The Dutch suffer at hands of both Germans and Japanese

The Dutch-Indian army destroys naval installations in Surabaya, before the Japanese landed

The Dutch-Indian army destroys naval installations in Surabaya, before the Japanese landed

The Japanese 2d Division celebrates landing at Merak, Java - 1 March 1942

The Japanese 2d Division celebrates landing at Merak, Java – 1 March 1942

Dutch soldiers on Java at the surrender to the Japanese

Dutch soldiers on Java at the surrender to the Japanese

Images courtesy Wikipedia and Tropenmuseum of the Royal Tropical Institute (KIT).

On Java, then part of the Dutch East Indies, now part of Indonesia, the Japanese had gradually been rounding up the civilian population and interning them. First the men and then in November 1942 the women and children. For ten year old Lise Kristensen, whose family were originally from Norway, it was a time of growing up fast and learning to survive.

They were thrown out of their own house and forced live with other families in an enclave of houses taken over by the Japanese and fenced off as a camp. Lise, her younger sister, their mother and her baby brother, born in October 1942, were allocated the rat infested garage of one of the houses. Their mother had been prepared for the eviction and had packed a bag with essentials and money sewn into the lining. Lise already knew they were better off than many others:

We also traded things for medicine with the local javanese villagers on the other side of the fence, though this was not allowed by the japanese, who would beat anybody they caught. Anything and everything was traded. We would give the javanese blankets and clothes and in return they would supply us with fresh fruit and vegetables.

Some of the women had no money and would sneak out in the hours of darkness to meet with the Javanese men and trade. The fence around the village was not very well secured in some places and at nights the soldiers would spend most of their time inside their huts drinking rice wine and playing cards. They were nearly always drunk. The women would lift the bottom of the fence and crawl underneath.

Every so often the Japanese would catch them retuming and punish them. Sometimes they dragged them away to their huts and other times they beat them there and then. Occasionally I heard a shot in the middle of the night, though Mama would never tell me exactly what had happened.

The Japanese had special holes dug into the sides of the embankments near the fence inside the camps. There was just enough room for one person and they had specially constructed wooden gates held in place by stakes hammered into the soil. The women who had been caught were thrown in these holes for several days without food and water. The other women risked their own lives to give them food and water when the japanese were not around. If they were caught, they ended up in the holes as well.

I remember Mama sneaking out of our garage late one night and, when I asked her where she had been, she explained that one of the girls in the hole was very ill. Mama told me she took her some water and a bar of chocolate, which the girl hardly had the energy to eat. She was released the next morning but died several days later. Mama cried for most of that day; the girl was only sixteen.

Lise Kristensen: The Blue Door

Back in Holland 3 year old Mieke Jansma and her family were being evicted from their home in Gravenhage on 29th December 1942. Now a resident of New Jersey USA you can see her tell the story of her family under German occupation, with a number of contemporary documents and photographs, at Brookdale Community College.

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