‘9 women and 3 children were shot dead’

Not only is an NSB member mentioned at the VU war memorial, but also someone who murdered men, women and children in the Dutch East Indies: Hendrikus Colijn. Shouldn’t his name be removed as well?

There is buzz about the name of an NSB member at the VU war memorial, but there is still a name for a VU man that makes you wonder if he really belongs to her: Hendrikus Colijn. Military, statesman, five-time Prime Minister of the Netherlands, respected and beloved official of the VU, where he was already awarded an honorary doctorate in 1930.

But he wreaked havoc in the Dutch East Indies. First in Aceh, as assistant to Johannes van Heuyts, the “Butcher of Aceh”, where the struggle against the Dutch colonial regime was crushed with great deadly force. Later, in 1895, he led a punitive campaign against the rebels in Lombok, about which he wrote to his wife, among other things:

I had to assemble 9 women and 3 children who beg for mercy and shoot them. It was an unpleasant act, but there was no other way. The soldiers happily put on their spears.”

As prime minister, he was known for his harsh austerity measures, which, among other things, led to the infamous riots in Jordan in 1935, as poor families were starving. The police cracked down on the rioters so hard that 56 were seriously injured and 5 were killed. Colin ordered the police to act more forcefully.

When the Nazis occupied the Netherlands, Colin wrote a pamphlet briefly calling for submission to the Nazi regime. He later recovered, but that was after Zazi banned his ARP party. Because he suggested in a speech that the ARP go underground, the Nazis put him into exile, and he died in 1944 in a hotel in Ilmenau, Germany.

war crimes

Does such a man who committed war crimes, along with the VU personnel who gave their lives fighting against the Nazis, belong to the War Memorial? Historian Wim Berkeller of the Dutch Protestant Historical Documentation Center thinks so. “I wouldn’t have put him in there myself, but I don’t think his name should be deleted,” Berkelar said. “It is undeniable that he committed war crimes in the Dutch East Indies, but this is a memorial to commemorate World War II.”

“I don’t think his name should be deleted.”

The Nazis treated Cullen as a “prisoner of privilege,” but according to Berkelar, his resistance should not be underestimated. “At first he took a defeatist stance, but later recovered somewhat. Not only did he say that the ARP party should go underground, but he also appointed a number of “messengers”, and party executives who were well-known fighters in the resistance, such as Sieuwert Bruins Slot and Jan Schouten”.

obedience to the government

The Colijn was a generation older than the Bruins Slot and Schouten, Berkelaar says. He was raised believing that you should obey your government. For example, he viewed the rebels in the Dutch East Indies as well as the instigators of the riots in Jordan, as people who are legally opposed to a particular government.”

“We should be able to discuss this frankly and freely, if necessary, bring the tomatoes with you.”

Can Berkelar imagine that bi-cultural Dutch people, including the descendants of former Dutch colonists, have a strange feeling when they see someone like Colin at a war memorial? “I can see this field of tension, that among all these resisters you see the name of the colonial oppressor. We should be able to discuss it frankly and freely, bring tomatoes if necessary, but I am not in favor of removing that name.”

embarrassing truth

Formerly a divisive Hendricus Cullen at Victoria University, where the now-retired historian Hermann Langfield had heightened sentiments in the late 1990s by mentioning his war crimes in a new autobiography of Cullen.

In his books on Colin, the founder of the Historical Documentation Center of Dutch Protestantism, Georg Buchinger, meticulously omitted all facts that could harm the reputation of the VU hero.

Controversy arose between historians of the College of Arts, who wanted to expose the inconvenient truth, and historians of the Historical Documentation Center, who wanted to protect Colin, who also made it to the news and opinion pages of the national media.

Wim Berkeller describes this struggle on his personal blog.

Leave a Comment