Life outside the camps

Life outside the camps was hard. The economy was in poor shape. Companies came under Japanese management, Dutch banks were closed down, wages and pensions were no longer paid. Unemployment was widespread, the population became increasingly poor and hungry.

Many Dutch East Indian families moved in together or went to live with Indonesian relatives in the kampongs (native villages or areas). They were in constant fear of arrest for their anti-Japanese attitude. The Chinese did relatively well; they were indispensable for the economy because of their tradition in trade.

The population was forced to work for the Japanese. Unemployed Dutch East Indian men were sent to agricultural colonies. Young Indonesian and Dutch East Indian men were taken to labour camps or deployed in paramilitary organisations.

The heihos were auxiliary soldiers for the Japanese army, and guarded the prison camps. In 1943, a real native army was set up, the Peta.

Romushas and ianfoes
Indonesians were also used as romushas (forced labourers). Tens of thousands of them died. Indonesian and East Indian Dutch girls were forced into prostitution as ianfoes (comfort girls).

Indonesians were losing their faith in the Japanese because of the harsh repression and impoverishment. Growing numbers of nationalists began to strive for independence from the Netherlands and from Japan.