The Defining Years of the Dutch East Indies, 1942-1949, Survivors' Accounts of Japanese Invasion and Enslavement of Europeans and the Revolution That Created Fee Indonesia (by Jan A. Krancher.)
In the early 90s when contemplating starting research for the book, I contacted a number of knowledgeable people to get assurance that this would be a worthwhile endeavor. One recommendation I received after a personal conversation with Dr. Dirk van der Elst, Ph.D., Professor and Chairman Emeritus, Department of Anthropology, California State University at Fresno, California was this written statement. "Being a survivor himself and fluent in Dutch and English, Krancher is well qualified for this effort. It is likely that this work will benefit historians as well as the descendants of those who suffered and perished during those days."
|Review by: the Cellar Book Shop,
This book contains 280 pages and 2 full maps; index, appendixes; chronological summary of events in the Dutch East Indies 12/3/41 to 12/31/42; foreign terms and abbreviations; mortality statistics of civilian internees; Indonesian place names.
The 24 personal narratives of military and civilian prisoners of the Japanese in this anthology, largely centered on Java but including Sumatra, Singapore, Thailand- Burma and Japan, cover a wide variety of experiences but have unifying theme: the cruel treatment they received both from their original captors and the Javanese revolutionaries who succeeded them after August 1945. The victims indeed were enslaved. The accounts are apparently unedited. Each is followed by a brief biographical detail. Andrew A. van Dyk's "Overview of the Imprisonment Experience" provides information, largely unknown to non- Dutch readers, which places the stories in context. Bong's "Eight Prison Camps" fits neatly with and corroborates this compendium of horrors and quit heroism.
This is a history book that all Americans would do well to read. It is war in a microcosm, not from a military standpoint, not from a political view, not from the conquerors perspective, but through the filters of those most affected - the invaded - during the time the Japanese Imperial military occupied this territory for three and one half years.
It is easy to read, thanks to Mr. Krancher's excellent translating and editing, but it is not easy reading. Here are all the despairs, deprivations and horrors of war; not in a national overview, but on a person-by-person level, told by those who actually endured the suffering.
Indonesia (or the Dutch East Indies, as it was known before 1949) is not a part of the world with which most Americans are overly familiar. In this case, that is a plus. Not only does the reader learn something of the history, geography, and populations of this areas, but as he reads, a paradigm shift takes place. First there is the feeling: "I have little in common with these people--this happened a half-century ago--do I really need to know about this now? This view is gradually replaced by a profound sense of: "These people are just like I am...they are me if I were to go through this experience."
In these pages we find accounts of suffering, yes - and also personal sacrifice for another's survival. Cruelty and compassion, unthinkable hardships and amazing resilience, stoic endurance and genuine heroism.
Reading these pages is a journey that leaves an indelible impression as well as an understanding of the importance of this relatively small piece of history. The introduction states it clearly: The passage of time...tends to obscure the reality of war and its consequences, and that should not be.
The premise of this book which begs the readers' attention is a little known, not much publicized, yet important and significant event in World War II Pacific Theater history. Many Americans are unaware that during the Japanese occupation of the Dutch East Indies there has been an incarceration of more than 100,000 innocent men, women, children and teenagers, and almost 200,000 warriors in the Pacific Rim areas. The plight of these prisoners has been described in vivid detail in this book.
Review by: Freya and Chris van der Voorst, Aruba-
First of all our special thanks is extended to the Editor of this book, a copy of which we received from a good friend of ours in the Netherlands.. The editor lives in Visalia, California. The book is a compilation of 24 personal accounts of those who survived this miserable period of history that the Indo society experienced in the former Dutch East Indies.
My husband Chris and I were born in 1949 in the Indies and hence belong to the first post-war generation. Obviously, our parents endured first hand this wretched, hash reality under Japanese Imperial Army's heel. However, the stories they told their children were, in our opinion, not always entirely "complete." The reason for this may have been that they wanted to spare us, the younger generation, the memories of their darkest experiences.
Fortunately, we now have a book at our disposal that provides us with a much clearer and more honest picture of that sad episode. This historical account is the most poignant once since the survivors have their roots throughout the entire Indonesian archipelago. Thus their point of view represents the various strata of Indies society.
Personally, we both find the content more informative than that was written by Gavan Daws (POWs of World War II in the Pacific), that deals exclusively with the Japanese occupation. Krancher's book, on the contrary, also covers what happened inside the camps during the Bersiap (Indonesian revolutionary period. Ed.) Chris' colleagues, merchant marines who were also once stationed in the West, all concur with this assessment.
In short, we can recommend this fine book for reading by all those who belong to "our generation." (Dutch-English translation of an article in "De INDO", September 1996)
|Review by: Bernice Harapat-Terluin
"The younger people just aren't interested in our history!" Sounds familiar? I hear it a lot from Indos of my parents's generation. It's heartbreaking to hear. It's also not true - speaking for myself - and, I suspect, many other U.S. educated anaks - I was, for my years, completely clueless! We came to this country as small kids, many of us had never lived in the Indies, and our American classmates all thought we wore wooden shoes! Our elders told fascinating stories of life in Indie, and I loved to listen, (even when I wasn't supposed to) but their historical and geographical context were a puzzle - they didn't match anything I learned in school. On the subject of the Pacific War, for example, my formal education consisted of: 1) Pearl Harbor; 2) Hiroshima. Getting the rest of the picture required teaching myself to read Dutch and of course pestering my long- suffering parents.
I wish we'd had a book like Jan Krancher's The Defining Years of the Dutch East Indies, 1942-1949 (McFarland & Company) when I was growing up. Jan has created a perfect introduction to, and overview of, the wartime and postwar history of the Indies for the English- speaking reader - sort of "Indo 101", as well as a must-read for the rest of us. His is the most thorough treatment of the subject that I've ever found in English.
The 24 first-person survivors' accounts that comprise the book, represent people of many ages and occupations, military and civilian. Their stories of suffering and quiet heroism; so obviously still fresh in the authors' minds, will quite simply blow you away, even if you've grown up with war stories. I am still haunted by Greta Kwik's The Loss of my Father. For the serious student of history, Jan include a historical overview, a detailed chronology, glossary, statistics and a list of old and new place names.
Long-time INDO readers may already be familiar with Jan's work; for those of you new to the family, I encourage you to make a place in your collections for The Defining Years. And when you've read it, be sure to share it with your anaks and tjoetjoeks. After all, they won't learn this history in school!
Bernice Harapat-Terluin, Langley, WA in "De INDO" Aug. ‘98.
My father's family was incarcerated in a variety of camps as POWs of the Japanese. The subject was never discussed and as the next generation, I want to know what happened. This book helped enormously in that respect. Other books tend to be just one person's view point, which, if they were not in the same camp, or underwent the same experiences as those you are thinking about while reading, seem quite distant, but because this is essentially a series of articles, it seems somehow more relevant. Recommended reading for anyone who's family suffered in the Japanese POW camps, and who wants to know more.
firstname.lastname@example.org, Berkshire, England, Amazon.co.uk, August 11, 2001