Sunday, November 11, 2012

Daddy's little girls

Indonesian recipe for Fat Reduction:
2 kacang panjang (long green beans)
1 green malang apple
“Then need to blend this things together and drink it”.
Even though I’m now apparently a “little bit wide” (having swapped my regular gym visits for hooning it around Bandung in search of clues and links to my Family’s past), I think I’ll stick to Strawberry Smoothies, thanks. 
Luki, who has the opposite problem to me, and in preparation for his potential transformation from barman to personal trainer, adds some “L-MEN GAIN MASS” protein powder into his smoothie, throwing in some linseeds and sunflower seeds as he has seen me do.
“Okay, I will blend my recipes for you:  30ml my heart, 30ml soul, 30ml life, 9ml my hope”.  As he busies himself with his task, his head - with its coarse black hair sticking up like a crest - makes small, avian movements from left to right, up and down. 
“99ml of pure smoothe, L-man.  I like it.”  I half cringe, half laugh.
I open my hotmail account and find an email entitled “Vitaderm – Hedy’s cosmetic company” from Mum:
“Found this amongst some of your Oma’s [Grandma] stuff from Holland.   Remember I told you that Oma Tikus and Hedy used to make cosmetics together in Bandung to sell?  It seems they also made toothpaste and mouthwash.   This paper is some kind of product testing result.  Not sure what 2602 means for the date???   Anyway, what’s exciting is the name and the address at the bottom!  Den Hartogh – that’s Hedy’s last name for sure, I remember now, and seems she was on Nylandweg, but not 123, she was at 86A!   There’s another document here that has Tikus’ name on it but it’s in Indonesian – it’s dated 1950 after the war of independence and I think it says that Tikus had been an assistant in that Company - Vitaderm.  Anyway, Darling, thought this would be interesting for you.  Call you on skype later.”
“Copy for Mrs Den Hartogh,  Nylandweg 86A, Bandoeng”

The Document is addressed to Mr J Azumi, written by the Chief of the Laboratory of Health and Hygeine
By now, Bandung and the Preanger region was known as “Priangan Syuutyookan” and a Mr Azumi seemed to be in charge at the Technische Hoogeschool – now known as the Bandung Institute of Technology,  one of the most prestigious universities on Java.  The administrative challenges and complications encountered by the occupying Japanese forces are highlighted by this document:  The testing result is written mainly in English but is entitled “Afschrift” or “copy” in Dutch and was written from a Dutch address.  Whilst the month is in English, the year is recorded in the Japanese KOKI calendar which follows the mythical founding of the Japanese Dynasty in 660BC – and so the year 1942 becomes 2602.   This is the second Japanese calendar system that I have come across.  The first, called the SHOWA calendar, counts from the 1st year of Emperor Hirohito’s reign in 1926 and was used to record the year of capture on my Opa’s POW card:  The year 17 is also 1942.   
So, in December 1942 Hedy, my Oma Tikus’s Austrian friend, was still at liberty and going about her work as a cosmetics scientist.  

An advert in the 1953 Preangerbode newspaper:  “Under medical supervision.  VITADERM.........  Training institute for beauty specialists.   Free expert advice and diagnosis for your facial. [list of treatments available]...  by subscription 20% reduction”

No. 6 Beatrix Boulevard (Jalan Dipati Ukur).    Rudy, the man of Indo Chinese descent who now lives at 6 Jalan Dipati Ukur and who speaks Dutch but not Chinese, confirms to me in English that this was a laboratory for Vitaderm previously.
I look through my research notes for a website that Boudewyn Van Oort  – the author of Tjideng Reunion with whom I have been corresponding and who has been helping me with my research – introduced me to.  Created and maintained by a man called Henk Beekhuis, it has a list of Tjihapit camp internees still within the camp at the beginning of 1945.  This is the only list of its kind on the website – nothing is shown for the other camps in Bandung.  The website represents as comprehensive a study on statistics of the internment camps as can be found anywhere.
As I navigate the pages and further links and sites in search of this list, I come across some chilling data:
Of the 100,000 civilian internees in the Dutch East Indies about 13,000 died: that is 13%. 

Of the 42,000 KNIL  (Royal Dutch East Indies Military) and Royal Navy servicemen in Japanese captivity 8,200 died: almost 20%. 

The list includes a Mrs. H den Hartog-Groenberg but the spelling of Hartogh is incorrect.   No sign of my family either but I already knew that if they had been in Tjihapit camp at all, by 1945 they would have been long gone, already transferred to their 3rd camp (Kamp Makassar), near Jakarta. 
Further browsing on this website uncovers the following:
This site does not offer a search function to locate in which camp(s) a particular person was interned.
………….. The only source for such a search is via the Netherlands Red Cross:

Het Nederlandse Rode Kruis, Oorlogsnazorg
Leeghwaterplein 27
2521 CV Den Haag, The Netherlands

I immediately send off an email with information about Tikus, my Mum and my Aunt.   One more ship sent – who knows what treasure might come back.
I send off two more:   requests for a name and address search to Boudewyn and Henk who are in possession of copies of the Bandoeng address book from 1942 and 1940.  Boudewyn has just completed the laborious process of scanning each of the approximately 260 pages into digital format so that the information can be sorted by address as well as by name.
I use Microsoft Works data base which is easy to handle and available on most PCs, but it is not compatible with Apple machines” he writes in an email.  I am impressed by this man who, in his late 70s, is so computer savvy.  Meanwhile I, in my mid thirties, am still wondering around with a nokia “brick” phone – the kind that is impossible to break or lose – no matter how hard you try.  “When are you going to get a smart phone?” ask boss, friends and clients alike.  “When they stop falling out of my back pocket and going down the squat toilet in the factory” I lie (that only happened once).  Secretly, the idea of trying to navigate the soon to be ubiquitous i-phone 5 frightens the life out of me.
 I have the entire address book now in my data base” Boudewyn continues “- with the exception of two pages that are missing.  There are no entries between Groen and Hijde.”   So no Hartogh.
 Here follow the persons living on the Pahud de Mortanges laan and 123 Nylandweg [the other addresses that you were looking for]..”
Westenberg, Mevr. J. E., Teekenares Pahud de Montangesweg 12 pav
Meel, F. W. L. de, Werktuigk. Knilm Pahud de Montangesweg 12
Weeren, W. Ch. v., Autohandelaar Pahud de Montangesweg 12
Schultz, H., Boordwerktuigk. Knilm Nijlandweg 123
“.....and[i] found some of the occupants of Nr 86.   The data suggests that there also was an 86A on Nylandweg.............I have copied my friend Bart on this email, who was also in Tjihapit camp with us [and who gave me the copy of the addressbook], so he can see the progress on the database.... but indications are that this address book was very unreliable and out of date.”

I am now convinced that it was Moesje, my Grandmother’s Indonesian (or part Indonesian) friend and a single mother, who lived on Pahud de Mortagnes Laan. With more than one family living there, it seems to have been some kind of “pension” or boarding house – little different from its function as a KOST (bedsit) now.   Unfortunately, it is likely therefore to have been the kind of place where people came and went.  I have no idea about her last name.  It turns out that I have no idea about her first name either as Hendy tells me that Moesje literally means “Mummy” -  a nickname that the much younger Tikus gave her and a name that was representative of the role that she took on for the duration of my family’s stay in Bandung, in and out of the camps.
Henk Beekhuis emails me with the below from his 1940 version of the address book:
Hartogh, D. den - Gep. Insp. v Financiën Nijlandweg 86A
Mr D Hartogh,  Hedy’s husband?   He has the same title  - finance inspector - as the person in 86B so perhaps this is linked to his work address.  Mum and Aunty Hendy have never mentioned a man in Hedy’s life.   They have always talked as if she lived alone – a strong, successful and independent careerwoman.  Aunty Hendy did mention  Hedy having lived in two different houses over that period. Was Hedy, just like Moesje, also divorced and did she move then to number 123?  Today, number 86 Nylandweg stands alone between numbers 88 and 84 -   it’s as if 86A itself, like so many details of life in Bandung during those war years, have been swallowed up by time.
It was in the garden of Hedy’s home, whether that was 123 or 86A, that the below photo was taken.  

This photo, one of the last two to be taken before internment (the only two photos of them in Bandung),  evokes very happy memories for Henny and Lottie.   These are the memories of “beautiful Bandung” that survived the fear, hunger and confusion of life in the camps:
“Hedy used to make us yummy Borstplaat [Traditional Dutch sugary sweets].  She was a scientist for a company called Vitaderm.  Tikus used to do some work for her in return for rent.  She had a beautiful big house”.

This 2nd photo is the only other photo taken in Bandung and was sent to Hans in prison camp by Tikus early on during the war. It was very likely taken whilst they were staying with Hedy.  At the back of this photo, a touching note from a Husband to a Wife and from a Father to his girls has hung silently against our living room wall for many years:

“During the endless long days of our separation I received this in prison camp.  Photo of my beloved companion.  Hans.” 

A poem cut out from a newspaper and entitled “Daddy’s girl”, is pasted underneath, beside a cartoon depiction of two little blonde girls:
“........She smiles at me, and others see the goodness of her childish heart.  But there is one who, like the sun, dispels the shadows when they start”.
He had written 1941 on the drawing -  the year of the start of the Pacific war, the year in which he last lived with his family, the last real memory he would have had of his two daughters.   Naming the two girls in the drawing Lotje (Lottie) and Hen (Henny), endless days of yearning had created in his imagination a happier story, one that he must have replayed time and again in his mind:  “Saturday evening going to the Children’s cinema.” 
“Luki....  What is this document all about?  Can you help me read it?” I show him the Indonesian document from 1950 that cites my Oma’s name in association with Vitaderm.

In contrast to the other Vitaderm documents, by 1950, there was no more confusion regarding the administration of Bandung:  The entire document is in Bahasa and the only remnant of Dutch, the street address, is accompanied by its new Indonesian name.   The future of an Indonesian independent state was already secured.
“It difficult to read because it is a little bit old Bahasa.  I think maybe she need this paper for get something like maybe a job. It talk about house too – but it say it for going to Holland”.
“Speaking of jobs, when is your 2nd interview?”
“My friend say need to waiting.  He say need to be optimiss.”
“Are you ok?”
“Lele, my Catfish.... I always ok laaa”
“Tomorrow I’m planning to get up early to go to Cihapit where the old camp was.  So tonight I’m not going to see you at the bar.”  I tell him.
“Tomorrow me too I must to go to my mother’s home – also I have to take some money to my wife and Rian.”
“When was the last time you saw your son?”  I probe, as gently as I can. As the daughter of an estranged father whose perception of parental care was limited to financial provision and control, something about this situation disturbs me. The estrangement of a father to a son he calls his own.  I struggle to reconcile this with every other aspect of Luki’s character and conduct.  
“I think yaaa last month I give salary and go to there”.   He looks at me and seems uneasy all of a sudden. I see his inner struggle.
“I want be a good man.   But even my friends joking to me because they not recognise my face in his face.”
“Every child has the right to grow up feeling loved and protected, not rejected.  If you have made the decision to be his father then you need to be his father. If you can’t do that, then you are not really “doing the right thing” anymore.  He is only a baby and Mothers are strong and resourceful, even on their own.”  At the risk of crossing a boundary in our relationship, placing myself firmly, and uncomfortably, within a huge cultural divide - a no man's land - I finally say what has been playing on my mind for a while. 
I read again my Grandfather’s poem and think about all of the mothers:   lone magpies separated from their mates, strong and resourceful, fighting like hell to protect their fatherless children.  By the end of the war, many men who were reunited with their families after years of painful longing and hopeful expectation, would have been devastated to find that the younger children did not recognise their father’s face.
“She will be sweet to those who meet
Her gaily in the glad day’s whirl,
But her love goes to one who knows
Which little girl is Daddy’s girl.”

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