Tuesday 27 July 2021

Dutch state owes millions to Dutch Indonesians, book claims

The Netherlands owes millions of euros to the 380,000 Dutch forced to flee the former Dutch East Indies between 1950 and 1970 and banks and insurance companies also owe them a considerable debt, writes the Volkskrant on Tuesday.

The claim is made by journalist Griselda Molemans whose book ‘Opgevangen in andijvielucht’ (Welcomed by the smell of endive) chronicles the repatriation of thousands of Dutch Indonesians to the Netherlands.

Many had lost the paper work relating to bank accounts and life insurances in the confusion surrounding the Japanese occupation and the Indonesian revolution and so were unable to claim what was theirs.


Molemans bases her findings on a 1945 report from the archives of the Federal Reserve in New York. It says that the 17 largest insurers sold 251.8 million guilders worth of life insurances in the former Dutch colony, the paper writes.

A large part of the unpaid funds were transferred to the United States after the Japanese invasion. The central bank of Indonesia, the Javasche Bank, likewise found a safe place for its gold and deposits.

According to Molemans the proof lies in the American vaults. The Dutch association of insurers denies the administration is in New York. Any claims only go through the Dutch archives.


For its part, the Dutch state failed to pay out salaries and pensions to soldiers in the Dutch colonial army. Prisoners of war, citizens and the so-called ‘comfort girls’ never received their share of the Japanese compensation money.

Contrary to what most of the population believed at the time, the Dutch Indonesians were made to pay for their own repatriation and lodgings. The average debt was 15,000 guilders.

The Royal Netherlands institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies KTIVL , which has been championing more research into the colonial war, is quoted as saying the claims are ‘new’.

‘Some redress has been made by the state following earlier claims but claimants never received the sum they were entitled to,’ a spokesman for the institute said.

Silfraire Delhaye, chairman of the Indisch Platform, formed in the wake of the movement to pressure the Dutch government into recognising past wrongs in Indonesia, told the Volkskrant that although the material debt to the Indonesians is still a great one, recuperation of the money is complicated.

‘Many policies and deposits ended up elsewhere. We don’t know why. We need transparency and knowledge.’

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