Background Story

On Monday 19 January 1942 a small Japanese warplane bombs 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 servicemen 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 suspected 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 the open sea. Rescue actions aim to save the Dutch crew and servicemen, and leave struggling survivors behind. These events reverberate through history up to the present day and will continue to do so. Families and friends are still wondering why the Dutch authorities keep so silent about their responsibility.

This site is a first attempt to present the personal profiles of all victims and survivors in the Van Imhoff affair. It also offers a detailed timeline running from the day of the disaster up to the present, showing how the ghosts from the past keep re-appearing.

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