Tjideng Camp - 1942 to 1945
(a women and children's internment camp in Batavia)
one of our play mates - a girl - died. This had a big impact on me. She
actually died of malnutrition but we had no idea at the time and could
not comprehend this.
I was just seven years old, in my first year at school, when the Japanese arrived in Indonesia. I first noticed them when we were at Soekaboemi. Some planes flew overhead and machine-gunned the place. Many people were killed, all civilians. A few days later the Japanese were in Indonesia.
things started to change. First of all the European soldiers were put
into camps and a little later all other European men were rounded up.
Not long after that
all European women and children were also put into prison camps. My
mother and us four children lived in our old house in Batavia. All this
was soon to stop because we were transported to a camp and could only
take the bare minimum.
Our camp was Tjideng. It was just a section of the town that was fenced off. Our new house was not in a very nice part of the town. The houses made of sugarcane matting and plastered with cement. Ampasiet it was called. The roofs were baked clay tiles and the floors were cement. They were all of the same in design.
I remember not
enjoying school very much but as soon as the Japanese arrived school was
finished for the next 5 years!
In the beginning we
were allowed to go in and out of the camp. Then one day the camp was
closed and a pass was needed to go out. The fence was enclosed with
bamboo matting so that you could not see out and another fence was
erected so you had a double fence with a gap in the middle.
The pass to get out
of camp became harder and harder to get and only for emergencies till
the time came when it was closed for good.
Even for emergencies like operations or accidents no one was
allowed outside to see a doctor. I
was very lucky. I fell against a low brick wall and my shinbone became
inflamed needing an operation. I
was about one of the last to be allowed to go to hospital for an
operation. If I had not had been operated on I would have died.
In camp I kept
myself busy playing and collecting toys by swapping and bartering and
soon I had a lot of toys. My
mother persuaded me to exchange them for food as every time a kid had a
birthday his mother wanted a toy so she exchanged it for food.
The only set back was that the food was eaten and my supply of
toys was dwindling so the bartering was even harder for me.
I also made my own
lead soldiers. I had a mould and pinched the lead from the roofs which
leaked terribly in the rainy season afterwards.
Soldiers were toys and food so bad luck for the roof.
I never seemed to
have a dull time because I was always doing or making things out of
nothing. There were lots of other kids in camp so we just played. The
most daring thing to do was to skip compulsory line up which was twice a
day and try to knock some green mangoes off the tree in camp with a flat
stone. If there was line up, or kumpul, all the people were at the
assembly so you had a clear go to steal mangoes. The point was if the
Japanese found out that you were not at kumpul you were history.
Kumpul - standing to attention - was held twice a day and could last until late in the afternoon if we had to be punished. Everyone had to stand in rows of ten for hours; all the women and children in the afternoon sun. .
I also made a veggie
garden and planted a sort of spinach that grew very fast .It was not
very nice, a bit slimy but it was food. I also managed to get some corn
hardly needed supervision and
was pretty free to do whatever I wanted as, after all, we could not go
anywhere but within camp and there
were no cars or strangers. One
day one of our play mates - a girl died. This had a big impact on
me. She actually died of malnutrition but we had no idea at the time and
could not comprehend this.
As time went by food
was getting more horrible and harder to get so we ate anything we could
lay our hands on till I got dysentery. The cramps in my stomach were so
terrible as there was nothing in it. My mother made some very strong tea
from the dried leaves. It tasted horrible. The tannin was so bitter but
it fixed the diarrhea. I lost a lot of condition and if the war had
lasted much longer I most certainly would have died. It is funny but as
a kid you adapt a lot better than if you are a grown up. It would have
been horrible if my mother had died the four of us would have been
on our own.
I also had to do a
lot of jobs for my mother like catching water or standing in queues till
she came to take over. Also
if we were lucky I had to boil eggs at the kitchen steam overflow pipe.
There was at the back of the kitchen a pipe where the excess steam was
expelled and we found this a very good way of boiling eggs or other
things. I found this out but soon everybody was doing it so you had to
My mother had a job
in the kitchen for a short time. She
noticed that there was a open drain for the floor water to run to the
outside. She quickly told me, one day, that I had to go to the back of
the kitchen and watch the drain. I
did what I was told and soon there were potatoes rolling down the drain
which I picked up and put in my pockets. This was o.k. for a short time
till my mother got found out and was reported. She got a severe belting
and lost her job in the kitchen.
one day to our great astonishment we did not have to bow anymore. The
Japanese soldiers were completely different - it was as if they were
shell shocked. Only later on did we find out that the atomic bomb
had been dropped on Japan and that Japan had surrendered. We were
still in camp until the English, Scots and Ghurkha soldiers took over
from the Japanese.
Click here to go to the TJIDENG CAMP main page to read more about this camp.