towards Japan. Injustice is to recognize false as truth. I realize I have got much homework to do in my country. I am sure everyone agrees with Prof. Muraoka especially those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”

Because she had to give a talk in this conference, Patty got a chance to listen in detail to her father’s war experience for the first time. Her father, Dick once told me that when he is asked about his war experience he only answers what is asked and not more. The result of this dialogue between father and daughter is something not really my business but I am sure they have deepened their relationship because she now knows more than before how broad minded and strong spirited a father she has. When I heard about the scene where Japanese soldiers with their bayonets stabbed the prisoners who tried to escape, I remembered an article in a Japanese newspaper of last May where a 94 year old Japanese ex-soldier contributed. He was ordered by his officer to stab a Chinese with his bayonet. Since then he has been suffering from his own action. He wrote that there must never be a war again and there exist no righteous wars. Not only Dick and his camp fellows but also this Japanese ex-soldier are those who had to mourn so much. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted”

Today we spoke mainly about Wim, but we have many other unforgettable people in the Dialogue working group. Wim’s second mother, Adrie Lindeijer, Herman and Annie Goudswald and Els Michielsen, Her daughter, Antoinet is also here. They left us precious heritages of love and faith. I now realize more and more that we have responsibility to cherish and inherit the base of the Wim’s words, “People of Kamaishi, I beg you for your forgiveness because I have always hated Japanese”

Dear friends, what do you think that moves us? Why would Melinda want to come all the way to the Netherlands and tell us about Wim and his mother Nel.? How could Ada support Wim and keep taking care of him in the toughest situation? What gave Prof.Muraoka the hunger and thirst for righteousness so strongly and lead him and his wife, Keiko to Asian countries to give free lectures? What made Dick live without hatred after having such an awful experience? Why did Andre finally decide to tell us about his father? And why are we here?

I think it is hope that moves us. Hope for a better world.

Look at the world now! Is it any better than 70years ago? I sometimes really have to cry because of my powerless existence. I once felt everything is useless whatever I do. I felt myself so helpless. Then I heard a little voice, “You are the light of the world!”

I have hope in the words that “We are created in His image”. I have hope in the words said to me ”You are the light of the world”. Whether you are a Christian or not, real hope never ends in disappointment because you are the light of the world.

Let’s work together for the better world.

That is the power of reconciliation.

Thank you very much for coming to this conference today. I look forward to meeting you next year again.


During the lunchtime donations will be collected for:

A monument for the POWS who died in Fukuoka Camp 2 in Japan

The working group of the Dutch-Japanese-Indonesian Dialogue wishes to draw your attention to the following matter.

We have recently received a notice from Japan that there is a plan afoot to build a monument in Nagasaki for the 72 POWs who passed away in Fukuoka Camp 2. The opening ceremony may take place on August 15 next year on the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War.

We as the working group of the Dutch-Japanese-Indonesian Dialogue find this a remarkable initiative, especially because the initiative is taken by Japanese citizens, and does not come from the Japanese government. They wish to set up a visible symbol in order to commemorate the deceased POWs at the site where the camp was located. This development in Japan is entirely in line with the work of our Dialogue.

The Japanese committee involved has budgeted € 22,000 for the building of such a monument and about as much for its maintenance.

Today Mr Schram is going to tell you a little more about the background of this project. During the lunchtime donations will be collected. You can also make use of bank transfer method under the account number mentioned below.

It would be wonderful if you would support this special project in Japan.

On behalf of the working group of the Dutch-Japanese-Indonesian Dialogue,

Mrs Yukari Tangena-Suzuki