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.

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Until next time


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