Benno van der Velde vertelt het verhaal
over zijn jeugd
Evidence that we as Jews had been deliberately arrested
in the Dutch East Indies as Jews
Birth announcement of Elize iin the
Indische Courant of 30.03.1937
Meeting with front centre from left to right
Mr. Ehrenpreis, father, Elize and mother
Most probably a meeting of the Jewish Community Surabaya around 1940
Choepah (wedding ceremony) of Jacob Franken and Ms. van der Linden
Father with talles (prayer shawl) and black skullcap
Headoffice building in 1930 of Lindeteves Stokvis in Surabaja
My parents and me in 1935
Mr Ehrenpreis chairman of the Jewish Congregation in Surabaya during a Hanukah celebration with my sister Elize (in front) the year is 1940 - 1941.
Last picture of my parents my sister Elisheva and me
With some difficulty I look back on my childhood in the Dutch East Indies, my memories are not at all rose-tinted.
On April 5th 1933 I was born in Batavia, the first son of David Hartog van der Velde (born in Amsterdam on May 5th 1904) and Klaartje de Vries (born in Harlingen on November 22nd 1901).
Both parents came from a Jewish family, my uncle, mother's brother, was 2nd Chazan in the Shul (Synagogue) in Harlingen and my grandfather Bennie van der Velde was a rabbinical teacher at the Nederlands Israëlitisch Seminarium (Dutch Israelite Seminar) in Amsterdam, founded in 1814.
On April 23rd 1930, mother and father had their civil registry wedding in Amsterdam.
Like many young couples, the crisis and related unrest in America was a reason to look for good jobs elsewhere. The Indies had a great attraction with its tropical climate and well-paid jobs.
My father therefore foresaw a bright future in the Dutch East Indies and so it was that my parents left for the East Indies shortly after their wedding, where father had been offered a very good job as head accountant at Lindeteves Stokvis in Surabaya. At a later date, around 1940, he would be transferred to a branch in Batavia.
Although there was a kehilla (Jewish community) in Surabaya it was small and not very conservative. It consisted partly of the so-called Baghdad Jews.
There was a synagogue in Surabaya but I do not know if it was really used a lot. What I do know is that there were Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services on the high holidays.
My father was the Chazan (cantor) of the shul and sang both for the Ashkenazi Jews, the Jews who mostly came from Europe and for the Baghdad Jews who were of Sephardic descent.
There is a real difference between the way the songs are sung in the shul for the Ashkenazi Jews and the Sephardic Jews, but my father sang for both. He also held several drôsches* (speech) after the service.
In Tangerang there were also two daily roll calls where I queued, shivering with fear. Because I was so small I had to stand at the front and it was terrible to see how women were beaten.
When I was 11 years old, I was taken away from my mother and sister and taken by open lorry to the boys' camp Baros 6 or also called Camp 6 in Tjimahi.It was a camp for boys from the age of 11, but I also remember that there were adult men there. In this camp I was harassed by the other boys. It was a two way hell, 1 because I was too small for my age and 2 because I was Jewish, a fact they knew.
Although there was a camp for women on the other side of the street, my mother and sister were transported from the LOG to camp Adek*** in Batavia where they arrived on the 25th of March 1945.
After the Japanese capitulation and the fall of Japan, about which we only heard about later, around the 18th of August 1945, a very dangerous and scary time dawned. The little food we received from the Japs during the internment was no longer given to us, and it became scrambling to find food. I did get some money and went to the kampong across the street with my pan and bought some typical noodles called bami goreng. This went well a couple of times until I got to the Warung (small diner usually a hot plate and no tables or chairs) and the woman who was selling the food there said "Sinjo" which means boy in Malay, which I then spoke fluently, "I can't sell you anything anymore".
Don't forget that I was very small in size because of the malnutrition and begged her to feed me anyway because I was so hungry. She did fill my pan but I felt a lot of hostility towards me. I stood tall and slowly walked out of the kampong, step by step, so as not to give the impression that I was scared and lived to tell about it. Once back in the camp I burst into tears, but I emptied my pan of food in no time and made the taste of it last.
Of course it was also a very scary time because although you were allowed to leave the camp, it was very dangerous because the Indonesians were so indoctrinated and misled by the Japanese. They had been told that only when all the prisoners had left the country or had been murdered could there be indepence.
As is well known, the truth turned out to be quite different. What was particularly terrible for the Javanese was that the Japanese used false pretences to recruit thousands of boys aged around 16 with the intention of enslaving them and making them work in the mines. Many were transported and drowned during the transports with 4 so-called Japanese hell-ships.
There I was only 12.5 years old and skin and bones, I weighed around 28kg. There was a list of people who were in the group to board the big ship. Later it turned out to be the ms "Oranje". The one who was in charge and who read the list, realised that my name was not on it and did not know what to do. Because of the strong survival instinct that I had I knew what to do. I put the small bag in which I had all my belongings like my metal food bowl on the ground and discreetly entered the landing craft. Then I walked over some sort of bridge and without being noticed joined the group with the people whose names had been called.
Although the person in charge was aware of what I was doing, didn't blink an eye and said nothing. So that's how I came aboard the Oranje. Once on board it happened again because my name was not on the list aboard. I persisted even at my young age and said I was not stepping foot off board anymore. The crew then took the old shipping lists and checked them. It turned out that my mother, who had a severe case of tuberculosis and whom they wanted to get rid of as soon as possible, had refused to board the Oranje as long as I was not with her. She insisted on waiting until I was present and only together with my sister and me she would board the ship and make the crossing.
To make a long story short, the person in charge on the ship called the hospital, after which my mother got dressed and was takenr with my sister to the " Oranje" in a very small boat. It was only when she saw me from afar that she climbed on board via a very long ladder that reached into the sea on the side of the ship.
The boys that were on the ship slept in the rear, on the aft deck which was completely sealed with gauze. The section was completely closed because they did not want the boys to ream the ship. Th egauze was used to keep out burglars who could get on board along the cables in the harbour. Once in a while I was allowed to visit my mother who whax in the infirmary.
My mother was admitted to the sanatiorum in Santpoort immediately upon arrival in the Netherlands. My sister was placed with an uncle, who had 2 foster children outside his own 3 children, there was still place for a girl but he refused to take in a boy. They dropped me in the Oosterparkziekenhuis, a hospital of the Catholics. After about 3 weeks we, Elize and I were transported to Switzerland with another couple of children under the auspices of the Red Cross. We were supposed to stay there for about 3 months to recover but in the end this became one year.
Birth announcement of Benno
april 5th 1933
My registration card / Internment card of the boys camp in Tjimahi
My ticket from the camp by plane, a Boeing, to Batavia back to my mother
Marriage certificate from David Hartog van der Velde and Klaartje de Vries
of 23rd of April 1930 in Amsterdam
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