View profile

Japan surrenders

NOS 75 years of liberation
The developments in Asia are this week’s center point in the 51st issue of our newsletter: emperor Hirohito announces the surrender of Japan and Sukarno declares Indonesian independence. Also, the first punishments for traitors and prime minister Rutte talks about his father’s history in Indonesia.
Hirohirto announces on August 15th 1945 the surrender of Japan. For many Japanese it is the first time they hear the voice of their emperor. “The enemy has begun to employ a new and most cruel bomb, the power of which to do damage is, indeed, incalculable. Should we continue to fight, not only would it result in an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation, but also it would lead to the total extinction of human civilization.”
Many questions remain after the 5-minute speech of the emperor. He used archaic court language, that sounded unfamiliar to many commoners. Furthermore, he never spoke of a surrender. Just that Japan shall accept the conditions of the Potsdam conference. “The war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan’s advantage”, is the only thing he says.
Those words, however, are enough for the listeners worldwide. In Sydney, London and New York festivities break lose. Everyone knows that the end of the Second World War has come. VJ Day. Victory in Japan.
American soldiers celebrate VJ Day.
American soldiers celebrate VJ Day.
In the Dutch-East-Indies the news is not yet broadcasted. Forced laborers working on the death track passing Sumatra do not know that they have finally been freed when the track is officially opened. The Pakan Baroe train track was build to transport military personnel and supplies over the island. It is complete at the exact time it is no longer needed. 
On the island of Java people are already planning the post war period. Young nationalists kidnap their leader Sukarno to enforce decisiveness. With a little help from the Japanese in the area Sukarno announces the Indonesian independence a day later.
Soekarno announcing the independence (Ipphos/Frans Mendoer)
Soekarno announcing the independence (Ipphos/Frans Mendoer)
The Netherlands cannot do much about it. Our country is still working hard on repairing the damages the war brought us. There simply is no room for restoring power in the colony. Even the Dutch governor-general has not returned to his post: Alidius Tjarda from Starkenborgh Stachouwer has just been saved from Japanese hands during a spectacular American rescue operation.
One of Stachouwers fellow prisoners anticipated his liberation with mixed feelings. General Wainwright, the American that lost the Philippines, had expected to be seen as a coward. Rather upon his return he was received as “the Hero from Bataan” because he had resisted the Japanese until it was no longer possible. His return was followed by parades in San Francisco and Washington. He was given the key of the capital and President Truman gave him the Medal of Honor, the highest possible heroic distinction in the US. “This is a welcome that you could only dream of from behind the barbed wire.”
US welcomes General Wainwright (1945)
US welcomes General Wainwright (1945)
In the Netherlands the first post war trails against traitors start. Although it’s mainly about the smaller fish, the sentences demanded are fierce: execution. Also the cleansing boards are already announcing judgements. Several actors can never again preform their jobs because they had worked for the enemy.
Noticeable was that songwriter Jacques van Tol was never forbidden to perform his old job. When after a few months in hiding he was found and arrested the judge sentenced him to three years in prison. But he was allowed to continue working. Although disgraced in the public eye, under a pseudonym artists were all too happy to take his songs. Heintje Davids (Louis’s sister) asked him after the war for a come-back song: “Dear people,I am once again free; sorrow and suffering is behind me…” Also Wim Sonneveld, Cory Brokken and Tom Manders (Dorus) all used his material. Just as the legendary radio program De Bonte Dinsdagavondtrein - although the CEO of the AVRO strongly denied it. One of Van Tol’s most iconic creations was a parody from 1946 of his own NSB-creation Keuvel and Klesseber. Göring had to be buried in two coffins, is what Keuvel reported after the war. “Two coffins?”, was asked by Klessebes. “Yes missy”, is what Keuvel explained. “One for his medals.” Van Tol remained loyal to his lack of principles.
The Council for Restoration of Rights also starts its work. Decisions surrounding ownership disputes because of the war: stolen houses, household effects or other valuables. The council also focuses on confiscating German owned objects in the Netherlands. For example the land owned by the ex-emperor of Germany (Huis Doorn) and the island of Schiermonnikoog.
To help keep the peace a rather special British army division arrives: The Jewish brigade. They are mainly used to guard German prisoners of war, however the army soon come to realize that it might take too much self-control to do so. The soldiers are send a different task.
Cilly Levitus, who briefly appeared in our article on the Jewish brigade, is worth of her own. Accompanied by her younger sister Jutta she found herself in a Dutch orphanage after the Kristall Night. With the help of a SS member she saved Juta from the Hollandse Schouwburg. “I have met the sweetest, most kind SS member to ever exist”, is what she wrote about this Alfons Zündler. Both sisters went into hiding and survived the war. In 1946 she married a member of the Jewish brigade and illegally moved to Palestine.
When during the 90s Zündler was found to be alive people spoke about awarding him with a Yad Vashem Award because he had saved several Jews. Eventually the idea was scrapped because of rumors that he sometimes did so in exchange for booze and sex. “Zündler has definitely saved several Jewish lives”, CIDI-director Naftaniël said, “but an award is meant to be given to those who preformed the act without acting from self-interest.”
War reports
Other messages this week:
  • Resistance priest Ludo Bleys fought as the “Eel of Orange” for the Dutch freedom. But now he loses his life in a rather suspicious accident
Prince Bernhard gives his final salute to Bleys.
Prince Bernhard gives his final salute to Bleys.
Not on the site
The flights of the governments flight service that were announced this week started mid October. During the first flight airbase Leeuwarden welcomed pilots with freshly baked Frisian dúmkes. During the return flight from Groningen pilot Plesman (son of the CEO of KLM) took his time to show the traveling journalists all of the war struck landscapes. They saw the “moon’s surface” around the heavily struck harbor of Den Helder and IJmuiden. And flew close above the waves of the flooded Wieringermeer. “it is now an image of destruction. just torn apart farms and wreckage”. But it was not just about misery: above the Waddenzee Plesman entertained his passengers by diving down on the sandbanks, scaring the sunbathing seals.
Liberation newscasts
This week the last NOS liberation newscasts were broadcast. In which for example Asian correspondent Sjoerd den Daas elaborates on the question why the US left emperor Hirohito in charge; reporter Martijn Bink visits Walcheren, that up until this day remains under water.
75 years later: WO ll and liberation news from 2020
“The Indies have always been a part of our family”, is what prime-minister Rutte said during the Dutch-East-Indies memorial last week. He brought up memories of his father, who was held captive in one of the Japanese camps there and who lost his first wife during the occupation. “The stories of my father belong to my baggage now.”
“Many remained imprisoned by the war”, is what Rutte said. As the tens of thousands of Dutch people that had to leave Indonesia without warning at the end of the war. “Become as Dutch as the Dutch people, that was the given task”, is what historicist Wim Willems said. “The was lots of patronizing.”
In Japan, the emperor Naruhito declared “deep remorse” towards the Second World War during a memorial. It was the same formulation the new emperor had used last year. When his father Akihito said these words five years ago, it was seen as a remarkable departure from previous messages.
The end of the war is near; however we shall continue until the official surrender of Japan on September 2nd. That is why next week we will report on the collections organized for the areas struck by war and the rising amount of traffic casualties (because the Netherlands has forgotten how to drive).
Do please share this newsletter. Remarks or feedback are happily received.
See you next week, in the meantime please follow You can also follow our Instagram-account 75 years liberation for more photos and video’s.