Jan Bouwer

Jan Bouwer
Het Vermoorde Land, war time diary of Jan Bouwer

Jan Bouwer was a Dutch journalist who immigrated to Indonesia in 1940, thus avoiding the German Occupation but arriving in time for the Japanese occupation. On Java he met and married his wife who had strong Indonesian roots, and when the Japanese ordered all European men to be interned, Mr. Bouwer opted to go into hiding, and was helped in this endeavour by his parents in-law who had impeccable Asian family ties and occupied a house in north Bandung.

The house had a large backyard which had become overgrown and it was here that Jan Bouwer spent each and every day during the war, hiding in his “jungle.”

He kept a meticulous diary during this time , noting down snippets of information about life in Bandung under Japanese occupation , and significant historical and political events. He noted down rumours of what was happening in Tjihapit, the huge women’s and childrens’ prison camp a few block from his home, and that information helped me create some order out of the chaos of random  memories and accounts that survived this prison camp.

He remained in Indonesia after  the war, but in 1956 as a result of the deteriorating situation between the Netherlands and Indonesia, he returned to the Netherlands to resume his profession, now as a correspondent in Germany. In the meantime he sought in vain to publish his diary, but having failed lodged the manuscript with the NIOD ( Nederlands Instituut voor Oorlogs Documentatie).

Years later this manuscript caught the attention of Dr L. de Jong, then charged with the task of documenting the war years, both in Europe and in the Netherlands East Indies, and in 1988 the book was finally published by van Wijnen (ISBN 90 5194 0096-8) . It did not remain long on the market, having to be withdrawn after attracting a libel action.

The book remains an extremely valuable source of information about a period of Japanese war-time occupation in a large Asian country.



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