Recognizing Generational Trauma Can Change Your Life for Good — August 13, 2021

Recognizing Generational Trauma Can Change Your Life for Good

I started this blog as a way to memorialize the history of my family. The intent was to capture their stories for posterity’s sake. However, the process, not the stories I have written so far, is what has taught me so much more. In the many hours of conversations about my grandfather, I learned more about my father and his life in the Dutch East Indies than I could have ever imagined. Like so many people, I always assumed I knew my dad from a lifetime of interactions with him. My lifetime. Instead, I now believe that his early years during the World War II profoundly shaped who he is and why he does what he does. While his life in the United States is significantly different from his youth, his Dutch-Indo roots and the trauma experienced during the war shaped him. By extension, those experiences also shaped me.

Growing up in Colorado, no one around me knew this history. The war ended there on August 15, 1945. A few years ago, I discovered that the Netherlands commemorates victims of the Japanese occupation of the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) every year on August 15th. The commemoration is called Herdenking. On this date in 1945, my grandfather, two uncles, and one of my uncle’s brothers were liberated from Japanese POW camps. Unfortunately, one of my uncle’s brothers died during a POW transfer on the Junyo Maru.

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A Mad Scramble to Prepare for the Japanese — February 17, 2021

A Mad Scramble to Prepare for the Japanese

One of the problems with doing genealogy research is that it is easy to get distracted by new findings. They are the shiny new findings that are interesting and take one on a previously unexplored historical adventure. Without a doubt, I’ve done a lot of that in the last couple of years. I now have four family trees on Ancestry.com, a little over 2,900 people in the trees, and a decent system for organizing the documents that I find. Whew! There are so many fascinating stories out there, but now it’s time to get back to writing about my dad’s family.

My Opa – Johannes Hubertus Theodorus Gerardu

In my last post, I ended with my grandfather’s arrival as a POW in Pakan Baroe, on the island of Sumatra, in May 1944. However, before I write about Pakan Baroe, I want to go back to the period right before the occupation of the Dutch East Indies (DEI, now Indonesia) by the Japanese in March 1942.

It was a period of great uncertainty for everyone. After the Netherlands had surrendered to the Nazi forces in May 1940, the DEI operated somewhat independently for two years. Meanwhile, Japan was posturing that it intended to create a bloc of self-sufficient Asian nations, led by Japan, which was to be free of any Western influence. This intention was announced by Foreign Minister Hachirō Arita on June 29, 1940. Then on September 27, 1940, Japan, Germany, and Italy signed the Tripartite Pact. It was a defense alliance intended to discourage the United States from entering the conflicts. These events are only the high-level indicators of what was brewing. As the war continued to rage in Europe, the Koninklijk Nederlands-Indisch Leger (KNIL) or Royal Netherlands East Indies Army frantically prepared for a possible invasion in the Pacific.

Google Translate is available at the bottom of the page.

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My Opa’s Experience as a POW – Part 2 — August 12, 2019

My Opa’s Experience as a POW – Part 2

Continuing the story from Part 1

Chuka Maru

On Sunday, May 14, 1944, after five months of captivity at his second POW camp – the 10th Battalion in Batavia, Java (now Jakarta) – my Opa, Johannes Hubertus Theodorus Gerardu (Hubert) was selected to board the Japanese transport ship, Chuka Maru (aka Chukwa Maru). He was 43 years old. In relation to the World War II timeline, this was a few weeks before D-Day in France and a little over two years into the Japanese occupation of the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia).

Photo of Chuka Maru ship before the war
Chuka Maru Pre-War Photo
Source: https://i2.wp.com/www.combinedfleet.com/chuka.jpg

The Japanese moved prisoners from camp to camp, depending on the need for labor. New POWs to a camp would bring news of the places they came from – some good, but mostly bad news. As you can imagine, word of an upcoming transport was surely an especially stressful time for prisoners. Hubert’s group of POWs, known as Java Party 21, consisted of 310 English and 1,615 Dutch prisoners.

Google Translate is available at the bottom of the page.

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My Opa’s Experience as a POW – Part 1 — May 3, 2019

My Opa’s Experience as a POW – Part 1

It was after I read the book Unbroken, by Laura Hillebrand, that I started to wonder about my grandfather’s experience in a “concentration camp” during World War II. I knew that he was in a camp, but it was something he never talked about with anyone.

Then shortly after I published my last post, A Pivotal Moment for a Young Soldier, Comité ereschuld Onderscheidingen contacted me to inquire if my grandfather, Johannes H.T. Gerardu (aka Hubert), was a POW. This simple inquiry pushed my genealogical research forward twenty years and made me curious as to what had really happened to him during his time away from his family.

This is the story of my grandfather’s time as a POW based on information I was able to glean from his Stamboek (military record), internment card (see below), some extensive research done by Henk Beekhuis about the POW camps in Indonesia, and other sources. It is most definitely a watered-down version of the reality of his experience.

Note: Google Translate is available at the bottom of the page.

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