The Hague (October 15th 2020) – Today exactly 75 years ago, on Monday, October 15th 1945, Indonesians held a razzia among (Indo-)Dutch people in Surabaja. A part of the prisoners were horribly tortured and killed later that day. The events are therefore known as Bloody- or Bartholomeus Monday.
The raid was well organized. This is apparent from the fact that both Indonesian police and other (military) battle groups participated in the action, systematically searching through neighbourhood after neighbourhood. In addition to (Indo-)Dutch people Moluccans and Timorese were arrested as well. Of the captured Dutch people, around 1.500 were brought to the Simpang Society, where the Indonesians had set up a provisional ‘court’. It is estimated that 50 to 200 Dutchman were horrific and publicly tortured and killed there. Several witnesses however talk about at least hundreds of deaths.
After a few hours the heavily traumatized survivors were transported to the infamous Werfstraatprison, while through speakers in the city the war was declared to everyone “with just one drop of Dutch blood in the veins”. At the prison a crowd of angry Indonesians arose armed with sticks, knives and bamboo spears (bamboe roentjings). The prisoners were deliberately unloaded few hundred meters from the prison, so that in the ensuing ‘rush rods’ another 50 Dutch people were killed and hundreds were injured.
The events are exemplary of the bloody Bersiap, which is Malay for “Be ready” or “Take heed!”. It’s the cry of battle of Indonesian (para)military organisations and gangs, which caused death and destruction almost immediately after Japan’s capitulation especially among non-Indonesians in the former Dutch East Indies. During this extremely violent period, which in the cities at least lasted from September 1945 to early 1946, tens of thousands of Dutch people were horribly tortured, raped and killed by Indonesians, because of their Dutch or European ethnicity.
The exact number of Dutch casualties that fell during the Bersiap is unclear to this day. The estimates vary between 5.000 and 30.000 dead and 15.000 missing. Chinese, Moluccans and other ethnic minorities were also victimized, although it is unclear how many. It was against this background that in 1947 the government decided to deploy the Royal Dutch Army on a large scale to restore “order and peace” in the former Dutch East Indies. It ended up in two military operations called euphemistically ‘Politionele Acties’ (police actions).
* Also watch the very shocking documentary Archief van Tranen (Archive of Tears), which was previously broadcast by Omroep Max.