Kampong Makassar

Java Prison Camp Kampong Makassar
Pencil sketch of Kampong Makassar, by J. V. Rouwes

Kampong Makassar was a primitive work camp on the outskirts of Batavia, in existence between April 1942 and October 1945. The Malay word “kampong” suggests an Indonesian rural peasant dwelling.

Kampong Makassar  was started by the Japanese army as a POW camp for Australian and other allied military captives, and consisted of sheds made of bamboo and atap (palmleaf roofing).  The camp  served for most of the war (until December 1944) as a POW staging post before these unfortunate souls were sent to slave labour destinations elsewhere in SE Asia.

On 15 September 1944 700 POWs left from Kampong Makassar to be transported by the S.S.  Junyo Maru  to Padang, Sumatra for work on the Pakanbaru Railway. The Junyo Maru was torpedoed by an allied submarine unaware of its human cargo . Most of that human cargo consisted of Indonesian “volunteers” who had been dragooned into service  of the Japanese Imperial army, and most of them perished. Some of the Allied POWs survived and were picked up by  a Japanese destroyer to continued on their journey to the Pakanbaroe (or Pakanbaru)  railway project.  One of our travelling companions from South Africa, an excellent swimmer,  perished in this tragedy The book Tjideng Reunion describes  these events in more detail (Chapter II and VII).

In January 1945 Kampong Makassar became a women’s and children’s camp, set up to work the land and provide food for other camps. The only occupants  that ever flourished in this camp were the bed bugs.  Life in this atrocious camp has been well described by Ernst Hillen in his book “The way of a Boy”.  At the time my family was moved from Tjihapit to Tjideng, (May 1945) around 1500 were moved from Tjihapit to Kampong Makassar. Kampong Makassar was also a destination for those Tjideng camp dwellers who, in Japanese eyes, deserved punishment.

At the NIOD , in Amsterdam a sizeable photo archive of Kampong Makassar is preserved. Those photographs capture the full horror of what it must have been like to live here

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