At the National Indies Monument in Roermond this afternoon the 6200 soldiers who died in the years 1945 to 1962 in the then Dutch East Indies and in New Guinea were commemorated.
As a result of the coronavirus measures, for the first time no veterans and next of kin were present. In order to involve them as much as possible in the commemoration, it was broadcast live on 1Limburg. The ceremony could also be followed online.
Normally, the annual memorial in Roermond is visited by many thousands of people. Now there were a few dozen of them. Yet cancelling was never an option, says Jan Litjens of the foundation National Indies Monument. “Veterans, even though they are 93 years old, want to be there. But people of that age belong to the vulnerable target group, so we shouldn’t have them all together in one place. That would be irresponsible. In order to commemorate it in a dignified way, we have decided to invite only a limited number of people”
Attention for ‘dirty war
The national monument was unveiled 32 years ago by Prince Bernhard. The memorial was an initiative of a number of Limburg historians and journalists who were annoyed by the little attention paid to the “dirty colonial war, the suppression of freedom heroes and war crimes committed”.
“Thousands of times the question has been raised how the memorial ended up in Roermond and not in the middle of the Netherlands. The answer is as simple as it is obvious. In Roermond the initiative was taken and further developed by a working group”, according to the foundation on the website.
The commemoration in Roermond differs from the one in The Hague on 15 August, because it commemorates all the victims of the war against Japan and the Japanese occupation of the Dutch East Indies. In Roermond it concerns the 6200 soldiers who died after Indonesia proclaimed its independence on 17 August 1945.
The Dutch government did not recognize the independence and sent 200,000 soldiers. A bloody battle erupted. After four years of war, or ‘police actions’ as the Netherlands initially called them, the Netherlands recognized the independence of Indonesia in 1949.
The western part of New Guinea remained outside the transfer of sovereignty. But Indonesia also claimed New Guinea and infiltrated the area since 1949. In the period 1961-1962 the Netherlands sent almost 10.000 Dutch soldiers to New Guinea, some of them as conscripts. On August 15, 1962 an agreement was reached in New York: The Netherlands transferred sovereignty over New Guinea to Indonesia.