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December 2005, I attended a symposium at about Jews in the Netherlands Indies 1).
It provided the initial impetus for me to go further into the subject. This resulted in the following story, which is a mix of facts, reflects my reading, quests on the Internet and also memories and stories about my grandparents Cassuto and van Zuiden, who in the early twentieth century emigrated to the then Dutch East Indies, where both my parents and my person is born.
For the period up to the Second World War I will use the then current name of our colony the Dutch East Indies (Nederlands Indië). For the period thereafter, I will talk about: Indonesia.
The story consists of two parts:

1. Jews in the Netherlands Indies until the Second World War
2. Jews after the Second World War

1. Jews in the Netherlands Indies until the Second World War

Jews come to the Dutch Indies

Jews have never been in the Dutch Indies in great numbers.
In the heyday of the Dutch colonial presence in 1932, there were around 2000 on 300,000 Dutch colonials, who stayed among the then 60 million natives.
One of the first Jews was Leendert Miero, who at the end of the 18th century was soldier on Java and then began a trade. In Jakarta his grave is still to see. 1a)

Near Banda Aceh there is a Jewish cemetary of Poncut, which indicates Jewish presence there some time 1b)

A traveller from Jerusalem, Rabbi Jacob Saphir (1822-1886), who in the fifties of the 19th century on his journey to collect funds for the Jewish community in Jerusalem also visited Batavia (Jakarta) mentions in his trip report a number of 20 Jewish families of Dutch or German origin there.
As the 19th century progressed, there were gradually more Jews, mainly traders. Well known is the residence of the journalist Alexander Cohen, the rebel and anarchist, who moved to the east and for a number of years was a soldier in the Dutch East Indies Army.

Around the turn of the century and beyond it was advertised extensively in the Netherlands to serve in the colonial ranks. Many Jews responded. During the late 19th century and the first half of the twentieth century, more and more Jews emigrated to the colonies. They started a trade, served in the domestic administration of the colony or in the colonial army, were active in teaching and medical professions, or were 'planter' (entrepreneur) in the 'ondernemingen' (extensive plantations of coffee, tea or rubber ).
My two grandfathers were exemplary for this development.
My grandfather Cassuto emigrated in 1915 to Dutch East Indies as a young lawyer and teacher (later director of) schools, educating so-called 'natives' for administrative and managerial positions.
My grandfather on mother's side van Zuiden, after his education at the Royal Military Academy in the Netherlands, enlisted in the Royal Dutch colonial Army, the KNIL. That was in 1905 or 1906. He spent many years in various outposts of the vast colonial empire.

My assumption is that my grandfathers were also motivated by the greater freedom in the colonies. There were no heavy ties to the Jewish environment and there was less discriminatory prejudice and more career perspective.
More romantically expressed: the adventure that laid ahead was less bounded by barriers from the Jewish origin.

In addition, there was a migration of Jews from the Ottoman empire to Southeast Asia and some ended up in Sumatra and Java. In Surabaya, there even a small community of Sephardic Jews emerged, especially from Iraq. They were called Baghdadi's and had a modest synagogue, the only one in the then Dutch East Indies. Later in this story we will encounter them again.

To what extent was there a Jewish life in the 'green belt of emerald'(litterary nickname of the archipelago)?

Said Rabbi Jacob Saphir who in the 19th century visited the Dutch East Indies sighed in his report that the Jews there were hardly practicing their religion anymore. They no more circumcised their sons and did little to observe the Jewish holidays. In the twentieth century that still held true.
There was no rabbi in the whole of the Dutch Indies. If someone insisted on a circumcision of his/her son (brit mila) you had to hire the rabbi of Singapore.
There was no synagogue, except in Surabaya, where the few hundred Baghdadi's still were practicing Jewish living.
There were Jews in larger numbers of near one hundred in Batavia, Semarang and Bandung, but they formed not a real religious community.
One may ask whether these numbers are correct, because I suspect that many Jews didn’t profess themselves as such. In that case, the estimation of 2000 Jews in the thirties may be on the low side.

My grandparents lived in the same way as all the other Dutch colonials.
They were members of the 'Society' (the club of the Dutch community, nicknamed 'the soos'). They were active in drama clubs, an journal article preserved by my grandmother reviews a successful stage performance, which my grandmother appears to have co-produced.
And an hilarious picture of my otherwise so modest Cassuto grandfather in his young Indian years shows him dressed as a woman in the play "The aunt of Charley”, showing a glimpse from participation in the pleasures of a carefree life.
They celebrated Christmas and Santa Claus and were involved in charities or in a variety of celebrations around the Royal family.
My grandfather van Zuiden is to be seen on photos sitting at long tables on festive occasions, surrounded by many more anonymous companions.

The younger brother of my father - like him he was born on Java - did in an autobiography later in his life retrospect 2) on his experience as a Jewish boy:

"Though being a Jewish boy my Jewish background meant little to me. The idea that once others would attach great interest to it didn’t in the least occur to me ... The fact that I was Jewish not more impressed me than the fact that I had two hands, two legs and a nose. It was just a small part, not worth noticing.”
Later he wrote about the leave time of his family in the Netherlands (it was 1929 and he was ten years old): "In Holland, I met my Jewish family and I discovered that they were quite different than the Dutch colonials. Intuitively I began to realize that being a Jew meant "being different".

Partly from sources, partly from hear say, I assume that the Jews in the Dutch Indies were looking for friends in the Jewish circle. In the time that my grandfather Cassuto and his family lived in Bandung, they made many trips to the ‘onderneming’(plantation) Cigombong, near Bandung on the plateau of Preanger. which was run by their good friend, the Jewish ‘planter’ Albert Zeehandelaar.
Other suspected Jewish families figure in photo albums.
So my grandfather Cassuto met with my other grandfather van Zuiden, when the latter after many wanderings on military posts in the outer regions was stationed in Bandung in an administrative function.
They were good friends.
Both were members of the Masonic lodge of Bandung.

Many Jewish residents of larger cities in the Dutch Indies were members of a Masonic lodge. This should be further investigated. Although the vast majority of Jews were no longer practicing Judaism, they had a need for to discuss the deeper things of life, to philosophize and to celebrate certain events together. The lodge offered of course not only to Jews but also to others this opportunity to meet kindred spirits in a free atmosphere. In those meetings many contacts were made, also between Jews themselves. Sometimes even Jewish celebrations were held. I met a man at the symposium, which like me had lived as Jewish boy in Bandung. He was a few years older than me and he could remember that in the Freemasons Lodge Christmas as well as Chanukah was celebrated.
Without doubt, the lodge also offered many opportunities for what we now call 'networking'.

Also Zionism attracted the attention of the Jewish residents of the East. There seems to have existed a periodical from 1926 until the Japanese occupation, called 'Erets Israel’. Worth further investigation.

1) Symposium on December 1 2005 on Jews and antisemitism in the Dutch Indies and in Indonesia, organized by the Foundation Chair of special Jewish Studies (University of Amsterdam) by Evelien Gans, professor Contemporary Jewry, in cooperation with the Netherlands Institute for War Documentation and the Free University of Amsterdam.
1a) See the article of Rotem Kowner in the frame work of the symposium in Haifa in 2010
Een Aceh'se kennis vertelde mij:"in the Jewish History Museum in Amsterdam there are photographs of the Jewish cemetary of Pocut, at Banda Aceh (the collection of Clara Brakel of 1979). This is very interested. I remembered when I was still child.  I and my friends often went there and looked for Jangkrik. I ever also saw several Dutch who went there.
The photographs of the Jewish cemetery of Pocut (the collection of Clara Brakel) are difference with the photographs that I took pictures in 2004. In 1970s the condition of the cemetery was still good and different with the condition of the Jewish cemetery in 2005. The names of several graves have lose, and the stones of the graves have broken.
The area of the Dutch cemetery, including the Jewish cemetery located in the Desa (Village) of Blower, Banda Aceh. I was born and lived in Blower. The name of Blower derived from a name of Tuan Tanah (absentee landlord), Mr Bolchover. He was a Dutch Jew. He died in Netherlands. When I conducted research there in 2004 and 2005, I did not find the name of Bolchover at that Jewish cemetery.

2) Ernest Cassutto, The Last Jew of Rotterdam, Whitaker House, 1974. It is an evangelically colored writing about the conversion of the writer to Christianity in the Second World War. It was subsequently edited by one of his sons, but I quote the original version.

2. Jews in the Dutch Indies during and after the Second World War

the outbreak of the Second World War

The Jewish colonists in the Dutch Indies in the first decades of the last century lived a relatively carefree and luxurious life. They lived in beautiful villas with many servants around them. My parents had a wonderful childhood. “Oh, Indonesia! How safe and beautiful you were - so many miles and years away", sighs my father's brother later in his autobiography. The two brothers had a wonderful childhood. Also, he writes: "As a Jewish boy my Jewish background meant little to me. The idea that once some others would attach so much importance to it didn’t occur to me. "

Dark clouds loomed over the tropical paradise but most seemed successful in ignoring them. An alarming happening, of course, was the invasion of the Germans into the Netherlands. A letter from my father from 1945 contains a compelling testimony of the shocking news.
My father had after his studies in the Netherlands just arrived in Batavia (Jakarta) and had a job as an administration official; he was working at the telex, when in came in May 1940 the report of the German invasion; he describes it:

"On May 10, 1940 I was in Batavia in the Office to the Assistant Resident (province governor). Wednesday, May 8, when I asked if I could spend the weekend in Bandoeng, the assistant governor said that given the situation in Europe he could not allow this. Friday May 10 about 11 hours o’clock we got the message of the invasion of Holland. Immediately, all suspect elements, who should be arrested, should be put behind bars, and then in about 2 hours the message was to be made public.
We worked, in shifts, day and night at the office. All kinds of people gathered at our office offering cooperation and financial gifts. Some Arabs donated e.g. 5000 Dutch guilders as a contribution to the war. Small old Indonesian men asked to be sent to Holland to join the fight. Many who actually could not afford it brought gold and silver objects. Great was the anger against every one who claimed themselves ‘NSB-er’ (supporter of the National-Socialist party): Deutsche Klub in Bandung and the NSB clubhouse on Naripan road were destroyed by the Bandung schoolchildren."

In the Dutch Indies life returned to the old routine. However, the young Dutch men were called into military service and were given military training.
My parents - both born and raised in Java – had as a young married couple returned to the Dutch Indies at the end of 1939 after a Dutch interlude of several years of study; my father began as a young civil servant in the colonial administration, but soon after his arrival he too had to comply to being called into military service for some months of training for officer.

The colonial community liked to believe, that the new world war would pass by the ‘Belt of Emerald’ (as a writer named the Indonesian archipelago). At the end of 1941, this unbridled optimism finally dashed. Instead was the sudden bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7 1941. At the same time the Japanese armies attacked Singapore. On December 8 the Dutch government declared war on Japan. The Japanese army invaded the Dutch Indies on January 10 1942. Singapore fell. After a short, courageous and hopeless endeavour to defend the vast empire of thousands of isles the Dutch colonial army surrendered on March 8 and the Japanese occupation began. Military prisoners of war were largely employed as slave labourers. A large group, including my father, was transported under inhuman conditions to Burma and Thailand to construct a railway through the jungle - the infamous Burma railway -. Other men and women and children of European descent were interned in civilian camps across Indonesia.

What about the Jews in this turbulent time?

Initially it was no issue for the Japanese, Jewish or non-Jewish. In the beginning it was even an advantage. The Japanese regarded the Jew as 'Asian’ and they let him in alone. Particularly the Baghdadi in Surabaya will have profited from this view.

To my opinion many assimilated Jews didn’t disclose themselves as Jews to the Japanese, if only because they no longer felt identified with Judaism. They felt themselves before all Europeans, mere Dutch nationals and they behaved themselves as such.
So did my mother and her parents, who in the beginning of 1940 after years of retirement in the Netherlands had decided to visit their newly married daughter in the Dutch Indies. By this action, my now since long retired grandfather and his wife escaped the Germans hunting for the Jews and my grandparents certainly have saved themselves from the gas chambers just to fall prey to starvation by the Japanese. On their identity card issued by the Japanese occupiers was to be read: 'Bangsa'(race, nationality): totok Blanda (born in the Netherlands, pure Dutch). Although their journey to the then Dutch East Indies was to my opinion actually a flight they never defined it as such, but I presume this escape motive will have surely been going through the head of my sober and realistic grandfather.

Other Jews who decided to escape from the Germans in the Netherlands - and also from Germany, Austria and other European countries - fled to the Dutch Indies, be it at a more leisurely way during the late thirties or in panic during the outbreak of war in Europe. An example is Lydia Chagoll, who describes how in 1940 as a young girl she and her sister came with her parents from Brussels via a long escape route through France, Portugal, Mozambique, South Africa, eventually arriving in Batavia (Jakarta) and finally ending up in a Japanese camp. We will deal with her book in a while.

In the course of 1942 the Japanese sealed off areas with barbed wire (kawat) and plaited bamboo walls (bilik, gedek) transforming them to internment camps and drove the white women and children there together. And before it was summoned to go in the camps many went voluntary, like my mother. She was born in the Dutch East Indies, and initially there was no need but she nevertheless preferred to go into to the camp - in this case the Bandung quarter Cihapit -, where her mother, friends and acquaintances also already were and where it was safer than outside the camp.

Japanese attitude towards the Jews

The average Japanese soldier had no idea of what a Jew was, perhaps some officers were more aware of it. Initially, there was no official policy implying a discriminatory or special treatment of the Jews. The Japanese actually had nothing against the Jews.

Japan itself absorbed even a large group of Jewish refugees.
Over two thousand Jews in possession of papers, provided by the Dutch consul in Lithuania Jan Zwartendijk and Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara, consul general in Kovno, Lithuania, had traveled through Siberia and the Far East aiming to go to America. They were stranded in Japan.
The Japanese were both hospitable as intrigued by the refugees. In particular, the rabbis and yesjiwa (Judaic college) students looked strange to them. Members of the Photography Club Tanpei made photographs of the picturesque refugees; the photos were exhibited under the title: the wandering Jew. One of the photographers in a photo magazine wrote in its portrait of a yesjiwa student:
"How the eyebrows of the displaced man express not only grief and misery ... but also the tenacity of a people desperate and scattered about the world. However, they can not hide their sorrow. They fight in order not to be beaten".
After the war most refugees remembered how interested the Japanese were and how they were not possessed with anti-Semitism and didn’t subject them to anti-Semitic treatment, which in pre-war Poland too many had experienced.
Some, about a thousand of them, before the attack on Pearl Harbor, could still reach the U.S. and Canada.
In the autumn of 1941 the others were deported to Shang Hai, where more than twenty thousand other Jewish refugees had sought refuge. There they formed a ghetto, where life was difficult, but despite that there were more than 50 newspapers and magazines in Polish, German and Yiddish. The history is available on the website of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Jews must report

The relatively mild attitude towards the Jews of the Japanese occupiers of the Dutch Indies underwent in the course of 1943 a change. As a gesture to the German allies the Japanese authority called upon the Jews to report. 1a)

According to Jacques Presser in his Dutch book about the persecution of the Jews in the Netherlands and the colonies this attitude change was put in motion after a visit by a German consultant Dr. Wohltat (what's in a name) to Java. This consultant had to point out to the Japanese allies how dangerous the Jews were and that they should no longer be left alone. Those who obviously were Jews (Iraqi Jews for example) and those who gave ear to the call disappeared in camps (also the Freemasons), some already were. The Japanese lacked the German ‘Gründlichkeit’; many 'stateless persons' remained undisturbed.

The Japanese were probably wondering why the Germans were so obsessed by the Jews. Presser reported, that in one camp - it is not stated which - some ten Jews had been compared to the caricatural images in the Stürmer journal – it did not work out. When a Jew died, his funeral was performed with the required ritual. It proved particularly difficult to convince the Japanese that not all Americans were Jews and that Roosevelt, whose mother was called Sarah, was not.
In general the treatment of Jews in the camps seemed to have deviated little from the treatment of the others in the camp Cimahi if only they were allowed to wash their clothes less often. 2)

My mother had to report as a Jewess but she did not. She has told me that she felt that the Japanese attached little value to it and therefore nobody noticed her disobedience. Many assimilated European Jewish women (maybe some men at Cimahi camp) will have followed the same line.
As for the camp experience of my grandmother, my mother and me, we were in the same boat as the other European women and children. Elsewhere I have written about. 3)

camp Tangerang

Those Jewish women who had reported as Jewish came into the camp Tangerang, just west of Batavia (Jakarta). Part of the camp was intended for Jews.4) Memories of the camp Tangerang and Adek (the camp where in the end of the war residents of the camp Tangerang were to go) are to be found in the book "Camp memories” of Miep Bakker 5). She mentions in her preface, that "Jewish women were brought in." She did not mention a separate department. But she mentioned a number of events featuring Jewish women such as Ms Cohen who got beautiful curls in her hair after an attack of typhus; and then there is the young Jewess who had lived for years in Japan and who was now acting as an interpreter whispering in the ear of Miep Bakker not to go in discussion with the angry Japanese commander.

For a description of the camp from the Jewish experience I make gratefully use of the book "Six years and six months” of Lydia Chagoll 6).
She came with her family from Brussels, arrived after many wanderings in the Dutch Indies and her mother had reported as a Jewess after the summons of the Japanese. From the Tjideng camp, where they first stayed, she was transferred with Lydia and her sister to Tangerang.
There was, Lydia recalled, a Christian section and a Jewish section, where Jews lived of all nationalities, religious or not, in various big rooms, also women who were married to Jews were housed there, for example there were also a Javanese with her two daughters and a Chinese with her child.
There were also European Freemason women.

musical prisoners

The only man besides the doctor who stayed as a prisoner for a long time in the camp was the famous violinist Szymon Goldberg. He fled Nazi Germany in 1933. He was on tour in the Dutch Indies with his wife, also a pianist, and the equally famous piano virtuoso Lily Kraus. All three were interned in Tangerang. Goldberg and his wife had a separate room assigned, stirring the jealousy of other women. Occasionally they gave a concert for the Japanese commander. The camp internees could have been and could just as prisoners are forgotten.
After a few months Szymon Goldberg was transferred to another camp. His wife was moved from the separate room to the public sleeping room, her bed was opposite that of Lily Kraus.

Lily Kraus lived completely isolated from other women. The other women considered her completely crazy, because they did yoga, reports Lydia Chagoll.
Miep Bakker tells how at a certain moment in the hangar that had served as a gym a big black piano was put down. Lily Kraus was required to study every day. Once a month she was to give a concert, which actually happened a few times. Miep Bakker tells how during lost hours she had been sitting in the corner of the entrance to the hangar listening to her full delight to the piano sonatas of Mozart, where the pianist was world famous for.
Szymon Goldberg and Lily Kraus have survived the war and have continued their career, Kraus despite the damage to her hands.

the ‘Irakers'

A shed in the Jewish section was populated only by Iraqi Jews in Surabaya, the Baghdadi's' that we already ran into.
Please let me quote Lydia Chagoll in her vivid description of this very special camp residents:

'Irakers! Temperamental people, some dressed as gypsies. No one ventured a step in the Iraqi barracks, which also during daytime remained shrouded in mysterious darkness. It was always noisy. There was always something going on. In loud voices they gave expression to their moods. They came regularly to blows. With an infernal noise, crying and shrieking, they fervently beat one another with whatever was on hand. When there was there nothing they went to fight with bare fists, even with the teeth. If one of them, however, was attacked by another camp resident than they stood as one man, a strong power, a united group. At that moment it was wiser not to interfere, it was wiser not to look, quite probably you would catch an unintended blow. No, it was best to stay as far as possible.
The Irakers preferred to deal with only their own group members.
A few tried to be their friend, but everybody avoided to be their enemies."

The Japanese did not know very well how to cope with the Iraqi Jews. Chagoll:
'It was on the advice of the Germans that the Irakers had been transferred from Surabaya to the Tangerang camp with its Jewish section. But the Japanese were puzzled. The lrakers looked physically so different and behaved so differently in comparison with the other camp residents. The Irakers were not Westerners, not Europeans, not whites. The white skinned Europeans were worthy of their contempt, but not the Irakers not so!"

Notwithstanding the Iraqi division was likely the most religiously observant place throughout the archipelago. There was even a kosher kitchen! The striking description of Chagoll:
"Maybe because the Japanese accepted Irakers as non Europeans, or in order to bully the whites, or because there were not enough guards to contain the Iraqi furies, or in order to frustrate the Germans who were in spite of all still white skinned, or simply not to stir ‘soesa’ (troubles), the Japanese gave in to urgent requests of the Irakers and provided them with a kosher kitchen.
Only the Iraqi community was officially observant of the strict Jewish religious laws. To live accordingly was something else. That had to be taken with a grain of salt and a pinch of salt of very rough quality. The other Jewish population in the camp, with a few exceptions, was quite liberally oriented.
So Irakers wanted a kosher kitchen. The Irakers were so convinced of their right that they could move mountains to reach their goal. There came a kosher kitchen. A totally separate kitchen service, only controlled by them from the onset till distribution. "

Lydia suspected probably not wrongly that the kosher kitchen also was a good opportunity for processing smuggled food.

Adek camp and capitulation

In the spring of 1945, the whole camp has moved to Adek, a building in Batavia (Jakarta). Lydia Chagoll painted in a brief paragraph the inhabitants of her shack:

"Part of the Jewish Diaspora was united in our Adek shed. A small Palestine without men. There were nine countries represented: Netherlands-Belgium-Austria-Germany-France-England - Romania-Iraq-China and of course the Dutch lndiës. All together some fifty women, with or without children. Housewives, lawyers, nurses, beauticians, prostitutes, office clericals, sales, seamstresses, business women. Together we shared a continuous bed. Everyone was entitled to fifty centimetres. It was a small hut, about 9 to 5 meters. The group did well. I can not remember quarrels, only small frictions. Together we tried to make the best of it, interfering as little as possible with each other."

Chagoll proceeds with her personal story of exhaustion, hunger, disease and apathy, and finally the liberation in August 1945, which was not liberation, repatriation in April 1946 and the difficult adjustment to European life. The story of many children. Including mine, which is reported elsewhere.

In summary we can say that a small part of the Jews in the Dutch Indies has been interned separately as Jews, and they have been treated as bad - not worse – as the non-Jewish internees in other camps including the assimilated Jewish women, children and some men (like my grandfather held captive in the Cimahi camp).

What happened to the Iraqi Jewish men from Surabaya after the capitulation has happened I do not know and it would be worthwhile to investigate how they fared and how for them the turbulent post-war years have been.

Among the soldiers made prisoners of war and forced to perform slave labour, such as at the Burma railway, there will also have been a number of Jewish men, my father was one of them.
To my knowledge, the Japanese made not a case of special selection of Jews.


After the war most Jews of European stock had to live through the post-war turbulence (called the Bersiap period) such as the independence struggle of the Indonesians and this anarchic period with its robber gangs made many victims.
Many Jewish families had lost their homes and possessions and returned to Europe and the Netherlands.

Some stayed in Indonesia.
In the fifties there still seemed room for Jewish presence and there began to dawn a perspective. According to Beth Ha-Tefoetsot (diaspora museum in Tel Aviv) there were in 1957 450 Jews in Indonesia, in Jakarta and Surabaya, Ashkenazic (north and easteuropean) Jews and Sephardic Jews (Iraqi).

Especially the Sephardic community in Surabaya started to bloom.
Oral witnesses 7) gave an optimistic picture of the fifties.
They say in this period thousands of Jews lived in Surabaya, and that the center of the city was dominated by them like by the Chinese today. The community had acquired a new synagogue and had made a badminton court behind it. The youth did in sports, studied the holy writings and learned Hebrew, they celebrated the holidays and celebrations of life with their family. But this glory would not last long.

When in the beginning of a 60-years the New Guinea affair stirred nationalist and anti-Dutch sentiments, still many left Indonesia. Many Jews emigrated to the United States, Australia and Israel. In 1969 there were 20 Jews in Jakarta and Surabaya 25.

Some went to Israel and form a somewhat lost group. "The Dutch-Jewish immigrant community doesn’t understand the immigrants from Indonesia and has no desire to," says Shoshanna Lehrer 10), the initiator of the association of Israeli’s with an Indonesian past "Tempo Dulu" ( "ancient times”). 4 to 5 times per year there is a gathering with a lecture or so about Indonesia and each member brings something for the Indonesian food dinner. The members fall roughly into three groups: Dutch Jews, Jews from the Baghdad community of Surabaya and former refugees mainly from Germany and Austria.

Now there are only a few Jews on: 20 in Surabaya, the remainder of the Iraqi community, and perhaps a few individuals in Jakarta.

The synagogue in Surabaya is still there. 8)
In the colonial era a Dutch doctor lived there. His house was purchased in 1950 and rebuilt. The outside of the synagogue is white. Inside it is an undeniable orthodox Sephardic synagogue.
The simple Holy Arke is empty now and the Torah scroll has been moved to the larger community in Singapore.
There is no rabbi or teacher anymore.
In the case of the desk a clutter of books is to be found, including pre-war Dutch books, prayer books of the army from the Second World War, and shiny new prayer books, sent by a Sephardic institution in New York.


During the past anti-Semitism among the Indonesian population has played no significant role.
That has changed in recent years.
Judaism is not a recognized religion in Indonesia. There are six recognized religions: Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism. The compulsory identity card should contain one of these religions. Inter-religious marriages are prohibited.

As an effect of the radicalization of Islam, reinforcing the political division between east and west, a new type of anti-Semitism has developed in an increasing number of Indonesians, in which Judaism, Israel and America is taken as one phenomenon and is viewed as the major evil opponent with one name: Yahudi, Jew.

The myth of the Jewish world conspiracy is back in Indonesia and the archetypal anti-Semitic writing, the 'Protocols of the Wise Men of Zion' is freely available. I can only hope that this virulent anti-Semitism will be confined to a small minority of the population.

Leah Zahavi, one of the remaining Iraqi Jews in Surabaya, who maintains the synagogue and receives guests, is afraid – in this period after Suharto and his ‘Order Baroe’ – that because of the fragmentation of the social order and the emergence of militant Islam the situation for herself and her few fellow Jews will deteriorate. For friends and neighbors she doesn’t hide her being a Jew, but in daily affairs and if the going gets rough she prefers to pass as an Arab.

RC Feb. 22. 2007

Postcript oct. 2010
The following observation (from the Jakarta Post of 4 oct. 2010) bconfirms the increasing intolerance for other religions in Indonesia: "The survey showed that non-acceptance levels among the surveyed Muslims toward the construction of churches and other non-Muslim religious buildings in 2010 was 57.8 percent, the highest ever recorded since 2001 (40.5 percent)."



1) the history is told as a very interesting summary on the website of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
1a) uitgebreid over japans antisemitisme in de tweede wereldoorog in Indonesie en de invloed van de Duitsers daarop in artikel van prof. Rotem Kovner, The Japanese internment of Jews in wartime Indonesia and its causes, 2010
2) Dr. J. Presser, Ondergang, State Publishing, 1965, p. 451-452;
the entire book is available on the Internet including the covered passage
3) For example, Japanese camp Moentilan in Central Java and the reconstruction of my stay there in the article 'Moentilan'
4) In fact, there were in and near the town of Tangerang three places, which for a long time have served as camp, the prison, the youth prisons and the re-education building. Probably Lydia Chagoll means the latter place, see Illustrated Atlas of the Japanese camps 1942-145, Asia Maior, 2000.
5) Miep Bakker, Camp Memories, life in the Japanese camps Tangerang and Adek, home edition
6) Lydia Chagoll, Six years and six months, Standard Publishers, Antwerp, 1981
7) A description of the history and situation of the Jews in Surabaya I found on the Internet: an article 'The Jews of Surabaya' by Jessica Champagne and Teuku Cut Mahmud Aziz, in Latitudes Magazine
8) on the site of Beth HaTefoetsot (the Diaspora Museum in Tel Aviv) there are 2 more photos of the cemetery in Surabaya and the Holy Arke (Aron ha-Kodesh)
10): "Hollands Glorie in the Holy Land" by William Dercksen in Jewish News, winter 06



to Dutch:
Joden in Nederlands Indië