Anthropology of the Dutch: Moluccan people in the Netherlands


Among all the nations
and people I visited… I never met a stranger breed
than the Dutch. Not just one people, but a tombola of
cultures, clubs and groups. With strange tribes
and exotic communities. Like the classical ethnologists
before me, I will visit them… measure them… dissect and scrutinize them. I’m going on safari in my own country,
in search of the jungle within us. You can call me the Pigeonhole Man. In search of Dutch Moluccans. What are their customs? What do they eat? How do they get around? Who’s the boss? And of course: Where can I find them? Long ago, my father took me here
now and again: Vught. Infamous because the Nazis once built
a large camp here. Could I please ask you something? There used to be a camp nearby.
Can you tell me about it? Yes, Camp Vught. Yes. Do you know anything about that camp?
What sort of camp? From the war with? From the war. From the war. The camp wasn’t torn down right after
the war. It temporarily housed SSers and traitors. Until the day a number of boats arrived
carrying Moluccan soldiers. Ambonese. From the harbor,
they went inland. And even reached Noord-Brabant. I had just been married. Then a few very old buses came from
Den Bosch to Vught. And we thought: They’re so black.
And dark. Moluccans were sitting inside. The Moluccans came from Indonesia,
which had just become independent. And the Moluccans wanted to be
independent of Indonesia. So the Netherlands had an army of
combative Moluccan soldiers… who wanted to fight for
their own independence. Indonesia wanted to disarm
and dismiss them… and before they knew it,
the soldiers… were at the other end of the world,
in old concentration camps. Just for half a year. Until things
settled down. What happened to them? Some of them stayed here, and some
of them stayed in their own country. They stayed here in the village? No, there at, uhm… behind. Even when it was decided that Moluccans
could leave the camp, some stayed. The Ambonese still live there?
Yes! Yes, yes. Right up until today. I think they really enjoy that green area. But they live in isolation? Yes. Camp Vught. Now Lunetten. At first glance, a sort of
abandonbed holiday park. Two blocks of low row houses… with a grassy area in between… a sort of village square… and there are walls everywhere. From the
extra security institution. A jail especially for people like
Mohammed B. or Volkert van der G. This is the barrack’s gate.
And there’s also a barracks. And this is the demarcation wall
at the back of the camp. From the town. And now you’re inside. They called the villages in
Indonesia ‘kampons’. Tropical sun, people in summer clothes… Hey… Hello, sir. -Hello. You’re dressed comfortably
-Yes, Oh, thank you. Friendly. Fair Sea. That’s one of the boats they traveled on. The houses are designed like barracks. Wide and low roofs. Each with a white rectangle on the front. Just within good taste because
the numbers are left out. It was inspired by the old barrack numbers. This one is still standing. My father took me here long ago. To share his memories. As a Jewish boy of 10, he was
imprisoned here during the war. As an anthropologist, it’s sometimes wise
to take something with you. Then the people can get used to you. You once did that with mirrors and beads. But I have a cliche: An old printing form with a call from the
KNIL, the Royal Dutch-Indian Army. The Dutch army in Indonesia in which the
Moluccan soldiers… had a privileged position. They were considered the best fighters. And it helped that most of them
were Christian. I’m going to try to break the ice
with the residents. But they have to come my way, of course. Hi. I’ve brought something. Look. Look. What’s written there? Yes. ‘The KNIL is calling for candidates to
train as professional officers.’ ‘Age: 17 to 21’ ‘Start of training: October 10, 1949.’ Could I read you something? Sorry?
What do you want to read? Something nice. ‘Or similar training.
Ages 17 to 21.’ ‘Training begins on October 1, 1949.
Register!’ Yes. -‘As quickly as possible.’ Wonderful. Was your father a soldier? -Yes.
KNIL? -Yes, a KNIL soldier. Was your father or grandfather
in the KNIL? Yes. -Yes?
My father. He was an ex-KNIL soldier, correct? What was he like as a father? As a father? Very strict. Strict?
-Strict. We were brought up like soldiers by him. So he was certainly strict. Were the children hit or …
-Absolutely. -Yes? Yes, yes, yes.
-Can you tell me something about that? One of the worst punishments was…here. You had to hold your ears. And then
you had to pump. Huh? What? Can you show me what you mean? Then pump. What’s pumping? Like this, bend
your knees. Like this… The KNIL soldiers learned pumping from
the Japanese when they occupied Indonesia. And then ten times.
Why did you have to hold your hands… Then you had no support.
-Oh, no support. -No balance. You were in trouble if you lost balance.
-Why? He was next to you? -Of course. Was your father stricter than
other fathers? -No. My father was medium strict. -This was the
medium strict version? -Yes. Do you still resent your father? Were you angry with him?
-No, not at all. No, You don’t blame him at all?
-No. We 2nd-generation people don’t need any
psychiatric or psychological help. We don’t have to go to a
psychiatric institution. We supported one another. This candid woman has lived in the camp
all her life. She’s a volunteer at the adjacent
memorial center. She tells visitors about the horrible
history of the place where she lives. My name is Louise Parihala. And I still live at the concentration camp
in Vught. I tell Louise about my father. And his memories. My father was ten when he came here. And he remembered that somewhere
there was a hole in the fence. There wasn’t much security, so children
used the hole to visit their mothers. And Louise has her own memories. We lived in the women’s area. And terrible stories were told there. That there were ghosts, for example. Louise also said that, for a long time,
it wasn’t certain… if this place would be kept for
Moluccan families. Those were modern times. Words like ‘multicultural’ and
‘integration’ were common. ‘Everyone together, mixed together.’ But meanwhile we had lived in the camp
for 45 years. And we had to consider our elderly. You just can’t transplant them into
Dutch society… where they’d have to integrate with
Dutch people. Most of the elderly here say: ‘This camp has become our country.
We want to stay here.’ ‘We know that Ambon, the Moluccas, is
our homeland.’ ‘But this camp, this is ours.’ ‘This is our village.’ And resistance continued. In the early 1990s, all of the barracks
except one had been torn down. A new neighborhood was built, in
barrack style. Louise tells the residents that
I can be trusted. And I quickly learn that the famous
Moluccan hospitality isn’t just a myth. I’m welcome in the house of a real
ex-KNIL soldier. Here are his wife, his children,
grandchildren and great grandchildren. Everyone fits into the small house. The patriarch has to get used to this
strange visitor. So does the matriarch. Are there table manners… or are they different than
Dutch table maners? Things like uhm… eating with knife and fork? -No, we don’t.
No? -No. I had to learn to use a knife and fork
when I was 18. Uhm…what exactly is that?
That’s papedata. Pa…pe…Papeda…ta. Uhm…it looks..extremely interesting. But what’s it meant for?
-It’s just a delicious thing to eat. Yes. Yes. Oh, so that’s how you do it. You slurp it, yes…. This is just normal. Everyone eats this. But does it have a taste to it? No, no. It doesn’t have any taste. It reminds me a bit of wallpaper glue.
-Yes, you’re right. Oh, so that’s right. Okay. Now… Oh, yes… I don’t know if the average Dutch person
would enjoy this. -No. I’m sure of that. How do I address your grandfather? Just say ‘sir’, I think.
-Really? -Yes. We don’t have words for ‘madam’
and ‘sir’. We don’t say that.
-They don’t exist? -No. But how… Everyone as old as my father is my
uncle or aunt. Everyone older than that, people my father
calls uncle, we call grandpa or grandma. So grandpa or uncle instead of sir. Or ‘bung’. ‘Bung’?
Bung. Bung. It means ‘older brother’. That’s the politeness of sir with… ‘You’re my relative. We belong together.’ What do you notice when you compare
a Dutch and a Moluccan upbringing? If the first or second generation has an
opinion about something… the third generation has to consider it. He would never state his opinion aloud… at a meeting… including… eh…-the elderly. -His uncle or his bung. Even if he knew better than ‘bung’. -Yes. He still remains silent. -Then he says:
‘OK, bung. Prima.’ They’re soldiers. It’s a community
of soldiers. Enormous respect for the uncle,
the ex-KNIL soldier. The Moluccan soldier had never expected
to end up in a village like Vught. Sir, try to feel this…Does this remind
you of a kampong? Here, in Vught? Here, in Vught? Yes, here is also a kampong. Yes, Kampong Vught. -Kampong Moluku. If there wasn’t so much respect for the
elderly, for that past… would people even want to live here? Wouldn’t they all have left this
unreal village? But, on the other hand, I find that the Dutch always wanted to cover up the
history of the Moluccans. So if that isn’t visible, the problem
is solved. Aha… You mean that one of the reasons people
wanted to stay here was because… people want to draw attention to the fact
that they didn’t or couldn’t return? Yes, I think so. -Yes. So it’s also political. I don’t know if it’s been said out loud
before… Now! Yes, by me! The most important day for the Moluccan
community is April 25th. The day in 1950 when their republic
was created.Proclaimed. The republic, the RMS, is not
recognized by the Netherlands. Or by any other country. Except Benin in Africa. So the republic remains in exile
in the Netherlands. Halt…Rest! Nearly 70 years after the war, marches are
still held at what was the ‘appellplatz’. Louise says that it’s always sunny on this
sort of holiday thanks to the ancestors. What exactly happens here? Today is April 25th. We celebrate the proclamation of the RMS. But it’s a proclamation of a country
that never existed. It exists in our hearts. In our hearts and in our thoughts. Yes, yes, yes… But are they some sort of soldiers? Just a group of boys. And girls, I think. They still have the… It’s not the real KNIL uniform, just a
khaki uniform. And they … will salute the raising of the flag. I think it’s so strange. that my father was here as a 10-year-old,
as a prisoner. That is so crazy. -That’s bizarre, right? Yes, that’s a very strange feeling for me. Okay. -Shhh. Halt! I’m in the woods in Brabant. Looking at soldiers who aren’t soldiers. And who honor a republic… that exists only in their hearts. At the end of the ceremony, the chair of
the Camp Council gives a speech. And continues to end with ‘Mena Muria’. The motto of the RMS. Mena! Muria! Mena! Muria! Mena! Mena Muria, One for all, all for one. What naughty people. They’re naughty. Every community has its heroes. The major examples who are honored
from time to time. The Camp Vught marching group, the
Bari-san… raises the flag three times a year for
the soldiers who lost their lives. For the folk heroes from the past who
fought against Dutch rule… for the heroes who established
the republic… and also for the heroes from the 1970s. June 11th, the day that we Moluccans… commemorate the Moluccan soldiers
who were killed at De Punt. Those who hijacked the train at De Punt… are part of the heroic second generation. The sons and daughters of the
uprooted soldiers. Their remarkable actions quickly became
famous. Or infamous. Depending on your point of view. The modest Agoes Pijlouw is one of
those combatants. Agoes. He is the friendly face of the
Moluccan Museum in Utrecht. Hello, Agoes Pijlouw. Good afternoon. But he wasn’t like that in the 1970s. Do you come here often? Yes, I come regularly. I have many acquaintances here. Where did you live when you were young? I was born in Westerbork. -The other
concentration camp? -Yes. Oh, there’s a trench. And that’s my cousin. -Your full cousin?
-Yes. When did you become aware of the fact
that you were Moluccan? That was when the campaign in Wassenaar
began. -What was that campaign? It was a hijacking. Or an occupation. By Moluccans. In the Wassenaar campaign… the residence of the Indonesian ambassador
was occupied. It was the very first deed of the
second generation. That was in 1970. You were born in 1952?
-Yes. So when you were about 18,
you became aware…? Not really. You were never aware. You grew up in a camp. So you were isolated. Until you went to school. But even then you weren’t aware. You were still a child. It was just normal?
-Yes, it was just normal. But the original inhabitants of
this country began… to look strangely at Agoes after
what happened in Wassenaar. He was suddenly a South Moluccan. People called them insuliting names then. And 5 years later something happened
so the government felt it necessary… to arrest Agoes and 36 of his friends. You were imprisoned?
-Yes. I was also involved. Later in 1975… There was an attempt to kidnap
Queen Juliana. That was in 1975. In the month of…March. Wait a minute…In 1970 you became aware
of your identity… you felt an incentive. -Okay. And now you say that 5 years later
you were involved… in an attempt to kidnap the queen?
-Yes. What did you want to do with her? I don’t know. But we were going to
treat her well. We were just going to go inside and
have a look… And take her away. Did you have somewhere
where you could…? No, we were going to stay there.
-Occupy the palace?! -Yes. That was the idea. Wow. -We had even
found a map of the building. That was in Story magazine or something. Yes, I’m sure it was Story. Wait. The gossip magazine Story published
the layout of Soestdijk palace? -Yes. Or Prive magazine.
-‘Handy,’ you thought? That’s very handy! Ripped it out and showed everyone. That’s the front door, that’s the back?
-Exactly. Bernhard always sits there drinking
his pink champagne. And Julie sits there…-They had a movie
theater too, everything. Very handy. And then? How did you get caught? The plan was to force open the gate with
a truck. Of Soestdijk palace?
-Yes. So we were looking for a truck.
We sent two of the boys out to look. But they were stopped by the police
for a regular car inspection. They were just arrested at a normal
car inspection? They were stopped, but they kept driving. And then the police chased them. I never found out who gave them my name. It’s not very important. You were betrayed?
-Yes. I got home and I heard helicopters
circling above me. I was immediately taken away. The whole house was surrounded. I remember Juliana as a sweet… perhaps a bit other-worldly woman. She had a big heart. And was very concerned about the fate of
the ‘Dutch nationals overseas’. So it’s quite conceivable that she would
have liked you very much. In the end, she would have shouted
‘RMS, yes!’ the loudest. -I don’t know.
But I think so. It’s really a shame that it didn’t
succeed. What was actually the plan? What was the plan? -37 years ago. The plan was a free republic, Maluku Selatan.
That was it. What did you think about when you
were in prison? Did you think things over? -Yes.
-What happened? You started to ask yourself if this
was the right way. That preoccupied me. I also started to study in prison. And when you were in prison, the
trains were hijacked. -Yes. Were you told about that?
-Yes. Did you know the people involved?
-Yes, we knew them. Actually the same group?
-We were in the Moluccan organization. We did a number of other things. Like talking part in the Four-Day Walk
in Nijmegen. So you walked that event. The other guys did too. So we knew one another. They knew one another. From the Four-Day Walk. Everyone knows one another? And everyone in the camp knows
‘Uncle’ Agoes. I work in the museum. So I’m the face of the museum. So I know everyone who’s been there. The old book ‘Uncle Ambon of the KNIL’… which sings the praises of Moluccan
KNIL soldiers… describes the nature of the Moluccan. ‘They’re not very easy. But that’s in
their nature. If they feel they’ve been treated unfairly… they can’t accept that. They have to protest. And quickly. He never gave up. The Ambonese was a champion
hand-to-hand combattant. Today’s warriors… still use the old rituals and symbols. The men from the Satudarah motorcycle club
with their tattoos… considers themselves to be the heirs of
the earlier warriors on Ambon. If you’re able to join, then you’re a
member for life. And you only leave the Satudarah when
you die. Do you know what’s going on here? It’s the 62nd anniversary of the Moluccans
in exile. This is my third visit. So yes, I do empathize with these people. Do you think they’ve been abandoned? Yes. Absolutely, absolutely. The RMS day is a major celebration
in Apeldoorn. One of the leaders of Satudarah is
Santerra Manuhutu. He’s the proud son of a real champion of
the RMS. Your father was a young man in the 1970s?
-Yes. Was he involved in the struggle? My father was very involved in
the struggle. My father was one of the occupiers… of the Indonesian diplomatic residence
in 1970. -Oh, yes. I assume he was considered to be
a terrorist then. Not a terrorist. I think they were called
political activist or political prisoner. Because they defended the Moluccan cause. They were the first to take up arms. To draw attention to the RMS. So you’ve celebrated the proclamation of
the republic for 62 years? -Yes. Right. That was never created? -That was
indeed created. Yes…yes. I put it incorrectly. I’ll
try again. For 62 years you’ve celebrated the
creation of the republic… -Yes. But where is that republic? The republic was proclaimed. And it exists It’s a fact that the RMS exists and
is alive. The Satudarah is a Moluccan
motorcylce club? Originally a Moluccan motorcycle club. -Yes Uhm… Can I become a member? Why not? I’m not Moluccan.
That doesn’t matter. Look. A lot of nationalities are here. Who aren’t Moluccan. What do I have to do to become a member? Something for the Moluccan cause? Does it have anything to do with
the Moluccan cause? No. It has nothing to do with the
Moluccan cause. But if you’re allowed to become a member
of Satudara, then it’s important… that you know about the history of
Moluccans in the Netherlands. So if people ask you what a Moluccan is
you don’t say: ‘They came here in the 1970s with the
Turks and Moroccans. You aren’t Turks and you aren’t Moroccans. You didn’t come here voluntarily. The head of the community appears: The president of the Republic of
South Molucca. The RMS The best warriors among them… …have the honor of dancing before him. The RMS is not fiction,
it is reality. Agoes still works for the
RMS cause. Now armed with patience and good faith. And the knowledge of what
doesn’t work. Agoes, everything okay?
-Yes It’s always hard work. How many times is it now? 62? Yes, the 62nd time. Yes, it was 62 years ago… that we came here. That’s the reason. Because our fathers were KNIL soldiers. They were supposed to stay here
for 6 months. And we’re still here. That’s what this is all about. We should never forget that. This is Agoes’s second home.
Perhaps his first… The treasury of the community. He’s been working there since it was built
in 1990. After the tumultuous 1970s,
this was the symbol of reconciliation between the Moluccan community and
the Netherlands. Actually, the old KNIL soldiers were
supposed to have had a monument… but the first generation preferred
a living monument, a museum. That had to be cherished for the next
generations. One of the original rooms in Vught has
been replicated. But what certainly must be included… are the Satudarah with their symbols
and the colorful message. ‘This bike belongs to Satudarah.
Fuck with it, and you’ll find out.’ ‘Don’t touch.’ Don’t touch. Don’t touch. I won’t. When I was in prison I wondered… How can I help my people now?
Not like I did, but in some other way. That’s one of the reasons I’m here. Because I made a choice. 37 years ago. To work for my people in a different way It’s been here for more than 20 years,
but now it’s finished. The museum is going to close. And now? They say the museum will close on October 1st. But I hope the community will take action. To try to retain this. Because we are responsible for it. For future generations.
That’s the most important. And so it came to pass. The community comes together to see
what can be saved. It is very emotional. No, no, no! This woman first, then… They slowly begin to realize that… the previous board made financial mistakes A remark made to Usman. I hear that Usman supports the decision
to close on October 1st. Then we say: We’ll see each other in court. Before you as a museum decide that
we are going to close… Now they’re discussing whether they should
continue in Malaysian… rather than in Dutch. It’s a fact: It’s going to close.
Or rather, it is already closed. The enormous passivity of Moluccans…
That’s unbelievable. Someone from Camp Vught… has a surprising idea about the cause
of the closure. I know: Moluccans and money, that never
works well together. Why not? Because Moluccans don’t have any
insight into how business works. We’ve been here for 60 years. And in those 60 years
you hear a lot. About money donated to organizations,
to churches, etc. And what did they do with it?
Absolutely nothing. Why aren’t they business-minded?
-It’s a fact. There must be a reason why Moluccans can’t
deal with money. I don’t know. That’s very strange! The entire world can
work with money, but you can’t! I shouldn’t generalize. But… Only your experience. On average, they
can’t deal with money. Whatever the case, the community
doesn’t hesitate… to organize big fundraisers for
the good cause. During what they call a ‘ride-out’… about a thousand men on motorcycles… ride all over the southern part of the
Netherlands to collect money. This money is earmarked to help
brothers and sisters… who are being persecuted as political
prisoners by the Indonesian government. The trip goes through a number of
Moluccan neighborhoods. Like in Geleen and Venlo. Venray, Gennep, Nijmegen. Den Bosch. And ends in Camp Vught. The camp is nearly unrecognizable
thanks to the patriotic activities. You might think that Camp Vught is a place
for the elderly. Their safe home. Or otherwise for the unwavering
second generation. But even the young people are enthusiastic
about celebrating their identity. About 300 people live in this former
concentration camp. One of them is Jean Paul Kiriwenno. He’s half Mouccan and half Dutch,
but spent much of his youth here. As an adult, he chose to live here. He could have gone anywhere,
but he chose this Moluccan neighborhood. I think that’s very unusual.
-That we still live here? -Yes. Are you a Dutch Moluccan or
a Moluccan Dutchman? I can’t answer that. At first, uhm… During puberty, I wondered: What am I? At that point I thought: I’m Moluccan. But then I thought: That’s impossible.
I have a Dutch mother. But I’m not Dutch either. And I really noticed that
with friends, relatives. That you really… Wherever I was, I always noticed:
There’s a difference. Because I also know the other side. What do you notice most if you compare
Dutch people and Moluccans? The difference in ‘we’ and that
individualism. But the ‘we’ that Jean Paul highly values,
is also exclusive. Yes, because the camp was built for Moluccans. If a stranger arrives in the village,
there’s always confusion. And can a non-Moluccan come here? Theoretically yes.
But not in practice? Uhm…It’s possible, but it would
really be strange. Very strange for everyone involved. Has that never happened? There was once a woman,
here in my street… who was fixing up a house… or she was going to start to do that. And then all these people came along and
said: Hey, what are you doing here? Yes…And one night a window was broken. And then she went away. But we thought: How is that possible… that someone else comes here to live
without us knowing about it. Because this place is meaningful to us. Do you know who threw the stone?
I suspect someone. Of course, you really can’t act like that. But I’m not surprised it happened. The funny thing is, my father lived
here too. That gives me the right to live here.
Don’t you agree? I understand, but it has a completely
different history for us. For you, the barracks have…
Is that almost a good memory? Yes. I remember when there were barracks here. And this wall was much further to
that side. Those… Yes, those were good times. Will things remain like this? I mean, will this really remain
a Moluccan camp? I hope so. Yes. I really hope so. Not to separate ourselves…. from ‘the rest’. We and them. But more… This is where we come from, so why should
we leave or have to leave? And if you’re spread all over the country What sort of contact do you have? Where can you see the social cohesion? You could also say: After so many
generations, cohesiveness has disappeared. We’ll just become obedient… individualistic Dutch citizens. No. No.
-No? -No Jean Paul said that the older residents thought
there were ghosts here at night. The horrible past of this place that comes
alive in the dark. On Sunday morning, the Nazi’ roll-call’
bell is rung. It’s still next to the prison barracks. The church is in the prison barracks?
Yes. Good morning. Is for Moluccans, hey! The old man is angry. He doesn’t really want me here. Nothing! No, no, for nothing! No, Nothing! Get out! Get out! No, there’s no reason to be so angry. Or is there? You can ask the government… With a service order! Service order. No asylum-seeker! No asylum seekers. Get out! 60 years! 60 years. What have you done for us? 60 years here. Are you angry with me? With all of you! All of you. All Dutch people?
Yes, all Dutch people. I understand. Displaced. Uprooted. But not detached. People gather here in a community
of anger… but also out of love of the past,
the traditions. You don’t have to be alone,
so people aren’t. In the old book ‘Uncle Ambon of the KNIL’ it says that a Moluccan always retains
a tie with the village or native ground… where he, his parents or ancestors
came from. Those who entered the service,
didn’t abandon their native village… but continued to live with
those who remained behind. Even if the Ambonese had never seen
his native village… because his family hadn’t been home
for a number of generations… he still knew where that home was. And people in the camp knew where he was
and how he was feeling. If you return to the Netherlands after
20 years, you feel like a stranger… but there, a great grandson could return
home after a century. The Moluccan Museum has closed for good. Agoes will find another place where he
can work for his people. But that other place of safekeeping… continues to exist. The strange Camp Vught. The neighborhood in Lunetten. That living open-air museum hidden in the
woods of Brabant… continues to honor the Moluccan soul.