The History of the Indo's in

The Netherlands

Here is an article from the website CANON SOCIAL WERK NEDERLAND, written by Jos van der Lens and published on March 19, 2014, which describes the reception in the Netherlands very well:

In the Netherlands live an estimated one million people whose family tree is in any way connected to the former Dutch East Indies. A large number of them came to the Netherlands shortly after the Second World War and around the independence of Indonesia, after often a long history in the former colony.

In 1949, the new Indonesian government gave the Dutch Indians two years to decide whether or not to choose Indonesian citizenship. Only a limited number of Indos chose the latter option. Quite a few people ('regrets') who did so came back to this decision after a while because their social position in the new Indonesia was under great pressure. As a result, people opted for migration to the Netherlands and chose the Dutch nationality over the Indonesian nationality. A total of more than 300,000 Dutch Indians repatriated to the Netherlands in four waves between 1946 and 1964; 50,000 of them emigrated again, among others to the United States, Canada and New Zealand.

This group actually formed the first large wave of migrants that the Netherlands had to cope with after the war. For many years, this mass exodus was known as 'repatriation'; a term that suggested good care and government support. Reality was different. Shortly after the war, the Netherlands had its hands full with itself and was not exactly waiting for this group. Although they were more or less forced to leave the new Republic of Indonesia because of their allegiance to 'Queen, people and fatherland', they were expected to pay the costs of the crossing, the 'housing and education', and the (often second-hand) clothes and household effects themselves. The mixed group of Dutch East Indies was housed in various former labor camps and the former transit camp Westerbork, after the war renamed Woonoord De Schattenberg, around which the rolls of barbed wire still lay.

A very large group eventually found shelter in so-called contract boarding houses. At the beginning of 1950, the government, via national newspapers, called on owners of hotels and guesthouses and other locations to enter into a reception contract. The pension holders received a daily allowance of 4 guilders per person and 3 guilders for babies and young children. According to government guidelines, the manager was allowed to earn 49 cents per occupant per day. That was the guideline, but quite a few pensioners discovered that they could make a substantial profit by saving on food, heating and showers. The 'top 3' of cheapest vegetables consisted of endive, chicory and spinach. By the end of 1950, contracts had been signed with four hundred hotels and guesthouses and accommodation was found in fifty former work camps of the Department of Public Works (DUW). In the following years the number of contract boarding houses will rise to 835.

Meanwhile, the bill for the returnees rose. Heads of families had to give up 60 percent of their net monthly income if they had savings or had built up a pension that had to be drawn on. According to the government, this payment was intended to stimulate people to 'leave the reception centers, residential areas, etc. and seek shelter themselves'. Unfortunately, this was almost impossible due to the enormous housing shortage. Families who - sometimes after years - were eventually allocated a house had to sign an acknowledgement of debt for the outstanding amount with a monthly repayment obligation with a term of fifteen years. Moreover, access to independent housing was only possible if people behaved assimilated. The patronage was enormous, not least because cultural differences were equated with cultural disadvantages. Here they were viewed as if they came straight from the jungle. Questions like: "Did you live there in a hut?", "Nice that you can drive a car" or "Where did you learn to speak Dutch?" indicate that the average Dutchman had absolutely no idea how people lived in the Indies. And most Dutch people were ignorant about the fact that they had to pay the bill for repatriation themselves. Nobody talked about that.

It was only at the end of 1969 that the last contract boarding houses were closed. Thousands of families are still working on repayments for years to come. Many returnees until their death. It remains a hidden history, described in 2014 by the investigative journalist Griselde Molemans in her book Opgevangen in enijvielucht (Imprisoned in endive air). She concludes: 'The blame is even far-reaching in America on Indian families who emigrated from 1958 onwards for a better future. It was not until the early 1990s that the last debt files were closed and the repayment of the costs for a new beginning in the Netherlands came to an end for good'. Moreover, Molemans discovered that pension and insurance funds worth some 250 million guilders that were saved by the Dutch Indians were channelled to America right after the Second World War and were wrongly withheld from this group. It is doubtful whether the last stone will be laid here. Both the Dutch governments and pension insurers are not waiting for a claim for damages from the descendants of the returnees. But that a large group has been systematically wronged here, no one needs to doubt that.
                   Source: Canon Social Work Netherlands - Publication date: 19-03-2014 - Author: Jos van der Lans

Han Dehne writes on his Facebook page ( almost daily interesting articles about the Dutch East Indies and Indonesia, including the following article:

The message of the Dutch government at that time:

"If you're considering coming to the Netherlands, it's better that you don't!

You as Dutch Indians will and can never make it in the Netherlands. Most of you do not have that perseverance.

These new Dutchmen never learned and were not used to roll up their sleeves. Also, there are no real possibilities for them to exist in the Netherlands".

The above vision indicates how the Dutch government thought about the Dutch East Indies when they were still in the former Dutch East Indies.

Legally they were just Dutch, but still not welcome in the Netherlands.

The government actually tried and tried to implement the above.

Among other things by refusing or delaying a government advance for the crossing of returnees. Also, the quotas for issuing visas for those who were unfortunate were greatly delayed.

An involved minister, who was partly responsible for the Overseas Departments and who was known not to have much knowledge of Indian affairs, proclaimed that it was wiser for the Indian Dutchman to choose Indonesian citizenship. Moreover, he saw problems with the adaptation of the Indo's within the labor market in the Netherlands, because they could not cope with the Dutch labour pace anyway.

The government maintained its position that the Dutch East Indies had to stay in Indonesia.

Prime Minister Drees took the position that Dutch Indians were not eligible for a government advance on travel expenses.

However, the same Dutch government could not stop the Dutch Indians, who sold all their possessions and possessions and were thus able to pay for their journey themselves. They were also Dutch. However, these people were also thwarted. Upon arrival in the Netherlands these people were given a lower level of care.

Besides the deteriorating conditions for the Dutch Indians, the relationship between Indonesia and the Netherlands did not improve either.

In the Netherlands people started to realize that the situation in Indonesia was such that they were obliged to help the Dutch Indians. The relaxation of the policy was not supported by the entire cabinet. Especially Mr. Suurhof and Mr. Drees opposed this.

After all kinds of restrictions had been lifted, every Dutchman in Indonesia could claim financial aid if they wished to go to the Netherlands.

This form of assistance was based on an advance payment system in which the people involved were expected to reimburse (part of) these costs after their arrival in the Netherlands. From I960 onwards more and more people travelled by plane until in 1964 all migrations by boat were completely replaced by migration by plane.

Soon after arrival in the Netherlands and sometimes as early as halfway through the boat trip to Europe, clothing and footwear were provided to protect people from the colder climate. Only in the periods of accelerated repatriation - around 1950 and 1958 - and when people arrived by plane, the Red Cross was called in to distribute blankets to the arriving migrants, who did not yet have warmer clothing at their disposal.

These clothes were provided free of charge upon arrival, except in cases where migrants had assets or sufficient savings.

The regular income was not taken into account. Virtually everyone had a one-off right to warmer clothing for a period of one year. If the clothing was not delivered on board, it was possible to purchase warmer clothing after arrival at a number of government-designated stores - in a later phase at the central reception centers in Zutphen and Bennekom.

However, this was done on a modest budget and with the new equipment one did not have to be too picky.

Arriving in the Netherlands, if one did not (yet) have one's own accommodation, one was generally distributed over the contract guesthouses available since 1950, awaiting final accommodation.

Before 1950, there were also reception centers, but they were only used for the temporary provision of accommodation. In particular, many evacuees and persons on recovery leave in the Netherlands took advantage of this shelter.

In the contract guesthouses, the pensioners obliged themselves to provide the persons placed in guesthouses by the government with shelter, food and full care for a certain period of time. For this full care the government committed itself to pay a certain amount per person to the pension holders. From survey data collected on the ships on their way to the Netherlands, the government was able to determine, among other things, the need for accommodation in contract boarding houses.

In April 1951 a number of 632 contract boarding houses were registered with 17,234 guests. This was the highest number of contract dormitories and numbers of occupants reached during the more than twenty-year migration period. From 1950 to 1969, a total of 134,000 people stayed in contract dormitories for shorter or longer periods of time.

Occupants of contract dormitories paid 60% of their net family income (excluding acquisition costs) as a contribution to the cost of housing and food. In case of no or very low income, a modest pocket money could be paid in the contract boarding house, which was not recovered later on.

Returnees who stayed in contract guesthouses had to pay 60 percent of the net family income as a contribution to the costs of housing and food. Upon arrival, they signed a power of attorney authorizing agencies from which they received income to transfer the funds to the ministry, which withheld 60 percent of the 'contribution due' of the income and paid 40 percent to the entitled party. All family members had to contribute to these costs, with the exception of school-age children who earned extra money during the vacations.

Those who had little or no income were paid pocket money during their stay in the boarding house. This pocket money did not have to be refunded - in contrast to the advances for the trip and clothing, which did have to be refunded.

Because most people only had some light summer clothes with them, the government initially provided clothing "We were immediately taken to a large red cross shed. There were mountains of used clothes on the ground. We had to take off some that we thought we could use. We always had to take clothes for the children too big: they had to be "growing up".

Later on, people received clothing advances that they could use to buy their own clothes in special stores. Also this advance had to be paid back in full later on.

What many people are unaware of and what often baffles most is the fact that the returnees had to pay back everything themselves.

They got their weekly pocket money from the contact officer, but what they were not told is that 60% of everyone's salary was withheld for board and lodging. Also the clothing and furniture advances (if one had been assigned a house) had to be paid back to the last cent. Many Dutch Indians of the first generation had to give a fixed monthly amount until their death.

Source: Han Dehne ( 

The ship the NIeuw Amsterdam brought the first (r)emigrants to the Netherlands in 1946.

(R)Emigrants in front of the contract pension Paaseik in Lunteren

Social care department even rented a hotel ship in the Frisian town of Langweer.

Discrimination apparently also occurred at that time

Griselda Molemans shows her book "Opgevangen in Andijvielucht"  March 2014

Picture of the foto-essay Enkele reis Holland by Leonard Freed 1958-1962

One of the sparse demonstrations for the proper treatment of (R)Emigrants in the 1950s