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The Indo Culture

East Indies becomes Indonesia

Brief History (2)

The surprising Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour on
7 December 1941 also signalled the start of World War 2 for the Dutch East Indies.

During the Battle of the Java Sea on 28 February 1942 almost the total allied fleet was lost in the battle against the Japanese and went under. In a very short time Indie would be conquered by the Japanese. It was useful for Japan because of mineral treasures such as oil, and as an outpost.

On 8 March the Dutch military forces, the Royal Dutch-Indies Army (KNIL) surrendered at Kalidjati to the Japanese. The realm of The Netherlands in Asia did not exist anymore.

Slag in de Javazee 1942 - 01

Battle of the Java Sea


Dwangarbeiders werkend aan een spoorlijn.

Thus followed a period of Japanese control over the Dutch East Indies. All European inhabitants were detained, including women and children. The men were forced to do hard labour, such as the construction of the notorious Burma railway.



Left: Dutch forced labourers


The battle in the Pacific was taken up by the Americans, and the Allies, consisting of troops from NZ, Australia and Great Britain. Also the KNIL military who escaped from the Japanese to Australia played a part. In a painful struggle which cost many lives, island by island was conquered. The Dutch East Indies however was skipped because the target was Japan.

In the spring of 1945 a big part of Europe was liberated, but the expectation was that the war in the Pacific at least would go on until 1946 as the Japanese were very tough soldiers.

Boten in de Javazee


 Little boats used in the
Battle of the Java Sea


De paddestoelvorm van de atoombom op Hirosjima

Hiroshima, 6 August 1945

Shortly after the American President Franklin D. Roosevelt passed away on April 12th 1945, his successor Harry Truman urged the acceleration of the development of the atom bomb. Meanwhile it became clear that Japan would fight to the last man and continue their policy of killing all Allied soldiers as soon they landed. After a first test bomb in the desert of New-Mexico, Truman decided to use this bomb against Japan.

On August 6th Hiroshima, within a few seconds 78,000 of the 340,000 inhabitants were killed and in the next months another 70,000 victims would die from a result of their injuries. Not long after, Nagasaki was struck by an atom bomb, the Japanese emperor Hirohito had no option but to capitulate and on August 15th 1945, Japan surrendered unconditionally.


Now Japan had been beaten, in the Dutch East Indies a  power vacuum arose. The American soldiers were busy stabilising other parts of Asia, meanwhile the KNIL officials and military had just been released from the P.o.W camps and were in no fit state to assume their former administrative duties. The Netherlands itself was in disarray after the vitual decimation of the home country by the Nazis, so were not in any position to send enough men who could take over the authority of the Japanese.

The temporary government was therefore put in hands of the British.



Right: British in action

Britse troepen in aktie

Soekarno, omrings door medewerkers, spreekt de 'proklamasi' uit.

Sukarno reads the proklamasi on 17-08-1945

On August 17th 1945 the Dutch East Indies nationalists Sukarno and Hatta took their chance to realize their ideal, namely an independent Indonesian republic encapsuling all the islands. They gave notice via a proclamation which however was not acknowledged by the Dutch. This was because The Netherlands wanted the situation to revert back to how it was before 1942 and in November 1945 they sent troops. The Britons who were determined to stay neutral between the Dutch and the natives didn't allow them to enter Java and sent them to Sumatra, Malakka and Thailand.


There was anarchy on Java with murders, intimidation and attacks. The national party TNI (Tentara Nasional Indonesia) led an intense guerilla battle against the Dutch, the East Indies and the people who had recently returned from the Japanese internement camps.

Meanwhile also in the British colonies problems had arisen, so the British army left in 1946 and the responsibility of government was returned to the Dutch.


Anti-Nederlandse demonstratie

Anti-Dutch demonstration 19.09.1949

Billboard with text: we don't want the Dutch!

There was an anti-Dutch tone and the
Indonesian youth were encouraged in it.

The nationalist feeling spread like wildfire over Java. Anyone who was not 100% Indonesian was treated violently by the Indonesians. This was especially relevent with the Indo-European (later called the Indos), the Indonesians who had served the KNIL. The Chinese were particularly singled out, because in Indonesian eyes they had committed the twin sins of being a colonial enemy and as a collaborator.

Sukarno spreekt het bestuur toe

 Sukarno's speech to the
Congress of the Indonesian Government


The Bersiap-time
The period of the sharp Struggle for Independence is called the Bersiap time. 'Bersiap' means: Be prepared.

Permuda's armed military trained radical youths, were especially chasing the Dutch and the Indo-Dutch. Because of the some barbaric practices such as burnings and beheadings, the Japanese were ordered to protect the heavily threatened people in camps.

The protectors were the same Japanese who just a short time before had been their worst enemies during the years of occupation.

The Netherlands faced losing her colonies, and sent 100,000 soldiers to put down the revolution in 1948 and '49

Eerste politionele actie

Tweede politionele actie

Great Britain and the United States however feared that reinstalling the colonial relationship would reinforce
the communism in Indonesia. Pressed by the United Nations, The Netherlands eventually
agreed with the acknowledgment of Indonesia. Signing of the Sovereignty Mandate followed on December 27th 1949.


Transfer of the Sovereignty
Dr. W. Drees signs the
Indonesian Sovereignty in the Palace on the Dam in Amsterdam on 27 December 1949.
To the right of Queen Juliana is Mohammed Hatta.


With the transfer of the sovereignity, the  totoks - the 100% Dutch, and the Indo-European were given two years to decide whether they wanted to keep Dutch nationality or whether they wanted to get Indonesian State Citizenship (warga negara).

Because of all the violence it was not surprising that hundreds of thousands fled the country looking for a safe place elsewhere. The Netherlands was a logical choice to migrate to as they already spoke the language.

There were remarkably less people who chose the Indonesian Citizenship than was expectd by the Dutch government, that being 8% as opposed to 75%.

Until 1958 about 380,000 people would leave their so beloved country, by steamship or by plane. Sometimes the ship was too big for the Dutch waterways at the time so it had to drop anchor in Southampton after which the people had to transfer onto a smaller ship to be able to go to Holland.


Vrouwen en kinderen in de machineruimte van een schip

Every space on the ships were used for hammocks,
as shown here in the engine room.

Estimated migrants:

1945 - 1948

- 1956

- 1956

- 1958

- 1962

- 1968

110,000 persons repatriated; most of them initially went for a duty permit.

102,000 people left the country as a result of the Transfer of the Sovereignty, especially KNIL soldiers and officials whose previous positions now counted for nothing.

88,000 persons who, for all kind of reasons, didn't react on the change of authority.

,000 persons fled because of the strong anti-Dutch actions.

14,400 left New Guinea (the current Irian Jaya).

5,000 'spijtoptanten' ('regretters'). These people originally chose Indonesian nationality, but were disillusioned because they were treated unfairly and discriminated against.


Militairen op het ereveld in Semarang

Soldiers on the Fields of Honour in Semarang

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