Foreword by Tilly van Coevorden
My late father, Salomon Jacob van Coevorden, was a family man. Family was his everything and I am sure that if he would know that I have been researching the stories of his family who was born in the Dutch East Indies, he would be very moved.
The Nazis murdered most of his family in the Second World War, and those few family members who were left were his everything.
This story starts with my great-grandparents from my father's side, Salomon de Jong born in Naaldwijk on the 24th of April 1848 and Rachel Cats born in Gouda on the 6th of April 1846. Salomon and Rachel, also called "Ragel", were both of Jewish descent. At that time large families were very common, as with Salomon and Rachel.
There were ten children in the family:
Annetta (1873-1943), Sara (1875-1879), Izaak (1877-1879), Sara (1879-1942), Izaak Salomon (1881-1943), Mietje (1883-1967), Truida (1885-1943), Levie Salomon (1888-1976), Sophia (1889-1943) and Jacob (1891-1918).
Of the 10 children, apart from the three who died long before the Second World War, five children were murdered in concentration camps, including my grandmother Sophia de Jong. She married my grandfather Ruben Salomon van Coevorden on the 2nd of May 1912. He was born in Gouda on 23 June 1889. My grandmother Sophia was 54 years old when she was murdered in Sobibor. Her 6 year younger sister Mietje (born in 1883) married a Portuguese man named Semtob Joshua Sequerra, and they moved to Portugal in 1939 and subsequently to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil where she lived until her death in 1967.
The story below is about my grandmother's 1 year older brother; Levie Salomon (called Louis). It is therefore with great pleasure that I introduce you to my second cousin Gerry van Zijll Langhout - de Jong, the daughter of Louis and my connection with the Dutch East Indies.
My father Levie Salomon de Jong was born in Gouda on the 9th of January 1888.
His parents Salomon de Jong, a butcher by profession (born on the 24th of April 1848 in Naaldwijk) and Rachel Cats (born on the 6th of April 1846 in Gouda) had 10 children, 6 girls and 4 boys.
Sister Annetta was the eldest and was born in 1873, followed by Sara in 1875. Unfortunately she died at the age of 4. After this the first son was born in 1877 he was named Izaak.
Izaak died, at the very young age of 2 years. I have no knowledge of the cause of death of these two very young children.
In 1879 another daughter was born who, probably named after the deceased child, was called Sara and followed by a son in 1881 who was given the name Izaak Salomon.
In 1883 another daughter was born with the name Mietje (nickname Mimi), in 1885 Truida (nickname Truus), in 1888 my father Levie Salomon, with the nickname Louis in 1889 Sophia (Tilly's grandmother) with the nickname Fietje and in 1891 Jacob Salomon.
When my father was almost 7 years old, on the 13th of August 1894, his father Salomon de Jong died of a heart attack at the age of 46. Six years later a fire broke out, destroying the neighbours' house. My grandmother Rachel de Jong was blamed for this. Grandma probably took the fire to heart that it affected her health.
In 1901, when my father was 13 years old, his mother Rachel died.
It was father's eldest sister, the 15 year older Annetta, who had already been married in 1897 to the 16 year older Salomon Seijffers, who took on the care and further education of my father.
Around the age of 29, this must have been around the year 1917, my father decided to immigrate to Australia. It is very likely that my father wanted to leave the Netherlands because, on the one hand, the economy was stagnating and jobs were very difficult to get and, on the other hand, discovering the wide world was very tempting to him.
Because of the long journey to Australia my father decided on his way there to visit his 3 year older sister Truus in the Dutch East Indies.
Truus married on the 4th of July 1912 in Strijen with the 1 year younger Salomon Zwarenstein (born the 10th of October 1886 in Strijen). Salomon was a teacher and was offered a very good job in the Dutch East Indies shortly after their marriage. The young couple decided to settle in Toeban.
Toeban (Tuban) is a city located on the north coast of Java about 100 km west of Surabaya, the capital of East Java.
One year after the marriage, on the 16th of February 1913, a first child was born in Toeban, a son named Hartog (Henk). Furthermore, Truus and Salomon had two more children, both born in Bandung, West Java, Elisabeth Rachel (02.07.1914) and Paul Louis (30.06.1919).
A few years before the outbreak of the Second World War, the Zwarenstein family went to the Netherlands, probably for their retirement. When the war broke out, the family tried to take a boat back to the Dutch East Indies, but when they arrived in port, the ship appeared to have already left. Truus and Salomon were later deported and murdered in Auschwitz in 1942/1943.
Henk the first son was married to Gonda Donker, a Christian woman, so Henk was not arrested and sent to a camp. Henk and his family moved to America around 1950 where another son was born. Unfortunately, the marrage did not last. Henk stayed in America where he, at a later stage, married Sally (unfortunately I don't remember her last name). Due to a fatal accident with a car he died in 1976. Rachel, who was married to a Roman Catholic man called Jansen, was also spared the camps. Paul was sent to a concentration camp and survived. Paul immigrated to New Zealand after the war where he changed his surname and continued life as Paul Warren.
Louis travelled by ship, the name and date of which are unfortunately not known to me, presumably around 1917 to the Dutch East Indies . Once there, Louis loved it there and had a great time. It was easy for him to get a job there and the wages were much higher than in the Netherlands. His first job was with the Salt Regie. He travelled a lot through Java for this job and whis was mostly on horseback.
After working there, he got took a job at a printing company. This printing house with the name G. Kolff & co was located in Welteverden, a suburb of Batavia.
In 1920 he met my mother (Tien) in Batavia.
Maria Albertina Swensen (nickname Tien or Tientje) was born on the 3rd of October 1895 in Manggar Billiton. Her parents were Johannes Christiaan Swensen born on the 1st of June 1848 in Tjeringin, Bantam, West Java and her Chinese mother Lim A Kang born in Billiton on the 31st of March 1868. The Swensen family consisted of 6 children, 3 girls and 3 boys, my mother being the third child.
Manggar is a city in the province of Bangka-Billiton now Belitung. The city was founded in the 19th century to mine tin. In 1863 a tin mine was established on the right bank of the Manggar River and in 1866 the district was renamed Manggar district. In 1871 Manggar was opened to the immigration of foreign oriental workers.
My parents married on the 13th of October 1921 in Batavia, West Java. Father was 33 and mother 26 years old. Their marriage was a happy, loving harmony that would last for 54 years.
The young couple lived in Batavia where the first child, a son, was born on the 2nd of February 1922. He was given the name Solomon, nickname Sam, after his grandfather Salomon de Jong.
Around 1923 the family moved to Jogjakarta where their three daughters Frieda, Roza and I (Gerda) were born.
My father worked at Toko Spiegel and when they later moved to Semarang in Central Java with the family, in December 1936, father bought this already very well-established shop.
The building of H. Spiegel is now a monumental building from the colonial era and is located at Jl. Lieutenant-General Soeprapto no. 34, Kota Tua, Semarang. Formerly known as the NV Winkel Maatschappij Shop "H Spiegel". The shop sold everything from clothing of famous brands to home decorations such as American oil lamps.
The company was first built in 1895 by an Austro-Hungarian businessman of Jewish descent, namely Moritz Moses Addler (1854-1927), Herman Spiegel (died 1911) and Ignacz Back (1873-1955). Not only did they set up the Spiegel shop, they also built Adler Stores (Kutaraja, Padang and Surabaya), Louvre Stores (Makassar, Surabaya). Soon Mr. H. Spiegel was appointed manager of this company and within five years he became its owner. In 1908 the company became a public limited company. After the end of the leadership of the Dutch East Indies this building changed more and more from its original function. It even served as a warehouse for some time and then fell into neglected and carefree circumstances. It was only on the 8th of June 2015, after a long period of restoration, that this building became the Spiegel Bar & Bistro. Its function changed from a convenience shop, then to a warehouse, and it is now a trendy eatery. (source wikipedia).
We had a happy and carefree childhood.
When the war broke out, my brother Sam was at university in Batavia, but joined the army after the war broke out in the Netherlands. He was ensign and then 2nd Lieutenant. When he left the army he had reached the rank of lieutenant colonel.
After the capitulation of the Dutch East Indies he was brought to Flores as a POW to build airfields there.
Research carried out by Tilly has shown that he was probably in the Maoemere camp. This camp served as a prisoner of war camp in the period from the 10th of May 1943 to the 12th of September 1944. The internees who were able to work were deployed between 1943-1944, in shifts of 500 men daily, to work on the construction of the airfield (Maoemere-East).
The closure of the camp started as early as August 1944, but as there were not enough transport ships, Sam was brought back to Batavia with the last batch of 20 men only on the 12th of September 1944. In January 1945 he was taken to Singapore and in February of that year to Saigon. He escaped torpedoing just in the nick of time, because two other ships on their way to Saigon were torpedoed and all the passengers were killed.
On the 9th of April 1945 the train in which Sam was transported was bombed. He slept in one of the 3 front freight wagons and could not flee. He is the only one of all the prisoners in those 3 wagons who survived. A shard he sustained in his arm had to be surgically removed 2 months later. Dr Marien, who was in the camp together with Sam, managed to save him from death by malaria by giving him injections.
After this he wandered through Indo-China (Vietnam) for a while where they were often under fire. After the armistice was signed he was brought back to Saigon. Sam's memories of this time are mostly hours of dying.
Two months after the occupation by the Japanese, my father was also interned in a camp in Semarang. After that he was transferred to a camp in East Java called Kesilir.
The agricultural colony of Kesilir, as it was also called, was located on the south coast, almost on the easternmost tip of Java. The entire colony was spread over about 40 km2 and was completely surrounded by barbed wire. The camp was housed in homemade barracks and huts. The intention of the Japanese occupiers was to create a large self-sufficient agricultural colony here for 70,000 people. Approximately 3000 men worked on this for 15 months. The project failed due to lack of agricultural experience and tools. Corn, soybeans, green peas and other vegetables were grown.
In Kesilir my mother, my sisters and I were allowed to visit him every 8th of the month during the first 5 months he stayed there. Afther this we were forbidden tot do so. After the time in Kesilir father was transferred to a camp in Bandung.
My mother, my sisters and I were interned in the Lampersari camp in Semarang.
The Lampersari camp in Semarang consisted of a large number of camp houses and a school. It was located on both sides of the Lampersariweg in the east of Semarang. This street is also mentioned on the city map of Semarang in the City Atlas of the Dutch East Indies.
When we were allowed to leave the camp around the 20th of August 1945, a friend of my mother took us in and allowed us to stay at her home, which we were very happy about. As the Indonesian independence, unilaterally declared by Sukarno, had been declared just before our release on the 17th of August 1945, a period called the Bersiap began.
This was a time when Indonesian pemudas (freedom fighters) were fighting for independence. They exerted their anger and frustration on anyone who was Dutch or Dutch-minded. Since most of the totoks (white Dutchmen) were still in camps at that time, the aggression and violence was also directed at the mixed Dutch/Indies groups.
It is therefore incomprehensible that after having lived with my mother's girlfriend for three days, the Indonesians said that we, from the camp, would be skewered with bamboo roentjing (large bamboo spear). After this we returned to the camp at the request of our hostess, whose husband was seriously ill.
We were soon informed that Father was in the hospital in Bandung. We went there immediately by plane. Father was mentally very distressed by the news that almost his whole family had been murdered in Europe by the Nazis. Physically, fortunately, he himself was on the mend.
On the 11th of February 1949 father, mother, Roos and I went to the Netherlands with ms Johan van Oldenbarnevelt of the SMN (Stoomvaart Maatschappij Nederland) and arrived in Amsterdam on the 7th of March 1949.
Once we arrived in the Netherlands, we were accommodated in a so-called contract pension in Noordwijk, called Huize de Luwte. Initially this was a holiday and convalescent home for children. After being here for a while, we moved to a guesthouse in Scheveningen of which I unfortunately don't remember the name.
It was certainly not always easy, we were used to the tropics and had to adapt to the Dutch (food) culture and of course the temperature. The realisation that we all emerged alive from the horrors of the Japanese occupation and the Bersiap that followed, unlike our Dutch family, gave us the courage to move on.
I remember a number of things very well, such as the trip to the cinema with Sally and Fiet van Coevorden shortly after our arrival in the Netherlands. And after that our first party we were invited to, after our repatriation to the Netherlands, which was the wedding of Tilly's parents Sally and Fiet van Coevorden - Spiero on the 28th of August 1949. Also the visit to Lisbon of Roos and I to our loving but strict aunt Mimi was very nice and special.
Frieda was already married in the Dutch East Indies to Cor Volker and they were repatriated to the Netherlands in June 1949. From this marriage two daughters were born Louise Marianne and Margot Renee.
Sam was engaged to Nicky Baretta and they later married in the Netherlands. From this marriage two children were born Thomas Pieter and Albertina Paula.
My sister Roza married Frans Hoebert and unfortunately this marriage remained childless.
On the 19th of January 1957 I married Wout van Zijll Langhout and we had three children, Henk Louis who helped me with this story, Bart Willem and Margo Tine Jean.
Once in the Netherlands, we sought contact with the little family which was left after the war. These included the Brazilian family and the descendants of Aunt Mimi (Mietje de Jong) being Chua and Sally de Jong Sequerra, Johnny and Sally van Coevorden (Tilly's father and uncle the only childrend of Sophia de Jong which came back from the war, and their descendants) and Henk, Rachel and Paul, the children of Truus and Sam Zwarenstein. We have always cherished this contact and we still cherish every contact of the few family members who are still around.
On the 19th of November 1976 my father died in The Hague at the age of 88 and 13 years later my mother died on the 29th of April 1989 at the age of 93. During the time that my father lived in the Netherlands, he worked as a civil servant for the Municipality of The Hague until his retirement.
In 1988 my husband Wout and my eldest son Henk and I returned to Indonesia. The smells, sounds and observations give a strong sense of purpose to the motherland, but in the Netherlands where you found your happiness and love and where your children were born and grew up is also MY homeland.
Gerrie van Zijll Langhout-De Jong, oktober 2020
Tilly's grandfather Ruben Salomon van Coevorden and grandmother
Sophie van Coevorden - de Jong
My father Levie Salomon de Jong (ca 1918)
Birthregister of Levie Salomon de Jong
Marriage certificate of Truus and Salomon Zwarenstein 4th of July 1912 in Strijen
My mother Maria Albertina Swensen
Grandma Lim A Kang (middle)
with two friends
Toko Spiegel before and after the renovations, now a trendy bar restaurant
Louis en Tientje (1934)
Father Louis, mother Tientje and brother Sam
from left to right: Sam, Tientje,
Sitiing: Louis with Gerda on his knees Roos and behind Roos, Frieda (1929)
left to right: Gerda, Frieda, Louis and Roza
sitting: Tientje de Jong
father and Sam in 1939
Grandma Lim A Kang (right)
with Ina in the frontgallery
father and mother in 1948
this picture was probably made for grandma who stayed behind in the Dutch East Indies
father, me , mother and Roos on our arrival in a very cold Netherlands in March 1949
This is me with the two only surviving sons of Sophia de Jong en Ruben van Coevorden
left: Johnny van Coevorden
right: Salomon (Sally) van Coevorden, father of my second cousin Tilly van Coevorden
Copyright © All rights reserved de Indische Verhalentafel
left to rigth: Vilma, Chua,his wife Judy, Paul Warren, his wife Iris, Gerry, Roos
Sally van Coevorden, his wife Fiet, Frans the husband of Roos
front: Claudia, Helen and Wout August1998
The three sisters Gerry, Frieda and Roos