They were forbidden at the time by the Dutch colonial government in what was then called Batavia (now Jakarta) because it wanted to present a positive picture of the Dutch Colonial War in Indonesia. Today, 8 December, sees the publication of a book of photos from the period 1945-1949, put together by a team of three authors: Erik Somers, René Kok and Louis Zweers. The nearly 200 photos show scenes of wounded soldiers and of Indonesians being intimidated – pictures that have never before appeared in the Dutch media.
The three authors have already spent a long time researching photos from the Second World War in various archives. They also have a large collection of photos from the decolonisation period in Indonesia (1945-1949). A large number of the photographers were ‘embedded’ and working for the Dutch colonial government. They were obliged to hand over their photos to the authorities in Batavia, who then made a selection to send to the Dutch media. Pictures considered too shocking - of wounded soldiers, for example - were not selected, as they might have caused distress to relatives of the Dutch soldiers at home.
The book shows just how selective was the choice of reports and photos at the time. The government, intelligence service and the armed forces censored everything that was published. The truth was a well-kept secret.
Now, 60 years later, a selection of photos that have survived in various archives and collections has been put together and published, giving a true picture of the terror and violence that took place during the Colonial War.
After their return home, the some 120,000 Dutch soldiers found that people didn’t want to hear their stories about the brutal reality. They didn’t tally with the picture that had been presented in the media. What’s more, the loss of "our East Indies" still had to get through to the national consciousness.
Even before publication of the book, the three authors had numerous reactions, especially from former soldiers, but also from their children. This book will help them to understand why their fathers didn’t want to talk about the war.
Koloniale Oorlog: 1945-1949
René Kok, Erik Somers, Louis Zweers
ISBN: 978 90 488 0320 0
Some photos from the book