Jews in the Netherlands Indies until the Second World War
Jews come to the Dutch Indies
have never been in the Dutch Indies in great numbers.
In the heyday of the Dutch colonial presence in 1932, there
were around 2000 on 300,000 Dutch colonials, who stayed
among the then 60 million natives.
One of the first Jews was Leendert Miero, who at the end
of the 18th century was soldier on Java and then began a
trade. In Jakarta his grave is still to see. 1a)
Near Banda Aceh there is a Jewish cemetary of Poncut, which indicates Jewish presence there some time 1b)
traveller from Jerusalem, Rabbi Jacob Saphir (1822-1886),
who in the fifties of the 19th century on his journey to
collect funds for the Jewish community in Jerusalem also
visited Batavia (Jakarta) mentions in his trip report a
number of 20 Jewish families of Dutch or German origin there.
As the 19th century progressed, there were gradually more
Jews, mainly traders. Well known is the residence of the
journalist Alexander Cohen, the rebel and anarchist, who
moved to the east and for a number of years was a soldier
in the Dutch East Indies Army.
the turn of the century and beyond it was advertised extensively
in the Netherlands to serve in the colonial ranks. Many
Jews responded. During the late 19th century and the first
half of the twentieth century, more and more Jews emigrated
to the colonies. They started a trade, served in the domestic
administration of the colony or in the colonial army, were
active in teaching and medical professions, or were 'planter'
(entrepreneur) in the 'ondernemingen' (extensive plantations
of coffee, tea or rubber ).
My two grandfathers were exemplary for this development.
My grandfather Cassuto emigrated in 1915 to Dutch East Indies
as a young lawyer and teacher (later director of) schools,
educating so-called 'natives' for administrative and managerial
My grandfather on mother's side van Zuiden, after his education
at the Royal Military Academy in the Netherlands, enlisted
in the Royal Dutch colonial Army, the KNIL. That was in 1905
or 1906. He spent many years in various outposts of the vast
assumption is that my grandfathers were also motivated by
the greater freedom in the colonies. There were no heavy
ties to the Jewish environment and there was less discriminatory
prejudice and more career perspective.
More romantically expressed: the adventure that laid ahead
was less bounded by barriers from the Jewish origin.
addition, there was a migration of Jews from the Ottoman
empire to Southeast Asia and some ended up in Sumatra and
Java. In Surabaya, there even a small community of Sephardic
Jews emerged, especially from Iraq. They were called Baghdadi's
and had a modest synagogue, the only one in the then Dutch
East Indies. Later in this story we will encounter them
what extent was there a Jewish life in the 'green belt of
emerald'(litterary nickname of the archipelago)?
Rabbi Jacob Saphir who in the 19th century visited the Dutch
East Indies sighed in his report that the Jews there were
hardly practicing their religion anymore. They no more circumcised
their sons and did little to observe the Jewish holidays.
In the twentieth century that still held true.
There was no rabbi in the whole of the Dutch Indies. If
someone insisted on a circumcision of his/her son (brit
mila) you had to hire the rabbi of Singapore.
There was no synagogue, except in Surabaya, where the few
hundred Baghdadi's still were practicing Jewish living.
There were Jews in larger numbers of near one hundred in
Batavia, Semarang and Bandung, but they formed not a real
One may ask whether these numbers are correct, because I
suspect that many Jews didn’t profess themselves as
such. In that case, the estimation of 2000 Jews in the thirties
may be on the low side.
grandparents lived in the same way as all the other Dutch
They were members of the 'Society' (the club of the Dutch
community, nicknamed 'the soos'). They were active in drama
clubs, an journal article preserved by my grandmother reviews
a successful stage performance, which my grandmother appears
to have co-produced.
And an hilarious picture of my otherwise so modest Cassuto
grandfather in his young Indian years shows him dressed
as a woman in the play "The aunt of Charley”,
showing a glimpse from participation in the pleasures of
a carefree life.
They celebrated Christmas and Santa Claus and were involved
in charities or in a variety of celebrations around the
My grandfather van Zuiden is to be seen on photos sitting
at long tables on festive occasions, surrounded by many
more anonymous companions.
The younger brother of my father - like him he was born
on Java - did in an autobiography later in his life retrospect
2) on his experience as a Jewish boy:
being a Jewish boy my Jewish background meant little to
me. The idea that once others would attach great interest
to it didn’t in the least occur to me ... The fact
that I was Jewish not more impressed me than the fact that
I had two hands, two legs and a nose. It was just a small
part, not worth noticing.”
Later he wrote about the leave time of his family in the
Netherlands (it was 1929 and he was ten years old): "In
Holland, I met my Jewish family and I discovered that they
were quite different than the Dutch colonials. Intuitively
I began to realize that being a Jew meant "being different".
from sources, partly from hear say, I assume that the Jews
in the Dutch Indies were looking for friends in the Jewish
circle. In the time that my grandfather Cassuto and his family
lived in Bandung, they made many trips to the ‘onderneming’(plantation)
Cigombong, near Bandung on the plateau of Preanger. which
was run by their good friend, the Jewish ‘planter’
Other suspected Jewish families figure in photo albums.
So my grandfather Cassuto met with my other grandfather
van Zuiden, when the latter after many wanderings on military
posts in the outer regions was stationed in Bandung in an
They were good friends.
Both were members of the Masonic lodge of Bandung.
Jewish residents of larger cities in the Dutch Indies were
members of a Masonic lodge. This should be further investigated.
Although the vast majority of Jews were no longer practicing
Judaism, they had a need for to discuss the deeper things
of life, to philosophize and to celebrate certain events
together. The lodge offered of course not only to Jews but
also to others this opportunity to meet kindred spirits
in a free atmosphere. In those meetings many contacts were
made, also between Jews themselves. Sometimes even Jewish
celebrations were held. I met a man at the symposium, which
like me had lived as Jewish boy in Bandung. He was a few
years older than me and he could remember that in the Freemasons
Lodge Christmas as well as Chanukah was celebrated.
Without doubt, the lodge also offered many opportunities
for what we now call 'networking'.
Zionism attracted the attention of the Jewish residents
of the East. There seems to have existed a periodical from
1926 until the Japanese occupation, called 'Erets Israel’.
Worth further investigation.
Symposium on December 1 2005 on Jews and antisemitism in
the Dutch Indies and in Indonesia, organized by the Foundation
Chair of special Jewish Studies (University of Amsterdam)
by Evelien Gans, professor Contemporary Jewry, in cooperation
with the Netherlands Institute for War Documentation and
the Free University of Amsterdam.
1a) See the article of Rotem Kowner in the frame work of the symposium in Haifa in 2010
Een Aceh'se kennis vertelde mij:"in the Jewish History Museum in Amsterdam there are photographs of the Jewish cemetary of Pocut, at Banda Aceh (the collection of Clara Brakel of 1979). This is very interested. I remembered when I was still child. I and my friends often went there and looked for Jangkrik. I ever also saw several Dutch who went there.
The photographs of the Jewish cemetery of Pocut (the collection of Clara Brakel) are difference with the photographs that I took pictures in 2004. In 1970s the condition of the cemetery was still good and different with the condition of the Jewish cemetery in 2005. The names of several graves have lose, and the stones of the graves have broken.
The area of the Dutch cemetery, including the Jewish cemetery located in the Desa (Village) of Blower, Banda Aceh. I was born and lived in Blower. The name of Blower derived from a name of Tuan Tanah (absentee landlord), Mr Bolchover. He was a Dutch Jew. He died in Netherlands. When I conducted research there in 2004 and 2005, I did not find the name of Bolchover at that Jewish cemetery.
2) Ernest Cassutto, The Last Jew of Rotterdam, Whitaker
House, 1974. It is an evangelically colored writing about
the conversion of the writer to Christianity in the Second
World War. It was subsequently edited by one of his sons,
but I quote the original version.
Jews in the Dutch Indies during and after the Second World
outbreak of the Second World War
Jewish colonists in the Dutch Indies in the first decades
of the last century lived a relatively carefree and luxurious
life. They lived in beautiful villas with many servants
around them. My parents had a wonderful childhood. “Oh,
Indonesia! How safe and beautiful you were - so many miles
and years away", sighs my father's brother later in
his autobiography. The two brothers had a wonderful childhood.
Also, he writes: "As a Jewish boy my Jewish background
meant little to me. The idea that once some others would
attach so much importance to it didn’t occur to me.
clouds loomed over the tropical paradise but most seemed
successful in ignoring them. An alarming happening, of course,
was the invasion of the Germans into the Netherlands. A
letter from my father from 1945 contains a compelling testimony
of the shocking news.
My father had after his studies in the Netherlands just
arrived in Batavia (Jakarta) and had a job as an administration
official; he was working at the telex, when in came in May
1940 the report of the German invasion; he describes it:
May 10, 1940 I was in Batavia in the Office to the Assistant
Resident (province governor). Wednesday, May 8, when I asked
if I could spend the weekend in Bandoeng, the assistant
governor said that given the situation in Europe he could
not allow this. Friday May 10 about 11 hours o’clock
we got the message of the invasion of Holland. Immediately,
all suspect elements, who should be arrested, should be
put behind bars, and then in about 2 hours the message was
to be made public.
We worked, in shifts, day and night at the office. All kinds
of people gathered at our office offering cooperation and
financial gifts. Some Arabs donated e.g. 5000 Dutch guilders
as a contribution to the war. Small old Indonesian men asked
to be sent to Holland to join the fight. Many who actually
could not afford it brought gold and silver objects. Great
was the anger against every one who claimed themselves ‘NSB-er’
(supporter of the National-Socialist party): Deutsche Klub
in Bandung and the NSB clubhouse on Naripan road were destroyed
by the Bandung schoolchildren."
the Dutch Indies life returned to the old routine. However,
the young Dutch men were called into military service and
were given military training.
My parents - both born and raised in Java – had as
a young married couple returned to the Dutch Indies at the
end of 1939 after a Dutch interlude of several years of
study; my father began as a young civil servant in the colonial
administration, but soon after his arrival he too had to
comply to being called into military service for some months
of training for officer.
colonial community liked to believe, that the new world war
would pass by the ‘Belt of Emerald’ (as a writer
named the Indonesian archipelago). At the end of 1941, this
unbridled optimism finally dashed. Instead was the sudden
bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7 1941. At the same time
the Japanese armies attacked Singapore. On December 8 the
Dutch government declared war on Japan. The Japanese army
invaded the Dutch Indies on January 10 1942. Singapore fell.
After a short, courageous and hopeless endeavour to defend
the vast empire of thousands of isles the Dutch colonial army
surrendered on March 8 and the Japanese occupation began.
Military prisoners of war were largely employed as slave labourers.
A large group, including my father, was transported under
inhuman conditions to Burma and Thailand to construct a railway
through the jungle - the infamous Burma railway -. Other men
and women and children of European descent were interned in
civilian camps across Indonesia.
about the Jews in this turbulent time?
it was no issue for the Japanese, Jewish or non-Jewish.
In the beginning it was even an advantage. The Japanese
regarded the Jew as 'Asian’ and they let him in alone.
Particularly the Baghdadi in Surabaya will have profited
from this view.
my opinion many assimilated Jews didn’t disclose themselves
as Jews to the Japanese, if only because they no longer
felt identified with Judaism. They felt themselves before
all Europeans, mere Dutch nationals and they behaved themselves
So did my mother and her parents, who in the beginning of
1940 after years of retirement in the Netherlands had decided
to visit their newly married daughter in the Dutch Indies.
By this action, my now since long retired grandfather and
his wife escaped the Germans hunting for the Jews and my grandparents
certainly have saved themselves from the gas chambers just
to fall prey to starvation by the Japanese. On their identity
card issued by the Japanese occupiers was to be read: 'Bangsa'(race,
nationality): totok Blanda (born in the Netherlands, pure
Dutch). Although their journey to the then Dutch East Indies
was to my opinion actually a flight they never defined it
as such, but I presume this escape motive will have surely
been going through the head of my sober and realistic grandfather.
Other Jews who decided to escape from the Germans in the Netherlands
- and also from Germany, Austria and other European countries
- fled to the Dutch Indies, be it at a more leisurely way
during the late thirties or in panic during the outbreak of
war in Europe. An example is Lydia Chagoll, who describes
how in 1940 as a young girl she and her sister came with her
parents from Brussels via a long escape route through France,
Portugal, Mozambique, South Africa, eventually arriving in
Batavia (Jakarta) and finally ending up in a Japanese camp.
We will deal with her book in a while.
the course of 1942 the Japanese sealed off areas with barbed
wire (kawat) and plaited bamboo walls (bilik, gedek) transforming
them to internment camps and drove the white women and children
there together. And before it was summoned to go in the camps
many went voluntary, like my mother. She was born in the Dutch
East Indies, and initially there was no need but she nevertheless
preferred to go into to the camp - in this case the Bandung
quarter Cihapit -, where her mother, friends and acquaintances
also already were and where it was safer than outside the
attitude towards the Jews
average Japanese soldier had no idea of what a Jew was,
perhaps some officers were more aware of it. Initially,
there was no official policy implying a discriminatory or
special treatment of the Jews. The Japanese actually had
nothing against the Jews.
itself absorbed even a large group of Jewish refugees.
Over two thousand Jews in possession of papers, provided
by the Dutch consul in Lithuania Jan Zwartendijk and Japanese
diplomat Chiune Sugihara, consul general in Kovno, Lithuania,
had traveled through Siberia and the Far East aiming to
go to America. They were stranded in Japan.
The Japanese were both hospitable as intrigued by the refugees.
In particular, the rabbis and yesjiwa (Judaic college) students
looked strange to them. Members of the Photography Club
Tanpei made photographs of the picturesque refugees; the
photos were exhibited under the title: the wandering Jew.
One of the photographers in a photo magazine wrote in its
portrait of a yesjiwa student:
"How the eyebrows of the displaced man express not
only grief and misery ... but also the tenacity of a people
desperate and scattered about the world. However, they can
not hide their sorrow. They fight in order not to be beaten".
After the war most refugees remembered how interested the
Japanese were and how they were not possessed with anti-Semitism
and didn’t subject them to anti-Semitic treatment,
which in pre-war Poland too many had experienced.
Some, about a thousand of them, before the attack on Pearl
Harbor, could still reach the U.S. and Canada.
In the autumn of 1941 the others were deported to Shang Hai,
where more than twenty thousand other Jewish refugees had
sought refuge. There they formed a ghetto, where life was
difficult, but despite that there were more than 50 newspapers
and magazines in Polish, German and Yiddish. The history is
available on the website of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.
relatively mild attitude towards the Jews of the Japanese
occupiers of the Dutch Indies underwent in the course of
1943 a change. As a gesture to the German allies the Japanese
authority called upon the Jews to report. 1a)
to Jacques Presser in his Dutch book about the persecution
of the Jews in the Netherlands and the colonies this attitude
change was put in motion after a visit by a German consultant
Dr. Wohltat (what's in a name) to Java. This consultant had
to point out to the Japanese allies how dangerous the Jews
were and that they should no longer be left alone. Those who
obviously were Jews (Iraqi Jews for example) and those who
gave ear to the call disappeared in camps (also the Freemasons),
some already were. The Japanese lacked the German ‘Gründlichkeit’;
many 'stateless persons' remained undisturbed.
Japanese were probably wondering why the Germans were so obsessed
by the Jews. Presser reported, that in one camp - it is not
stated which - some ten Jews had been compared to the caricatural
images in the Stürmer journal – it did not work
out. When a Jew died, his funeral was performed with the required
ritual. It proved particularly difficult to convince the Japanese
that not all Americans were Jews and that Roosevelt, whose
mother was called Sarah, was not.
In general the treatment of Jews in the camps seemed to have
deviated little from the treatment of the others in the camp
Cimahi if only they were allowed to wash their clothes less
mother had to report as a Jewess but she did not. She has
told me that she felt that the Japanese attached little value
to it and therefore nobody noticed her disobedience. Many
assimilated European Jewish women (maybe some men at Cimahi
camp) will have followed the same line.
As for the camp experience of my grandmother, my mother
and me, we were in the same boat as the other European women
and children. Elsewhere I have written about. 3)
Jewish women who had reported as Jewish came into the camp
Tangerang, just west of Batavia (Jakarta). Part of the camp
was intended for Jews.4) Memories of the camp Tangerang
and Adek (the camp where in the end of the war residents
of the camp Tangerang were to go) are to be found in the
book "Camp memories” of Miep Bakker 5). She mentions
in her preface, that "Jewish women were brought in."
She did not mention a separate department. But she mentioned
a number of events featuring Jewish women such as Ms Cohen
who got beautiful curls in her hair after an attack of typhus;
and then there is the young Jewess who had lived for years
in Japan and who was now acting as an interpreter whispering
in the ear of Miep Bakker not to go in discussion with the
angry Japanese commander.
a description of the camp from the Jewish experience I make
gratefully use of the book "Six years and six months”
of Lydia Chagoll 6).
She came with her family from Brussels, arrived after many
wanderings in the Dutch Indies and her mother had reported
as a Jewess after the summons of the Japanese. From the
Tjideng camp, where they first stayed, she was transferred
with Lydia and her sister to Tangerang.
There was, Lydia recalled, a Christian section and a Jewish
section, where Jews lived of all nationalities, religious
or not, in various big rooms, also women who were married
to Jews were housed there, for example there were also a
Javanese with her two daughters and a Chinese with her child.
There were also European Freemason women.
only man besides the doctor who stayed as a prisoner for
a long time in the camp was the famous violinist Szymon
Goldberg. He fled Nazi Germany in 1933. He was on tour in
the Dutch Indies with his wife, also a pianist, and the
equally famous piano virtuoso Lily Kraus. All three were
interned in Tangerang. Goldberg and his wife had a separate
room assigned, stirring the jealousy of other women. Occasionally
they gave a concert for the Japanese commander. The camp
internees could have been and could just as prisoners are
After a few months Szymon Goldberg was transferred to another
camp. His wife was moved from the separate room to the public
sleeping room, her bed was opposite that of Lily Kraus.
Kraus lived completely isolated from other women. The other
women considered her completely crazy, because they did
yoga, reports Lydia Chagoll.
Miep Bakker tells how at a certain moment in the hangar
that had served as a gym a big black piano was put down.
Lily Kraus was required to study every day. Once a month
she was to give a concert, which actually happened a few
times. Miep Bakker tells how during lost hours she had been
sitting in the corner of the entrance to the hangar listening
to her full delight to the piano sonatas of Mozart, where
the pianist was world famous for.
Szymon Goldberg and Lily Kraus have survived the war and
have continued their career, Kraus despite the damage to
shed in the Jewish section was populated only by Iraqi Jews
in Surabaya, the Baghdadi's' that we already ran into.
Please let me quote Lydia Chagoll in her vivid description
of this very special camp residents:
Temperamental people, some dressed as gypsies. No one ventured
a step in the Iraqi barracks, which also during daytime
remained shrouded in mysterious darkness. It was always
noisy. There was always something going on. In loud voices
they gave expression to their moods. They came regularly
to blows. With an infernal noise, crying and shrieking,
they fervently beat one another with whatever was on hand.
When there was there nothing they went to fight with bare
fists, even with the teeth. If one of them, however, was
attacked by another camp resident than they stood as one
man, a strong power, a united group. At that moment it was
wiser not to interfere, it was wiser not to look, quite
probably you would catch an unintended blow. No, it was
best to stay as far as possible.
The Irakers preferred to deal with only their own group
A few tried to be their friend, but everybody avoided to
be their enemies."
Japanese did not know very well how to cope with the Iraqi
'It was on the advice of the Germans that the Irakers had
been transferred from Surabaya to the Tangerang camp with
its Jewish section. But the Japanese were puzzled. The lrakers
looked physically so different and behaved so differently
in comparison with the other camp residents. The Irakers
were not Westerners, not Europeans, not whites. The white
skinned Europeans were worthy of their contempt, but not
the Irakers not so!"
the Iraqi division was likely the most religiously observant
place throughout the archipelago. There was even a kosher
kitchen! The striking description of Chagoll:
"Maybe because the Japanese accepted Irakers as non
Europeans, or in order to bully the whites, or because there
were not enough guards to contain the Iraqi furies, or in
order to frustrate the Germans who were in spite of all
still white skinned, or simply not to stir ‘soesa’
(troubles), the Japanese gave in to urgent requests of the
Irakers and provided them with a kosher kitchen.
Only the Iraqi community was officially observant of the strict
Jewish religious laws. To live accordingly was something else.
That had to be taken with a grain of salt and a pinch of salt
of very rough quality. The other Jewish population in the
camp, with a few exceptions, was quite liberally oriented.
So Irakers wanted a kosher kitchen. The Irakers were so
convinced of their right that they could move mountains
to reach their goal. There came a kosher kitchen. A totally
separate kitchen service, only controlled by them from the
onset till distribution. "
suspected probably not wrongly that the kosher kitchen also
was a good opportunity for processing smuggled food.
camp and capitulation
the spring of 1945, the whole camp has moved to Adek, a
building in Batavia (Jakarta). Lydia Chagoll painted in
a brief paragraph the inhabitants of her shack:
of the Jewish Diaspora was united in our Adek shed. A small
Palestine without men. There were nine countries represented:
Netherlands-Belgium-Austria-Germany-France-England - Romania-Iraq-China
and of course the Dutch lndiës. All together some fifty
women, with or without children. Housewives, lawyers, nurses,
beauticians, prostitutes, office clericals, sales, seamstresses,
business women. Together we shared a continuous bed. Everyone
was entitled to fifty centimetres. It was a small hut, about
9 to 5 meters. The group did well. I can not remember quarrels,
only small frictions. Together we tried to make the best
of it, interfering as little as possible with each other."
proceeds with her personal story of exhaustion, hunger,
disease and apathy, and finally the liberation in August
1945, which was not liberation, repatriation in April 1946
and the difficult adjustment to European life. The story
of many children. Including mine, which is reported elsewhere.
summary we can say that a small part of the Jews in the Dutch
Indies has been interned separately as Jews, and they have
been treated as bad - not worse – as the non-Jewish
internees in other camps including the assimilated Jewish
women, children and some men (like my grandfather held captive
in the Cimahi camp).
happened to the Iraqi Jewish men from Surabaya after the
capitulation has happened I do not know and it would be
worthwhile to investigate how they fared and how for them
the turbulent post-war years have been.
the soldiers made prisoners of war and forced to perform slave
labour, such as at the Burma railway, there will also have
been a number of Jewish men, my father was one of them.
To my knowledge, the Japanese made not a case of special
selection of Jews.
the war most Jews of European stock had to live through the
post-war turbulence (called the Bersiap period) such as the
independence struggle of the Indonesians and this anarchic
period with its robber gangs made many victims.
Many Jewish families had lost their homes and possessions
and returned to Europe and the Netherlands.
Some stayed in Indonesia.
In the fifties there still seemed room for Jewish presence
and there began to dawn a perspective. According to Beth Ha-Tefoetsot
(diaspora museum in Tel Aviv) there were in 1957 450 Jews
in Indonesia, in Jakarta and Surabaya, Ashkenazic (north and
easteuropean) Jews and Sephardic Jews (Iraqi).
the Sephardic community in Surabaya started to bloom.
Oral witnesses 7) gave an optimistic picture of the fifties.
They say in this period thousands of Jews lived in Surabaya,
and that the center of the city was dominated by them like
by the Chinese today. The community had acquired a new synagogue
and had made a badminton court behind it. The youth did
in sports, studied the holy writings and learned Hebrew,
they celebrated the holidays and celebrations of life with
their family. But this glory would not last long.
in the beginning of a 60-years the New Guinea affair stirred
nationalist and anti-Dutch sentiments, still many left Indonesia.
Many Jews emigrated to the United States, Australia and
Israel. In 1969 there were 20 Jews in Jakarta and Surabaya
went to Israel and form a somewhat lost group. "The Dutch-Jewish
immigrant community doesn’t understand the immigrants
from Indonesia and has no desire to," says Shoshanna
Lehrer 10), the initiator of the association of Israeli’s
with an Indonesian past "Tempo Dulu" ( "ancient
times”). 4 to 5 times per year there is a gathering
with a lecture or so about Indonesia and each member brings
something for the Indonesian food dinner. The members fall
roughly into three groups: Dutch Jews, Jews from the Baghdad
community of Surabaya and former refugees mainly from Germany
there are only a few Jews on: 20 in Surabaya, the remainder
of the Iraqi community, and perhaps a few individuals in
The synagogue in Surabaya is still there. 8)
In the colonial era a Dutch doctor lived there. His house
was purchased in 1950 and rebuilt. The outside of the synagogue
is white. Inside it is an undeniable orthodox Sephardic
The simple Holy Arke is empty now and the Torah scroll has
been moved to the larger community in Singapore.
There is no rabbi or teacher anymore.
In the case of the desk a clutter of books is to be found,
including pre-war Dutch books, prayer books of the army
from the Second World War, and shiny new prayer books, sent
by a Sephardic institution in New York.
the past anti-Semitism among the Indonesian population has
played no significant role.
That has changed in recent years.
Judaism is not a recognized religion in Indonesia. There
are six recognized religions: Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism,
Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism. The compulsory identity
card should contain one of these religions. Inter-religious
marriages are prohibited.
an effect of the radicalization of Islam, reinforcing the
political division between east and west, a new type of anti-Semitism
has developed in an increasing number of Indonesians, in which
Judaism, Israel and America is taken as one phenomenon and
is viewed as the major evil opponent with one name: Yahudi,
myth of the Jewish world conspiracy is back in Indonesia and
the archetypal anti-Semitic writing, the 'Protocols of the
Wise Men of Zion' is freely available. I can only hope that
this virulent anti-Semitism will be confined to a small minority
of the population.
Zahavi, one of the remaining Iraqi Jews in Surabaya, who
maintains the synagogue and receives guests, is afraid –
in this period after Suharto and his ‘Order Baroe’
– that because of the fragmentation of the social
order and the emergence of militant Islam the situation
for herself and her few fellow Jews will deteriorate. For
friends and neighbors she doesn’t hide her being a
Jew, but in daily affairs and if the going gets rough she
prefers to pass as an Arab.
Feb. 22. 2007
Postcript oct. 2010
The following observation (from the Jakarta Post of 4 oct. 2010) bconfirms the increasing intolerance for other religions in Indonesia: "The survey showed that non-acceptance levels among the surveyed Muslims toward the construction of churches and other non-Muslim religious buildings in 2010 was 57.8 percent, the highest ever recorded since 2001 (40.5 percent)."
the history is told as a very interesting summary on the
website of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
1a) uitgebreid over japans antisemitisme in de tweede wereldoorog in Indonesie en de invloed van de Duitsers daarop in artikel van prof. Rotem Kovner, The Japanese internment of Jews in wartime Indonesia and its causes, 2010
2) Dr. J. Presser, Ondergang, State Publishing, 1965, p.
the entire book is available on the Internet including the
3) For example, Japanese camp Moentilan in Central Java
and the reconstruction of my stay there in the article 'Moentilan'
4) In fact, there were in and near the town of Tangerang
three places, which for a long time have served as camp,
the prison, the youth prisons and the re-education building.
Probably Lydia Chagoll means the latter place, see Illustrated
Atlas of the Japanese camps 1942-145, Asia Maior, 2000.
5) Miep Bakker, Camp Memories, life in the Japanese camps
Tangerang and Adek, home edition
6) Lydia Chagoll, Six years and six months, Standard Publishers,
7) A description of the history and situation of the Jews
in Surabaya I found on the Internet: an article 'The Jews
of Surabaya' by Jessica Champagne and Teuku Cut Mahmud Aziz,
in Latitudes Magazine
8) on the site of Beth HaTefoetsot (the Diaspora Museum in
Tel Aviv) there are 2 more photos of the cemetery in Surabaya
and the Holy Arke (Aron ha-Kodesh)
10): "Hollands Glorie in the Holy Land" by William
Dercksen in Jewish News, winter 06