The Witnesses & Contemporaries project is part of the research programme Independence, decolonization, Violence and War in Indonesia, 1945 - 1950, a joint inquiry carried out by KITLV, NIMH and NIOD. The witnesses project makes it possible for those who were in Indonesia between 1945 and 1950 and their children to share their personal experiences with the researchers. Those involved are not always aware which events and experiences are already known to the researchers. We ask them to share all experiences which they deem relevant. The project will be coordinated by Eveline Buchheim en Fridus Steijlen.

Our approach: in the past, several interview projects have been carried out regarding the period between 1945 and 1950. Unfortunately, within the context of this project it is impossible to interview everyone who wants to share his or her story. We aspire, however, to collect as many experiences as possible; therefore, we ask everyone - not only in the Netherlands but also in Indonesia - wishing to share their experiences to send us (Eveline Buchheim and Fridus Steijlen) a detailed letter relating their personal story. The more detailed and personal the letters are, the better.

We realize it is not always easy to write a letter about personal experiences which happened such a long time ago. Perhaps, in cases of difficulty, there are children, grandchildren or other relatives who can assist. This, of course, would only come into play if those involved wished to be assisted, and were willing to share their experiences!

What’s next? We will contact you after we receive your letter, and discuss with you how your experiences can be brought to the attention of the researchers. This does not mean that your story will be included literally in, for example, a book or publication. The collected experiences will be useful to the researchers in their analyses and have the potential to inspire researchers to come up with new ideas, which they otherwise might not have.  

There is more as well. In some instances, the letters could lead to an interview, individually or in a group with others who can share stories on similar themes and events. This will depend on the life story itself and whether or not it could bring possible new perspective(s) to the table.

Together, the letters will form a written collection of life stories on the period between 1945 and 1950 in Indonesia. This collection will be of significant value to everyone interested in personal stories about this period. Additionally, it will be of great value for future educational projects and research.

Do you want to share your story in the form of a letter? You can send your letter by e-mail to or by regular mail to Getuigenproject, P/A NIOD Herengracht 380, 1016CJ Amsterdam. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to call. You can reach us Monday through Thursday at 020-5233892.

The Witnesses & Contemporaries project is also very interested in diaries, photo albums, letters, and other personal documents. If you want to share any of these with us, please contact us at

Image: Researcher Fridus Steijlen (second from right) during the kick-off of Witnesses and Contemporaries at the Tong Tong Fair. Image: Tong Tong Fair / Henriette Guest