Doll with jewelery
On 7 December 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, the US naval base on Hawaii. The war had come to South-East Asia. The Dutch government in London declared war on Japan. In the East Indies, all Dutch and Dutch East Indian men between the ages of 16 and 60 were called up for military service. On 11 January 1942, Japan attacked the Dutch East Indies. The Dutch soldiers of the KNIL destroyed the main industrial plants. They were particularly keen to ensure that the oil installations would not fall into Japanese hands.
To the great shock of the Dutch, the KNIL (Royal Dutch East Indies Army) proved incapable of fighting the Japanese. In early March 1942, the KNIL surrendered. its troops were made prisoners of war, and the Dutch East Indies were occupied by the Japanese, ending Dutch colonial rule. Some Indonesians welcomed them as liberators. Dutch civil servants were imprisoned and their places were taken by Japanese or Indonesians.
The Indonesian KNIL soldiers were soon released. Japan was hoping for support from the Indonesians and the Dutch East Indians to create a ‘Great East Asian Empire’. Anyone who was not of Indonesian descent had to register. In the course of 1942, all white Dutch nationals were detained in camps. Many Dutch East Indians initially managed to stay out of the internment camps because of their Asian descent.