Sunday, December 16, 2012

Shunted from Pillar to Post - Documents from the Attic

Document 1  (Tikus’ ID card):   
“The above named person is registered in Bandung Siyakusyo and living at 126 Riowstraat within the protected area Tjihapit”.  Dated 29th December 1942.

Document 2 (Order to move to address in Tjihapit area):

“#3. Address:   86A  Nylandweg
#5. Place must go to:   119 126 Riowstraat Room III.  Groote Postweg 319
Whoever receives this warrant must go to the address on that date.....”

“Temporarily allowed to live outside of the Protected Area”.
Indeed, these addresses (119 Riowstraat, 126 Riowstraat (?), 319 Groote Postweg) are just outside of the camp boundaries.   Apart from the final one, written at the top of the document:  7 Sanintenlaan.  This one I know is well within Tjihapit camp, not far from Oma Korry and Maria’s houses. 

Corner of Jl Saninten and Jl Rasamala

Document 3 (Regulations for entry into Tjihapit – 1942):

“No place available yet within the protection camp Tjihapit”

It seems that “space” was finally found for them within the camp proper at number 7, Jalan Saninten.  This was 1942/3.  As time went on, the concept of space had to change and dining rooms, kitchens and even bathrooms of the houses in the residential camps on Java were allocated as “rooms” for the growing numbers of interned families. By the time the camp liquidation process began in late 1944, there were thought to have been between 13000 and 14000 people living in an area that once housed just 1500.  The condition of the Tjihapit neighbourhood after the war was deplorable. An attempt was made to provide emergency housing here for the Eurasian population after May 1945. Many of them had originally lived there but had been evicted by the Japanese to make way for a "pure European" women's and children's camp. By May 1945 the houses were declared unfit for habitation by destitute Eurasian” (private email from Boudewyn Van Oort)

At the top of the same Document, are listed the early rules of the camp (1942).  These rules tell a very incomplete story of the camp’s history, reflecting the euphemistic early rhetoric of the so-called “Protection Camps” before they became under direct Japanese military control:

 “Whoever receives this order is allowed to bring furniture and tools for daily use”

Eventually most of the furniture was used up as firewood and the tools/ electrical equipment were confiscated by the Japanese either for scrap iron or in an attempt to control the use of electricity within the camp.  Boudewyn Van Oort cites the following notice that was posted within the camp:  “All electrical appliances are to be handed in with the name and address attached. Electricity will henceforth be free, but a list must be made of every light bulb in the house”.  He nods to the resourcefulness of the interned women when he states:   “Periodic attempts were made by the administrative staff to reconcile the electrical consumption of Tjihapit against the theoretical load from the remaining light bulbs.....Somehow, consumption was always higher”.

Every family is allowed to bring cash money of their own

Shortly after, they were forced to deposit the money (what they did not manage to hide) into the Bank of Japan.

The whole family except men of 17-60 years old has to live in the house where they are moved to.  However, the whole family cannot live in more than one room.

By 1945, the age at which young boys were thought to have reached manhood – the age at which they were deemed to become a “danger to the women of the camp”  – was reduced to just 11 and then to 10 years old.   Boys of 10 were senselessly forced to leave their mothers and sisters and were transported to men’s prisons or left behind when the liquidation of the inland camps - and the concentration of POWs (as these women became) to the coastal region near Jakarta - began.  It was rare that the young boys were lucky enough to join their fathers in other camps and so they were, in the main, left to fend for themselves. 

If at any time they have to depart from the house because one member of the family is sick, they must inform [the authorities] and they must wait for the order from the authorities

Eventually, and particularly towards the end of the war, those that got sick suffered, and many of them died, within the camp.    Shirley Fenton Huie writes in her book, the Forgotten Ones, that many of the Single women gave up hope.  It was the children who gave their mothers the motivation, optimism and drive to carry on fighting, despite the odds.

People who live in the outside area have to bear their own costs for everyday living

It became clear that it was to be the women who were to fund the camp with the money deposited and the few belongings that they had brought in.  House searches were carried out increasingly often, looking for “banned” items and hidden jewellery.  Dwindling resources and no access to income or the outside world, meant that the women had to become increasingly clever and take greater risks in order to survive. Whilst there are many stories of internees banding together in mutual support, from time to time fear - manifesting itself as rage and jealousy  -  would strike fast in defense against the threat of hunger and deprivation, like a cobra spitting venom at a potential source of danger.   Anneke Bosman describes the following incident:

“We saw a lot of people running off towards the Toko [shop which was very sparsely stocked at the best of times]. A little later we heard that bacon, smoked meat and eggs had been stolen by Mrs. Van der Kam, the operator of the Toko. A lot of women had become so enraged that they started a brawl and threw rocks and bricks at her windows and her roof. Soon a Japanese showed up, who sent the women home, but they kept coming back. Mrs. Van der Kam insisted that both the bacon and the smoked meat were spoiled and therefore unfit to be distributed. But a lot of women claimed to have seen and felt the merchandise and they insist that it was still in good shape”.

Once the camps became under military control however, the following notification was to be posted on the Tjihapit noticeboard:     “According to the military regulations, the death penalty applies when rioting occurs” (source:  Tjideng Reunion)
The place mentioned above is the place with special protection.  But men between the ages of 17 and 60 are not allowed to enter the area”.
At the bottom of the same document is written:  

 “The child of the above named woman is going to have an operation on her throat”.
My mother and Aunt have no recollection of either of them having any operation or problems with their throat.
Judging by the red line running through the above sentence, it appears it was added to the document on April 5th 2603 (1943):

Document 4 : Sick leave

 “The above named person is freed for one month due to sickness.”  Dated 7th April 2603 (1943) and with a destination address:   #2 Van Ruysdaellaan (Jl Prabu Dimuntur)

“Many people in the camp were very... ach, how do I say..... switched on, I suppose”.  Mum said.  “They were clever and daring in trying to get the best for them and their families. Tikus would have done anything at all to get us out.  Maybe she invented an illness – because there was definitely NO operation.”
Luki and I find this small bungalow, dishevelled and abandoned-looking, remarkably still standing.  It is wedged incongruously – like the Wicked Witch’s house in the Wizard of Oz - between larger, more modern structures, as if thrown violently from one dimension into another. 

The house is located just a short walk from the Borromeus hospital where I spent 24 hours being treated for a sudden illness the Doctors claimed to have been linked to a change in climate, one week after arriving in Bandung.  It is also the same hospital where Luki received stitches in his forehead after being hit at a party many months ago.   

Luki has had his 2nd interview and it apparently went “a little bit okay”.  I’m not sure if that means not very good or not so bad! Either way, he says it with a smile.

Back on the motorbike, we make our way to Cihapit to meet Patrick.  I have been back to Cihapit quite a few times, but only once with Luki.    I unfold a large map and haphazardly scour the Cihapit area for Jalan Salem, my eyes wandering from Jalan Saninten to Jalan Jamuju to Jalan Cendana and back again.

“It ok Lele, I know where to go.” Luki turns his head to say to me over his shoulder.

“How did you know where it was?  You’ve never been to Patrick’s new house yet.”  I ask

“But we were just nearby last time we come here and we have that nice seafood lunch”.

“Really?  Shit, I have no sense of bloody direction”

“You can do.  But no room because you are thinking many things...You must thinking, if not thinking then you not alive, you dead.  But you must try to thinking only one thing. Take time and finish that thing.  Even you are tired you must continue to the end.” 
“ I know, I know.....”  I shout into the wind with just a hint of resignation.
“It’s okay laaa.. you interest on everything .  This your character.   You always smiling and friendly.  You always making me feel comfortable.  And you always making me laugh.  No room for more things in your head so you sometimes a little bit Belanda – a little bit blonde.  Hahaha”.
He sees the bigger picture, the bigger me.   Despite our language barrier, we are not a chicken talking to a duck.  I reach my arms further and tighter around his waist as he accelerates up Jl Supratman towards Jl Cendana, leaning into a familiar musky scent, the spicy-sweet dizziness of clove cigarettes.
We turn onto Jl Salam and drive up towards the Watchtower that I once passed where I had noticed the barbed wire at the side and wondered what kind of secrets that structure knew.  

 This area of Cihapit around Jl Salem (De Rijpwijk),  Jl Saninten (Sanintenlaan),  Jl Manglit (Manglitlaan),  is known to have housed Ambonese ex KNIL after the war (Dutch military amongst the most loyal to the old regime), some of whose descendents are likely to still remain.  Cihapit in general seems to have retained a certain Dutch influence.  During my visits here, I have noted a seemingly high proportion of people who have relatives living in Holland or who are themselves of mixed blood.   Christianity certainly doesn’t seem to be the minority religion in this area.  I spot Patrick’s black pick-up truck with its yellow BBC Ormas sticker on the back windscreen.   We walk up the narrow driveway and enter a small vestibule where we wait for him.  Individual high-heeled shoes are lined up on three rows of shelves, like a small showroom displaying his bold designs, destined to adorn the feet of wealthy and gregarious Jakartan ladies.  Next to them on the top shelf stand small figurines of Mary and of Jesus, a bizarre juxtaposition , as if his mother is competing for moral as well as physical space in this small house.   Patrick emerges, wearing his favourite black sleeveless Motorhead t-shirt  and a pair of long shorts.  A cigarette hangs from his mouth as he bends to slip on his old canvas trainers, grabs a bunch of keys and utters “Ok let’s go”.   We are going to visit Oma Korry and Maria as it turns out that Patrick’s own Oma was a friend of Oma Korry.

 “But first Le, I want to show you something.  I want to show you my old house where I have lived all my life and where my mum has lived all her life.  The Government took it away from us 3 months ago and made us move here.  Our story is similar to many of the people who came to Tjihapit after the war.  No one knows.  Someone, ..... someone who can, should tell these stories.”



No comments:

Post a Comment