Geef een of meerdere zoektermen op.
Gebruik dubbele aanhalingstekens om in de exacte woordvolgorde te zoeken.

About the Dutch Indies

The last eyewitnesses of Indonesia’s colonial past

Of the 30 people interviewed in this book, only 19 were alive when the book went to print. It is painful but not surprising as they lived in a colony that ceased to exist in 1942. First, Japan occupied the previously Dutch-owned country. In 1945, Indonesian independence was declared, followed by four more bloody years of war until the Netherlands acquiesced. That more and more people who can remember this time are dying underlines the urgency of this collection of interviews with these ‘last eyewitnesses’.

Journalist Frank Vermeulen, editor of NRC, spoke to them in recent years. He himself has previously been a correspondent in Jakarta. His mother was the daughter of Dutch parents born in the same city during the colonial era. Her death made him extra aware of the fact that the people who lived through Indonesia during this time did not have long to live. At the same time, he noticed that there are many young people who have heard precisely little about this era. It motivated him to start this series of talks in 2020.


Vermeulen chooses to let the interviewees speak almost exclusively. Apart from a brief introduction and conclusion to the book, he himself does not provide explicit interpretation or context. He leaves this to the narrators. In each chapter, an eyewitness recounts their experiences, both before and after independence, including their arrival in the Netherlands. Vermeulen omitted his interview questions because he felt this gives the stories a ‘more direct impact’.