The Netherlands and its colonial heritage

On 17 August 1945 Indonesia, which had been occupied by Japan during the Second World War, declared its independence from its colonial power the Netherlands, which however did not accept this. Thus began four years of war, ending in 1949 with the recognition of Indonesian independence. Today, 75 years later, the Netherlands is still grappling with its role during those times.

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De Volkskrant (NL) /

On the wrong side of history

Japan's capitulation in the Second World War marked the liberation not just of the Dutch East Indies colony but of the entire kingdom of the Netherlands. De Volkskrant describes how arduous the process of coming to terms with colonial history is in the Netherlands:

“There is no controversy whatsoever in the Dutch culture of remembrance of the first half of the war that ended with the defeat of Nazi Germany and Japan: as a victim of the aggressor, the Netherlands is on the 'right side of history'. In the second half of this war, however, the Netherlands positioned itself on the wrong side of history. ... From the outset, the currently ongoing study by three scientific institutes has not found favour with critics from the left and the right who accuse the researchers either of colonial or of anti-colonial bias. Apparently this war cannot come to a good end even in historiography.”

NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

Remember the dark chapters of the past too

The Netherlands must face up to its history, warns NRC Handelsblad:

“The history of colonialism with all its dark sides, but also bright moments, defines the Netherlands. Just like the persecution of Jews, the winter of hunger or the great flood disaster [of 1953]. These are incomparable events that must continue to be passed down from generation to generation also in the coming 75 years, historian [and Prime Minister Mark] Rutte said. It would be appropriate to give more attention to how interwoven the history of the Netherlands is with that of Indonesia. So it is a good thing that there is collaboration with Indonesian historians in examining the Dutch role in the Indonesian War.”