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OUR COUNTRY – Decolonisation, generations, stories

Currently, about two million people live in the Netherlands with special ties to the former Dutch East Indies. They or their ancestors came to the Netherlands after the proclamation of the Republic Indonesia. It was the largest wave of migration ever. Some of them thought their stay here would be temporary.


The voices of eight families form the core of the  semi-permanent show Our Country. The interviews are incorporated into the exhibition. These personal and diverse but for many recognizable stories give a picture of the complex postcolonial history, and how differently it was and is experienced. The family stories in Ons Land start in the present. From there they lead us back into the colonial past. The exhibition ends again in the now.


Ons Land was created by the Moluccan Historical Museum and the Indisch Remembrance Center in collaboration with Kossmanndejong and TiMe Amsterdam.


Also see the upcoming expert meeting at the Sophiahof in The Hague

Put to work by the Arbeitseinsatz

Title: Tewerkgesteld: Getuigenissen van de Arbeitseinsatz

Author: Renske Krimp-Schraven

Publisher: Boom, Amsterdam, 2024

ISBN: 9789024464913

Very little is known about the fate of the Arbeitseinsatz. They were put to work in Germany. They returned from “the enemy’s country” with the most varied experiences. One had been undernourished doing heavy digging work in the freezing cold and spoke of “working like a slave. Another recalled that he ‘wouldn’t have wanted to miss it for anything’. Many men experienced heavy bombing and were terrified in the shelters.


What memories did the men pass on and what did they prefer to keep quiet about? Renske Krimp-Schraven spoke to dozens of workers and read hundreds of diaries and memoirs. In the end, she conducted a total of 51 interviews. In her book Tewerkgesteld she brings the experiences of the Arbeitseinsatz to life and makes clear how Dutch society and the men themselves dealt with this painful history.


Renske Krimp-Schraven is a historian and is working as a researcher on a joint research project of the National Committee for May 4 and 5 and the NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies on the memory of Dutchmen who were put to work as part of the Arbeitseinsatz.


See the presentation of her book

And an interview from the NPO with the author

The history of us all


The history of slavery is a very painful, important and until recently underexposed part of our shared history. During the Slavery History Commemoration Year, which runs from July 1, 2023 to July 1, 2024, the entire kingdom will pay extra attention to this past and its repercussions in the present. The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science has a coordinating role in the organization of the Slavery History Memorial Year. With the goal of increasing knowledge and awareness of this theme in society. BKB, AMARU and Canvas Black together created the communication strategy and campaign for the Slavery History Memorial Year.


The Slavery Past Memorial Year marks the 150th anniversary of the actual abolition of slavery. By commemorating our slavery past, we ensure that we do not forget this history. Commemoration reminds us that it should never happen again. We pay attention to the pain, suffering and far-reaching consequences, as well as the resistance of enslaved people and the pride of their descendants and in the history before slavery. By sharing stories, and making the slavery past an equal part of our history, we keep this history alive.


The campaign “The history of us all’ consists of six conversations, focusing on the personal experiences of well-known storytellers. The campaign takes place entirely online. All six conversations can be found online.


The following conversations can be found online:

1. Shirma Rouse (singer) and Safi Graauw (director)
2. Lucelle Comvalius (teacher) and George Adegite (illustrator)
3. Hesdy Lonwijk (director) and Carmen Felix (writer)
4. Lukas Eleuwarin (creator of the fashion brand Knowledge by Roots) and Jill Mathon (writer)
5. Lex Bohlmeijer (presenter) and Prof. Soortkill (writer)

The last conversation can eventually be found on the site.


Some conversations received a sequel. This can be found at the bottom of linked pages.

Freedom is a big concept

Muurschildering in Akrê (Iraks Koerdistan) ter nagedachtenis aan de Al-Anfal-operatie. Levi Clancy op Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Nationaal Comité 4 en 5 mei


Stichting BMP


Vrijheid is een groot begrip. Onderzoek naar de beleving van vrijheid, onvrijheid en herdenken door Bosniërs en Irakezen in Nederland.
Saskia Moerbeek en Frank von Meijenfeldt (red.)
Nationaal comité 4 en 5 mei / Stichting BMP

pdf onderzoek

Research into the experience of freedom, unfreedom and remembrance by Bosnians and Iraqis in the Netherlands.


The National Committee for May 4 and 5 is continuously looking for an appropriate interpretation of the activities on May 4 and 5 to ensure the inclusive character of the commemoration and celebration on these days. It is also important to understand people’s motivations for participating or not participating in said activities. The Committee has therefore asked the Stichting Bevordering Maatschappelijke Participatie (BMP), as part of its lustrum year 2020 (75 years of freedom), to conduct research among Bosnians and Iraqis who came to the Netherlands in the 1990s. The question of this research is how people from these groups experience freedom, unfreedom and remembrance in their countries of origin and in the Netherlands.


This exploratory study partly used existing interviews with Bosnians and Iraqis interviewed as part of the oral history project Unprecedented Extraordinary. 12 Bosnian and 12 Iraqi interviews were chosen for analysis, of which 8 interviewees were interviewed a second time on the theme of freedom, unfreedom and remembrance.

In addition to this, 8 more interviews on the research themes were conducted with Bosnians and Iraqis who were not interviewed as part of Unprecedented Extraordinary.

This oral history project thus involves a total of 16 new interviews.

In 2024, these interviews will be housed at DANS-KNAW


See also:

bosnians and iraqis on freedom and remembrance

Prominent Gelderlanders


Prominent Gelderlanders

5 digitised interviews

Gelderland Heritage


Investigating whether and how the collection can be archived and made public

Interviews with striking Gelderlanders

Mien van der Meulen-Nulle
(The Hague, 17 March 1884 – Winterswijk, 8 January 1982)

Louisa Wilhelmina (Mien) van der Meulen-Nulle was a Dutch teacher of lace technology and director of the Royal Dutch Lace School in The Hague.

Nulle studied useful handicrafts at the Industrieschool voor Meisjes in The Hague. She came into contact with lace through books. She received additional lessons from Elisabeth Manhave, a former pupil of the lace school in Sluis. In 1903, she taught at the Lace School, then based in Apeldoorn. At the age of 22, she became headmistress of the lace school in 1906 when it moved to The Hague. She was given access to an attached studio. She designed the cradle cover for Princess Juliana in 1909. On the occasion of a parade in Leiden depicting the entry of Frederik Hendrik in 1629, she designed several 17th-century lace based on paintings in 1910. It earned several awards.


Louis Frequin
(Arnhem, 29 July 1914 – Berg en Dal, 13 October 1998)

Interview on 11 August 1976 (tape 1 missing – interview 28 April 1976)

Louis Hendrik Antonius (Louis) Frequin was a Dutch journalist, author and resistance fighter. Louis Frequin was married and had eight children, the oldest of whom, Willibrord Frequin, is the best known.

Louis Frequin was Roman Catholic and had worked in journalism since 1930. Former editor-in-chief of the Gelderlander and the Nieuwe Krant.


Herman Martinus Oldenhof
(Apeldoorn, 17 September 1899 – Ede, 11 April 1985)

Interviewer J.P. Gansenbrink, 21 July 1977

Oldenhof was a Dutch mayor. He was a member of the Anti-Revolutionary Party (ARP). Oldenhof was mayor of the municipalities of Lopik, Jaarsveld and Willige Langerak from 1929 to 1936. He then served as mayor of Kampen from 1936 to 1942 and from 1945 to 1952.

Oldenhof left for the municipality of Ede, where he was mayor until 1962. Under his administration, the municipality grew from 47,656 to 60,162 inhabitants and much was invested in new education and infrastructure. In 1962, he became deputy of the province of Gelderland. He continued to live in Ede, though. Here he died in 1985 at the age of 85 in retirement home De Klinkenberg.



Jan Taminiau
(1 April 1903 – 17 July 1993)

Interviewer G. J. Mentink, 16 October 1975

Taminiau was director of the Gelderland fruit processing company Taminiau Elst Overbetuwe (TEO)


Jan Hendrik de Groot
(Alkmaar 13 March 1901 – Zeist 1 December 1990)

Jan H. de Groot was a poet, journalist in Arnhem.

In 1948, he became editor of Het Vrije Volk in Arnhem and from 1950 until his retirement in 1966, he was press chief of the AKU in Arnhem. From 1950 to 1962, he was secretary and treasurer of the Dutch branch of the international authors’ association PEN.


In this six-part podcast, Marije Schuurman Hess explores the secret of good aid. She does so using case study Bosnia, which received a lot of aid after the war in the early 1990s. But the stories she finds also say something about other aid situations. Why do we help each other? What are the pitfalls? What exactly helps and what doesn’t?

Marije meets accordionist Merima who fled Bosnia and aid worker Margriet who went to war precisely to help. Travelling by bus through Bosnia, Marije also visits an artist, a diplomat, a retired cook, a climate activist and many others.
Their stories help Marije unravel the secret of good help, one piece in each episode.

STUK, a history 1977-2015

Stuk, een gechiedenis

Marleen Brock

Publisher Hannibal, 2015


In spring 2015, STUK celebrated. For 37.5 years, the Leuven arts centre has been at the artistic forefront. A book (STUK, a history 1977-2015; Hannibal Publishing House) and an exhibition (Was it now ‘t Stuc, STUC or STUK?; STUK Expozaal) underlined this contrarian anniversary. At the same time, the historical retrospection served to pause for a moment and look back, only to choose a new future as the House for Dance, Sound and Vision. Yet such a radical change of direction is by no means unique in historical perspective. Reinventing itself is in the DNA of the organisation, as a logical consequence of the constant search for artistic renewal.


In this smoothly written book, cultural historian Marleen Brock (KU Leuven) tells the story of 37.5 years of STUK – not a nicely rounded anniversary, but as contrary as the arts centre itself. Amusing anecdotes and quotes from interviews with key figures, photos, posters and documents bring the rich history to life.

The treasury – The first witnesses of our century

Paul Julien (1981)

Hilda Verwey-Jonker (1983) (cc – Rob C. Croes / Anefo – Nationaal Archief)

Emile Schüttenhelm in 1968

Serie vraaggesprekken met Nederlanders die aan het begin van de twintigste eeuw zijn geboren


Paul Julien 1901-2001

Interview with 93-year-old anthropologist and chemist Paul Julien. Julien talks about: his childhood in

Utrecht; his exclusively science-oriented interest, as a result of which social and political developments

during his youth; his expeditions to Africa and what he sees as the positive impact of colonialism on tribal war-torn Africa. Julien shows gloom about the future due to the decline in moral awareness and does not even consider it out of the question “…that we are heading for a Third World War.”


Hilda Verwey-Jonker 1908-2004

Interview with sociologist and former member of parliament Hilda Verwey-Jonker (1908) about her childhood in Zuid-Beveland and Zwolle; the SDAP milieu she grew up in; the position of women in the early twentieth century; sexuality as experienced by students; her grandchildren; the rise of right-wing extremism in the 1930s and her functioning in male strongholds such as the SER and the United Nations. Verwey-Jonker fears the consequences of the ageing of Western society. According to her, poorer peoples will take over some of the prosperity without having the technical and scientific knowledge to deal with the environment responsibly.


Emile Schüttenhelm 1909-2003

Interview with former NTS president Emile Schüttenhelm (1909) about: the Catholic environment in which he grew up; World War I; the rise and fall of communism; the rise of right-wing extremism in the 1930s; his participation in the World Jamboree in 1937 and his meeting with Lord Baden-Powell; his liberation in 1945 and the presidency of the NTS, for which he was asked because, according to minister Cals, he was the only one who had a chance to “survive” in Hilversum.

Schüttenhelm reminisces about Henk Terlingen and looks positively to the future, as he believes every generation has the commitment and creativity the future needs.

The first witnesses of our century

Jan Tinbergen – foto: R.C. Croes, ANEFO, 1986

Willy Corsari – foto: Edith Visser, ca. 1948

Arthur Lehning (1976)

Jeanne Bieruma Oosting – Zelfportret (1932)

Chris Walder – Foto: Johan van Gurp, 1993

Corrie de Roos-Oudegeest, 1961

Series of six interviews with people born around 1900 about their memories of and experiences in the 20th century.


Jan Tinbergen 1903-1994

Interview with Jan Tinbergen about his youth, the end of WWI, his study of physics in Leiden and his contacts with his tutors Paul Ehrenfest and Albert Einstein; his work at the Central Bureau of Statistics mn crisis management in the 1930s; about his transfer in 1936 to the League of Nations in Zurich and the cooperation during WWII with experts on international law such as Van Asbeck and van Eysinga t. his research into the role of international treaties; his passivism and anti-colonialism, the research by the CBS into the economic consequences regarding overseas territories and his criticism of Min. Drees’ attitude towards de-colonialisation policy. He also talks about his research into world issues such as developing countries and environmental problems, which according to him require a global approach by means of a world government, and about receiving the Nobel Prize in 1969. Finally, he gave his vision of the future in terms of an economic balance between production and fairer income distribution and his desire for a more sober and idealistic society.


Willy Corsari 1897- 1998

Interview with Willy Corsari about, among other things, her unhappy childhood, the artists’ milieu in which she grew up, the origin of the name Corsari, her studies of piano and singing and writing girls’ books, her memories of The Hague and Berlin, where she took singing lessons; her life with Jean-Louis Pisuisse’s cabaret company and pre-history of his murder. She talks about the publication of her first books, about euthanasia among other things, and her love for the theatre, which she stopped attending on principle during the war; the work of the resistance and helping Jews during the war years and the positive memories of the occupation period with regard to human relationships; about the publisher Leopold, who committed suicide, and her move to cooperative publisher Lubberhuizen/Blommestein (later De Bezige Bij), where she left after conflicts.


Arthur Lehning 1899-2000

Interview with Arthur Lehning about his exciting stay in artists’ and anarcho-syndicalist circles in Berlin in the 1920s and 1930s, the rise of fascism, his views on the political movements of the time, including the Spanish civil war, his initiative to found the international politically engaged art magazine “i10” and the people, including Mondrian, Kandinsky and Nagy, who contributed to it. He talks about his childhood friend Marsman and the ideological conflict between them in the 1920s; about the Spanish Civil War, his reasons for actively supporting the socialist revolution and his stay and meetings there; his experiences in the internment camp on the Isle of Man, England, after the neutralisation refusal, in connection with his political activities, of the Netherlands, his activities regarding the Cold War and the Paris protest movement ’68. He calls the past century “this terrible age” and sees few positive prospects for the next one.


Jeanne Bieruma Oosting 1898-1994

Interview with Jeanne Bieruma Oosting about her childhood years in the affluence of noble and aristocratic circles; her early love of painting and her studies at the Art Academy in The Hague during which time she met Queen Wilhelmina. She talks about her teacher Van Konijnenburg, her impressionist style of painting, her departure in 1929 with Charlotte van Pallandt for Paris and her 11-year stay there where she met Piccaso, among others, and became fascinated by the city’s seamy side and nightlife; about her stay in the south of France after the outbreak of the war, the return to occupied Holland and the productive years in Amsterdam. Oosting talks about her painting and graphic work, including the design for children’s stamps and her self-portraits, the stroke that struck her and the happy life she enjoyed.


Chris Walder 1900-1997

Interview with Chris Walder about his childhood in Breda, where he learnt to play football on the streets early on, his first matches, the mobilisation and outbreak of WWI and his training to become a notary; playing football at NAC, the various Dutch championship matches and the various NAC players around 1920-’21; NAC’s national championship, after which he was selected for the Dutch national team. He talks about the fact that back then there was no training programme for the team and the big difference with today’s football.

He believes he could have come along now too, because it always remains about the talent.


Cor de Roos-Oudegeest 1899-1998

Interview with Cor de Roos-Oudegeest about her background, memories of the railway strike of 1903, her father Jan Oudegeest (chairman NVV and SDAP politician), WWI and the support committee; the reactions in Dutch socialist circles to the Russian Revolution, her joining the SDAP and her activities for the SDAP women’s union, the rise of communism and fascism and the outbreak of WWII, the occupation years and her husband’s resistance work.

She talked about politics after the war, including the Dutch East Indies, about Minister Drees’ views on the inferior position of women, her entry into parliament for the Dutch Labour Party in 1956 and her reasons for leaving active politics. She sees the biggest changes in this century as the great growth of prosperity and participation, but also a much more selfish society, which leaves her with a not very positive feeling for the future.


The interviews were conducted as part of several film projects. Roy Villevoye is a visual artist and filmmaker and has been visiting West Papua since the 1990s. His focus is on the Asmat in southwest Papua. He is interested in personal stories of, and the (historical) relationships between, different groups: Dutch, Indonesians and Papuans. The interviews have been used in several films (partly together with Jan Dietvorst) including Give me soap. Give me a towel and The new dress in which missionaries speak, the film Evidence, And the Trumpet Shall Sound, Owner of the voyage and Propeller.

The interviews focus on events and experiences in the years 1945 – 2017.
They mainly discuss West Papua, Asmat, Merauke, the Netherlands and Indonesia. Themes include World War II, Indonesian occupation, colonial times, missionaries, plane crash.