Background Story

On Monday 19 January 1942 a small Japanese warplane attacks the unmarked Dutch merchant ship ss Van Imhoff off the west coast of Sumatra. On board are 478 internees, stowed in barbed-wire cages, 62 military guards and 48 crew members. It is the third and last shipment of about 3,000 civilians with a German background who are being expelled from the Netherlands East-Indies, a colony in war panic, social collapse and rife with political tension. The German prisoners have been detained since May 1940 as potential sympathizers of the Nazis and their Japanese allies.

When the Van Imhoff starts to sink, the Dutch guards and crew save themselves without exception. The German prisoners are left at open sea. Rescue actions aim to save the Dutch crew and servicemen, and leave struggling survivors behind. These war crimes reverberate through history up to the present day. Families and friends are still wondering why Dutch authorities who advocate their high moral standards keep so silent about their responsibility in this affair.

This site is a first attempt to present the personal profiles of Van Imhoff victims and survivors. It also offers a detailed timeline running from the early days of various actors and events, up to the present, showing how the ghosts from the past keep on re-appearing.

If you have additional information about the persons, events or ideas presented here, you are invited to let us know via email. Thank you for your cooperation!