This site is dedicated to all those who experienced this "Hell on Earth" - a women and children's internment camp set up by the Japanese in Batavia (now Jakarta, Indonesia) during WWII.

Note that the researcher and creator of this website, Peter van der Kuil (a Tjideng internee) sadly passed away in Dec 2013. His family is now looking after the website.

Tjideng Camp
a women and children's internment camp

The camp was one of many set up by the Japanese all over the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) to intern European civilians, mainly Dutch, as "Guests of the Emperor" during the period 1942 to 1945.

Japanese Armed Forces took control of Batavia in March 1942 and life changed rapidly for the European population. Men, and boys over 12, were removed from their families and placed into POW camps leaving their women and children to fend for themselves in their homes. Conditions deteriorated rapidly as more restrictions were applied and the women increasingly feared for their safety and fate.

Soon camps like Tjideng were set up all over Batavia, and elsewhere in the Far East, and orders were given to move into them. The houses (and contents) of internees were confiscated by the Japanese. The women and children moved to their new camps with small pieces of furniture, bedding, clothing and some personal effects. As many people as possible were crammed into the houses in the camps.

At first Tjideng was under a civil administration and conditions were not too bad. Inhabitants could still cook for themselves, shop, and attend church services. However,  when the military took over all privileges disappeared. Money and jewellery had to be handed in and there were roll calls (kumpulan, appel or tenko) twice a day during which time the houses were searched. Food was cooked in the central kitchen and its quality and quantity deteriorated rapidly. Hunger was now a fact of life. So was disease and lack of medicines. Death became a daily occurrence. First the older ones, but soon all ages were affected. 

The women and children were often forced to witness horrible scenes of cruelty involving their fellow internees. Savage beatings and kickings were commonplace for the slightest misdemeanour, so were head shavings.

Tjideng camp was a closed-off section of one of the poorer suburbs of Batavia with smaller houses on small lots. It was fenced off, initially only with barbed wire. Later matted bamboo (gedèk) was added cutting the internees even more off from the outside world. Any contact through the gedèk was severely punished.

Over time the Japanese reduced the size of the camp many times. That did not deter them from bringing more people in from other camps. Tjideng started with about 2000 people. Over the years its area was reduced to about a quarter whilst its population grew to about 10,500.

What followed was enormous overcrowding. Houses, like those shown on the right, would often accomodate 60-80 people, sometimes more. Every room was wall-to-wall mattresses including corridors, kitchens (nothing to cook), often also bathrooms (water was cut-off and the septic tanks no longer functioned) as well as patios and garages. The width of mattresses were constantly reduced. They ended up around 30cm wide.

At first all boys over 12 were sent to the men's camps. Later the age was dropped to 10. All women over 16 years of age were in the labour force doing jobs such as repairing the fences, collecting the garbage and digging the holes to bury it and cleaning out the sceptic tanks.

Over time the toilets ceased to work because of the overcrowding and ‘chamber pots’ (old tins) had to be emptied daily. Also, water became no longer available from the household taps and had to be fetched daily from a central facility.

 

 

Camp gate

Due to the overcrowding doors were removed and used for firewood. Every room needed its own outside exit so windows were removed and walls below them removed, leaving the inhabitants now more exposed to the elements. Some of the bigger houses reported more than 80 inhabitants! 

The man responsible for producing these conditions was Lieutenant (later Captain) Kenichi Sonei.

For fifteen months, April 1944 to June 1945, the camp was under the command of the infamous Capt. Kenichi Sonei. He came to Tjideng from the POW camp of the 10th Batallion in Batavia better known as the Cycle Camp. He was notorious for his cruelty particularly when the moon was full. Many of his most barbaric acts occurred at such time.

During his time the camp's population grew from 5286 to 10,300.

See how Tjideng grew in population from its creation in October 1942. Click here.

  

 


Two Tjideng boys in party mood days after liberation.

It is not possible to list all his crimes here. See references below. Briefly, punishments included 'kumpulans' lasting several hours in the hot tropical sun which even the sick had to attend, reduced food rations, head shavings, beatings. He had dogs beaten to death by the older boys, tipped food over in the central kitchen and buried bread in rage. His reign was one of absolute terror!

He was sentenced to death by the War Crimes Tribunal on 2 September 1946.

In December 1946 Captain Sonei got justice from a Dutch firing squad. His appeal to acting Governor General Hubertus J. van Mook had been rejected. Mrs. van Mook had been one of Sonei's prisoners.

Read more about life and the conditions in Tjideng from the personal stories of:

  • Riet  - "Of course we also had to bow to the soldiers and even to the trucks if they passed us – not doing so resulted in a savage beating and kicking".

  • Hardy - "The garden behind the house was a mess. The sewerage was broken down and the dirt and shit  was canalized  in open gutters throughout the garden."

  • Hetty - "Much sickness was caused by poor sewerage and the women had to ladle the overflow of the cesspits into open drains which became a source of constant infection."

  • Michel - "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.”

 

About Tjideng - Excerpts  from "The Knights of Bushido" by Lord Russell of Liverpool (1958):

 

"Lieutenant-Colonel Read-Collins was sent to Batavia, where he arrived on 18th September 1945, to organize emergency air supplies to prisoner of war and civilian internment camps in Java and Sumatra. In Batavia itself he was responsible for feeding sixty-five thousand prisoners of war and women internees."

 

"The worst camp that Read-Collins saw was the women's camp at Tjideng where there were over ten thousand internees. They were confined in a space about a thousand yards square. The Japanese had taken over one of the poorer residential quarters of Batavia and sealed it off for this purpose. Most of the houses were without doors and windows, which had been removed by the Japanese for firewood. They had little ventilation, and, without fans, the heat was stifling in the hot weather. The whole area was very overcrowded and it was quite normal for not less than fifteen people to be housed in a small garage big enough to take a ten horsepower car. In one house there were eighty-four people living, and there was no room for them all to lie down at the same time. Most of the women internees had managed to keep one dress and some of them wore this every day."

 

"There were no amenities of any kind, no place for the children to play, and they could only take exercise in the narrow streets which, during the rainy season, were ankle deep in sewage from the septic tanks which had overflowed. The most common diseases were deficiency diseases like oedema and beriberi. Dysentery and malaria were also rampant."

 

"The principal item (of food) was an insufficient quantity of rice, sometimes a little meat, sour black bread made from tapioca flour, and a small quantity of obi leaves, the only vegetable. Immediately after the Japanese surrender the internees' rations were doubled. There had been no shortage of food in Batavia prior to the return of the Allies and Read-Collins saw no signs of malnutrition amongst the local native population. On 18th September there were already twelve hundred patients in the camp hospital. There were many others who also should have been in hospital but who had carried on for the sake of their children. When those were all admitted the number of patients rose to two thousand, and every available building in Batavia was converted into a convalescent home. Many of the worst cases were evacuated to Singapore."

 

"All this they owe to the `Knights of Bushido'."

Australian Sergeant Tony Rafty sketching children in Tjideng soon after liberation. 

Many thanks to the Australian War Memorial for the use of their images.   

FINDING FAMILIES IN TJIDENG 

 

Tjideng Register April 1944  

This April 1944 Register shows every family (often woman-alone or mother plus children) on one line combined with a pointer to the block number within the camp, the page number of the original archive, the order number within the block, the ages of all family members in the camp at that time, and their Camp Number (KNR). 
The total population of the camp at that time was 5286.

Tjideng Register August 1945  

This August 1945 Register shows every family: surname and initials of head of the family, page number and line number in original archive, nationality (NATION), Camp Number (KNR), number of persons in family in Tjideng at that time, and name of previous camp (UIT KAMP). 
The list shows a population of about 10,000 persons and about 5,000 families.

NOTE. The Registers are large files and take a while to download. Be patient.

See how Tjideng grew in population from its creation in October 1942. Click here.

Registers courtesy of Henk Beekhuis. For more information on the camps click here.

NIEUW AMSTERDAM

We have a copy of the passenger list of the Nieuw Amsterdam that sailed from Singapore to Southampton in December 1945. Many "Tjidengers" would have been on that.
Email us if you are looking for a name.

Nieuw Amsterdam stops in Egypt.

The Nieuw Amsterdam was one of the first ships to stopover in Egypt on its way to Southampton in 1945. From December 1945 many tens of thousands of men, women and children from WWII PoW and internment camps in the former Dutch East Indies were provided with warm clothing and other basic needs there in readiness for their return to the colder climate in The Netherlands. The place was Ataka, a locality some 5 kilometers distant from the port of Adabiya in Egypt.

They arrived in Adabiya in ships which were virtual floating dormitories carrying two to three thousand people. They were ferried to land in landing barges and then transported by train some 5 kilometers to the desert locality of Ataka where the dressing-up party began. Entertainment and food was supplied during the two day stopover.

Images of Ataka 1946.

MEASLES ON THE
NIEUW AMSTERDAM 

A forgotten piece of history!

The Nieuw Amsterdam arrived in Southampton on 1 January 1946 with 3800 passengers, including 1200 children, on board. At least 300 children with measles were immediately transferred to other ships for transport to Holland. About 20 patients were so seriously ill that they were taken to a hospital in Southampton. Some of these patients died and were buried.

Researchers in Southampton are now searching for their graves and seeking any information about those children, especially their names.

If you have any specific information about Nieuw Amsterdam children buried in Southampton in early 1946 please email us. We will forward your information to Southampton.

It is important to properly record this history.
 

LINKS 
to personal stories about 
TJIDENG CAMP 

Map of Tjideng

Click on map to see an enlargement.

  Tjideng map

 

Relevant pages regarding WWII:-

 

 

Innocents of Hiroshima?

Bushido

Remembering Hiroshima.  

Japanese Camp Life not Free!

A-bombs saved millions in Asia

 

 

   

 

 

Headlines on 

8 December 1941 in the Japan Times & Advertiser in Tokyo.

 

Click here for enlargement.

and read the 

"Imperial Rescript" or Declaration of War.

Now view a film of the Japanese surrender on the USS Missouri (8.45 mins). Well worth viewing.    Japanese Surrender

Sinking

 of the 

Junyo Maru

 

Read also about the sinking of the Junyo Maru - a Japanese cargo ship with 6500 POWs on board.

One of the greatest maritime disaster of all time - yet the least known.


Please contact us by email if you have any comments.

See Peter van der Kuil's Home Page for related information and links.

 

Recommended Reading

More information on Tjideng and other camps.

"The Forgotten Ones - Women and Children under Nippon"  

by

Shirley Fenton Huie. 

 

ISBN 0-207-17077-0.


"Dark Skies over Paradise"

by

Louisa Priesman-Bogaardt
        

"The memoirs of one woman's fight to keep her and her children alive during WWII. Louise Bogaardt's  time in prison camps on Java (including Tjideng). A compelling story of love, endurance and hope."


Available from 
Trafford Publishing


"Tjideng Reunion, A Memoir of World War II on Java"

by

Boudewijn van Oort
        

Two Dutch families leave South Africa for Java, motivated by patriotism. Caught in the events of WWII, they are interned, emerging four years later as refugees, to make a new life in a changed world.
Tjideng Reunion is told against the backdrop of the dramatic political and military events that unfolded around the two families that changed the course of their lives.


Available from 
Trafford Publishing

 

A good reference book is

 

 "The Japanese Internment Camps during WWII"  

by 

Dr D van Velden, 

 

Publisher: Uitgeverij T Wever B.V., Franeker.

 


 

"The Defining Years of the Dutch East Indies,1942-1945"

Edited by:

Jan A Krancher

 

Powerful and poignant accounts (24) from survivors of the Japanese invasion and subsequent enslavement of Europeans and the revolution that followed which created a free Indonesia.

 

Available from McFarland.

 

In Dutch try the following:

 "De hel van Tjideng. Herinneringen van Bep Groen, ex- gevangene Jappenkamp, oktober '42 - december '45"  

by 

E.G. van der Stouw-Lenkeek, 

 

Barneveld,Vuurbaak, 1995


Now in English ..

 

by Paula Kogel

    

Recently published, this is an absorbing and emotional account of a mother who, with her two young sons, was interned in this camp.

 

Available from: troubador.co.uk 
Price: £9.99 plus p&h

 

Did you know?

 

that the Dutch Government has not compensated its victims of Japanese persecution? Countries such as Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Norway have! 

 

If you were in such a camp, have a look at the website of the Stichting Vervolgingsslachtoffers Jappenkamp. 

 

 

This is an organisation seeking compensation for Dutch victims of Japanese internment camps, and their next of kin,  in the former Dutch East Indies from the Dutch Government. 

Peter van der Kuil / Created May 1997/ Revised June 2009