|Do Hahn in India in 1926, 1 year married, 23 yrs old
In 1921, there was a bazar in Elspeet to mark the anniversary of the Diaconess Hospital, which had been founded by Queen Wilhelmina. Aunt Jet Gerhard was on the board and that board wanted a tea-musical on the festive day. Aunt Jet had first asked Leiden students for it, but they declined. When she discussed her difficulties in a music shop in Apeldoorn, the owner said he knew a young man who could play music with a group. That young man (Uncle Huug) sometimes bought strings from him for his mandolin. When Uncle Huug heard about it, he immediately rounded up three friends and one of them, Frits Bakker, was sent to Elspeet to check things out. He returned with the message that there was at least one nice girl (Auntie Do).
The big day came and Aunt Do, together with Greet van den Bosch-Lammerts van Bueren, stood in the chocolate tent. The bazaar lasted three days, and the four boys stayed at the hotel for as long as that. In the evening, however, there was tea in the tea garden at 10 o’clock and then a young man played classical piano. The first evening Frits Bakker came and sat next to Auntie Do to tell her that he liked her so much. So the second evening, Aunt Do just sat somewhere else, next to Uncle Huug, who immediately told her he had a girl and so that seemed safe.
The day after the bazar, the group of four had to play in a restaurant in Laag Soeren for ƒ10. That afternoon, Uncle Guus drove his Ford (with lots of brass) to Laag Soeren. The quartet, who were playing under a shelter, dropped all their instruments when they saw the Ford, with its contents.
The four musicians later travelled all over the country with their music. Uncle Huug’s girl wrote him off (“I’m well rid of that”) and then he asked Aunt Do, but she said “No” for a year. After Aunt Do passed her exam from the teachers’ school, she was allowed to stay in Lübeck for three months. The night before she left, Maggie, Uncle Huug’s sister, secretly put a small painting in Aunt Do’s suitcase, which Uncle Huug himself had made from a bow tie belonging to his sister. It endeared her when she found it in Lübeck.
Uncle Huug Bosscha
Uncle Huug had been born in the East Indies and came to the Netherlands when he was 10. When he was 18, his parents returned, but he couldn’t settle down at home. In 1924, he went to India himself, without a job. He had done the Agricultural School and the Sugar School. His first job was in Adiwena, on a sugar plantation near Tegal.
Aunt Do and Uncle Huug Bosscha - Hahn
In 1924, Uncle Huug went to India. Aunt Do followed in 1925. Until 1931, they worked in Central Java, near Tegal.
During that time, Aunt Do went to teach at a government school because she was bored to death at home. When this became known, Uncle Huug had to go to the boss and was told that it was not dignified to let your wife work. They didn’t care about that. Aunt Do later owed her pension to that teaching, while the same boss and his wife later became dead poor. They were wealthy at the time, but lost everything in 1931.
The school was located between seven sugar plantations and children came to school by buses. Aunt Do was not allowed by the boss to take the bus, which was not at all convenient. So in 1925, she was the first woman in the neighbourhood to get her driving licence, buy her own car and drive it to school. The children loved having a teacher who drove her own car. It was a Baby Overland, bought second-hand in 1925.
The school had six classes with a very mixed background: few totok, many Indian and the occasional native child (the children of the Wedana, for instance). Aunt Do had the third class and went with the children to the fourth. She was 23 at the time. She wore dresses with a tight bodice and wrinkled underneath and looked very young with a pageboy haircut. A Chinese once asked Uncle Huug if his wife was already 12, because to marry such a young woman you had to be of high standing.
Before Aunt Do “came over”, Uncle Huug lived in a house with an MTS student. That MTS student later became their neighbour. To furnish their house, Uncle Huug designed the furniture himself, but when his neighbour also married by proxy, he also designed the neighbour’s furniture. The neighbour travelled with the drawings to Bandung, because that’s where the furniture was made, and from there Aunt Do received a letter from him. He asked for advice: he wrote that his wife was boarding (married by proxy) at that time. He was so nervous to feel a bare leg touching his in the night and if Aunt Do could tell him what that was like. Uncle Huug laughed terribly at that letter and said, “It is addressed to you, so you should write back.” Aunt Do wrote something like: “It’s not so bad”, but the couple did break up later.
Aunt Do had a very nice class. In the holidays, she went with the whole bunch and some parents to the pool in the mountains. Everyone wanted to sit in her car. While resting in the afternoon, they all slept in the same room and one of the little boys said, “Now you are not our teacher but our beloved sister!”
On leave for Holland, 1931
In 1931, Aunt Do and Uncle Huug went on leave to Holland. At the same time, Grandpa and Grandma Louis were also on leave, with their children Joke and Herman (aged two and one). Oma Jo Hahn-Aarsse had rented a cottage in Elspeet: The Maple Tree. There they had a wonderful time lazing around.
At Christmas, Princess Juliana came to Elspeet to celebrate Christmas at the Diaconessen Hospital, and the whole family went there except for Uncle Guus Gerhard. During the break, Aunt Do and Grandma Louis asked the Princess when she was going to lndia. She said it was far too expensive to go in these bad times. Also in the party was a lady-in-waiting, Miss Schock, an annoying and very stiff lady. At the end of the party, gifts were handed out to the sewing circle girls. Then Juliana received a prod from Miss Schock: “It’s already nine-thirty and you promised your mother to be home at nine-thirty.” “Ah well,” said Juliana: “It’s too late to be on time now anyway, we can go on now.” At the end of the Christmas party, Juliana asked Aunt Do: “Where has that husband of yours gone anyway?” “Oh, he went outside to smoke a cigarette,” said Aunt Do. But Uncle Huug had gone home. He was bored to death with all the Bible reading and singing. Grandpa Louis helped Princess Juliana into her coat afterwards.
At the end of their leave, Aunt Do and Uncle Huug first went for winter sports, then another week to Lugano and from there straight to the boat in Genoa. They had to pay for the trip themselves, so when they arrived they had virtually no savings left. On arrival, Uncle Huug heard that he had been sacked. The management had meant to tell him in Holland, but had forgotten. He had also been transferred to another sugar plantation during his leave, and their belongings had meanwhile been put in the new house. The boss of the factory was also on leave in Holland, and when he ran into Uncle Huug at the factory on his return, he said, “So Bosscha, are you settled in yet?” “I am already worked in too,” said Uncle Huug. On 15 April, they returned from leave, as of 1 May they were discharged with three months’ pay. As they had no children, when there were cuts, they went first.
After a few months, almost all sugar mills were closed and hundreds of people ended up on the streets. At the mills, only the chief machinists remained to maintain things. India made the cheapest sugar in the world, but the other countries closed their borders. Most of the unemployed went back to the Netherlands. Uncle Huug and Aunt Do went to Bandung, Indonesia.
There were many unemployed people in Bandung. Whole neighbourhoods were built for them of little houses made of blocks of compressed ampas (waste from sugar cane stalks). It was depression: in the narrow streets of those neighbourhoods there were sledges of cars you couldn’t get rid of on the paving stones. You got three months’ salary and nothing else.
Aunt Do and Uncle Huug had no desire to live among those cancerous unemployed people. They could also live on the grounds of the Bosscha Observatory, but there was no chance of getting work there. Uncle Huug had a friend in Bandung from his HBS days in Apeldoorn, who worked at the GWO, and that’s where Aunt Do and Uncle Huug came into the house as paying guests, and slept in the goedang room.
There was also depression in education, but still Aunt Do, because of the name Bosscha, famous in Bandung, got a job at the Inland school, for fl 50, - in the month. Uncle Huug went to school himself, (a government school for natives) where he learned weaving and pottery. He went there for two years, took exams and got a diploma. Classes at this school were several days a week and at least he had something to do.
Bandung was an officers’ and civil servants’ town and therefore relatively little affected by the depression. One day, a friend of the lady of the house came to visit. She said she had searched all over the city for a nice desk lamp. Huug said, “I’ll make one for you.” She liked that lamp so much, but now the centre lamp of her house no longer matched it. Uncle Huug also made that one for her. Then acquaintances visited there and asked, “Where did you get that nice lamp?” In short, it started snowballing. Uncle Huug then started making lamps for money .
After nine months, their friends went on leave to the Netherlands. Uncle Huug and Aunt Do moved to the family of the first lamp. They had rented a big house with a row of horse stalls behind it, which Uncle Huug and Aunt Do rented. The first two stalls were closed as rooms, they had their furniture from the sugar factory, and the first stall became sitting room, the second dining room. The third box was screened off with chicken wire, but they turned that into a bedroom and the remaining boxes were for Uncle Huug as a workshop, where he made lamps when he wasn’t at school.
In 1933, Aunt Do and Uncle Huug were able to rent a big house. They tried to get boarders from people in tea who wanted their children to go to school in Bandung. There was no depression in tea, although no new people were hired there. Because of the name Bosscha, who was also famous in tea (the Malabar plantation), they got 5 boarders that year. In the process, Aunt Do kept her job at school, later rising to fl 125, - in the month. The house was on Madoerastraat; their first boarders were Karel and Riti and they stayed for five years.
Bosscha’s Furniture Store
At one point, Uncle Huug got word from the sugar company that he could either get Dfl 30.00 per month as pension, or Dfl 7,000 as payout. He took the latter. Uncle Huug and Aunt Do also took their private pension and had a house built in Keizerslaan, which Uncle Huug designed himself. In those days, building was very cheap. Only it took a very long time for the design to be approved because it was not considered aesthetically pleasing. Uncle Huug went to the mayor to get it approved.
A loft was erected in the garden for making lamps. They hired people to weld, girls to sew the lampshades. After a year, it was so busy that the hutch became too small, so a space was rented at the Centre, in a cul-de-sac off the main street, the Braga. The cottage belonged to the GBO. It was getting busier there too, and more and more people had to be hired. At the end of 1937, the cottage had to be demolished to make room for a car park. Uncle Huug then rented a car showroom, at a very convenient point, opposite the Soos and close to Hotel Homan. This for Fl. 400, - a month, while Aunt Do earned Fl. 100, - by teaching at the time. So it was a great deal.
The showroom had to be fully furnished, with shop windows and with electrical supplies for all the lamps, because they had to be able to burn. But things went well and the lamps were sold all over the country. One day, a traveller walked in and said, “What a beautiful business you have here, why don’t you start selling fabrics?” Uncle Huug thought about that for a day, but it didn’t seem so difficult to him, just measuring and cutting. He agreed that what was sold to him was not sold to anyone else and picked the finest fabrics, such as French damask, English linen, etc. He got three months’ credit.
The ladies came into his shop to pick out furniture fabrics for furniture, which they had the Chinese make; the Chinese then ordered those fabrics, at a discount, from Uncle Huug and thus earned even more than he did. Then Uncle Huug started making furniture himself. He advertised for a furniture architect and got someone who had worked for Pander in The Hague. With that architect, Uncle Huug went to Cheribon harbour to pick out timber at the wood auctions. The logs were hand sawn into planks by Chinese on the premises; the planks were dried for a year. When furnishing a house, the architect went to the house with the Chinese draughtsman to make a design. It was ordered by drawing. They were so busy, there was never stock, there was never serial work.
Aunt Do did all the bookkeeping at home, with an accountant behind her. She had first taken lessons to that end, quit her job in 1937 and set up a business administration with Uncle Huug. When everything was running smoothly, Uncle Huug started to get bored. He then started a pottery business on the side. The clay came from the mountains, he made the glaze himself and the kilns were fired with his own wood.
Actually, it was only in 1939 that money started rolling out of the business. Before then, all it needed was money. But when the money started rolling in, it rolled well.
Uncle Huug and Aunt Do then started a bungalow business in Tjileuntja. They had the idea: “In three years we will be in, then we will live in Tjileuntja and we will immediately have something to do with managing the bungalow park.” The park was in an idyllic spot, in the mountains by Lake Tjileuntja down in a bowl. Every bungalow had a fireplace as it was a bit chilly at night. They started by building a large bungalow for themselves on a 3,000 sq m site, and then four large and three small bungalows on a 7,000 sq m site. The whole thing was on a hill, with the big lake below, and across the lake was a meadow on which Dutch (!) cows grazed.
Usually, Uncle Huug and Aunt Do went to their bungalow on Saturday evening and were there all Sunday. The bungalows were all designed by Uncle Huug, the furniture designed by himself and made out of chinchona logs. Aunt Do got her own car and for her birthday, Uncle Huug gave her a canoe for the lake.
Throughout the Bandung era and even after the war, Aunt Do and Uncle Huug were friends with Siem Spoor (General Spoor) and his wife, who often stayed with them in Tjileuntja.
Grandpa and Grandma Louis, with their three children, went to stay with Auntie Do and Uncle Huug in Bandung twice. The first time was a short holiday. The second time was in 1941, a holiday of some months. Grandpa and Grandma were due to go on leave to Holland in mid-May, when war broke out on 10 May. This long holiday in Java was more or less instead of their 6-month leave to Holland.
The Japanese internment period, 1942 - 1945
When war broke out, all employees had to take turns to serve 14 days. They were stationed in Bandung. Uncle Huug did a quick exam for sergeant, as he was just an ordinary soldier. In 1942, he was interned in the barracks.
Uncle Huug’s mother, Moeke Bosscha, had come to the East Indies in 1940 to visit her children, but when war with Germany broke out on 10 May, she could no longer return to the Netherlands. She stayed with Aunt Do and Uncle Huig in Keizersstraat, where she soon gathered a cosy bridge circle around her.
Aunt Do had to go to the internment camp in November 1942. Until then, she had worked to keep things together. Everyone still thought at the time: the war will be over soon anyway. Moeke Bosscha and Maggie Ot (a sister of Uncle Huug) and her children Els and Annelies, were still allowed to stay at home at the time because they were born in the East Indies. Incidentally, Aunt Do’s house was full of people at that time: boys from the merchant navy, people who had been evicted from their homes, Moeke and Maggie with her children, etc. Aunt Do went to a camp that was a stretch of Bandung, whose houses had been cleared.
After a year, there was a big scene in the camp. The toko (store) owner had bought tainted bacon and secretly buried it in the garden. That bacon had been dug up by dogs and women had then pelted the dogs with stones to get that bacon and then noticed it was spoilt. Huge spectacle, and the store closed for 3 weeks. Then they asked Aunty Do if she wanted to run the toko. She had experience through the business, etc. Aunty Do wanted that, but she also wanted to pick her employees herself. That happened and so Aunty Do ran the camp’s toko (which was a very responsible job in internment time) . She enjoyed working there, but it wasn’t easy. There were 12,000 women and children in the camp. In the beginning, everyone cooked for themselves and everything was bought from the toko. Then there was no more arang (charcoal), trees were cut down and stoked from them until they switched to soup kitchens. From then on, only extra things were sold in the toko.
At one point, all the boys aged 12 and above were taken out of the camp, but when the Japanese wanted to take the boys, the mothers dressed in white, the Japanese mourning colour, and so went to the Japanese. The Japanese chief was moved to tears, and the boys were allowed to stay. Two weeks later came a very different order. All mothers had to be transported with their children, except the boys aged 10 and above, who had to stay.
Each time, a team of about 1,500 women and children left. Everyone could take only what they could carry; lots of backpacks were sewn (rucksacks); mattresses went separately. The board would stay with about 1,000 strong women to clean up the camp.
So Aunt Do stayed and took two young boys from a friend under her wing (one of the two vas Rob Sonneveld). In the evenings, when another transport was gone, Aunt Do sent her boys to the houses to look for little boys, who were then taken under the care of women who stayed behind. In the end, some 3,000 women and some 700 little boys remained. After a section of the camp was cleaned, the Japanese marked it off: that’s where everyone went. In every house of one street there was an artificial mother with about 40 or 50 little boys. Aunt Do then started another toko. By the way, in that camp there was also a hospital where nuns and nurses worked, with two Dutch doctors, including a surgeon. The latter helped Aunt Do to remove her appendix.
The rest of the camp was cleaned. The remaining belongings were sorted: there was a house with cupboards, with chairs, with left and right shoes, etc. Then one day everyone had to go to the cleaned area, through an area where they were searched for contraband, radios, etc. After three weeks, you were then allowed to return. In the meantime, the camp had been thoroughly checked. Still, women managed to hide three radios, which had first been taken apart and then reassembled.
In the toko, only brown beans and arang were for sale. During those three weeks, everyone ate only brown beans. For the women who had no money, a small tax was put on the sweets and so on, and from that extra money came a pot for the have-nots. A separate committee managed that pot. If one of the women asked the committee for money, she was first asked if she owned jewellery or sheets. In the camp, there was also a smuggling squad of women, who went through the sewers to the men’s camp. That men’s camp included bank directors who lent money. So Aunt Do sold her gold bracelet and gave half to Moeke and Maggie before they went on transport. But Moeke Bosscha was so afraid they would find that money that she flushed her share down the toilet. One quarter was for a friend and one quarter of the bracelet for Aunt Do herself. Moeke Bosscha was in bad shape. She had dysentery and weighed only 40 pounds when she left camp. She used to say, “I don’t mind dying but I would so like to learn how it ends with Hitler.”
In May 1945, all the young boys had to leave the camp. Rob came in tears to say goodbye to Aunt Do, who had just had her appendectomy. Aunt Do had just heard over the radio that Germany had capitulated, so she said, “Rob, you mustn’t tell anyone, but Hitler is dead and Holland is free. Now it’s our turn soon. When you see Daddy you must tell him. When we are free come to the house on Keizerslaan, and we will come there every time to see if you are already there.”
The internment camp Kramat.
After a week, Aunt Do and the board themselves went on transport. They were taken to Kramat camp, which was one of the best camps. The women who were there were mostly blanda/indo women, or indigenous women who had married a Dutchman, but also some Dutch women. In the previous camp, the Tjilapit camp, there had also been German and NSB women, but they were not so bothered by that because they had all been put in one street, which was called the Siegfried Line.
So then the whole board was in the best camp, the Kramat camp, and they had each also been allowed to bring an extra suitcase. At Kramat, the four of them were crammed into a goedang, measuring 2 x 3 metres, with no window and one door. First everyone sat down: “We worked so hard in the previous camp, now we won’t put a foot out.” But the place was so crowded. So: the mattresses were rolled up as seats, the suitcases went in the middle with a rug over them, Aunt Do took her paintings out of her suitcase and it was cosy again.
Each team that went on transport was given a share of the tokogog money to hand over to the new tokog. In this camp, the tokog money was also handed over; they were very happy with it (the tokog money, which Aunt Do managed, was quite a lot; at the end, there was a turnover of Fl. 80,000).
The camp chief in Kramat was a woman who was pro-Japanese. When Japan capitulated, she hushed up and quietly left. After that, Aunt Do became camp chief. She wanted to do that, but only until she found Uncle Huug.
After this, revolution broke out in Batavia. Bullets flew through the streets, and it was the Japanese who had to protect the women in the camps. Aunt Do, as camp chief, evicted the Japanese from their offices and took up residence there herself. The Japanese had to go to the goedang. After a while, Aunt Do heard that Moeke Bosscha and Maggie were in the Tjideng camp with her children. She then ordered a car and drove to the Tjidengkamp with a Japanese at the wheel. There, Moeke and Maggie lived in a small kitchenette. Moeke slept on the kitchen counter, the others on the floor. Maggie had become nervously ill because of all the conditions and could not take care of her children. Aunt Do then took Annelies and Els to the Salvation Army, from where they later went to their father in Singapore.
Next to the Kramat camp were two other camps. One was the “family camp”, where families lived of men who worked outside the camp, for example in maintenance services. The other was the “whore camp”. After the capitulation, the Japanese demolished the walls between the camps so that the “rabbit hole”, as the whore camp was called, also joined the Kramat camp. The first to appear in the East Indies after Japan’s capitulation were the British, ostensibly to protect the Dutch. They also appeared at the Kramat camp and soon asked, “Can you show me the way to the rabbit hole?”
Aunt Do had quite a lot to do with the “lady” in charge of the rabbit hole, either through handing out food or through the Kramat camp’s only doctor and two nurses (the “ladies” were almost all sick, with venereal diseases and the like). One day, she sent a lady to Aunt Do’s office who told her that the rabbit hole contained not only prostitutes, or at least women who practised that profession on a voluntary basis, but also a group with which something quite different was going on. Namely, a Japanese man had selected some 25 of the most beautiful girls from a women’s camp and had them taken to a brothel in Semarang. There the men lined up at the door. But the girls made such a fuss: one cut her wrists, another had her hair shaved bald, etc., that the Japanese actually preferred professionals. The Japanese man who had this on his conscience was later charged as a war criminal. The girls were then taken first to Buitenzorg and later to the Kramat camp, with their mothers, sisters and brothers. Those duped families also lived there in that rabbit hole .
Aunt Do, after hearing this story, ordered another car from the Japanese and drove it to Hotel des Indes, where Jonkheer Feith was staying, from the Red Cross. She asked him if these families could return to the Netherlands on the first plane. Jonkheer Feith liked the story, but he did nothing, even when Aunt Do asked him a second time. So Tante Do tried to squeeze such a duped family onto every transport, despite the protests of fellow travellers. Incidentally, some of them included women who had come forward because they wanted more food, “dumbasses”, according to Aunt Do.
One day, someone from the Red Cross came with a list of the professional ladies, because they had to be put on a transport to Bandung. Aunt Do had to tell them herself. It turned out that most of the ladies had already built up a clientele and so did not want to go to Bandung (We’ve been cheated, we’re not going on that punitive transport). As a result, only about 12 went to Bandung, the other 50 or 60 were loaded onto a truck with all their belongings and taken to their various addresses. Auntie Do went along for the ride, but it was no fun. They were stopped each time by ploppers [aka “peloppers”, indonesian military], then the car had to be opened and sharp bamboos poked through the stuff.
In late October, Aunt Do herself went on train transport to Bandung, with a little boy she was looking after because the mother had died. The father would come to pick him up at the station. There she saw Uncle Huug again. Who had volunteered to lug suitcases, hoping to see Aunt Do back as soon as possible. The first thing he said to her was, “How small you are!”
Uncle Huug lived in Emmahofje and slept in the back room. In the front room, a man was sleeping when Aunt Do entered there. “Hello sir”, said Aunt Do: “I am Mrs Bosscha”. “Call me Kees”, the man said. It was her brother-in-law and she hadn’t even recognised him.
Just after camp time, 1945/1946.
In Bandung there was another kind of camp. Aunt Do and Uncle Huug first looked for some furniture and Aunt Do became a street boss. They were there until May 1946. Bandung was a besieged city in those days; there was constant shooting. Around mid-May, the British occupied the southern part of the city in two days. The natives then set fire to as much as they could and moved into the mountains. In retrospect, those fires were not too bad, but then you saw about the flames and smoke.
Their own house on Keiserstraat was squatted: there were as many as 50 people in it who had stretched clothes lines in the rooms. Aunt Do and Uncle Huug then went to their workplace. There was nothing but dirt and rubbish there, mountains as high as 12 metres. Aunt Do and Uncle Huug got a bunch of Japanese to shovel that mess away. They heard their sitting bedroom furniture was at a Chinese: they went to get it. They turned their business into a kind of distribution office. In the process, the helpers got extra distribution and Aunt Do and Uncle Huug got 5% of the turnover. It was a confusing time. Most of the natives were out of town. Everyone ate from the soup kitchen.