The secret is out! It is an established fact that I have compiled and edited a book about what happened during the Japanese occupation and the Indonesian Revolution in our beloved place of birth. I have accomplished this feat in 3 1/2 years of sweat-blood-and-tears, on a shoestring budget and without financial advance by the publisher. Just locating people who were willing to share and write down their memoirs, has been an experience by itself. Out of more than sixty contributors, twenty four writers have made the grade. The 288 page book just came of the press in April 1996. The full title is:
The Defining Years of the Dutch East Indies, 1942-1949. Survivors Accounts of Japanese Occupation and Enslavement of Europeans and the Revolution That Created Free Indonesia.
But why did I decide to compile such a book in the first place?
1. I was motivated, among other factors, when I was asked to edit an Indo's autobiography, to search out more information about this dark period. I was only 2 1/2 years old when the war broke out and 17 when I left Java for Holland. I wanted to know first hand how other people survived this tumultuous period of our history.
2. It took a lot of preparations, for example, just to find avenues to locate potential contributors. I placed ads in Dutch, Canadian and Australian magazines and, of course, in the FOCUS. (Ed. A publication of the Netherlands Society of Northern California, Inc. A Non-Profit Organization*Founded 1975.) I also kept up an active correspondence as I attempted to reconnect with my old buddies and acquaintances. In total, I received more than sixty responses from New Zealand, South America, Australia, England, Canada, Surinam, Holland and the USA.
3. Simultaneously, I was doing literature search and background reading in US and Dutch historical sources. This investigation made me realize how little specific, personal information there is available about this particular era in the former Dutch East Indies.
4. After collecting and digesting the submitted data, translating several stories from Dutch into English, it came time to organize and edit all this material into suitable, readable format.
5. Finding a publisher was one of the main hurdles to overcome. I received negative comments how futile this search would be. But after only four attempts I found a willing candidate. This came about thanks to riding Willem Wanrooy's coat tails, a well known Indo author. He recently published a classic reference book about Japanese POW camps. I approached the same publisher and was able to sell them my idea of publishing memoirs of those who suffered so greatly.
6. Since my book will not be available in book stores but is primarily targeted towards the library market, I am in the process of formulating strategies to make the general public aware on how and where to obtain a copy. Any suggestion from FOCUS readers on how to go about it would be greatly appreciated.
7. And now that the book is out, I have a great sense of fulfillment. I am experiencing a personal feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction. I wanted to contribute to increasing the understanding of the US readers about this dark part of our history. As Dr. Dirk van der Elst, Ph.D., Professor and Chairman Emeritus, Department of Anthropology, Cal State University, Fresno so aptly stated "Being a survivor himself and fluent in Dutch and English, Krancher is well qualified for this effort. It is likely that his work will benefit historians as well as the descendants of those who suffered and perished during those days".
Indos and totoks alike now have their own history recorded. Page (V) of the book reads "This book is dedicated to those who did not survive the Pacific War, to those who did, and to their offspring. May the horrors of war and its consequences and the years of infamy in the former Dutch East Indies never be forgotten. And may a lesson or two be learned from all that carnage."
A copy can be purchased for US $39.95 by sending a money order or check to:
McFarland & Co, Inc. Publishers,
Box 611, Jefferson, NC 2864
or by calling Jan A. Krancher (559)303-3083
Get the book, if not merely to reflect yourself on what happened "over there" than at least buy a copy for your descendants who may have heard of what transpired but never seen it in print.
(Article appeared in the FOCUS, May/June 1996, vol. 2, no. 3)