The Banjoe Biroe area in central Java had three Japanese internment camps for women and children. Banjoe Biroe is Malay for “blue water”. On the accompanying map the camps are indicated as E, F, G, referring to camps 10,11 and 12 respectively of Bunsho III, the Japanese administrative unit managed from Semarang.
After the Japanese capitulation these camps came under assault from rebellious Indonesian youth , and had to be evacuated to Semarang in convoys under heavy military protection.
Banjoe Biroe 10
At the end of the war Banjoe Biroe 10 housed about 5300 women and children. The original list of names and POW numbers prepared for the Japanese camp commandant was destroyed by the Japanese army, following the capitulation. A partial copy of this list was made by a European member of the camp administration, serving as hancho, to help her with the execution of instructions by the camp commandant. The preserved name list is incomplete and contains only 1631 names and then in two separate lists: those accommodated in the former military horse stables (Paardenstal), and those accommodated in the barracks. The lists also suggest that some internees had been dispatched elsewhere.
Banjoe Biroe 11, 12
Neighbouring Banjoe Biroe 11 had 2000 women and children at the end of the war and Banjoe Biroe 12 housed about 1000 women and children. No name lists have survived for these two camps.
Accommodation was based on pre-existing Dutch military complexes dating from the nineteenth century. MR Kapeller, of Swiss nationality, made a large number of photographs illustrating the deplorable overcrowded conditions of these camps at the end of the war. They can be seen at the NIOD in Amsterdam.
The Camp was evacuated under military escourt between Novemeber 24 adn 14 December , 1945. This operation was captured on B&W silent film.
Books about Banjoe Biru
Two stories about life in Banjoe Biroe ( or Banju Biru) can be found in the collection Four Years till Tomorrow. Sheri Geertje Weygers Tromp wrote St Nicholas’ Lasting Gift, and Gerard Mobach wrote “Going to Mother in Banju Biru”. Nicholas Mobach ( born 1930) was interned as a boy elsewhere during the war .
Inez Hollander’s book, Silenced Voices Uncovering a family’s Colonial history in Indonesia (Ohio R.I.S South East Asia Series).
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