Mothers of the past

© Karen Juliane / Nationaal Archief / Spaarnestadphoto

For a new project commissioned by publisher Ambo Anthos, writer and journalist Truska Bast is looking for women, over seventy, who want to talk candidly about motherhood.


Through their personal stories, she hopes to discover how motherhood has changed, or not. What expectations did these women have before becoming mothers? How were pregnancy and childbirth viewed in their time, and how did they themselves experience it? How did motherhood affect relationships, such as those with their partner, family, friends? How do they look at parenting then and now? What did they do differently from their own mothers, what did they pass on? What did motherhood mean for their education, job, career? And, finally, what if they were allowed to do it all over again?


Narrators should count on two 2-2.5-hour interviews, at their homes (if possible). This is preceded by a short telephone introduction that is non-binding for both parties. This is intended to clarify mutual expectations and to ensure that a variety of women are interviewed in terms of age, family situation, education and background. The final selection is made in consultation with publisher Ambo Anthos.

Thy will be done

Meisjes in de klas bij het St. Joseph pensionaat in Woerden. [1941]. 6001254, Wiel van der Randen, Spaarnestad Photo

Uw wil geschiede – Kinderen op katholieke kostscholen

Truska Bast

Querido, 2017

ISBN: 9789021406701

What Truska Bast wants to show is how the system was set up in which that abuse could occur. How it is possible that other children actually had ‘a fine time’ there. How it is possible that one existed alongside the other – and everything in between. And why it was kept quiet about for so long.


In Uw wil geschiede, twenty former pupils talk about their time at boarding school – stories of men and women who were placed under the care of religious between roughly 1945 and 1970. Some of them were sexually abused and some were ‘only’ psychologically humiliated (they also had long nightmares about it). But there are also cheerful stories, of girls who secretly went to the convent garden to look at the nuns’ pants lying there on a bleaching field to dry. Or sneaking off to buy an ice cream at Jamin. ‘Without that boarding school, I would never have got such a good education,’ says someone.

What kind of children were they anyway, taken to boarding school by their parents at 12 (and sometimes as early as nine or 10)? Why did those parents do that? Why didn’t Protestants have boarding schools? And what expectations did the children have, the first time they were delivered to boarding school with a big suitcase full of numbered clothes, sheets and napkins?

And those who come after us

Moeders met kleuter op schouder, strand Bloemendaal 1946, Ad Windig, Stadsarchief Amsterdam nr. 30793/90749

En zij die na ons komen; Kleine kroniek van drie Nederlandse families

Truska Bast

Nieuw Amsterdam, 2012

ISBN: 9789046812273

Small chronicle of three Dutch families

Truska Bast chose oral history to find out what it meant to people, those events in history.


For the farmer’s son Ko it was a true migration of people when in 1919 he took a steam train with cows and hay from South Holland to the Veluwe. The family lived in abject poverty. How different it is on the island of Wieringen, where Pieter, the son of a superintendent of the Department of Public Works, stays around 1920 with the German Crown Prince Wilhelm, who is exiled to the island. Or on Java, where Sien’s Indo-Dutch father father fathered eighteen children with two native women and Sien was placed with her sisters in the Protestant Orphanage.
In En zij die na ons komen we read how Ko, Pieter and Sien are doing in 2010 – and what has become of their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Through these three families Truska Bast describes how life in the Netherlands has changed in one hundred years. The result is a compelling and colorful document of the time.

Rotterdam and the Dutch East Indies


The project “Rotterdam and the Dutch East Indies” is about how returnees from the former Dutch East Indies ended up in Rotterdam in the 1950s and 1960s. The project also marks the launch of Rotterdam heritage organisation Heritage Retrievers, a new cultural institution that will focus on personal family histories.


In collaboration with ‘Stichting Herdenking 15 augustus regio Rotterdam’, an afternoon took place on 15 August 2023 after the commemoration at the Dutch East Indies monument on the Boompjes, during which staff of Stadsarchief were present in the library and the Verolme hall of Maritiem Museum Rotterdam to look at family albums, possibly scan them, metadata them and, if possible, add them to the city collection. The intention is for it to culminate in an online exhibition and, if the finds warrant it, a museum-wide offline exhibition in 2024.

Indonesian portraits

Elderly Indonesians and Chinese-Indonesians in Yogyakarta

The art project Indonesian Portraits by Martin van den Oever, Petra Timmer and Jos Janssen was created as part of the NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies’ research programme From India to Indonesia. It consists of two parts. This part consists of interviews with elderly Indonesians in Yogyakarta, who learned Dutch during the colonial period.

The interviews focus on events and experiences in the 1920s – 2006.
They mainly talk about the Netherlands and Indonesia. Themes include World War II, Japanese occupation, fear, connection with the Dutch language and the Netherlands, youth, Indonesian revolution, schooling, Japanese language.

The collection is of limited public availability. If interested, please contact Jos Janssen.
The collection is on DV tapes. To preserve the interviews permanently for the future, digitisation and transfer to an e-depot is desirable.



Kees Maaswinkel conducted the interviews on behalf of four documentaries about hellships: Hellships to Flores and the Moluccas, Hellships to Sumatra, Hellships to Burma, Helltrains to Thailand and Hellships to Japan. The aim was to tell the story of those who experienced Japanese POWs.


The interviews were also used for the exhibition: Japanese Hellships. Trapped at Sea at Museum Sophiahof. During the interviews, copies were made of some of the interviewees’ ego documents. It is not yet clear whether these
will be included with the interview material.


Mostly about Indonesia, the Moluccas, Flores, Java and Sumatra, Thailand, Burma, the Netherlands and Japan. Themes include World War II, passenger hellships, helltrains, ship transports prisoners of war, war strategy Americans, repercussions, arrival on location, US torpedoing, Japanese navy, Burma railway.


The collection is managed by Kees Maaswinkel. In the near future, the collection will be housed at the Netherlands Institute for Military History (NIMH).
The collection is not accessible (yet). If interested, please contact Programme Indisch Erfgoed Digitaal.
The collection has been digitised.

Documentary Hellships to Flores and the Moluccas:


Documentary Hellships to Sumatra:

Documentary Hellships to Burma, helltrains to Thailand:


Documentary Hellships to Japan:



Liberation or Merdeka


bevrijding of merdeka

Gérard Bueters wanted to make a documentary about the experiences of veterans of Battalion Zeeland and the impact that deployment to Indonesia had on their lives, based on a personal connection to the war of independence in Indonesia – his children’s grandfather was a soldier in the Princess Irene Brigade. This was the first Dutch post-war battalion, originally formed in 1944 from the resistance to liberate the northern Netherlands. When Germany capitulated, the volunteers were sent to Indonesia where they fought for 2.5 years against an independent Indonesia. He conducted 160 preliminary interviews with veterans (of the 280 surviving veterans of Battalion Zeeland). These were not captured on audio or video. Content summaries of about 50 of these interviews are available. Subsequently, eight veterans and the wife of a veteran were interviewed for the documentary.


The production was realised with support from, among others, the VSB Fund, Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds, Provincie Zeeland, Stichting Ooggetuigen v/d 20e eeuw, Kattendijke-Drucker Stichting, municipalities Goes, Vlissingen, Middelburg and Sluis and was produced by Multi World Pictures in co-production with the NPS. The documentary was broadcast by VPRO, NPS in 2010.

The main questions were: Why did you make the choices you did at the time? What impact did your time in Indonesia have on your subsequent life?


Time, place and themes: The interviews focus on events and experiences in the years 1944 – present.
They mainly discuss Indonesia and the Netherlands. Themes include World War II, Zeeland, resistance background, denazification, liberation Zeeland in 1944, Zeeland residents, veterans, war volunteers, choices.


The collection is managed by Gérard Bueters. He wishes to transfer this collection and his working archive in its entirety to an archive institution, possibly the Netherlands Institute for Sound & Vision.


Access: The collection is of limited public access. If interested, contact Programma Indisch Erfgoed Digitaal.


Preservation: The collection consists of digital videotapes. To preserve the interviews permanently for the
future, digitisation and transfer to an e-depot is desirable.

Guest speakers from the National Support Centre WWII – Present

For many years, the focus at Memorial Centre Camp Westerbork was on the period 1939 – 1934 and the transition to the camp as an internment camp. At the end of the 1990s, a change takes place. The starting point becomes the entire history of the site. Among other things, more attention is paid to the Indonesian period 1950 – 1951 and the Moluccan period 1951 – 1971. The support point Guest Speakers (financed by the Ministry of
VWS) will be housed at the Camp Westerbork Memorial Centre. Some guest speakers were interned or prisoners of war during World War II in Indonesia. Some of them have donated objects used in various camps to Remembrance Centre Kamp Westerbork. Following those donations, they were interviewed about the use of the objects and their life stories.


The interviews focus on events and experiences in the 1940s – 1950s.
They mainly discuss Indonesia, Sulawesi, the Netherlands and New Guinea. Themes include World War II, Indonesian revolution, life story, processing art, internment camp, repatriation camp, goose board, chamois leather.


Management: The collection is managed by Herinneringscentrum Kamp Westerbork.
Access: The collection is of limited public access. Permission to use the interviews for research and educational purposes must be applied for in advance from the Camp Westerbork Memorial Centre.

Transcripts can be sent. The interviews can only be listened to on location.

Preservation: The collection has been digitised and partly stored permanently at an e-depot.

Database/inventory: Under development, accessible to the public in 2025
Sound carrier: Digital audio files, from 2010 video files

The Ranchi Babies

On the way from Indonesia to the Netherlands, 37 babies are born on steamship Ranchi. It is 1950: Indonesia has just gained independence. KNIL soldiers and their families had to leave the country in a hurry by ship. They had often lived in the colony of the Dutch East Indies for generations and many of them had never been to the Netherlands. In the podcast The Ranchi Babies – a colonial legacy, Joost Wilgenhof tracks down all the ‘Ranchi Babies’; they are now in their seventies. He delves into their family history and the fraught colonial legacy their parents gave them. What are they stuck with?


Wilgenhof also follows historian Esther Captain, who was commissioned by the Dutch government to help research Independence, decolonisation, violence and war in Indonesia. Esther finds herself caught up in a debate resembling trench warfare and confronted with her family history.


Passengers steamship Ranchi, including ‘Ranchi Babies’ and their relatives with Indian, Javanese and German-Chinese backgrounds, among others

Genesis, objective and/or main question: The project started with the discovery of a photograph of the arrival of the steamship Ranchi, departing for the Netherlands from Indonesia in August 1950. Passengers are KNIL soldiers with their families. After a month, the ship arrives in Amsterdam. In the meantime, 37 babies have been born. An exhibition at Museum Perron Oost (Amsterdam) (with partner International Institute of Social History (IISG)) prompted documentary maker Joost Wilgenhof to go in search of these ‘Ranchi babies’. He made five audio portraits that have been published on Museum Perron Oost’s website. He then worked on a six-part podcast series. The podcast is a production of Stichting Autres Directions and Aldus’ for NTR and NPO Radio 1 and co-sponsored by the NPO Fund and the Fonds Bijzondere Journalistieke Projecten.


The main questions are: How did your parents end up in Indonesia and what do you know about it? How did it affect the family? How did the family fare in the Netherlands? What stories did you get from your parents and how do you deal with them? Photos were also issued for some interviews. Joost Wilgenhof continues to search for descendants of the ‘Ranchi Babies’, including the third generation. In addition to the audio portraits and podcast series, he is working on a book of stories from those involved.

The interviews focus on events and experiences in the 1920s – present.
They mainly focus on Indonesia and the Netherlands. Themes include World War II, Indonesian revolution, migration to the Netherlands, migration to the United States, colonial legacy.


Management: The collection is managed by Joost Wilgenhof. He wishes to transfer the interviews to an archive such as the IISH in the future.

Accessibility: The collection has limited public access. The rights for use lie partly with Joost Wilgenhof, partly with the producer of the podcast. If interested, please contact Autre Directions Foundation:


Preservation: The collection has been digitised. To preserve the digital files permanently for the future, transfer to an e-depot is desirable.

‘What do you actually know about me?’

Baby Pam van der Veen met haar moeder Marjan. Beeld privéarchief Pam van der Veen



During the months when her husband is at sea, Marjan van der Veen, the mother of journalist and podcast creator Pam van der Veen, writes him airmail letters. A box containing some three hundred letters turns out to be in the attic after her death. With the text: for Pam.

It is a golden find, the letters provide a wonderful time picture of housewife life in the 1960s and 1970s. And of the emancipation of a smart woman like Marjan in a Dutch village.

The podcast Wat weet jij eigenlijk van mij? features excerpts from letters and also features Pam’s father Charles and friends of her mother. You hear the past passing by: oral history at its best.