JPRI Working Paper No. 84: February 2002
Dutch Civilian Compensation from Japan and the American Dilemma*
by Linda Goetz Holmes

 
As forces of the Imperial Japanese Army and Navy swept through Southeast Asia in the early months of 1942, they rounded up and detained every white man, woman and child in their path. Part of Japan’s wartime propaganda was that it was liberating Asians from European and American imperialism, and Japan’s commanders showed special vengeance toward Western civilians in the archipelago of the Netherlands East Indies, as well as British Malaya and the smaller islands.
 
The largest number of Western civilians interned by the Japanese in World War II were of Dutch ancestry: people whose families had invested in and cultivated lands of the East Indies, sometimes for several generations and going back in terms of trading relationships as far as 300 years. But what the Dutch saw as investments, the Japanese and Indonesians saw as exploitation, and now came their chance to strike back at the colonials. Over 110,000 Dutch men, women and children were thrown into jails, school compounds, former army barracks, or makeshift jungle camps. Some were moved several times to ever more remote locations over the next three-and-a-half years.
 
In addition, over 37,000 Dutch soldiers and militia volunteers, some as young as 15 and as old as middle-aged shopkeepers, became military prisoners of war. Of these, 8,500 died in Japanese custody.[1]
 
As was true elsewhere in Japanese-occupied territory, men were separated from women and children. When boys reached 10 years of age, they were taken from their mothers and placed in the men’s camps. Women and children were especially vulnerable to Japanese humiliation. After capture, they were marched through local villages (sometimes in a large circle, so they would pass through the same village more than once), while the Indonesians were encouraged to throw sticks and stones, and to shout: “Last week we were your servants; this week you are our servants!”
 
Nearly 300 Dutch women were forced to become military sexual slaves for their captors, or as the Japanese government euphemistically called them, “comfort women.” Traumatized by the horror of their experience and deeply humiliated, none of the survivors spoke publicly about their experience for nearly 50 years, until 1992, when Jos Hagers, a female correspondent for De Telegraaf in Amsterdam, wrote a newspaper article about the wartime forced prostitution of Dutch women in the East Indies.[2]
 
Japanese camp commanders seemed to find every excuse to humiliate and torment their female captives. Early in her captivity, during noontime tenko (roll call), one young mother failed to bow properly, or deeply enough, to the emperor as she faced in the direction of Japan. For this infraction, every subsequent day at noontime, no matter how good her behavior had been, this woman was beaten—as a continuing “example” to the others. Her young son and daughter were made to watch this daily ritual for the next three years. Even in late middle age, that woman’s daughter still could not speak about her wartime internment, even to relatives or close friends. (Her psychiatrist told this writer the story.)
 
Another Dutch woman, now in her early seventies, described to this writer how she had watched her mother slowly starve to death in the camp, claiming she “wasn’t hungry,” so that the little girl would have more to eat, and might survive.
 
Jos Hagers, now a top correspondent and investigative reporter for De Telegraaf, was born in an internment camp in Sumatra, and spent the first three and a half years of her life crammed with 51,500 other children and their mothers in a former Catholic girls’ school meant to hold 5,000 students. Their first and only Red Cross boxes were distributed in August 1945, and no one came to rescue them until October—two months after the war had ended. Ms. Hagers has written and researched extensively about Japan’s World War II atrocities, and her articles have prompted many victims, such as the “comfort women,” to break their longtime silences. She told this writer that her mother in postwar years recalled visits by Japanese doctors from the Singapore-based medical experimentation unit who deliberately withheld vitamins, sugar and salt from the internees’ food supply and then solicitously asked the mothers how their children were doing. Over 23,000 Dutch citizens died in Japanese captivity, many of them children—over three times as many as those who died under the Nazi occupation of Holland.[3]
 
Perhaps worse, those who survived Japanese internment had to flee for their lives when they tried to return to their homes in Java and other parts of Indonesia after hostilities ended. Agnes deKeyser Brackman was sent from the Netherlands to Java as part of the multinational Recovery of Allied Prisoners of War and Internees Commission, set up to recover remains of prisoners who had died and to help repatriate survivors. She recalls a 14-year-old boy whom she helped find his way home to Batavia (Jakarta) after he had spent three-and-a-half years in a men’s detention camp. The boy was so overjoyed to see his house still standing that he ran to his room, found a few coins in the back of a drawer, and raced out to buy candy at the local store. He was shot dead in the street by a local Indonesian militiaman.
 
The Indonesians had embraced Japan’s mantra of “Asia for the Asians” and were determined to chase returning Dutch settlers out of their country forever. As a result, Dutch families had to be rescued and sent to the Netherlands (for some of them a foreign country), leaving behind all their property and possessions.
 
The Yoshida-Stikker Agreement
 
With stories and statistics like these, it is not difficult to see why Dirk Stikker  (1887-1979), Dutch foreign minister from 1948 to 1952 and secretary-general of NATO from 1961 to 1964, refused to waive the rights of his country’s citizens to make claims against the Japanese government, as the American framers of the 1951 Peace Treaty were urging him to do. His people had suffered too much loss of life and propertyunder Japanese rule, he said, for him to consider such a waiver.
 
True, Article 16 of the treaty did provide for some compensation, through the International Committee of the Red Cross, but only to military ex-prisoners of war. Moreover, these funds were not really from the Japanese treasury, although it was made to seem that way. The money was actually an unspent 1944 relief fund, intended to purchase food and supplies for POWs, which Britain, the United States, and the Netherlands had funneled through the Swiss, but which the Japanese government had sequestered and refused to distribute. In September 1951, upon the signing of the San Francisco peace treaty, most of the money was turned over to the ICRC, which allocated about $3 million for Dutch ex-POWs, each of whom received 264 guilders, then about $70.[4]
 
But the treaty made no provision for civilian claims, and Stikker was adamant in his refusal to sign it on behalf of his government. As the day for signing the treaty, September 8, 1951, dawned, Stikker was still being the quintessential “stubborn Dutchman.” The treaty’s architect, John Foster Dulles, brokered a last-minute agreement that morning and persuaded Japan’s Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida to agree in writing that “The Government of Japan does not consider that the Government of The Netherlands by signing the Treaty has itself expropriated the private claims of its nationals so that, as a consequence thereof, after the Treaty comes into force these claims wound be non-existent”—thus paving the way for the Netherlands to reach a cash settlement with Japan compensating former Dutch residents of the East Indies.
 
That settlement was a long time in coming, and in the eyes of the Dutch it was far from adequate. The United States continually prodded the Japanese Foreign Ministry to give serious consideration to the Dutch request for $250 to each of its 110,000 wartime civilian detainees, for a total of $27.5 million. But a series of internal 1955 State Department memoranda, unearthed by this writer at the U.S. National Archives, show how arrogant the Japanese had become in their approach to implementing the agreement.[5]
 
According to a confidential May 25, 1955, memorandum from U.S. Ambassador  John Allison in Tokyo to the Secretary of State, the Japanese were demanding detailed data from the Dutch to support those figures, and when the data were not immediately forthcoming, Japan broke off negotiations in July 1954 (See attachments). The memorandum also reports that in late April 1955, the Dutch sent Tokyo sample claims and statements from fifty former detainees, which were “diligently studied” by Japan’s Foreign Ministry, and it was agreed that negotiations would resume in June 1955.
 
But a June 9, 1955, memorandum from Albert S. Fraleigh, Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, to Noel Hemmendinger, Officer in Charge of Economic Affairs in the State Department’s Washington Office of Northeast Asian Affairs, reveals how awkward the Yoshida-Stikker agreement was becoming for the United States. Fraleigh wrote:
 
“Although there is nothing that can be done about it, it may be a little awkward for us to explain to American civilians who were interned by the Japanese in the Far East why they should receive no compensation if the Dutch government succeeds in getting some compensation from Japan for Dutch civilian internees. You will recall we had a lot of explaining to do to American prisoners of war about their being cut out of the Article 16 fund. [The United States declined to take its share of the ICRC distribution, thus depriving U.S. ex-POWs of several hundred additional dollars in postwar recompense.] We were able to remind prisoners of war that the United States Government provides compensation to them out of Japanese assets in the United States. [In 1950, ex-POWs received $1.00 per day of captivity for “missed meals;” in 1952, they were awarded an additional $1.50 per day of captivity for “forced labor . . . and suffering.”]  But the United States Government has not provided any compensation to American civilians who were captured outside of the Philippines or other United States territory.”
 
Mr. Fraleigh was undoubtedly aware that nearly 14,000 American civilians had been interned by the Japanese in various occupied territories.
 
What must have irked the Dutch most of all was the U.S. response to their December 2, 1955, request for a little help in moving the Japanese forward in the stalled negotiations. That week, the U.S. had announced it was preparing to release three Japanese Class A war criminals serving sentences in Tokyo’s Sugamo Prison. (Although the Occupation ended in 1952, the American military retained control over the convicted Japanese war criminals in Sugamo Prison, releasing the remaining 83 on December 31, 1958, and closing the prison because it was now empty.[6])  The Dutch asked that the release be delayed by one week, pointing out that “Dutch public opinion feels very strongly about the compensation matter and would be resentful if more war criminals should be released before Japan makes adequate compensation.” But the State Department said no, claiming that, in effect, these releases had been promised, that they had been reported in the Japanese press, and that the Japanese “feel very strongly that the war criminal issue should be eliminated rapidly.” Nonetheless, Ambassador Allison did offer to mention to the Japanese that the U.S. was interested in an “early settlement of the Yoshida-Stikker problem.”
 
Perhaps emboldened by the U.S.’s going ahead with the release of more war criminals, the following day, December 3, 1955, Japan’s Finance Minister Naoto Ichimada again rejected the Dutch settlement request of $27 million, offering instead three million pounds sterling on a “take it or leave it basis.” According to a memorandum of that date from Ambassador Allison in Tokyo to the Secretary of State in Washington:
 
“How far United States should extend itself in helping Dutch in this case is problematical but I do believe that we are at least morally obligated to do something. As the Department will recall, Yoshida-Stikker letters were exchanged as result of our intervention at San Francisco Peace Conference and it was largely on basis of that intervention that Dutch signed Peace Treaty. If we now completely wash our hands of matter I believe Dutch will have legitimate complaint. I have hoped that there might be some suitable opportunity for me to mention matter informally to [Foreign Minister] Shigemitsu or [Finance Minister] Ichimada, perhaps both, and express our regrets that Japanese offer had been so low and had been apparently on a ‘take it or leave it’ basis. I might also express personal opinion that good-will of Dutch is important to Japanese not only for its own sake, but for influence of Dutch in European circles. I doubt if it would be wise to go much further than this at presenttime.  Department’s instruction will be appreciated. — Allison”
 
Five days later, on December 8, 1955, Ambassador Allison noted that the Dutch had reduced their request considerably, but:
 
“As in so many problems here, difficulty lies with Finance Minister who has so far refused to offer Dutch more than three million pounds sterling as against claim of 10 million pounds. . . Dutch were willing to settle for 6 million pounds and [Shigemitsu] had made strong effort to persuade Ichimada to raise Japan’s offer to at least 4 million pounds but without success. . . Shigemitsu is not optimistic, however, that he will be able soon to succeed but he did say he would keep trying.”
 
Barely a week later, on December 14, 1955, the First Secretary at the American Embassy in The Hague sent a confidential dispatch to the Department of State, reporting:
 
“Since the return of the Dutch delegation to The Netherlands, there have been a number of press stories critical of the Japanese failure to come to a reasonable settlement of the compensation issue. The Netherlands Foreign Office, however, has endeavored to keep publicity about the so far unsuccessful negotiations to a minimum in order not to stir up public opinion in the Netherlands. Dr. Jacquet [Director of the Office of East Asian and Pacific Affairs in the Netherlands Foreign Office] in conversation with members of the Embassy has consistently emphasized that the figure of twenty-nine and a half million dollars which the Dutch have asked from the Japanese Government is in fact no more than a solatium since actual compensation for the approximately 110,000 civilian internees would be many times greater. He has also stressed the point that the Dutch approached the Japanese in a spirit of compromise and were prepared to accept a reasonable scaling down of their original asking figure. The Japanese counter offer, however, was less than a third of the amount requested by the Dutch and consequently unacceptable. The Dutch Government is well aware of the fact that the financial position of the Japanese government limits the amount of compensation which can be expected, but the Dutch believe the inhumane treatment of the internees by the Japanese demands a certain amount of sacrifice on their part in paying compensation. . . From a political point of view the Dutch Foreign Office is anxious to remove this impediment to the development of better relations with Japan. The Foreign Office recognizes the importance to the Western position of an economically healthy Japan firmly aligned with the West. The prolonged delay by Japan in giving effect to the Stikker-Yoshida Agreement, however, inhibits the Foreign Office in its support within the Dutch Government of measures designed to further this alignment of Japan with the West.”
 
Finally, three months later, on March 13, 1956, the Yoshida-Stikker Agreement was at last implemented. But it was the Dutch who gave in, settling for $10 million—or about one-third of the figure they originally asked for.
 
In 1998, as a result of Jos Hagers’ December 9, 1992 newspaper article on the wartime forced prostitution of Dutch women in captivity, the Japanese government and private groups offered approximately 3500 guilders, or about $1500, to each of the 100 surviving Dutch women, but many rejected the payment because it was not accompanied by sufficient words of apology. In 2001, the Dutch government itself made a token ex-gratia payment of 3000 guilders, or just over $1200, to each survivor of Japanese internment, in recognition that the victims were not likely to collect anything from the Japanese government during their lifetimes.
 
Small wonder, then, that resentment still smolders among Dutch survivors of Japanese internment, who consistently refer to their former captors as “the Japs,” and apparently no Dutchman dares tell them this is not politically correct. Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department messages during the negotiations to implement the Yoshida-Stikker Agreement clearly show that the U.S. government facilitated compensation by Japan to civilians of other nations even when it was not willing to extend this privilege to its own people. More than half a century later, U.S. officials are still hard pressed to explain this accommodation.
 
LINDA GOETZ HOLMES is a Pacific War historian. For the past 25 years, she has interviewed and written about military prisoners and civilians interned by the Japanese in the Pacific War. Her book, Unjust Enrichment: How Japan’s Companies Built Postwar Fortunes Using American POWs was published in 2001 by Stackpole Books. Her book on Burma Railway prisoners, 4000 Bowls of Rice: A Prisoner of War Comes Home, was published in 1994 by Allen & Unwin/Australia. Ms. Holmes was the first researcher to gain access to over 300 newly-declassified Japanese wartime military and diplomatic messages intercepted by Allied intelligence, and released by the National Security Agency beginning in 1996. In April 2000, she was the first Pacific War historian appointed to the U.S. government Interagency Working Group Historical Advisory Panel. (The IWG was formed in 1999 under the aegis of the U.S. National Archives to implement the Nazi War Crimes and Imperial Japanese Records Disclosure Act of 1998.) Ms. Holmes is a graduate of Wellesley College.



* The following report has been prepared by a historian engaged by the Interagency Working Group (IWG). The analyses and opinions set forth herein are those of the author and are not necessarily those of the IWG, its member agencies, or other components of the United States Government.

[1] These figures come from the Netherlands Institute of War Documentation, The Hague.

[2] De Telegraaf, December 9, 1992.

[3] Doetje van Velden, De Japanse Interneringskampen voor Burgers Gedurende de Tweede Wereldoorlog [The Japanese Civil Internment Camps During the Second World War], 2nd edition, Franeker, the Netherlands: T. Wever, 1977, pp. 519-644.

[4] Newsmagazine of the Stichting Japanse Ereschulden [Institute for Japanese War Crimes], December 1995.

[5] State Department files, Record Group 59, The National Archives.

[6] The New York Times, December 31, 1958.

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