Thursday, July 17, 2014

Lampersari (Java) Japanese concentration camp and other camps
A collection of the Museon , the NIOD Instituut voor Oorlogs-, Holocaust- en Genocidestudies

Drawings from the camps in the occupied Dutch East Indies (1942-1945)

dwangarbeiders onderweg

Forced labourers

Thousands of prisoners of war and local workers toiled on the Burma railway through the heart of the Burmese and Thai jungles. The work was exhausting, the conditions incredibly bad. Many met their death here. Other prisoners of war worked in the mines or the docks or constructed airfields. The women were forced to knit socks, sew caps or breed pigs for the Japanese soldiers.
The Dutch East Indies were cut off from the mother country after the Netherlands had been invaded in May 1940 and subsequently occupied by the Germans. In 1942, the Japanese invaded and occupied the colony of the Dutch East Indies. Europeans were interred and disappeared into hundreds of camps, entirely cut off from the outside world. The men were separated from the women and children; there were prisoners of war camps and civilian camps. All in all, some 140,000 civilians and servicemen were interned, most of them for at least three years.
L. Lancée, Queuing for water
Add caption
Some camp inmates kept diaries in which they wrote about the events of daily life in the camps, others laid down their reminiscences in their memoirs. There are hardly any photographs from the camps; most of the available photographs were taken after Japan’s capitulation on 15 July 1945. The only genuine representations of living conditions in the Japanese camps are the internees’ drawings. Museon in The Hague is in charge of the largest collection of such drawings, but NIOD also has a great number of them in its collections. These collections include the work of well-known artists, but many amateurs registered their impressions of daily life in drawings as well.
These web pages feature both NIOD’s and Museon’s entire collection of camp drawings. Of course, every drawing represents just a random moment, but together they give a good picture of what life in the camps was like and how living conditions deteriorated further and further toward the end of the war.

This collection is a joint initiative of the Museon , the NIOD Instituut voor Oorlogs-, Holocaust- en Genocidestudies .
This is an incomplete list of Japanese-run military prisoner-of-war and civilian internment and concentration campsduring World War II. Some of these camps were for prisoners of war (POW) only. Some also held a mixture of POWs and civilian internees, while others held solely civilian internees.
A map (obverse) of Imperial Japanese-run prisoner-of-war camps within the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphereknown during World War II from 1941 to 1945.
Reverse of map of Imperial Japanese-run prisoner-of-war camps with a list of the camps categorized geographically and an additional detailed map of camps located on the Japanese archipelago.

Published by the Medical Research Committee of American Ex-Prisoners of War, Inc., 1980.

Camps in Dutch East Indies (modern Indonesia)[edit]





Hygiene was poor in the camps. There was a shortage of water, soap and cleaning products. The drainage in the toilets caused problems created a foul stench. Many people got sick and contagion spread quickly under these circumstances. There was hardly any supply of medicines. There were many cases of dysentery and diarrhoea. Many people suffered from hunger oedema because of malnutrition. By the end of the war, one third of the inmates was sick. Out of the 140,000 internees, 20,000 died.

Interieur van een barak in het kamp Baros

Barrack interior

The camps became more and more overcrowded in the course of the war. The width of a sleeping place was reduced from an average of 1.35 metres to 50 centimetres. Little light or fresh air entered the stuffy barracks. One’s sleeping place was one’s home. Everything was done here. The inmates ate, drank, slept, read, received their guests and tinkered in their sleeping place. Their few belongings stood, hung or lay around the bed. There was no privacy in a dwelling like this.

Jongens vanaf 13 jaar opgepikt

Jongens vanaf 13 jaar opgepikt


At first, boys under sixteen years of age were allowed to stay with their mother in the women’s camps. Starting in 1944, they were interred in boys’ and men’s camps. Their mothers often did not know where they had been taken. Now the boys had to become self-supporting and look after their own clothes. They became experts at smuggling and pinching an extra bite. They had their own chores: collecting refuse, helping others to move, carrying corpses.

moeder en kind buigen voor Japanse militair


Bowing in front of superiors was entirely normal for the Japanese. But the Dutch felt humiliated by the obligation to bow. Moreover, bowing was subjected to clearly defined rules. Those who did not follow the rules were punished. In fact, bowing in front of a guard meant bowing in front of the emperor, in the eyes of the Japanese.

Eten halen!

Fetching food

At the beginning of the war, there was enough food, but the situation deteriorated rapidly. All kinds of food were in short supply. Most camps had a central kitchen where the food was prepared in large drums. Lighting the fire, boiling water, cleaning vegetables, cooking and distributing food were part of the kitchen chores. Portions were most carefully weighed. In 1944 and 1945, hunger was prevalent both inside and outside the camps.



Under the inspiring leadership of Joop Postma, a cabaret company was set up in the ‘rest camp’ Chungkai along the Burma-Thailand railway. Together with similar English groups, the Dutch endeavoured to bring some recreation to the recuperating prisoners.

Drawings from the camps in the occupied Dutch East Indies (1942-1945)

The occupation of the Dutch East Indies

L.D. de Kroon en A. Grendel. Illustrated poem 'Overgave (Surrender)'
The Japanese attack on the American fleet near Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941 meant that the southeast of Asia had become involved in World War II. Japan conquered most countries in the region with the objective of eliminating the influence of Western countries in Asia. The KNIL (Koninklijk Nederlands-Indisch Leger/Royal Netherlands-East Indies Army) surrendered on 9 March 1942. The soldiers, some 42,000 of them, were made prisoners. In the course of the following months, the citizens of the Allied Powers and of other western countries, about 100,000 persons all in all, were interned in civilian camps. The Dutch national flag disappeared; from then on Japan’ s white flag with the rising sun flew everywhere.
To the camps
Cornelis van Steenwijk, drawing 'View on camp Tjikudapateuh'
Immediately after the KNIL’s surrender, the Japanese tried to ‘Japanify’ the Dutch East Indies. The Japanese time zone and the Japanese calendar were introduced: The clock was set ahead an hour and a half and the year 1942 became the year 2602. Dutch schools were closed, Dutch newspapers and magazines forbidden. All Dutch people over 17 years had to register and buy an identity card. In the course of 1942 and 1943 all whites had to live in camps. They disappeared behind barbed wire in camps that were spread over the whole archipelago. These camps were located in schools, monasteries, railway sheds, barracks, prisons and fenced-off city neighbourhoods. There were hundreds of camps in the Dutch East Indies at the time, camps for men, camps for women and camps for prisoners of war. Most of these people remained interned for at least three years.
Outside the camps
Unlike the Europeans, most Eurasians – people of mixed ethnicity – did not get interned; they remained free. Their exact number is not known, but it is estimated at between 120,000 and 200,000. Internment did not apply to Eurasians until 1944 and 1945, the last years of the occupation. Life was rough for those who had remained outside the camps, the so-called outmates. Many breadwinners had been made prisoners of war, others had lost their jobs to native-born people, pensions did not get paid out anymore, European schools had been closed. Besides, increasing pressure to cooperate with the Japanese was put on the Eurasians, leading to their forced integration into the society of the original population. Outmates who refused to cooperate eventually ended up in camps.
Japanese propaganda
Johan Warmer, collage “The slogan Asia Raja”
Japanese politics were aimed at blotting out western influence and mobilizing the population in favour of the Japanese war effort. The Japanese used propaganda as a means to gain the favour of the population. They availed themselves of all possible media: radio, newspapers, loudspeakers, films, billboards, etc. The radio broadcast Japanese lessons three times a week. The Japanese took school plates along when they went to remote places in order to reach people who could not read. Children were influenced by books specially written for them.

Drawings from the camps in the occupied Dutch East Indies (1942-1945)

Life in the camps

What was daily life like in the camps? Where did the internees live? What did they eat? How did they get along with their guards? How did they spend their days? How were the relations between inmates? Numerous aspects of camp life pass the review in the drawings, often in a most poignant way. Chose a theme from the list below to learn more about a given aspect of camp life.
European camp management
Corrie van Grondelle, 'Camp leader consult'
Formally, the camp leader chaired the committee that managed the camp as a single entity. In practice, he/she was the most influential internee. Many things, for instance buying food or fitting out a camp kitchen, required the authorization of the camp commander, who communicated only with the camp leader. Moreover, the camp leader passed on the camp commander’s orders and was responsible for seeing to it they were carried out. Having to compromise between the inmates’ wishes and the demands made by the Japanese commander did not make life easy for the camp leader.
Everyone a number
Johan Warmer, 'We walk marked', Tjikoedapateuh
Every internee received a number and had to carry it on his or her person at all times. Many inmates added a personal touch to their number. There are, for instance, numbers decorated with an embroidery referring to the kind of work the wearer was doing in the camp; others were burnt into wood and bore Japanese characters.
Roll call
Kees van Willigen, “Roll call”, Changi Jail
From the very beginning, roll calls were held in many camps. They were a real ordeal, especially if it was a Japanese who took the roll. The internees had to stand perfectly still in line in a central place in the camp, all their face turned in the direction of Japan. At the commander’s order, they had to bow at an angle of precisely twenty degrees. It often took a log time before all the internees had been counted.
 | Guards
Theo Voorstad, The kindest army, Boeboetan-gevangenis
In general, the native policemen, who were in charge of surveillance in the beginning, were not ill-disposed towards the internees. However, starting in 1943, the Japanese began to call in native recruits, so-called “heihos”, to help guard the camps. These young soldiers were much less kindly disposed towards the Dutch internees, although they seldom hit or punished them. When an internee ran into a Japanese or native guard, he was supposed to make a bow. The inmates experienced these bows as humiliating. In Japanese eyes, however, bowing in front of a soldier was in fact bowing in front of the emperor. If an internee failed to make the obligatory bow, he could expect to be severely punished.

L. Lancée, “Christmas decoration in the barracks”, Struiswijk
The Japanese saw to it that the camps cost them as little as possible., The inmates were therefore expected to take care of everything they needed themselves. Furniture, tools, tableware, cooking utensils, the internees had to bring along everything or to make, buy or borrow whatever they lacked.

Wheeling and dealing
A.L. de Geer Boers, Guardhouse in Tjimahi
In the beginning, the camps were not entirely cut off from the outside world. In Java, women were even allowed to leave their camp once or twice a week, but this relative freedom was progressively curtailed as time passed on. At first, the entrance gate remained open, with policemen standing guard. Later on the gate was closed. Barbed wire was put up around the camps, in the course of time to be replaced by a gedèk, a wall of interwoven bamboo stalks. From these bamboo walls stems the expression gedèkken, wheeling and dealing by the inmates with the locals through the openings in order to supplement their meagre rations. They were severely punished if they got caught.

 | Overcrowding 
Jan Kickhefer, Interior of a barack in camp Baros
In Java, the women were housed in city neighbourhoods or blocks, the so-called protected districts, where they had a fair amount of space at their disposal until mid 1943. In Jakarta (then Batavia) five or six people lived in a house with three or four rooms. However, there were camps where the situation was much worse from the onset. In Palembang for instance, the first camp for women and children, there were 24 people to a house of a similar size. Starting in the second half of 1943, when ever more camps were merged, the situation became much worse, all the more so if the camp’s total surface area was reduced. In the end, it was no exception for one person to have no more than fifty centimetres of sleeping space at his or her disposal. Living conditions were extremely bad, especially in the barracks. The barracks, made of wood, bamboo and leaves of the atap palm, were poorly built and deteriorated quickly, while there was hardly any material available for repairs.

A.J.F. Gogelein, “The toilets in the camp”, camp Bangkong, Semarang
Many camps lacked sufficient toilets. Inmates had to queue up or walk a long distance. At night, most of them used a chamber pot. The drainpipes often clogged up in the houses that served as camps. The cesspits regularly ran over and had to be emptied; cleaning out the filth was part of the chores. The water supply was turned off in most camps starting in 1944. Water then had to be fetched at a central point. The inmate had to be extremely careful with water when washing themselves and their clothes; there was no more soap to be had by that point.

From one camp to the other
L. Lancée, People with suitcases and bags
The many relocations and camp mergers entailed an equal number of transportations. Of these transportations, those made by sea, frequently in overcrowded ships, were by far the hardest. Land transportation took place by train as much as possible. Travelling by train, mostly in fourth-class carriages, often took much time and was extremely uncomfortable. En route, the internees were forbidden to have any contact with the native population or to buy anything. More often than not, they did not get anything to eat during the journey. In the beginning, everybody was allowed thirty kilos of luggage, mattresses, kitchenware and some cutlery. This allowance was reduced later on. During the transportations, the internees lost part of their belongings and often their best friends as well. If the camp was new, it had first to be cleaned on arrival. Moreover, the whole camp organization had to be set up from scratch. In the case of an already existing camp, the fresh arrivals had to make a home for themselves and adapt to new rules and new room or barrack mates.

 | Children

Jan Kickhefer, Children
In the camps, the children stayed with their mother, who tried to raise them in as normal a way as they could. There was even a chance to offer them some schooling. But the children also had chores to do: cleaning, gathering wood, looking after the sick. They played with whatever they had been able to take along from home or with self-made toys. Mothers and the somewhat older children made picture books and books to read from. There were also home-made games. Whenever paper and pencils were available, the children made drawings. And then there were youth clubs and handcraft clubs, as well as lessons in singing or folk dancing. At first, boys remained with their mothers in the women’s camp until they were 16 years, but starting in 1944, they were taken to camps for boys or men from the age of ten onward. From then on, they had to provide for themselves and they had their own chores: collecting refuse, helping others to move, carrying corpses. They got more and more expert at smuggling and pinching something extra to eat.
Forced labour
Kees van Willigen, Labourers on the go
In the beginning, interned men were forced to work for the Japanese in some camps. In Cimahi for instance, men were put to work in the airfield. Starting in 1944, internees were forced to work for the Japanese army almost everywhere. The men had to work on the land and in the docks, to help build railway lines, like the Thai-Burma and the Pakanbaru lines, or they were sent to work in Japanese mines. The women had to sew soldiers’ uniforms and make ropes or wooden nails for ships. Starting in 1944, the upkeep of vegetable gardens became compulsory. Not only did the Japanese expect the camps to be as self-supporting as possible, part of the gardens’ yield had to be tuned over to the Japanese on behalf of the army. In some camps, the internees had to breed pigs for the Japanese. They were paid for their work, namely 15 guilder cents a day.

Food and health care

A.J.L. de Geer Boers, The Tjimahi-camp laboratory
In most cases, the Japanese had allowed internees to keep their money and valuables. On the other hand, they expected camp inmates to provide for themselves as much as possible. Most of the time, the Japanese did not issue any rations until the people had used up the greater part of their own means. In the beginning, there was enough food available, but food became increasingly scarce in the course of the war. In 1944 and 1945 there was famine in the camps and among a great part of the native population. Health care deteriorated along the same lines. When the camps were set up, there was no shortage of medical staff. Doctors and dentists had been allowed to bring along part of their instruments, although these were often confiscated later on. Most camps had their own hospital or infirmary, some did not. In the longer term, however, there was a great shortage of medicines and medical equipment.
Camp kitchens
Joke Broekema, The kitchen then and now, Brastagi
There was a central kitchen in many camps where the rations were prepared, often supplemented with food the camp management had bought in bulk. The big 500-litre drums were about the only part of the camp inventory the Japanese had supplied. Working in the kitchen was exhausting: it began with lighting the fire early in the morning and boiling water for porridge. Other kitchen chores were chopping wood, cleaning vegetables by the hundreds of kilograms and cooking rice. The stock of firewood was supplemented from the houses and barracks with anything that could in any way be missed and would burn. When the meal was ready, it was distributed per house, barrack or shed in portions that had been weighed most precisely. A camp crier announced which part of the camp was next. Long rows of camp inmates stood waiting for their daily portion at the distribution stations. People kept a sharp eye on each other to be sure that nobody got more than they did by accident.

Market and camp shop
Mary Gabriëlse, Toko, Tjihapit
In the beginning, there was a market and a shop in many camps. Quite often, the inmates contributed to a central fund to pay for bulk orders; some of the goods were used in the kitchen, the rest was sold in the camp shop. Everybody was allowed to spend a fixed amount in the shop; the inmates often used special camp money to pay for their purchases. Eventually, the inmates ran out of money and the camp shops were closed.

Trading and smuggling
Ad Borstlap, “Smuggle”, Bamboo-camp
In many (in due course even in all) camps, the inmates were not allowed to buy more than a limited amount of food from the outside. This resulted in quite a bit of smuggling. Certainly at first, this smuggling involved the guards, who pocketed a commission in return. Sometimes internees managed to sneak away in order to buy things outside the camp, but this became more and more difficult and punishments became increasingly severe as time went by. Smuggling was drastically reduced when the Japanese introduced collective punishment for a single individual’s offence.

Charles Burki, Our pets
Hygiene was poor in the camps. The Japanese seldom handed out toilet paper, soap and cleaning products. In addition, there was not enough water to wash oneself and one’s clothes or to clean the kitchenware. Vermin was another problem. The barracks in the camps were already full of bedbugs when the internees moved in.

Charles Burki, Sakit
The general level of health of the internees declined in the course of the war. In 1943, the first cases of hunger oedema occurred. In 1944 the situation deteriorated rapidly. The major causes for sickness were the increasing lack of food coupled with the hard work the internees were now subjected to, and the ever larger number of people in the camps in combination with the worsening hygiene. Moreover, infections spread easily because of the many transports; the inmates brought contagious deseases along with them when they went from one camp to an other. The number of victims of infections such as diphtheria, dysentery and jaundice increased quickly. Some fifteen percent of the approximately 140,000 internees died.

 | Hospitals 
Maker unknown, Patients barrack
The Japanese often had a central camp hospital fitted out in camps where the seriously ill were not allowed to go to a free hospital and where a number of camps were in each other’s vicinity,. The hospitals in the larger camps regularly had to be enlarged, at the expense of living accommodations. There were separate wards for children, the chronically ill, dysentery patients and sometimes also for surgical treatment.
Andreas de Hoog, Pharmacist Quintus Bosz
There were hardly any medicines, dressings or medical instruments available. Doctors and technicians constructed the missing instruments themselves. Pharmacists and chemists used herbs and other ingredients to compose their own medicines as best they could. They extracted yeast from urine for instance to treat pellagra, an illness caused by vitamin deficiency, In the last year of the war, some medicines from Red Cross shipments reached the camps, although the Japanese withheld the greater part.

20,000 victims
Jan Kickhefer, Danse macabre, Tjimahi
Internment in the camps cost thousands of people their lives. Major causes of death were sickness and lack of food. The death rate was more or less normal during 1942 and 1943, but afterwards it increased quickly. For instance in Java, the death rate was three times as high as normal. People who died in the city camps were buried in a public cemetery. Other camps got their own cemeteries. The inmates dug the graves themselves.

Education, religion and leisure

H.J.D. de Fremery, Sitting-, dining and bedroom for 39 Dutch generals and colonels, Mukden
There were opportunities for education and to conduct church services in the camps, although it was left to the internees to organize these activities. Leisure activities were also left to the inmates’ initiative. The simplest thing to do, and moreover something that did not entail any material costs, was singing. Everywhere, choirs shot up like mushrooms. Singers and listeners derived much pleasure from singing. A number of camps had a small orchestra and some of them their own theatre and cabaret company. Starting in 1944, the regime became more severe and in many camps it was henceforth forbidden to, for instance, play cards or make music. The Japanese also issued a ban on gatherings, which made it impossible to have church services any longer. Sometimes the camp management turned a blind eye on such services. In other camps, small groups were still allowed to gather for prayers or for Bible study.
Mekr unknown, Clandestine teaching in a garage, Kramat
As far as education was concerned, children were better off in a camp for men than in a women’s camp. There were more professional teachers to be found among the men and they were sometimes exempted from other work. Specially in 1942 and 1943, entire schools were set up despite the lack of educational tools and the shortage of paper and writing materials. In the women’s camps, in was in many cases the mother who taught her own children, whenever possible with the support of a schoolmistress.

 | Religion

Willem Liesker, Open air mass, Lands Opvoedings Gesticht
Many internees sought and found comfort in faith, including some people who had not gone to church before the war. Most often, there was a minister or a priest in the camps for men – be they civilians or prisoners of war – and, therefore, it was possible to conduct services in these camps, whether legally or not. The women’s camps lacked such possibilities, but the Protestant women addressed their spiritual needs by organizing clubs for Bible study, whilst Catholic women could turn to the many interned nuns for support.

Courses and lectures
Ad Borstlap, The library, Bamboekamp
Courses and lectures were organized for the adults, their topics depending on the expertise to be found among the internees. Libraries were established with the books that the internees had brought to the camps.

Theatre and music
Miep Bakker, Lily Kraus studying, Tangerang
Of course, there were also musicians among the internees. They had been allowed to take their instrument with them. As a result, orchestras were set up in many camps and concerts were given. The inmates also organized revues, cabaret shows and theatrical performances. The conditions under which the inmates had to rehearse were not the same everywhere. In some camps the inmates had to make all the preparations in the greatest secrecy, while the camp commander leniently looked the other way round when the performance took place. In other camps rehearsals took place openly and the Japanese watched the performance from the first row. In Chungkai, along the Burma railway, the internees had even built a theatre in which performances were given every Friday and Saturday night.

Drawings and handicrafts
Maker unknown, Embroidered pillowcase in Tjideng
The Japanese had little objections to drawing and handicrafts. They even sometimes had internees make a drawing in exchange for some extra food or for the normal wages of 15 guilder cents a day. However, paper for drawing and materials for handicraft were scarce.

maker unknown, “Sinterklaas 1942”
Holidays were always celebrated as normally as possible. It gave the inmates a feeling of togetherness and made for a change. Christmas and New Year’s celebrations were allowed almost everywhere. On the occasion of birthdays, the inmates went visiting and brought along a drawing, a piece of fabric with embroidered signatures or any other handiwork. The Queen’s anniversary, a national holiday in the Netherlands, was on 31 August at the time, but no celebrations were allowed on that day.

News from the outside
Camp newspaper, Tjimahi
There was a great need in the camps for news from the outside. How was the war progressing? How were family members doing back home in the Netherlands? Contacts with the outside world were extremely limited. Correspondence with relatives was restricted. Sending a card was allowed on rare occasions, but it had to be written in Malay or English. Out of ten standard sentences, the internees could choose two or three, to which they could add twenty free words; everything was censored. In the beginning, “The Voice of Nippon”, a Japanese periodical written in English, was still distributed. It gave a fairly accurate picture of how the war was progressing in Europe, but was far from objective where Asia was concerned. Radios were not allowed, though an illegal set was sometimes hidden somewhere. It goes without saying that the papers published in some camps did not include much news from the outside. As a result of this lack of information, the camps buzzed with rumours about how the war was progresing. Peace was always nearby. This kept hope alive.
Indonesian banner
Two days after the Japanese had laid down arms, on 17 August 1945, the Indonesian leaders Sukarno and Hatta proclaimed the independent republic of Indonesia. This started a bloody fight for independence, that would eventually lead to the recognition of Indonesia’s independence by the Netherlands in December 1949. The Pemudas, extremist and revolutionary Indonesian youths, rose in an ever more violent revolt. They wanted Indonesia to be for the Indonesians and their actions were directed at all foreigners, be they Dutch, of mixed Indonesian Dutch descent, British, Japanese or even pureblood Indonesians who supported the Dutch. The situation became so agitated in Java and later also in Sumatra that the former internees were ordered to remain in the camps; outside they ran the risk of being killed. Only in convoy, escorted by soldiers, could they venture into the streets. Since the first allied troops did not land in Java until the end of September and in Sumatra until mid October, the Japanese came to be the protectors of their former internees and prisoners until the Allied Forces could assume the management of the camps. The time that elapsed between the liberation and the beginning of 1946 is called the Bersiap period. Bersiap was a revolutionary battle cry of the Pemudas, meaning ‘Be ready’. Many people of mixed Indonesian Dutch descent experienced this period as more traumatic than the Japanese occupation. Many of them who had remained free till then ended up in a Japanese camp and some later on in an Indonesian camp for “extremists”. Thousands fell victim to terror.
Theo Voorstad, Evacuees transport
Many internees went to Australia to recuperate. There, children could go back to school. The Australian authorities put schoolrooms at their disposal for that purpose. Starting in 1946, more than 300,000 people of mixed descent and full-blood Dutch people, so-called totoks, whose families had sometimes lived from generation to generation in the East, were repatriated by ship to the Netherlands. Most of them were not to return to their “Tropic of Emerald”, as a Dutch film director called the archipelago. The pre-war Netherlands East Indies had disappeared for ever. Many people of mixed descent experienced the repatriation as a forced journey to a country they only knew from the history and geography lessons in school. They were heading for hard times.