Sumatra, Indonesia

Foreword: The Dutch East-Indies were a colony of the Netherlands for over 300 years. During this period many Europeans live, work and married with native women. I was born on the island of Sumatra in a coal mining town Sawah Lunto, about 60 miles from the main city Padang, located at the west coast. I was just 5 years old when the Japs bombed Pearl Harbor. The Dutch, England and Australia joined America and declared war to Japan. Japan occupied the Dutch East-Indies on March 12, 1942 and the Japanese military put most of us all in concentration camps.
World war two in Indonesia ended on August 15, 1945. Indonesia started her independent fight and they became an official country on December 27, 1949. After that Indonesia and their president Sukarno kicked all the European and mixed blood people out of their country, about 300,000 of us ended in the Netherlands. Many of us were not happy living in a cold wet country, and the United States of America agreed to set up a Pastor Walter Act and about 50,000 of us were allowed in the sixties to immigrate to the US. Most of us choose California as our new homes.   

Today part of the Dutch people in the Netherlands believe their former Dutch citizens of the colony the East-Indies were oppressors, but these former Dutch qualifications fell far short in comparison to the activities of the Japanese liberators in Asia.
The most striking difference between the mentality of the old colonizer and the glorious liberator/occupier, the Japs, is well defined in Henk Hovinga his book “ Eindstation Pakanbaroe 1943-1945” (The railroad of Death thru Sumatra), in which he described the cruel, merciless behavior of the murderous Japanese masters against their Asian brown brothers, the Romusha’s ( hired laborers).
Beside the original native island residents of Sumatra, also all the imported Asians from the other islands fell under the regime of the Showa Tenno (Emperor of Japan).
In these particular areas that were ruled by the Japanese Kenpeitai (Japan’s secret military police and counter-espionage service) about 95% of their brown brothers, who were forced to hard labor, were executed or died by starvation, sickness, torture or a combination of the above that put them to death.

Thanks to the quick effect of the American A-bombs on Japan (on Aug. 6 & 9, 1945) some of these Indonesian slaves survived. Between 50% and 60% of the political prisoners of the Gunseibukan (Special trained Japanese forces) died in captivity, mostly as a result of the prior mentioned cruel methods applied by the Tokko-experts and the follow-up treatment of native prison staff.
The total number could not exactly be determined, but the individual and collective graves in the Sumatran places Bangkinang, Fort de Kock (Bukittinggi), Fort van der Capellen, Goeroenlawas, Padang, Padangpandjang, Painan, Soegaipenoeh and Tandjoeng Gadai (Gadoet) give numbers between 1300 and 1500.

Both the local and imported remusha’s, who were forced to work as diggers and build tunnels on the construction site Lobang Jepang in Fort de Kock (today called Bukittinggi), to protect the Japanese, have the largest percentage rate of human lives lost, namely all the 4,000 men lost their lives.

On October 4 and 7, 1943, 30 men, who were in the prison the Boei-Muara for more than a month, were taken out by some people of the Tokko (special higher police known of their brutality), who were accompanied by Japanese soldiers in a truck. The Japs shouting commands and beat the prisoners into the trucks. In the truck each Dutch prisoner got a bag over their head and taken to the MV-House, Padang, a collection of buildings with the central location of the Tokko. They had no idea what awaited.

Several of these Ombilin-men were fathers and their children were also in prison. Suddenly from one day to the next their lives were disturbed, when their fathers, under false pretenses, were roughly carried away with a last small hope: “We fetch you as soon as possible”. These children waited almost a year for father his promise. In that same year the prison had to be cleared and in the middle of the night the prisoners, adult and children with their little luggage, were ordered to mars to the station under loud cheers of the pro-Japanese Indonesians and loudly screaming women/mothers of the women concentration camp, that these prisoners past. In black-out wagons and open trucks many kilometers into the Sumatran jungle and were dropped on an area of dry sheds of an abandoned rubber plantation; Bangkinang.  

The group prisoners consisted of three Mining-Engineers with Phd, 17 Mining-Design Engineers, two Electrical Engineers, a warehouse Manager, and 2 others. All personnel from the OSM (Ombilin Coal Mining Company in Sawah Lunto). The group was supplemented with 5 men from European and Moluccan descent.

Eddie Geenen, my dad before word war two
Mother Claire E. Geenen-Chevalier

The following men from the Mining Company in Sawah Lunto were:
W. van Ameyden van Duyn, L.P. Apitule, C.R. Brouwer von Gonzenbach, E.J.A. Cosijn, H.C. van Don, B. Filet, C.J. Foss, E. Geenen (my dad), W.C. Goldman, O. Hisgen, J.H.G. Keim, G.
Keller, F. Kretzer, F.J. Keuskamp, W.J.R. Lanzing, F. Maidman, C.D.J. Marges, A.W.F. Molensky, F.A. van Ommen, J.A. van Ommen, C. H. van Raalten, A. Schlameisen, J.J. Thenu, F. Urban,
A. Uyleman Anthonijs (my oncle) and two others unknown by name.

Gerdy (Meity), parents and brothers; Family Uijleman Anthonijs

Upon arrival they were rid of their baggage and handcuffed. Then they were ordered to sit on the ground with legs crossed, dead silent and with the eyes facing to the ground. Any form of communication was prohibited or honored with disproportionate painful beating. In this position they had to wait their turn. That means that each one will be interrogated by the Japanese Tokko-lieutenants Sugibayashi and Miyauchi, the Tokko-Watari Tsurukichi and gunzo’s Yamashita and the Indonesian interpreters Bakri, Sjafei, Hartin and many others.
Such a trial consisted mainly with the use of the hand, fist, whip, a bullwhip, chair or a part of it, a piece of wood, rope or electrical cable, or a special constructed instrument to beat the political prisoner, who was enthralled as a precaution. This special constructed instrument could be a whip made from steel wire or spiked rattan, split at the top into quarters with nails on the inside to help stripped of the victim his cloth and skin from his back.
Intentionally or not, but when the victim during the beating accidentally fell to the ground, the Japanese interrogators and/or their Indonesian aides  started kicking or jumping, preferable at vulnerable spots of the body to increase the pain and intentionally made him aware of his injuries.
Many were forced to kneel during the interrogations with a piece of wood in the bend of the knees. After a while the person are not able to withstand it and started lowering his body. This weight of his body cause an abnormal force of pain to his own knees. The high pain level of injuries created by fire was obviously not left untapped.
Mostly were done in combination with the kicking through burning cigarettes, candles, oil lanterns, or red hot metal to create sear- or fire- wounds.
Also the excruciating operation by the application of electricity was not unknown; the vulnerable hanging position was almost perfunctory applied, often with preference for legs first and body up site down.
The fantasies of these Japanese and Indonesian torturers were infinite. These tortures lasted at least 10 days to prejudice the trial and sometimes they added more time as a favor. One had to be unobtrusive to the created rules. And that was hard. It is impossible not to respond to events in the immediate vicinity, especially when an acquaintance of family member received the favorable treatment from these tortures.
Because each victim had to look constantly to the ground, his vision can be eliminated, but not hearing or smell, which is much more difficult, if not impossible. The expert Japanese tortures applied to all means to get the desired information. There were also Indonesian Pembantu’s (helpers) as assistants. They were the indigenous candidate of Kenpeitai’s (Japan’s secret military police and counter-espionage service). Their tasks were to distribute the scarce food, removing dirt and disposal of the dead bodies. But ordered also other work, work involving all possible acts of pain and humiliations vis-à-vis third parties.

In the month October of 1943 of the approximately 150 men, who were found guilty (of what?) and who were convicted to imprisonment (15 years), 60% died within 2 years.
The condemned group of 30 men, my father Eddie Geenen was one of them, were almost one year later transferred to the men’s Japanese concentration camp in Bangkinang, a place located inland in a jungle of rubber trees.
But what was the reason, that suddenly these heavily tortured prisoners were transported to Bangkinang. One could only guess, but probably it was the following cause. The wife of the Japanese captain in charge of the Bangkinang camps became ill and needed an appendicitis surgery. One of the prisoners in this camp was doctor Vis, before doctor in Sawah Lunto and of the staff of the Ombilin mines, who was known as a good surgeon.
After the surgery the same captain ordered his men to hunt for some wild animals, tiger and wild pigs, to give the meat to the prisoners. Shortly afterwards the tortured Ombilin Mine survivors, though with years of prison sentences, arrived in Bangkinang.
After the war (Aug. 15, 1945) on September 1, 1945, 14 men came out alive out of several prison camps. While they all got medical treatment, 2 more died within 2 months.

Graveyard stone, located in Tanah Abang, Jakarta, bones have been removed

Graveyard stone of Eddie Geenen, which is located in Jakarta; his bones are gone!

Afterword: My father Eddie Geenen, a very sick men in bad condition, and his family were transferred with the passenger ship, the Sibajak, to Batavia (today Jakarta) to be nursed in CBZ-hospital. Much later my mother told me, that my dad has also been castrated during the Japanese torture. Dad died in that hospital to pleurisy and blood poisoning on August 18, 1948.

After the war the allied courts accused the Japanese torturers of the Tokko and the Kenpeitai of the following inhumane acts on their victims.

  1. Continuously and prolonged beating with sticks, rods, bullwhips, bludgeons, bats specially made for that purpose, horsewhips made of steel wire or electrical wire.
  2. Using jujitsu on the prisoners
  3. Use of burning cigarettes or open flames on bodies
  4. Using several forms of waterboarding and beating at the same time
  5. The use of electrical wires on the most sensitive body parts, which has been wetted
  6. Creating open wounds on the whole body
  7. The body with hands and feet tied to the back and in between a peg was stabbed, hung on two support points
  8. Women bodies with their hands and feet tied to their back and in between a peg was stabbed, while hanging on two supporting points, were raped by the Japs.
  9. On purpose dropping the hanging bodies from a certain height to the stone floor.
  10. With heavy shoes and boots jumping on several parts of the body
  11. Sticking needles under the nails
  12. Sticking pencils between the fingers, squeezing them together and rotate the pencils
  13. Kneeling on the sharp edges of triangular beams placed at the level of the knees and on the transition from the shins to the feet. At the same time they place a shelf over the calves and the Kenpeitai started standing and jumping on it.
  14. Prisoners for days standing in the burning sun without water and food
  15. Hanging on the legs with heads down
  16. Beating the hands with an iron rod
  17. Deliberate denial of food, water, medicines and medical assistance
  18. Locking up prisoners for days in overcrowded rooms preventing the bodies from moving and stretching

The exercise of the systematic torture and terror by the Nips had often cause death or caused grievous bodily or mental harm and caused the arrested victims hard physical and mental suffering.

Collected data included:
The book KURA! By Lou Lanzing
Mannenkamp Padang en Bangkinang (Sumatra’s westkust) by H. van den Bos
Personal info from Mr. W. Keller, now 90 years and living in the Netherlands






  1. Ronny, truly a gruesome experience your family endured. Sorry for the loss of your dad after the war. My great grand parents were married and lived in Sungai Limau. My great grandfather worked for the dutch in Fort de Koch / Bukit Tinggi as a wild horse tamer. This was all approximately around 1900 time frame. When my grandmother was young (perhaps 4 or 5 years old) she and her parents and other relatives left Indonesia for Kelang on the Malay peninsula, eventually making their way to the vicinity of Kuala Lumpur which became their home. Of course the Japanese also invaded Malaya during WWI and the war impacted my family. Interesting that you ended up in California. I am in Virginia. Very interesting to read your blog / articles. All the best. Paul W

  2. Hello Paul, Thank you for your support. Matching your family I have here some history. Antoine Cezar Chevalier (Stamvader) was born in Paris, France on dec.-6-1780 and died in Boekittinggi (before Fort de Kock), on Sumatra on april-24-1881, a couple month over 100 years. The Chevalier family are from my mother her side. Cezar was a captain of the Napoleon army. When the French army were defeated by the British, Dutch and Germans at Waterloo, Cezar and family left Europe and landed at Sibolga, west Sumatra and moved to Boekittinggi. My mother told me, that even at the age of more than 90 he was riding a white horse through the streets of Fort de Kock.
    After my father’s death my mother and 4 children left on January 3, 1951 for the Netherlands. We came in Rotterdam in freezing cold. Beside that we were moved to the south of Netherlands and those people had never seen brown people. Discrimination was our share. I was at that time about 14 years. I hated that country and decided one day I will leave Holland. After being a sailor ships engineer for 10 years, I started working for American Engineering companies in The Hague. In 1981 I receive an offer from an engineering company in California. My wife and I took the change, left Holland, and never look back. Nearly all my articles on my web are based on true stories. So, enjoy reading them. Ron

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