Tjideng

 

Tjideng the camp in Batavia (now named Jakarta). I remember the last transport the best. It was awful; we were standing on a truck, squeezed together. Mother was very sick.

Trees taking care of her.
We were transported to the internment camp Tjideng (time period from August 1944). Just as camp Karees, walls of bamboo also enclosed this district. There were a lot of people in one house, who all had to use the same toilet. We, as a big family, were lucky that one room (a small kitchen) was more private.

Entrance gate of the Camp Tjideng, next to the avenue Triveli/Tjidengroad-West (Collection NOID). The regime in this camp became notorious in a later time period, because of the unpredictable, cruel behavior of the general camp commander. He established himself here permanently in April 1944. The infamous Sonei Kenichi.

Entrance gate of the Camp Tjideng, next to the avenue Triveli/Tjidengroad-West (Collection NOID). The regime in this camp became notorious in a later time period, because of the unpredictable, cruel behavior of the general camp commander. He established himself here permanently in April 1944. The infamous Sonei Kenichi.

A district of Batavia. These middle-class houses were representative of the cultivation of the district as a whole, Collection SMG. Built after the First World War for the residents of the kampong. It is named after the river Tjideng, which is next to the quarter.

A district of Batavia. These middle-class houses were representative of the cultivation of the district as a whole, Collection SMG. Built after the First World War for the residents of the kampong. It is named after the river Tjideng, which is next to the quarter.

 

Loners and small families often had to share a bigger room, which caused many fights. Trees slept on the kitchen counter, while the rest of us slept on the kitchen floor. The food became more and more scarce. If an ape, or any other animal, came in, we caught him immediately to use him up in a meal. In the morning, we ate the well-known grey piece of bread. In the afternoon, we ate a spoon of rice. It became more difficult to handle the rice. Every granule counts! It was too easy to cheat with a small can that was handed out. You could press the rice firmly in the can, or scoop it in loosely. A tablespoon or self-made scale was used as well. People were always standing around it when food was handed out. Soup of a lot of water, sometimes potbelly and pieces of vegetables. When it was handed out, you therefore had to stir very well in order to obtain a piece of vegetable. Sometimes, but it was very rare, we received a potato. We ate it very carefully and slowly, the skin as well. The outer wall of this house had a little tap, from which a small trickle of water (heated by the sun?) emerged. If you used this with a little tapioca flour, you could stir it done to some degree. Dreaming about food seemed to help against the feeling of hunger. People started to write recipes, the one even better than the other. Others over wrote these recipes. People kept them occupied with this. In order to obtain enough protein, they collected urine. From the urine, people distilled as many useful substances as they could for the yeast preparation of the bread. They dried the residue and gave it to the people with the most shortages. They handed it out in drinks. Because of the lack of food, children had trouble growing and

women stopped menstruating.

Sonei

An infamous camp commander. People saw and heard him howling at the moon (?). This is why people said that he was moonstruck. However, it turned out later that an untreated syphilis caused his anger. This anger could occur any day and thus not only at full moon.

The appeal

The appeal was extra tough in this camp, twice a day. It did not matter if there was a burning sun, or a heavy rain. The counting took very long, as Sonei preferred it that way. If women did not show up at the appeal, guards had to look for them and force them to do forced labor. Shaved bald and beat up, they showed up again at the next appeal. If they were not able to stand any longer, they had to lie on the boiling hot asphalt for hours on their knees. (This was your Tjideng).

Punishments.

When they found you were trading, they punished you even severely than in the other camp. This was a dangerous occupation for the natives as well. Punishments for this existed of shaving heads bald and standing in the burning sun.

While enjoying a bottle of whisky, Sonei shaved the heads of fifty women bald as a punishment for trading with natives, during a nightly penalty exercise. (History of Indonesia). This camp commander did not only exercise individual punishments in this camp, but collective penalties as well. Examples of these are: giving everyone no or less food for three days, even the sickly and the children, most of them already dying. They carried out extra appeals, such as standing in the sun a whole day. If I had trouble standing at such an appeal and dropped to the ground, they lifted me up in time when the Japanese was approaching. When he left, they let me sit on the ground again.

Mother tried to make sure that we never saw the physical punishments that were given. We did, however, know of these punishments. We might not have seen them, but still heard of it when Sonei made up the following. A woman did not bow in front of the car with bread, which caused him to become very angry. Therefore, the girls who handed out the bread had to knock the car over in a big pit and bury it. They were even kicked afterwards. However, this was not even enough for him. He walked to the soup kitchen, knocked everything over and put out the fires. At night, a boy tried to dig up some bread for his mother. He was shot. We did not have any food for days. One time, a truck with food had to be knocked over on the Tjideng Bridge into the polluted Tjideng River. The Tjideng camp became smaller and smaller, which caused us to move. No one had any energy left for this. We were put between people we did not know over and over, and had to adjust over and over. At every move, they searched your luggage and took

some of your stuff. Our amount of possessions became smaller and smaller. Toilets became clogged, because they were not meant for such a huge amount of people. They had to empty out the slurry pits and drain it into the ditches around the houses. However, these ditches only served to drain rainwater and led to the ditches next to the street. This caused a major stench in the camp. They even smelled the stench miles away! (As a child, however, we did not smell the stench anymore!). There were a lot of contagious diseases, such as dysentery, malaria, whooping cough and eye diseases. Malaria came in all sorts of forms; it is a dehydration disease and can cause high fever. Many little children died of this (This was your Tjideng). Some women became hysterical. Our “head of the house” helped to calm a woman when this happened, by for example keeping their heads under a stream of water. Under the regime of Sonei, eleven people died in this camp per day. At 2 September 1946, the Temporary Council of War in Batavia pronounced his death sentence and carried it out on 7 September 1946 in the Glodok prison. The body of Sonei Kenichi has been placed in the Jasukini-temple in Tokyo between other war criminals, which are paid respect until present.

The Japanese kept food and medicine of the Red Cross to themselves. Trees was also part of the crew that made coffins. The amount of wood had been exhausted for a long time, so they worked with mats of bamboo. As it turned out, the material was not strong enough and caused the liquids of oedema patients to run through the mats. The oedema, caused by hunger, leads to permanent damage to the stomach and bowels. Stomachs fill themselves up with liquids. If we pressed our skin with our fingers, a little dent remained.

When the oedema became worse, it was not possible to go on with the teaching. Mother, however, kept teaching until she was no longer able to do so. The Movig boys therefore called us the “blue girls”. We became sick as well and except for Trees, who was still able to stand up, we were all in several hospital departments. I was in a garage, which was used to nurse very sick children. They sat me outside during the day, where I kept moving pebble stones. They glued the behind of a baby together, because his feces kept running out. This was a good method to prevent dehydration. It did not work unfortunately; they were not able to save the baby. A girl next to me was very sick. She received a meatball, but was not able to eat it. She gave it to me. She passed away the next morning. It was the toughest on Trees, because she was all by herself, while she was just a sixteen-year old. She had to try to keep mother alive and carried the responsibility and care for her sisters as well! Mother, who had been able to keep us alive for such a long time in this infamous camp Tjideng, was suffering from severe oedema herself. If the liquid reaches the heart, it is a hopeless case. There was medicine from the Red Cross outside the camp, which could have saved her. But the Japanese did not meant for us to stay alive.

Fragment of a letter from Trees to her father after the liberation.

Dear daddy,

I have received your letter. I am very happy with it and will take good care of it. When mommy came to Tjideng in April, she obtained ameube and thereafter oedema. What a horrible disease that is, right Dad. She became weaker by the day and had no appetite. She was then admitted to the hospital. And then I saw it coming. When mommy was there for three weeks, she became worse and worse in four days, well that was very bad. But she did not suffer, because she was so very tired the last few days that she barely spoke and became almost apathetic. In the morning, the nurse permitted me to bring the little ones to her. She recognized them and was happy that they were okay. In the afternoon, she became worse and they called for Wies and I (Nel was already there). Mommy recognized all three of us and said goodbye. The only thing she said when we were there was: “I am completely willing. I am completely done”. She repeated that four times. Then we stayed with her for over an hour. She was no longer conscious, and her heart stopped at one o’clock. So she died, so willing and full of surrender, and without pain. You know, dad, I would rather go the undertaking directly with you. I have worked until the beginning of 6th grade. I will do the remaining material by taking extra lessons, because what will you be doing on the undertaking all by yourself? Nel is in the beginning of the 5th grade; she is really suitable to become a nurse, which is what all the nurses say. Because Nel has worked as a nurse in Karees, and in Grogol she already became a student-nurse. And you actually had to be older than eighteen years for that. Wiesje is in the first grade of the HBS. Lydie did not work very much, but she is already in the beginning or end of 7th grade of elementary school and Claartje in the fifth grade. We receive meat now! Sometimes I think: I wish it had come sooner, then mommy would still be alive, but it had to be this way. I will do my best to fill her place regarding the little ones later. You got a tough daughter now, dad, even though I have shortcomings, but one, that will try her best to help you with whatever it might be. Your loving eldest daughter, Treesje.

(Later, my father wondered: “how do I get this adult to be a child again?”) Trees got us from several hospital departments to say goodbye to mother. Mother died calm and peacefully, right before the camps were liberated at 18 August 1945. We do not know where she was buried. (At the foundation for graves, she has been registered under those, from who the grave is unknown). I did not really understand it at that time, because I was completely apathetic. This was caused by the oedema. Dying people had become a regular event. When the Allies reached Batavia in September 1945, lieutenant colonel Nicholai Read-Collins took charge of the food supply of the camps. He visited, among others, the camp Tjideng. His testimony before the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal read as follows: “My first impression was that of someone, who had been dropped on another planet, and who had to talk with people who were dead. I had the feeling, that these people were no longer normal and that their reactions were not the same as you can expect from adults”. (From Ooggetuigen van Oorlog).