de Wijk

Life in the Early Days of the Japanese Occupation

"deWijk camp was 'almost like a ghetto.'"

“The Japanese did invade Indonesia in 1942. They didn’t really know what to expect, but what they did see were the Japanese soldiers appearing on trucks and then all this…shouting and ordering people around and they would find the very nicest homes and take those for their own headquarters or for their officers or whoever and then that meant that the people that lived in those homes that were used to that luxurious life suddenly had to take a bag, they were given some time to pack a bag and grab a mattress and be put on a truck and move to another house…We didn’t hear much from (our mother, Anna) until maybe 20 years ago, and that’s when she started sharing because we knew just not to ask. (She) didn’t want to talk about that. DeWijk wasn’t what we would see on the TV about prisoner of war camps. It was more an area or a district that was wired off with barbed wire. DeWijk means district. They were allowed to leave to go get food, but maybe once a week.Then they took them to the actual prisoner prison in Banjoe Biroe.”

Editor’s Note: DeWijk was a district of administrative boundaries for the seven separate prisoner of war camp groups.

The Dutch families had a little time to prepare when they learned the Japanese had landed. Many had plans worked out with neighbors for this situation. Those who were Swiss or Indonesian were sometimes able to stay in their homes because they were not from enemy Allied countries. The Dutch heard the Japanese coming down the street. So they threw their things hastily over very high concrete walls to their neighbors. This was for safekeeping until the war was over. The Dutch prisoners had no idea their time in the camps would last for many years. Anna’s pictured blue suitcase was the one KLM provided for her rescue “children’s flight” to Indonesea on October 21st, 1939 from Naples, Italy.