Gerrit Vermeulen, born in 1909, was the third son in the family, one of 9 children, and he lived with his mother. So when he joined the army to go to the Indies in 1945 he was not that young anymore. He already owned a business, Vermeulen’s Bouwbedrijf (Vermeulen’s Building Company), which after the war built many temporary wooden homes (noodwoningen) and some farm buildings all over the country. His brother Henk, also a carpenter, worked for him for several years. While Gerrit was in Indonesia his younger brother Evert Jan took care of his business so Gerrit had something to come back to.
After Gerrit came back from Indonesia he married a girl named Jans. They continued to live in the same house until his mother got dementia and she moved in with one of her daughters, who had lost her husband in Auschwitz during the war. Gerrit and Jans unfortunately never had any children.
He loved his nieces and nephews and taught them to count in Malay. He occasionally dreamed in Malay too. “Uncle Gerrit” was a prankster. Once, he sent one of his nieces all over town to pick up the “baseboard ladder” he had lent to someone. That man sent her to someone else and so on until she finally realized she had been a victim of one of his pranks.
Gerrit would have loved to go back to Indonesia years later but Jans could not travel at all and he did not want not leave her alone.
When he rebuilt his home he called it: Tukang Kayu (Carpenter).
In 1982, when he was 73, he suffered a stroke and passed away.
Gerrit Vermeulen was a remarkable man, and with these letters he left a legacy: an eyewitness account of a historic part of history: Bersiap.
Thank you for joining me in reading Gerrit Vermeulen’s letters to his mother in Renswoude. They deserved to be read.
I welcome your comments!
I am going to take a little break from blogging, because of an impending move, but as soon as I am settled where I’m going, you will hear from me again. Please don’t go away!