Next week is the presentation of a large-scale study into decolonization in Indonesia. is depicted after the military violence that was used in the former Dutch colony between 1945 and 1950. An estimated 5,000 Dutch soldiers and 100,000 soldiers were killed in the war of independence.
It all happened when Indonesia had declared independence on August 17, 1945. A huge step, because the area had been a Dutch colony for centuries. And just before the declaration of independence, it was still occupied by Japan. That surrendered in 1945, the final piece of the Second World War.
The Netherlands, itself just liberated from the Germans, is certainly not behind an independent Indonesia. Restoration of the old colonial authority was supposed to help with reconstruction. There were also reports of mass killings by fighters of the Indonesian revolution. In the Bersiap, they aimed at anyone who had links with colonial Dutch authority.
The Dutch military seizure that followed is part of a history that would preferably never be reconstructed. But it is also a history that others believe should be looked at and learned from. So now with the results of an extensive study as the latest chapter.
1. What has been studied?
The research focuses on ‘the dynamics of violence, from the proclamation of the Republic on August 17, 1945 and the chaotic period from August 1945 to early 1947, to the end of the war in 1949’, can be read on the researchers’ website.
It concerns a joint research team of the Royal Institute for Language, Land and Ethnology (KITLV), the Netherlands Institute for Military History (NIMH) and the NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies. Together they look at the political, social and international context of the violence.
2. What was the result?
The research past in a renewed interest in the history of the Dutch East Indies. For example, the Rijksmuseum is now devoting an exhibition to the revolution. In 2021 the movie came The East from and in previous years books were published on the same theme. Of these, ‘Brandende kampongs van Generaal Spoor’ by historian Rémy Limpach caused the most controversy.
Number even that the Dutch tasks. Limpach’s next were so shockingly exceeded that the cabinet announced that there is ‘sufficient design for a race-designed study into the context of the use of force and the period of decolonization’. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has earmarked 4.1 million euros for the investigation.
With the investigation, the cabinet itself has drawn up the previous and official government position on the violence of the Dutch army for discussion. In 1969 Excess Note the government’s assertion that there was no question of ‘systema cruelty’. The Dutch armed forces had only ‘committed a few excesses’.
This intervention was called ‘police actions’. A loaded term because some of the Dutch soldiers used violent violence. As with the Rawagede massacre, on December 9, 1947, 400 men were executed there. “The river and the rice fields were strewn with corpses. The water turned blood red,” relatives previously told RTL Nieuws.
According to Rémy Limpach, Rawagede was not an incident, but rather there was structural violence. In his research, the historical one talks about thousands of cases such as arson, executions, looting and torture. That research researchers have now been investigating for four years.
3. How is the research conducted?
The dozens of researchers from the three affiliated institutions cut up the research in eight different projects† That’s how it is subproject ‘Bersiap’ that focuses on the period of extreme violence by the Indonesian side against (Indonesian) Dutch.
It was not only the Dutch archives that were examined. According to the researchers, there is also the matter with Indonesian historians. In addition, testimonies from 1945-1950 have been an important source. In Indonesia, for example, independence fighters were interviewed and Dutch stories were also recorded.
“We have received correspondence between Dutch soldiers and parents, brothers and sisters. And diaries, in which young people have recorded what they had done during that period”, can be read in the description of the subproject ‘Witnesses and Contemporaries’.
The subprojects are processed in twelve publications. In addition, a final summary work of the research program is published with the following. “With a focus on (the explanation of) Dutch military action”, according to the research design.
4. How is the research focused?
Mixed and above all very fierce. So the veteran platform Maluku4Maluku the NIOD researchers biased. Historians might even indulge in ‘NSB propaganda’. According to the veteran and decisions only have an eye for the communication on the Dutch side.
According to NIOD Frank van Vree, the criticism leads to attacks on the director. in a interview with Trouw previously expressed his concerns. “We sometimes get texts like: you will still have to deal with us. You could even read a threat in it.”
There are also criticisms from other quarters. The Committee of Dutch Honorary Debts has been conducting lawsuits for years with relatives of Dutch violence. They believe that the research should focus on the entire colonial past and not just on decolonization.
According to the committee, the fact that the investigation is being carried out by the Dutch state is even worse. As a result, independence would be hard to find. Criticism that the NIOD strongly contradicts. According to the director, the government has nothing to say about inflation.
5. What could be the (political) consequences of this research?
That is difficult to say now that the exact content of the research report is not yet known. What also plays a role is that it concerns events from more than seventy years ago. The prime ministers from that, Louis Beel and later, have died and can therefore no longer give accountability. coins related to the minister of army chiefs.
It is expected that the current government will respond to the report’s situation. It will not be the first time that the Netherlands has spoken out about the violence during decolonization. For example, King Willem-Alexander, who speaks names of the government, made an apology in 2020 for ‘the violent derailments on the Dutch side’:
“In political The Hague, results are taken into account, even if it is seventy years later,” says political reporter Fons Lambie. “This report may lead to the King’s apology being reiterated. That will then be done by Prime Minister Rutte.”
According to Fons Lambie, that can get its own dynamic again. “It will also initiate the discussion whether a gesture should be made towards the veterans of the Indies community in the Netherlands. The government could also express its regret towards the veterans of the community.”
For a long time, the Netherlands was reluctant to apologize for fear of major financial claims. They have come in recent years. For example, relatives of executed Indonesians get a final battle right from the court. Relatives received compensation of thousands of euros.
end of 2020 the Cabinet to make an arrangement so that other surviving relatives can also claim compensation of EUR 5,000. They have to make it possible for their father to be killed in a summary execution. According to critics, this is very difficult for many relatives.
Last year, the Ministry of Defense released to know NU.nl that at least nineteen children of executed Indonesians have received such compensation. There is still no uncertainty about the research results that will be published in the coming week, will have consequences for this arrangement.