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Bauxite and oil

Since 1922 ore had been extracted in Suriname from the red rock bauxite. This was used to produce aluminium. At the same time, Curacao and Aruba became home to refineries for the processing of oil extracted in Venezuela.

Industries flourished

The oil and aluminium industries flourished during the war. Eighty percent of the fuel used by the British air forces came from Curacao and Aruba. Aluminium from Suriname’s bauxite was used in the construction of around 60 percent of all allied planes.

Bauxite mine.
Bauxite mine.

Industries guarded

These key industries are guarded by American troops but also by Surinamese, Antilleans and Arubans. And by soldiers from the Prinses Irene Brigade, the army formed by the Dutch government, exiled in England at the time.

German attacks

In 1942, German submarines attack the oil installations, the oil tankers and other ships at sea. The oil installations suffer slight damage and dozens of ships go up in flames. But the Americans’ measures are effective and in 1943 the German attacks diminish.

Burning ship.
Burning ship.

The Chinese conflict

15 Chinese seamen dead
In April 1942, 400 Chinese seamen on the Antilles go on strike. They are badly paid even though they work in the holds of the oil tankers, the most dangerous place to be during submarine attacks. But strikes are forbidden because of the importance of the work to the war effort. The strikers are arrested immediately. The police suppress the ensuing unrest with a great deal of violence. They shoot 15 Chinese seamen.

An article about the poor treatment of the Chinese seamen is banned by the censors. The editors draw attention to the rights of the Chinese by leaving the space for the article blank apart from a brief text from the Curacao regulations on the abolition of slavery.

The Meyer issue

Hard labour under strict supervision
The detainees from the Dutch East Indies are badly treated. They are seen as real traitors. In the remote Camp Jodensavanne, they are forced into hard labour under strict supervision. In November 1942, five detainees refuse to carry out an order. They are thrown into wooden punishment cells. Four of the prisoners manage to escape with the aid of a handmade saw. They are caught, tied up, abused, and after five days taken to Paramaribo by boat.

Territorial Commander Meyer
Territorial Commander Meyer

Meyer had two prisoners shot

There they are questioned by Territorial Commander Meyer, who has two of the prisoners shot. The official announcement says they were shot while fleeing. After the war, it turns out they were shot while handcuffed and at short range by five bullets from behind. In the Netherlands, it is decided to not prosecute Meyer.

More articles in this dossier

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