Ronny to Speak at Osher Lifelong Learning Institute Today!

Rising from the Shadow of the Sun ebook 300Ronny Herman de Jong has been invited by The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) program to give a Power Point presentation about her life in WWII Japanese concentration camps and thereafter at

Yavapai College in Prescott, Arizona.
Date: January 28, 2016
Time: 12:30 – 2:00 p.m.

The lecture is free and open to the public.
Bring your coffee, tea or lunch and come listen!

Ronny will share the book she wrote based on her mother’s secret camp diary, Rising from the Shadow of the Sun: A Story of Love, Survival and Joy, as well as the original diary, dating back to 1940, and more!


Flag Day 2014

A Special Observation

Americans observe Flag Day each year on June 14, the day when the Centennial Congress first issued the U.S. Flag in 1777, depicting the union of thirteen colonies turned into states. Congress wrote: “That the flag of the thirteen United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white.”

A few years later, in 1782, Congress defined the colors when it created the symbolic U.S. seal, which features an eagle. They defined red as hardness and valor. White stood for innocence and purity, while blue meant vigilance, perseverance and justice.

This year’s Flag Day is extra special because 2014 is also the 200th anniversary year of  The Star Spangled Banner, our national Anthem written by Francis Scott Key, a Maryland attorney. The U.S. Flag, America’s most recognizable symbol, inspired Key to write his famous song’s lyrics.

Although I have been looking forward to Flag Day, with my Flag at the ready, I can’t fly it today. With winds at 25 – 30 mph I am afraid it will fly away, and my flag is too precious to lose. Are you flying the flag today?

Until next time,


70 th Anniversary of D-Day

The Begining of the End of the Worst Conflict in Human History

Many of us will have watched Brian Williams as he talked with World War II veterans on the 70th Anniversary of D-Day in the”Journey to Normandy”. News about the victory, whispered on hidden radios, spread like wildfire among the people in the Netherlands, who were dancing in the streets, thinking the war was almost over. However, it would be another year before the Germans finally surrendered. Yet, it was the beginning of the end, at least of World War II in Europe.

On the other side of the world my mother, little sister and I were living one day at a time, at the end of our strength, in Camp Halmahera. No news about the allied victory in Europe got through to us in the Pacific. Mamma writes in her secret journal:

“Days and weeks went by. We hardly knew the day of the week and were kept ignorant about the course of the war being fought in and around the Pacific. No newspapers, no radio messages, no news at all got through to us. We were completely cut off from the rest of the world.

At the most unexpected moments the Japs would call us to assemble to listen to some punitive measure, which often affected the whole camp, because somebody had done something wrong. It might be no food. That really hurt, because it included the children. None of us looked well. We had grown thin and our resistance was low. Every time the little ones had a cold, were coughing or had diarrhea I held my breath.

At 9 p.m. all the lights in the camp had to be off, not that there were many lights. We in our little corner were mostly in the dark anyway. In our room we had one bulb hanging from a wire in the middle of the ceiling. We were happy to go to bed because sleep was a blessing, a state of being during which we could forget all our misery and didn’t feel our empty stomachs. We women were always dead tired from the day’s hard labor.”

I thank all those young men and women who fought to liberate us from tyrants like Hitler and Hirohito, who were ready to die for our freedom. If they survived, they are now in their eighties and nineties. And whenever I meet someone who looks like a veteran, I strike up a conversation, eager to hear his story. “Where did you fight? Were you in the army, navy, air force?”

The other day, in the Albertson’s parking lot, an old man with a cane dressed in a sweat shirt although I was in a summer dress, was holding on to a shopping cart, watching me get out of my car. When I asked if I could put his cart away for him, he said, “No, I am holding it for you.”
“Today I am only getting grapes, so I don’t need a cart,” I said.
“Oh. Nice car. (I have a 1987 560 SL) Where are you from? You must be from the old country. I fought in Europe during World War II. I was put in prison at OFLAG 64 in Poland. In January of 1945, the Russians came, and they were cruel, so very cruel.”
“Who liberated you?”
“Nobody. I escaped.”
“You escaped? With how many people?”
“Just me and my bunky.”
“What’s your name?”
“My name is Robert O’Neill. I served in the U.S. Army’s infantry during World War II near the Siegfried Line, where my men and I tried to cut off German supply lines. It didn’t work. We were cut off instead, and they captured us.”

“When Russian troops approached the camp, all prisoners able to walk were marched out toward Germany. Along the march I saw a barn filled with hay. I told my bunkmate, ‘I’m getting out of here right now’. My bunkmate agreed with the plan. We buried ourselves in the hay, waited until the group left, and then walked in the opposite direction. Polish farm people fed and housed us, and we made our way to bombed-out Warsaw. Our goal was to get to Moscow to the embassy.”

“We rode trains hidden in boxcars, but the Russian police found us and turned us away saying we needed visas. Instead, we went to Odessa on the Black Sea, where we boarded a British frigate to Port Said in Egypt. Later we went to an Italian port, and in April 1945 boarded a ship that took us back to Boston.”

When people found out about him years later, he was invited to Washington D.C. , and they taped an interview with him for television. No, he had never seen it himself, but it was documented in the archives. And he was mighty proud.

He was born in 1923, he said when I gave him a hug, and “call me Bob, we are now friends”. When I looked over my shoulder before entering the store, I watched him get into his Jaguar, cane first. “I always take good care of my car, just like you,” he had said.  We had something in common. Another veteran, another friend.

Is there a veteran in your life you can spend precious time with, do something for or thank for his precious time he spent defending our country? I can assure you it will enrich your life.

Until next time,


A Flashback to the Post-WWII in Southeast Asia

Eyewitness Testimonial 

Two weeks ago I posted a testimonial from Corrie den Hoed, one of the three people in my mother’s camp diary who are still alive today. This week you can read a testimonial from Rob Vierhout, in his own words.

“As a child I was interned with my mother and two brothers in the same camps as Ronny, her mother (Aunt Netty) and her sister Paula. Because of Aunt Netty’s detailed journal Ronny was able to clearly relate how desperately women and children tried to survive in overcrowded concentration camps under very harsh conditions and cruel treatment by the Japanese guards.

I feel great admiration for Aunt Netty who not only had the strength and courage to support her own family and keep a journal, but supported others like my mother and her three young boys as well.

Because of her support we were able to continue to live normal lives again in complete freedom when our families were reunited after the Japanese surrender on August 15, 1945.

In her Memoir Rising from the Shadow of the Sun Ronny describes the experiences of her father who escaped the camps and joined the Allied Forces; the years she, her mother and little sister spent in Japanese prison camps and the return of her family to a normal existence after the liberation. In addition she illustrates that despite the suffering the Japanese had caused life can hold hope and joy.”

I met Rob Vierhout and his wife in November 2011, and did not recognize the old “Robbie” after so many years. They came to my mother’s memorial service and it was a total surprise for me to see him again. Time was too short to share our lives, but thank heaven for email!

Until next time,


Arlington National Cemetery: A Place to Honor our Fallen Heroes

Honorable Burial

One of my very best friends was buried at Arlington National Cemetery earlier this month. She earned that honor as the wife of a retired Air Force pilot who was on active duty during the Vietnam War. When he visited last Wednesday I talked with him about his wife’s valiant fight with cancer during the last three years and her beautiful final resting place at Arlington.

More than 220,000 white marble headstones line the hills of the cemetery. At each grave site, as we approach Memorial Day, an American flag is proudly posted, including two inside the tomb of the unknown soldier to honor our fallen brothers and sisters who gave their life specifically for this flag. It’s an annual tribute, a tradition that started in 1948: the flags are distributed and delivered by hundreds of soldiers from the Old Guard. One by one, soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines are all paid homage with red, white, and blue. It’s an exhausting and emotional task that takes about four hours to complete. The soldiers from the Old Guard consider this task a privilege, not a job.

A new columbarium has opened at Arlington National Cemetery, just in time for Memorial Day. Columbarium Court No. 9, as it’s called, has more than 20,000 niches for U.S. military veterans and their families. Each niche in the two-acre columbarium has space for 3-4 urns. The project cost $15.6 million and began in January 2012. Columbarium Court No. 9 is 2.5 times bigger than the cemetery’s next-largest columbarium. This project required near perfect quality and pristine finishes ensuring longevity and suitability in the green-scape of Arlington National Cemetery.

Columbarium Court No. 9 is nearly the length of two football fields at 116-feet wide, 11-feet tall and 540-feet long. The project features interior and exterior landscaping with a central water fountain, new irrigation and underground electrical systems and storm water management. The columbarium will help extend Arlington National Cemetery’s effective life as a final resting place for the country’s war dead. While the cemetery will always remain open to the public, it will eventually run out of space for new burials.

Without the Columbarium Court No. 9 expansion, Arlington National Cemetery would have run out of niche space in 2016. By adding more than 20,000 niche spaces for our veterans and their families, Columbarium Court No. 9 is extending the life of the cemetery for years to come. Arlington National Cemetery’s Millennium Project will include a new columbarium and additional in-ground burial spaces — for up to 30,000 military veterans and their families — but this will also result in the loss of about 800 older trees.

Over the next few days, cemetery officials expect tens of thousands of visitors to pass through the cemetery gates to honor the service members buried here. On Monday, formal Memorial Day events get underway at 10:30 a.m. with a U.S. Navy band concert followed by the wreath-laying ceremony.

In observance of Memorial Day, commemorating the men and women who died while in the military service, the United States flag is displayed at Half Staff from sunrise until noon. The flag, when flown at Half Staff, is first hoisted to the peak for an instant and then lowered to the half-staff position. At noon, the flag is raised to the top of the staff until it is lowered for the day.

While we honor and commemorate the heroic men and women who died for our country — and who saved my life and the lives of my mother and little sister — let us also treasure and take care of the many veterans who are still with us. They deserve the best.

Until next time,



A Flashback to the Post-WWII Era in Southeast Asia

Eyewitness Testimony 

Of all the people my mother mentioned in her camp journal on which part of my book is based, only three are still alive. They are Corrie den Hoed, Rob Vierhout and I. Corrie and Rob live in the Netherlands, I in the United States. The following is an eyewitness testimony by Corrie den Hoed in her own words.

“A little girl of five, I felt very much alone in the world right after the war. I had lost my mother and her unborn baby just before I was incarcerated by the Japanese in a camp on the island of Sumatra. Her grave was washed away by a torrential flood; we have never been able to locate it.

After the Japanese surrender my father, who had narrowly escaped torture by the extremists fighting for their independence, finally found me and we went to live in Surabaya where he became the district manager in the Darmo area. We became friends with the Herman family who lived close by. Tante (aunt) Netty was so wonderful; she became a second mother to me. I loved to play with Ronny and Paula and we went to the same school. We all eventually ended up in the Netherlands; in 1998 Oom (uncle) Fokko died; then, unexpectedly, Paula died in April 2011 and Tante Netty in November 2011. She was almost 102 years old and until the end of her life she was always thankful, loving and hospitable. She saw the silver lining of every threatening cloud.

For me, Ronny’s book Rising from the Shadow of the Sun is truly a Story of Love, Survival and Joy. Part One, based on Tante Netty’s camp diary, fills in the gaps of my life in the camps as a toddler and has happy memories of the years thereafter. For you, the reader, it may fill in the gaps of four years in WWII history when innocent women and children were incarcerated, tortured and starved to death by a ruthless army of Japanese and it will tell you about women’s strength in dire situations. Women survived because of the love for their children. Part Two, Ronny’s Memoir, shows the resilience of the human spirit, which makes it possible to truly survive deprivation and misery and find joy in life.”

Two days before Paula died Corrie visited her in the hospital: the last friend to see her alive. Paula died alone. Always my little sister’s protector during our early years in the camps and thereafter, I could not be with her at the time of her death. I will always regret it.

Until next time,


Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day

Sunday, May 7, 1939 in Soerabaja, the Dutch East Indies, was one of the happiest days in the life of Nettie Herman-Louwerse: her very first Mother’s Day. She loved being a mother, and she was the very best, the most loving mother I have ever known. She celebrated seventy-two Mother’s Days and over the years she told her two little girls how thankful she was for us, and how happy that we all had survived the horrors of the camps, and that the three of us were still together, a three-leaf clover after our pappa had died; a tight-knit threesome, a mother and her little girls.

When she was 101 years old, she lost one of her little girls before it was Mother’s Day again, and she cried her heart out; unstoppable, silent tears of the greatest pain she had ever had to endure, the greatest loss of all, the loss of her little Paula. “Paula is no longer with us”, she said over and over, “Paula is no longer with us”, and the tears kept coming.

Then it was Mother’s Day again. It was to be her last one. And she lifted her face, my dear, brave, little old mother, and told me how thankful she was that she had  one daughter, one real, live daughter, of whom she was so very proud, and who had made her life so very happy.

It is a joy to be a mother; it is a blessing and a gift. I have had the best example of how to  be a good, loving mother that anyone has ever had. In my book I have created memories of her through her own words and mine, and I hope that you will read and enjoy all the days of her life.

Until next time,


Mother's Day
Mother’s Day

A Place of Refuge



Once in a while we need to leave all our work and worries and problems behind and seek the safety and peace of a place of refuge, the maluhia of a place where we can live life a day at a time, enjoying the wonders of nature, the fragrance of flowers, the songs of hundreds of birds, the warm water of the ocean as we float with a buoyancy of body and mind in total relaxation. Maluhia…

Ask me where to find that place and I will let you know…

Until next time,



The Bersiap, the Fight for Independence: 1945 – 1946

Survivors’ Stories

Going to Mother in Banju Biru – Conclusion

After several hours the train pulled into the station at Tasikmalaya. Hundreds of people were streaming on and off the train. A large group of wild-looking Indonesian young men was milling around yelling “Merdeka, merdeka.” They were armed with spears, axes, machetes, krisses and bamboo javelins. Some started throwing rocks at our windows. Women and children right beside us started screaming. We were terrified!

My older brother Piet, myself and two older men barricaded the doors with all our might from the inside. Poor Jan, siting on the floor, thought he would die any minute. Some of the native young men began chopping at the wooden doors of our train car to force their way in. Just when it looked as if everything was totally out of control and something serious was about to happen, the whistle blew and the train pulled out. Had the train stayed for a few seconds longer it would have been disastrous. As we continued on our way, many on the train thanked God for rescuing us from imminent death. We later heard the there had been a full-scale slaughter on the train behind us. Many Europeans, including women and children, were murdered on that train.

In the late afternoon we arrived in Bandung. Although it was very busy there too, we did not see any armed groups of young insurgents. Since it was still daylight, Piet suggested to walk to Tjimahi, about two hours away. As we were walking along, it suddenly got very dark, as it does in the tropics. We began to wonder whether there were extremists lurking in the shadows and became very anxious. Why had we not stayed in Bandung? How stupid we had been!

Suddenly, we heard the sound of an automobile and a Japanese military vehicle stopped right beside us. A Japanese officer got out and asked us in the Malay language what on earth we were doing in such a dangerous place. After hearing our story, he commanded us to get into his vehicle, wheeled it around and took us promptly back to Bandung. He left us at the school where the other Dutch passengers from our train were staying for the night. We thanked the officer, who, once our oppressor had become our savior.

The next morning we left in an armored transport truck for Tjimahi, a distance of about ten kilometers. Tjimahi had been a garrison town; the Japanese had converted the garrison into a concentration camp. In Camp 4, the camp we shared with father, there were about 10,000 men and boys. When we arrived at the camp, father was overjoyed to see us again and ecstatic at the unexpected arrival of Jan, whom he had not seen since December 1942. Then Jan told father of his lonely ordeal in one of the worst death camps on Java, Camp 7 in Ambarawa. It was heart breaking to hear what he had gone through. Even today, Jan still struggles with wartime Post Traumatic Stress disorders.

Back at Camp 4, the agonizing months dragged on while we waited for mother and the girls to arrive. Finally, under heavy protection, mother and sisters were taken to Semarang by train. There they boarded a plane to Jakarta and then to Bandung. In a heavily guarded automobile convoy they traveled the last distance to Tjimahi. For the first time since June 1942, we were all reunited.

Unexpectedly, on a Sunday night in March, our camp was shelled with bullets and grenades. As the situation became too dangerous, it was decided to evacuate the women and children to Holland on a special ship. Jan had already left for Holland in February, and the rest of us was evacuated from Tjimahi to Bandung under the protection of Gurkhas, where we were temporarily put up in a cloister run by the Sisters of Saint Ursula. Eventually, in June 1946, we had all moved to Holland and we lived with Grandma Mobach and Aunt Marie in a very tiny house in Breukelen.

by Gerard Mobach                                                    Previously published in “Four Years till Tomorrow”

This concludes Gerard Mobach’s story about the Bersiap, the gruesome time after World War Two, when the young Indonesian extremists fought a bloody war for their independence from the Dutch.

Questions or Comments? Jot them down below.

Until next time


World War Two in the Pacific: 1942 – 1945

Survivors’ Stories

I am postponing the conclusion of Gerard Mobach’s story about the Bersiap until next week.

This week I have an Easter Story for you written by my mother, Jeannette Herman-Louwerse.


The day before Easter a deluge, probably one of the last rainstorms of this season, flooded the back yard. When we were drinking our tea, Loekie (my friend) remembered we still had to get milk, fruit and vegetables from the pasar (open air market). I draped Fokko’s beloved raincoat across my shoulders like a cape, down to my heels, took an umbrella and left. I hadn’t gotten very far when a totally flooded street blocked my way. I took off my shoes to save them from being ruined, and continued on bare feet. The water came up to my ankles. I thought, this is something I have to write home about, that I’m going shopping on my bare feet. I grinned as I remembered the poem “She was bareheaded and barefoot and was wearing old clothes.” That is true of me now, because my dress is old. My whole wardrobe is old.

I first got the milk, then went to the pasar. The merchants started laughing when they saw me. I first put down my shoes, then got out my wallet. They had fun, and so did I. In the meantime it had stopped raining. When I was on my way home more people came out. The slokans (cement gutters on either side of the street and about two feet below street level) had become six-foot wide streams in which the native boys were playing.

At night I usually read the children a story. This time it was about the Easter Bunny of course. One of the neighbor boys wanted to paint eggs, so we gave him ten eggs that morning. There are no Easter things for sale these days, but at the pasar  I saw some cute baskets, which Klaartje, the lady who cooks for us, filled for the children. Early on Easter morning Loekie went to get the eggs. We put the nicest ones on the table next to each plate and hid the others, so the children could go on their egg hunt.

We heard that all Dutch women who had stayed outside the camp until now would move in within two days: registration was completed. The camp won’t be enlarged, so the homes will get fuller. Maybe we’ll have to take in another family. I’m glad I moved when I still had the choice of where to go. I’m glad too that Easter is over. I was a little down, homesick and longing for you and for Fokko in spite of the joyous Easter message of the Resurrection. But on we go!

by Jeannette Herman-Louwerse
Published earlier in Rising from the Shadow of the Sun: A Story of Love, Survival and Joy.

Now I have a question for all of my subscribers, and a gift. The first person to send me the correct date, the year and the camp in which this story was written will get a free e-book for Kindle or iPad.

For those of you who have not read my book and cannot answer this question I have another gift. I will send you a copy of  my e-book on Kindle or iPad, your choice, if you promise me to write a review on before May 31, 2014.

The questions need to be answered in the Comment Box below, not in an email please.

Until next time,