Bersiap Period

In late September 1945 the Dutch and Indo-Europeans in Java were confronted with a wave of violence. The first weeks of September had been largely uneventful, but with the arrival of the first RAPWI teams the tensions began to mount, leading to an increase in incidents. By the end of September, young Indonesian guerrillas called pemudas had begun to take over government buildings and utilities in cities such as Yogyakarta, Solo, Malang, Bandung, Surabaya and Batavia. At the same time, Indonesian nationalists declared a general food boycott against the Europeans, and they cut off supplies of water and electricity to the internment camps where most of them were living. The Bersiap period began in earnest at the end of the month. The Indonesian verb ‘bersiap' means ‘get ready' or ‘be prepared', and it became the battle cry for the pemudas during the Indonesian Revolution. During the months of October, November and December 1945 the main cities on Java were the scene of continuous kidnappings, disappearances, shootings, thefts and murders. The main victims of the violence were the Indo-European, Chinese and Moluccan families living outside of the camps, as they were unarmed and scattered, and were therefore easy targets. The Bersiap reached its climax in the last weeks of October and the month of November, when British troops became entangled in combat with Indonesian forces in Central Java and in Surabaya. By the end of December British forces were able to restore order in Batavia, but conditions in Bandung remained unstable until March 1946. Estimates of the number of civilian casualties during the Bersiap vary widely: in the last three months of 1945 somewhere between 3,500 and 20,000 people are thought to have been killed in Java.


H.Th. Bussemaker, Bersiap! Opstand in het paradijs. De Bersiap-periode op Java en Sumatra 1945-1946 (Zutphen, 2005);
Mary C. van Delden, De republikeinse kampen in Nederlands-Indië oktober 1945-mei 1947. Orde in de chaos? (Kockengen, 2007)
Elly Touwen-Bouwsma en Petra Groen, Tussen Banzai en Bersiap. De afwikkeling van de Tweede Wereldoorlog in Nederlands-Indië (Den Haag, 1996).

Information a.o. in:

Access Number 2.22.21, 164, 165, 166, 167, 172, 174, 175, 1015,
1016, 1018 and 1021
Access Number 2.10.14, 2988, 3021, 3044, 3584 and 5518
Access Number 2.10.62, 2269
Access Number 2.13.72, 18 and 339

Available in the reading room:

Access Number 2.10.62, 999, 1000 and 1001 (Rapporten van de Afdeling Intelligence en Loyaliteitsonderzoek van de AMACAB te Batavia, 1945. Information about Java)

See also:

- Indian Divisions
- Diplomatic and Military Relations with Great Britain