Hes & Alfred Eduard Abels
Both my parents come
from Central-Java in Indonesia - my father from Semarang (1913) and
my mother from Cheribon - now Cirebon (1918). They married in 1939
They both were
Andir, the airport of Bandung,
the photo is the grandmother of Charles Vermeulen, the owner of this
photo. On his website are splendid pictures and more.
Two years after their marriage, World
War Two was in full flow on Central Java. At that time my father
worked at the airport "Andir"
He was in action as well as a soldier of the KNIL, the Royal Dutch-Indies
Army, but soon he became a prisoner of war in one of the many
Japanese war camps.
At the beginning of
the war my mother lived at a few different family addresses but soon
she also was imprisoned in a Japanese internment camp. Together with her mother
and sisters she had to go from one camp to another and finally she
ended up in Djakarta.
I don't have much
information about the war period from my parents themselves, but
when I was eight,
I heard my father talking to someone about his war
What I heard has made a deep impression and I still
remember the pain and anger I felt at that time.
It was an anger
towards the Japanese in general because of the horrible things they did
to 'my' father and 'my' mother.
The enemy had shot down an amount of people and amongst them was my
father. While he laid on the ground heavely injured, the murderers
walked over the field to check whether everyone really had been
killed. For a long time my father had to play 'dead' and
apparently he did it well as he happened to be one of the few
In the 'Jap camp' my father was buried in sand up to his
head, with or without other victims. This was for the "amusement" of
the enemy who for at least one full day used his head as an urine
From l.to r.:
My mother Aurelia, me (Astrid), Hanny,
Andrew and a sister of my mother Antonia (or Ot).
Their first two
children - firstly daughter Evelien and a year later son Ferdinand -
unfortunately died rather soon after being born and the big grief
for these two remained fresh because of a few following
miscarriages. When my mother was pregnant again in 1948, my parents
- as an aunt told us - bought the baby 'for a cent from the devil'
and a few months later they indeed got a healthy son,
(Why the story about the devil was told, we don't know but as a
child we thought it was rather interesting. The aunt who told us this,
became Andrew's godmother.
To their great joy daughter Hanny followed in 1951, and in 1953 the family was extended with another daughter, Astrid (undersigned).
Because of random acts of
violence and uncertainties in Indonesia my parents too decided to
move to a safer environment, that being Holland, heartbreaking
though it was.
They had to sell or give away almost all their belongings to pay for
the cost of the passage and also because they were only allowed to
take a certain amount of luggage with them. In fact all they could take
as luggage was one cabin trunk, a little green painted wooden chest of
hardly 1.20 metres wide, 0.35 metres tall and 0.50 metres deep.
Our cabin trunk, (as
shown) serves as storage box now. For me it's of a
big value in an emotional respect.
memory of my parents are two little wooden figurines, the little heads
of two Indonesian dancers. The original head dress of the female dancer waved
out on both sides. My mother had to break them off so they would fit
in the trunk.
Mid December 1955 we
were effectively repatriated to The Netherlands.
It took about a month for The Waterman,
'our' steamship to sail
from Semarang via the Suez Channel to
Picture of the
official Rotterdam Lloyd card.
A family in a contract
Source: 'Ik wilde eigenlijk niet
In The Netherlands my parents first
had to live on a contracted pension and they had to take out a
big loan because everything they were "given" such as clothing, food
and furniture, had to be paid back until the very last cent. Such
things were purchased on recommendation of the so called experts,
without any consultation with my parents, however they had to pay it
This happened not only to my parents but it involved many other
refugees (in the literally meaning of the word this was the case for
many of them) from the Dutch East Indies, who came to Holland with
just a few possessions left from "home".
Sometimes ridiculous instructions were given like how to act (also
for in leisure time, such as knitting for women!), to cook and to do
the householding. This and poverty was routine for many families of
the Dutch East Indies, however they kept themselves quiet as they
wanted to be integrated as soon as possible.
There were a lot of friendly & genuine people who helped the
people from the Dutch East Indies to settle down in the
circumstances, but unfortunately there was a lot of
discrimination as well.
Besides more attention and energy was spent on addressing the
grief the Dutch people suffered under the oppression of the
The fact that the repatriated people had suffered a lot as
well, albeit not under the oppression of the Nazis, was ignored
totally for a long time. Any attempt to talk about it was
stopped immediately. This led to a deep bitterness in the hearts
(Text on the wall:
'Indo's Go Home!)
People from the Dutch East Indies later started to call
themselves Indo's which can be seen as an acronyum for In
Nederland Door Omstandigheden - In The Netherlands because of
In 1957 the family over again was
elightened with the birth of a daughter, Els. Later on my parents
were allocated a council house in Enschede in the centre of Holland.
My father's family went to live in the south in Limburg whilst my
mother's family went to lve in the west of the country in Leiden.
From left to
Astrid, Hanny, Els, Andrew
and Daisy, a niece who would emigrate to California
with her mother in 1961.
In a letter my parents wrote to an
aunt it appeared that The Netherlands was seen as a temporary abode.
Their wish was to emigrate to Curacao or Brazil.
Unhappily this dream could not come true as my father's health was
seriously weakened by the World War followed by the Independence
War. He got a chronic disease and passed away in 1962.
My mother had a fragile constitution and caring for four young
children in very difficult circumstances was disastrous for her.
Immediately after my father's passing away she contracted several
serious ailments and after staying in hospitals and numerous nursing
homes, she passed away in 1972.
My parent and
My mother's stepmother and father.