My father Paul Rozendaal and uncle Jaap Rozendaal about their life in the Dutch East Indies and Indonesia:
This is the continuation of the story of my grandfather Lijbert Rozendaal.
I have also tried to write down story of my father and his brother Jaap as clearly and concisely as possible here. I am fully aware that this story below is far from complete as well.
Their story in the Indies begins in 1946 with father Paul Rozendaal's mission to the Dutch East Indies and ends in early 1958 with the forced repatriation of my father and his family back to the Netherlands.
In the period 1940-1945 the family was not in the occupied Dutch East Indies but in the occupied Netherlands.
Father was draughted for military service in 1939 as part of the General Mobilisation. He was assigned as a commander to an anti-aircraft gun in Bergen aan Zee, where in the May days of 1940 they shot down a German bomber on its way to a target and had ended up in the sea.
Since the occupying forces had closed down Leiden University in May 1942, and was unfortunately unable to graduate. He and his brother Jaap had to go into hiding in 1944 in order to escape the German Arbeitseinsatz.
They found a hiding place under the floor of their house in Haarlem and thus managed to avoid detection by the Gestapo in 1944. The drawing on the right is by my mother, who was quite good at drawing and handicrafts. During the years of occupation, she obtained a teaching qualification for this. In the later years in Rotterdam, making so-called character dolls became her great passion.
Uncle Jaap attended the three-year HBS in Haarlem, and then went to the MTS where he graduated in mechanical engineering in 1944.
During the war years, the family did not have an easy time feeding and clothing so many mouths, so that the children who were able to sometimes join other in the search for food in other parts of the country.
After the liberation in 1946, father was finally able to graduate and worked for the Distribution Service in The Hague. There he met my mother, Carla Koentze.
They were engaged on 1 July 1945 and were married in the Netherlands in 1946.
In that same year they left separately for the Dutch East Indies. First father went to "make way" and look for a job. The Dutch were called upon to rebuild this part of the Kingdom in the aftermath of the war in the Dutch East Indies.
Mother had no choice or say in the matter, but actually found it all quite exciting. She followed somewhat later with the ms Sibajak of the Koninklijke Rotterdamsche Lloyd. This was a crossing with only women and children, who followed their husbands and fathers.
Father got an appointment as Substitute Officer of Justice (Auditor-Military) at the Temporary Court Martial in Medan. His task was to criminally prosecute Japanese and Korean military war criminals and members of the Kempetai (the highly feared Japanese Secret Service) and bring them to justice.
He had to witness several executions of war criminals he had charged and were sentenced to death by the court. Others were acquitted or received lower sentences than expected because the evidence was insufficient.
The period immediately following the Japanese capitulation on 15 August 1945 and the Declaration of Independence by Sukarno and Hatta was a very chaotic period due to the power vacuum that had arisen. This was called the Bersiap. A period with great danger for the none full bred locals living in the Indies. Many were murdered, in an often gruesome manner, in this period by young people on the loose, armed with bamboo spears and axes. This violence lasted until 1946.
After working at Werkspoor for a short time, Uncle Jaap left for the East Indies again in 1947, later followed by his wife Chris, whom he married in October 1947. He became a machinist at the Sisal factory Laras on Sumatra and later at the palm oil factory Tindjowan.
In 1952 he returned with his wife and their son Robert, born in 1949, to the Netherlands because of the political difficulties that were increasingly arising against the Dutch people still living and working in Indonesia.
The return to the Netherlands was a short intermezzo, however, for in 1953 he left for Southern Rhodesia, later followed by his wife and son. They settled in Salisbury, later Harare.
After the transfer of sovereignty at the end of 1949 and until the end of 1950, father tried to work as an independent lawyer. He did not really succeed, because the Europeans, and especially the Dutch, were boycotted by the Indonesians, so he could not get a foothold.
In November 1950, disillusioned with his wife and one child, he returned to the Netherlands on the Johan van Oldenbarnevelt of the Stoomvaart Maatschappij Nederland based in Amsterdam.
In 1952, he returned to his beloved Indonesia, where he had been offered a great job as 3rd and later 2nd secretary at the head office of the A.V.R.O.S. (General Association of Rubber Planters on the East Coast of Sumatra). In this employers' association of plantation companies in rubber, tobacco, palm oil, fibre and tea in North Sumatra, his knowledge of the Adat and Indonesian agricultural law came in very handy.
In 1957 father was "sent out" by the A.V.R.O.S. to Jakarta (formerly Batavia) to represent the government there.
My oldest brother Roel recounted the following experience from this period: with a few Dutch friends he had gotten into a fight with some boys from the nearby Kampong, during which they had been throwing stones at each other. In the end, they had to run because the force of the fight was too great.
Roel fled, with a few of the Indonesian boys in his wake, to his parents' house, where, to his surprise, dismay and disappointment, he got a beating from his own father in front of the boys. Such a humiliation! But it was a wise decision of my father. The story probably would have ended very differently with repercussions for the family, for in those days the anti-Dutch sentiments were growing day by day. Violence was not shunned.
His brother Jaap was the only one to return to the Dutch East Indies after the war. He went to work as the head of the technical department of a sisal plantation in Sumatra. As a direct result of the increasing and mainly politically motivated tensions, he and his family left for Rhodesia, later called Zimbabwe, in 1952.
He was right, because in the context of the New Guinea crisis all Dutch citizens were declared to be undesirable aliens and dangerous to the state by the Indonesian government on December 5, 1957 (later called Black Sinterklaas). It was the climax of the anti-Dutch mood that had been prevailing in the former colony for months. And off they all went... towards a fatherland unknown to so many of them, and among them was the Rozendaal family.
The family eventually consisted of father, mother and four boys, including myself as the third child. The first child was a girl, but unfortunately, she died almost immediately after birth in 1947 of a so-called "spina bifida", which was very fatal in those days. Oldest brother Roel (at the bottom) was born in 1949, Wouter (above left) in 1951, during leave in the Netherlands, myself (above right) in 1953 and the youngest Ben (on mother's lap) in 1955.
Mother was content, but father had great difficulty in having to return to the Netherlands, leaving behind all his possessions and keeping only memories. After all, he had grown up in that beautiful country.
On 29 January 1958 our family permanently returned to the Netherlands on the ship Ms Oranje. Father was 40, mother 35 and the four children were respectively 9, 7, 5 and 3 years old.
Mother once told us that she had succeeded in smuggling hard guilders out of the country by sewing them into the shoulder pads of her dresses. That was strictly forbidden and therefore very risky. Fortunately, father's employer had also set up a savings account for him in the Netherlands so that they could get through the initial period.
We found accommodation in a so-called contract pension in Haarlem at Zomerluststraat 20. In this street granddad, grandma and their children also had settled at nr.14 upon their return from the Dutch East Indies in 1939/1940. The photo under grandpa and grandma shows that in all those years little has changed in that street. Unimportant but perhaps nice detail: the famous TV series "Divorce" was mainly recorded there.
My first very vague memories are from that time and they are quite positive, despite the difficult time for the returnees and immigrants, who had to build a completely new life. But we, as children, were not aware of that at all. Almost the whole family lived in Haarlem and Heemstede at that time. We therefore had many cousins to play with. As boys you didn’t play with nieces, because they were stupid....;-).
Following my father's work, the family first moved to Beukelsdijk in Rotterdam and then to the nearby village of Bolnes and then to Bruges in Belgium. In 1964 he returned to Rotterdam because of a nice job offer as Head of Personnel at the Stad Rotterdam, an insurance company. He stayed there until he became unfit for work because of a car accident in South Africa while visiting his brother Jaap.
My parents continued to live in Rotterdam until they moved to an old age home in Almere-Haven, where my brother Wouter and his wife Hermieke, who already lived there, were fantastic carers for them.
Father passed away peacefully in his sleep there in 2008, Mother in 2013 after having stayed in a (closed) care home for two years with increasing dementia.
My most important question which still remains unanswered is what possessed my father to first return to the East Indies in 1946 during that terrible Bersiap-period to work as a young lawyer and to start a family there. Then to go back to Indonesia again in 1952 amidst the still existing and even growing anti-Dutch sentiments among a large part of the Indonesian population and the growing political tension between the Netherlands and Indonesia.
He probably always hoped, and thus thought, that things wouldn’t be so bad.
Another question that was answered by many was why people never wanted to visit Indonesia again after the forced repatriation: they wanted to keep the East Indies feeling of Tempo Doeloe.
From 2007 I did go back three times to Medan, where we lived and where I was born. There, by chance, I met a very old woman near our house at the time*, who claimed that she had worked with a lot of pleasure as a Babu with the Rozendaal family as a young girl. (*the house on the left in the pictures below right)
Although at the time of repatriation I was a boy of only four years old and therefore without clear memories, I still got a kind of Indies-feeling from time to time and here and there, the heat, the smells, the people, actually everywhere where Indonesia had not yet caught up with the speed of nations and "progress" had not yet taken hold. Cities like Medan have unfortunately become big, crowded and dirty.
The Art Deco-built A.V.R.O.S. head office in Medan is still there, by the way, and has recently been beautifully renovated, as, for that matter, are more and more buildings from the Dutch East Indies period in Indonesia.
The current generation in particular is becoming increasingly interested in this "Shared Heritage" and it poses no longer a delicate subject to them.
We also had a delicious meal in Restaurant/Lunchroom Tip-Top, which was one of the places to meet in Medan back then. As if time has stood still...
I would have liked to ask my parents and grandparents more questions about the this time of the family in the Indies...but unfortunately I never got around to it...both grandfather and father were introverted men, who rarely or never spoke about the time in the Dutch East Indies and later in Indonesia...and I had little or no interest in that history at that time and was too busy with my own family and career....
So I waited too long...what a shame!
Guus Rozendaal , September 2020
De basis voor de latere stoomtreinen hobby van de beide broers:
Father and Mother at the Distribution Service (back row, standing, 3rd and 4th from right)
Boven een zitting van de Krijgsraad en rechts het gevolg daarvan
Father at work at the A.V.R.O.S.
A typical kampong (village) with kali (river)
Rising anti Dutch sentiment
1949: Father and Mother (on the right) with their first-born son Roel on Mother's lap during a visit to Uncle Jaap and Aunt Chris on the Laras plantation (on the left, also with their first-born son Robert).
The A.V.R.O.S building then and now
The Medan Postoffice (Kantor Pos) then and now
Restaurant/Lunchroom Tip-Top in Medan then and now
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