Water of Gold


The title of Water of Gold (2010) is derived from the Javanese poem ‘Tirta Kencana’ declaimed at a grave of an Indonesian veteran where we filmed. A declamation to remind a younger generation of Indonesians that Indonesia’s independence was fought with courage and not given as a gift by the Netherlands. A call to militancy as dead warriors look down from heaven on our actions and shortcomings. A poem that may remind the Netherlands that some 4,000 Dutch fighters are also buried there. A black page of Dutch national history that seems to be literally buried in Javanese soil. A collection of short portraits, meandering between past and present and between two nations that became even further apart than they already were. The things also that people cannot forget to want to share with us one more time.


People who once stood opposite each other look back in this documentary. Like Mrs Spoor who still wants to bury her husband in the Netherlands. Or Ms Mulyati who recounts how she had to hide her grief for fallen family members to avoid betraying herself to Dutch soldiers. Mr Keller who, as a former knil officer, wonders whether he bet on the wrong horse at the time. And Mr Wisnuadji who, young and overconfident, lost his arm early on in the revolution and could no longer fight.


The interviews cover events and experiences in the 1920s – 2010s with a focus on 1945 – 1949. They mainly discuss the Netherlands and Indonesia. Themes include Indonesian revolution, reflections.

Libera Me

Libera Me / one must know the history


The interviews were recorded for the documentary Libera Me (2015) in which both Indonesian and Dutch veterans reflect on the Indonesian War of Independence. Libera Me was shown at Museum Bronbeek (2015) as part and reflection within the exhibition War! From the East Indies to Indonesia 1945 – 1950.


The interviews discuss events and experiences in the years 1920 – 2015 with a focus on 1945 – 1949. They mainly discuss the Netherlands and Indonesia. Themes include Dutch colonial rule, Indonesian war of independence, Indonesian revolution, reflection, resentment, fallen soldiers, loss of family, grief, guerrillas, firing squad, executions, role of the Dutch government, recognition, recolonization, colonial system, crime, struggle for independence, KNIL, TNI, Special Forces Corps, artist.


Documentary Libera Me


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.

The female hero

Wendy Janssen . De vrouwelijke held. In Wim Willems & Jaap de Moor (red.), Het Einde van Indië: Indische Nederlanders tijdens de Japanse bezetting en de dekolonisatie.
Sdu Uitgeverij, 1995


PhD research on identification processes in a postcolonial context; a study of intergenerational transmission among three generations of women of Indian background.


Wendy Janssen was a PhD student at the Belle van Zuylen Institute for Multicultural Gender Studies where Selma Leydessdorff was director. She wanted to investigate how narratives are passed on within families, and how different generations view their families’ reception in the Netherlands and their place in society over the years. Questions included: How are you seen? How do you see yourself? And how do you deal with that?


The interviews focus on events and experiences in the 1920s – 1996.
They mainly discuss Indonesia and the Netherlands. Themes include World War II, Indonesian revolution, arrival and reception in the Netherlands, identity, Dutch society, positioning, adaptation.


Management: The collection is managed by Wendy Janssen.
Preservation: The collection is on cassette 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.

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.

Overijsselians in the East

Stichting IJsselacademie

Interviewer: Ewout van der Horst



Under the banner of the national research programme Decolonisation, violence and war. Indonesia 1945-1950, the IJsselacademie Foundation made an appeal in January 2018 for eyewitnesses of this period in Overijssel to tell their stories. A dozen people responded, mostly children of Dutch veterans who saw their chance to record dad’s story once and for all.


No applications from Dutch East Indies veterans were received, giving the research a Dutch and military perspective. In the absence of applications from soldiers of the Salland volunteer battalion 1-11 RI and the Twente battalion 5-5 RI, with conscripts of the 1947 draft, a specific search was made for eyewitnesses of these army units. In the end, 12 veterans from Overijssel were interviewed. In addition, there was a circle interview with three veterans in Rijssen. Nine interviews were almost completely worked out. Besides six conscripts, these included two war volunteers and a Red Cross volunteer who worked on a hospital ship. All soldiers served on Java and spent some time at the front. One OVW member was also stationed in Sumatra.

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’.

Doing justice

Recht doenbataljon Friesland vertelt over Nederlands-Indie 1945-1948

Eddy van der Noord
Uitgeverij Louise

ISBN: 9789491536076

Battalion Friesland talks about the Dutch East Indies 1945-1948 This book features nine men talking about their personal experiences in the Dutch East Indies. The men talk about what they experienced and what they felt. Stories in words and pictures. A family member of a fallen soldier also has his say. A story that tells what impact the young man’s death had on his father, mother and brothers. This book is ‘oral history’, ‘sprutsen skiednis’. Written to contribute to a more nuanced portrayal of the struggle in the Dutch East Indies. So that the reader understands that there were many shades of grey in that struggle between ‘right and wrong’. The book is also intended as a tribute to the nine men interviewed and the one soldier who died. Ten men who symbolise the more than eight hundred men of Battalion Friesland. A battalion marked by a strong bond of togetherness and camaraderie. Officers and soldiers, who together and with respect for each other, tried to restore order and peace in the Dutch East Indies.