Tjideng camp in Batavia (now Jakarta)

I remember the last transport the best. It was terrible, standing on a truck, pressed against each other. Mother was very ill. Trees took care of her.

We were taken to the Tjideng camp (period from August 1944). Here again, a district, like Karees, enclosed with fences. Many people in one house, all sharing one toilet. As a large family, we were fortunate to have privacy in one room (a small kitchenette) together.

a black and white photo of a group of people in front of a house
a black and white photo of a group of people in front of a house

Gate of the Tjideng Camp on the granted Triveli/Tjidengweg-West avenue

(Collection NOID) The regime in this camp was in this later period Burucht because of the capricious, cruel behavior of the general camp commander, who established his permanent residence here in April 1944. The infamous Sonei Kenichi.

A neighborhood in Batavia These middle-class houses were representative of the overall housing in the neighborhood, SMG Collection. Built after the first world war, for kampong residents. The name Tjideng is derived from the Tjideng river, which runs alongside it.

Singles and small families had to share a larger space together, which often led to arguments. In the small kitchen, Trees slept on the counter and the rest of us fit exactly on the floor. Food became scarcer. If a monkey or any other animal came in, it was immediately captured to serve as a meal.

In the morning, the familiar grey slice of bread. In the afternoon, a spoonful of rice. With the rice, it became more difficult. Every grain counts! A can for distribution is too susceptible to fraud. You can press the rice firmly or scoop it loosely. A tablespoon or a homemade scale was also used. People always gathered around when food was being distributed. Soup with a lot of water, sometimes tripe and strings of vegetables. When distributing, it was important to stir well to ensure everyone got their string of vegetables. Very occasionally, we would get a potato. It would then be slowly and carefully eaten, skin and all.

On the outside wall of this house, there was a tap where a small stream of warm (heated by the sun?) water came out. You could use this to somewhat cook tapioca flour. Dreaming about food seemed to help against the feeling of hunger. People started writing recipes. Some tastier than others. These were then copied from each other. People occupied themselves a lot with this.

To get protein, urine was collected. From this, they distilled as many useful substances as possible for the yeast preparation of the bread. The residue was dried and given to those who showed the most deficiencies. It was then provided in the form of drinks. Due to lack of food, children developed growth disorders and women stopped menstruating.


A notorious camp commander. People have seen and heard him howling at the moon. Hence, it was said of him that he was moonstruck. But it later turned out that untreated syphilis was the cause of his rages, which could occur every day and not just during a full moon.

Roll call

in this camp was particularly harsh, twice a day. Whether it was scorching sun or pouring rain. Sonei liked to make the counting last a long time. If women did not appear at roll call, they were searched by guards to perform forced labor. Shaved and battered, they appeared again at the next roll call. If they could no longer stand, they had to kneel for hours on the scorching hot asphalt. (This was your Tjideng)


In this camp, "gedekken" was punished even more severely. It was a dangerous activity for these natives as well. Punishments for this included shaving their heads and standing in the blazing sun.

While enjoying a bottle of whisky, Sonei used a clipper to shave fifty women during a nocturnal punishment exercise for "trading with natives" (History of Indonesia).

In this camp, in addition to individual punishments, this camp commander also imposed collective punishments, such as everyone going without or having reduced food for three days, including the sick and the children, many of whom were already dying. Extra roll calls were held, including standing in the sun all day. During such a roll call, if I struggled to remain standing in the hot sun and sank to the ground, I was promptly hoisted up when the Japanese arrived and then let down again after he had passed.

Mother did her best to make sure that if, for example, corporal punishment was given, we did not see it. But we knew damn well what was going on. We didn't see it ourselves, but only heard about it when Sonei made up the following. Because he was angry that a woman did not bow for the bread cart, the girls who had the task of distributing the "bread" had to overturn and bury the cart with the supply of bread for a few days in a large pit. They even got kicked afterwards. But that wasn't enough. He then went to the kitchen and, like a madman, overturned all the food drums and kicked out the fires.

In the evening, a boy tried to dig up some bread for his mother. He was shot dead. We had no food for days. Once, the food cart had to be overturned on the Tjideng bridge into the polluted Tjideng river.

Streets are constantly being cut off from the Tjideng camp. The shrinking brings "moving" with it, which people no longer have the energy for. Being put back among strangers, where you had to adapt again. With every move, luggage was searched and items were confiscated, possessions became smaller and smaller.

Toilets got clogged, not designed for so many people. Cesspools had to be emptied and discharged into the ditches around the houses. However, these ditches were only meant to drain excess rainwater and emptied into the canals along the street. As a result, there was an enormous stench throughout the camp. Even far outside the camp, this camp could be smelled! (But as children, we no longer smelled it ourselves!)

There were many contagious diseases, such as dysentery, whooping cough, and malaria, as well as eye diseases. Malaria came in different forms; it is a dehydration disease and can cause high fever. Many young children died from it. (This was your Tjideng.)

Some women became hysterical. Our "head of household" then helped with methods such as holding the head underwater until they calmed down. Also, due to Sonei's policies, about eleven people were dying per day in this camp. On September 2, 1946, his death sentence was pronounced by the Temporal Military Court in Batavia and carried out on September 7, 1946 in Glodok Prison. The body of Sonei Kenichi was interred in the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo among other war criminals, where they are still honored to this day.

Food and medicine from the Red Cross were being withheld by the Japanese, who spent it entirely or largely on themselves.

Trees also worked in the team that made coffins. The wood had long been used up. Bamboo mats were used instead. However, these proved not to be strong enough and allowed moisture to seep through from patients with edema. Hunger edema causes permanent damage to the stomach and intestines. Bellies filled with fluid, and when we pressed on our skin, it would leave an indentation.

Learning and teaching were not sustained as the hunger edema worsened. Mother continued to do what she could as long as she was able. Because of this, the Movig boys called us the "blue girls." Gradually, we also fell ill, and except for Trees, who remained standing, we all ended up in different hospital wards. I ended up in a garage that was used to care for young seriously ill children. During the day, they would take me outside, where I would sit and do nothing except move around pebbles. The buttocks of a baby next to me were taped shut to prevent excessive fluid loss and dehydration. Unfortunately, this method did not save the baby.

A girl next to me was very ill. She had been given a piece of meat but could no longer eat it, so she gave it to me. The next morning, she had passed away.

Trees had it the hardest, being only 16 years old and having to take care of Mother and the sisters on her own. Mother, who had kept us alive for so long in this infamous camp Tjideng, was now suffering from severe hunger edema. Once the fluid reaches the heart area, there is no saving the person. Outside the camp, there were medicines from the Red Cross that could have helped her. But it was not the intention of the Japanese captors to keep us alive.

From 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 keep it safe.

When mommy came here to Tjideng in April, she got amoebas and then edema. What a terrible disease, right dad. She became weaker every day and had less appetite. Then she was admitted to the hospital ward. And then I saw it coming. After mommy had been lying there for about three weeks, she suddenly deteriorated so much within four days, well that was very tough. But she did not suffer, you know. Because in the last days she was so tired that she hardly spoke and was almost apathetic.

In the morning, the nurse allowed me to bring the little ones to her. She recognized them and was happy that they were doing well. In the afternoon, she suddenly became much worse and Wies and I were called. (Nel was already there) Mommy recognized and greeted all three of us. The only thing she said when we were there was: "I am completely ready. I am completely prepared." And mommy repeated that four times. We stayed with her for an hour. She was not conscious anymore, and at one o'clock our mommy's heart stopped. So she fell asleep, so prepared and willingly, and without pain.

You know, dad, I would prefer to go to the plantation with you right away. I worked until the beginning of the fourth grade. I will catch up with extra lessons, because what will you do alone at the plantation? Nel is starting in the first grade, she is really suitable to be a nurse, all the nurses say so. Because Nel worked as a nurse in Karees, and in Grogol she was already a trainee nurse. And actually you had to be over eighteen for that. Wiesje is in the first HBS. Lydie hasn't worked much, but she is already in the fifth or sixth grade of elementary school and Claartje is in the third grade.

We are getting meat now! Sometimes I think, if only it had come earlier, mommy would have been spared, but it had to be like this. I will do my best later to take mommy's place in front of the little ones. You have now got a strong daughter, dad, even though I have flaws, but one who will do her best to help you in any way.

Your ever-loving eldest daughter, Treesje (Later my father wondered: "How do I get the child back in this adult?")

Trees took us out of the different sick bays to say goodbye to mother. Mother died calmly and peacefully, just before the camps opened on August 18, 1945. We do not know where she is buried. (She is registered with the Graves Foundation as one of those whose grave is unknown.)