I love the Netherlands. I was born and raised there and proud to call myself a Dutchman. Like all other countries in this world, it has pages in history that are not so glorious.
I believe that the best way for any country to deal with the darker days of its history is not to deny or run away from it. But rather confront it and deal with it.
The Rawagede massacre is one of those darker days in Dutch history.
On December 9, 1947, Dutch soldiers raided the West Javanese kampong Rawagede, now Balongsari. A large part of the male population of Rawagede, were killed without trial. Until the 1990s, there was hardly any attention to mass murder in the Netherlands. While such acts of violence were for decades, dismissed by the Dutch government as ‘excesses’, we now know that they fit into a pattern of frequent and structural extreme violence by the Dutch armed forces during the war of independence.
In the early morning of December 9, 1947, Dutch soldiers led by former resistance fighter Major Fons Wijnen attacked the West Javanese kampong Rawagede, now Balongsari, in the Krawang region. Until then, the Dutch armed forces had difficulty getting a grip on Krawang. Rawagede was seen as a centre of Indonesian resistance, and the Dutch military was looking for a local rebel leader, Lukas Kustario. He was not found. Yet, during a “cleansing operation,” almost the entire male population of the kampong was summarily executed without trial. According to Dutch military reports, 150 men were killed. However, various Indonesian sources speak of a death toll of 312 to 433 men.
Below are just some witness accounts:
“We had to make two rows, each row with seven men. Then we were shot from behind, from a distance of about two meters. My father, Bapak Locan, stood in line with me. When the soldiers fired, the man behind me was a shield. The bullet went right through him and only grazed my back. The poor man died instantly and fell on top of me. I felt his warm blood run down my face. Before the soldiers left, they shot each of them again to be certain we were dead. They shot me in the hand. I was the only one of the fourteen men who survived. My father was also dead.”
—Survivor Bapak Saih
“He was shot from behind. Together, with four girlfriends, I carried his body home on a bamboo bench that served as a stretcher. I washed him, wrapped him in cloths and buried him myself.”
—Ibu Wanti Binti Taswi, Eyewitness and she was widowed by the Rawagede massacre
“Yes, that’s how it was,” I think at that moment. “That was us, and those were the victims of our violence. Ordinary, sweet village people.”
—Veteran Jan Glissenaar
“We got prisoners of war, and those prisoners of war were shot several times when the cry was: go take a piss, which people then turned around and were shot in the back. […] Those were not incidental cases, that was the normal course of business.”
—Joop Hueting, Dutch East Indies (Indonesia) veteran