In search of my father
It was in 1984 that I began my search of how and where exactly my was father buried in Malang. The Dutch War Grave Foundation told my mother that there was no grave, my father's name was only written in a book together with 6000 other Dutch also without a grave. I decided to write the Dutch War Foundation one more time since my mother was 88 years old, maybe they could give her more details this time. But alas, although the Foundation had even investigated the European graveyard in Malang, Indonesia, there was no grave for my father. His name was not found in any of the graveyards books. I had already written a letter in 1957 when I lived in South Africa, to the prison govenor of the Lowok Waru ex-Kempeitai prison in Malang , he wrote me back that there was no grave, the name Th.G. van Kampen was unknown to him.
When my mother died on the 17th of August in 1987, I made plans to move to Tilburg a much bigger town than Terneuzen and that would give my children more possibilities to study and find good jobs later on. Two years later in 1989 I found an apartment in Tilburg the same apartment where I live today.
As from 1990 I started looking for my father’s history, I went to Helmond with my youngest sister, to my grandparents house, where my father was born. I visited his school, I went to the archive in Helmond and so I started with the “van Kampen” family tree. I found photo’s from my father, his sisters and brother at school in the archive in Helmond.
I also read that he went to Delft in January 1918 for his military service, by the regiment of military engineering troops and where my father also had his drivers licence.
In the meantime I continued with the family tree, I went back to the very first known ancestor who was born in 1495.
Oh how I would have loved to walk with my father through the streets of Helmond, searching together with him in the archive.
My sister Henny and I visited the castle of Helmond, where once long ago my grandfather had worked as the coachman and later on as the chauffer from the lord of the castle of Helmond. It brought us back to my father’s youth and that gave me a wonderful feeling.
I found several of my friends from my youth in the former Dutch East Indies back, this is really a miracle, we still keep contact. I found several magazines about Indonesia and the former Dutch East Indies. I started buying many books about Indonesia, I couldn’t stop reading. It brought me back to the country where I grew up, the country that I had loved so much, could I ever go back?
I started writing letters to the Red Cross in The Hague, asking them about more information of my father’s death, about a possible Kempeitai process against my father.
Why was he brought to the Kempeitai, what had he done wrong in the eyes of the military Japanese? My mother said that he had hided weapons somewhere in our garden at Sumber Sewu. But why was there no process, nor the Red Cross, nor the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs could answer my question. Why was it that my father had no grave, how did he die, where was he buried?
I asked several times in “Moesson” one of the Indies magazines if someone had known my father, I gave my address and phone number. Yes, I did receive letters and phone calls, but alas nobody had met my father. One gentleman told me that he had lived as a boy of ten years old close to the Lowok Waru Kempeitai prison and that after the war he had seen how a few men walked out of that prison. They were completely apathetic, and they looked very skinny, he knew that those men had been tortured by the Kempeitai.
My father died on the 25th of March 1945 according to the Red Cross. My father was a political prisoner, anything and everything could have happened to him.