Visiting Ereveld Menteng Pulo, Jakarta

I always passed this place previously, but this place seems so exclusive. For those who lives nearby, might be already knew it, this place is strictly for certain guest. Not all public can come inside. So when a friend told us that we can enter the cemetery, I feel like, wow! Finally!

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Last weekend, after a workshop about Making Travel Video held by Travel Bloggers Indonesia finished, we all walked to the cemetery. Just like what I guessed before, inside of the cemetery is so beautiful. If I may add, it’s a sad beautiful place. Sad because it’s actually a graveyard. A place where lies so many beautiful human being before. Now, their beautiful soul already in heaven. Rest in peace.

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My friend told us that it’s strictly prohibited to make pictures in the graveyard with impolite position, we also can not post pictures with the name written on the headstone. We also need to behave when enter the area. It’s not because it’s an exclusive place, but more about to respect those people who already sacrificed their life for their land and countries. This armies and other victims, deserve a highest respect from people who visit them, including us.

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This Dutch war cemetery is a part of another 6 Dutch war cemeteries that spread among Java’s island. Another six cemeteries are in Bandung, Cimahi, 2 places in Semarang, Surabaya and Ancol, North Jakarta. Over 24,000 victims of the struggle in the Netherlands East-Indies (now Indonesia), both civilian and military are buried in these war cemeteries.

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Originally, all this victims were buried in 22 war cemeteries throughout the archipelago. Later on, the Indonesian goverment requested that the mortal remains to be concentrated on the seven wars cemeteries in Java.

 

Who are they?

As I can see from the graveyard, there are plenties of armies, soldiers, aircraft men, engineers, red-cross members, writers, etc, even civil that become the victims of the war in the year around 1941-1945 (known as Second World War). The Netherlands East-Indies (now Indonesia) became a target for Japanese army because of the wealth of raw materials, especially oil. The battle in the Java Sea (27 February 1942) marked as the end of a heroic attempt to deny the Japanese passage to Java. The Royal Netherlands Indies Army kept up the struggle until March 3rd of that year.

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Hard times were follow. The Dutch civilians were incarcerated in men, women and boy’s camps. Many prisoners of war (POW) were made to work or were transported to Thailand, Burma and Japan, where they faced ordeal to forced labour, ones of the famous work as to build a 420 km Thailand – Burma railways through mountainous jungle, roads and airfields, leading to deaths of around 13,000 of POWs and 70,000 civilian workers.

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By the end of the war, on 15 August 1945, also a mark of the end of the Second World War in Asia, many of prisoners died from starvation, diseases and mistreatment within and outside of the Japanese mainland. However, in the Netherlands East-Indies (now Indonesia) things remained unsettled. The struggle for independence and subsequent military actions after the war claimed more victims. Now this victims, wherever possible were given a final resting place in one of the war cemeteries.

 

It was a sad experience for me personally to see this cemetery. So many people lied down on the ground with or without any mistakes. Especially the moment when I could read some of beautiful messages written on the headstones by the family. Each of it resembled how deep their grieves of losing their beloved son, daughter, husband, wife, dad or mother.

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Inside of the cemetery, I also quite surprised to see the victims not merely Dutch people. There were so many people from Indonesia as well from other countries. In the middle of the cemetery, there is a chapel who built beautifully and has four mark of religions that buried here, Christian, Muslim, Jews and Buddhist people (as you can see from different headstones stand firm in the graveyard).

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It is such a strong reminder for all of us who doesn’t need to face battle anymore, that this people were sacrificed their souls for us, to be able to live well nowadays. I wanna quote a beautiful message by H. J. Scheepmaker that I read in the pamflet of the cemetery ;

“We can only hope that a later race of people, who have no need for battle, remember how it used to be and tell their children…

That there were heroes then, young and real, who were greater than the world could stand, who stood up for justice in doing their duty and who did their duty until their deaths;

That there were mothers then, who saw the suffering they had already endured worsen, with a loss so unfathomable and cruel, a loss which only a mother could be so proudly;

That there were battles all around then and sadness for those who could not save themselves from the battle; that not a day went by without someone, somewhere, shedding tears.

People of the later years, if you are lonely and feeling sad on a quiet evening, think then of the sadness of this time, and how many hearts were then crushed…

From “Het Gedenken”

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I always think, war… no matter the reason caused it and it’s purpose… it’s never right. It’s terrible, it’s sad and it’s left so many people shedding tears.

 

Then I tell to myself, if I still alive now, I should live well.. You too.. So many heroes already gave their soul for us. For us to feel the freedom. We should live well, be grateful and make our country proud with us.

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May their soul rest in peace…

Dea Sihotang

PS :

  • Thanks to kak Olive who managed us to get in. Thanks to pak Rachmat S. who greeted us so warmly.
  • Some information taken from information paper from Ereveld Menteng Pulo.
  • For more information, you can contact Netherlands War Graves Foundation in Indonesia, Jl. Panglima Polim Raya 23 Kebayoran Baru – Jakarta 12160 Phone +62 21 7207983 Email : ogsind@cbn.net.id

 

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