Dutch Children Of Wartime Liaisons With Japanese Search For Their Roots

Dutch children of wartime liaisons with Japanese search for their rootsHiroshy de Winter was born in the Dutch East Indies as a result of the wartime Japanese occupation.
Raised by his single Dutch mother in the Netherlands after the war, de Winter, 68, always knew he had a Japanese father. But it was after his mother died that he learned he also had a half-brother in Japan. That was the spark that took him to Japan to meet his younger sibling and his father for the first time.

As a child, de Winter endured taunts and discrimination from classmates because he had Japanese blood.

Now in advancing years, many of those children who were born and raised in similar circumstances are looking for their "roots." Some, like de Winter, are lucky and find their biological fathers.

Japanese forces overran the Dutch East Indies, later to become Indonesia, in 1942. The Japanese presence lasted until the end of the war in 1945.

Liaisons, forced or not, were common between Japanese soldiers and Dutch women. Invariably, children were born out of wedlock.

De Winter lives in Roosendaal in the southern Netherlands. His brother, a 61-year-old Japanese lives in Sapporo.

Both men share the same facial and body features. There is no question they share the same father.

In 2011, the man in Sapporo learned for the first time that he had a half-brother. A relative told him: “Listen to me calmly. You have an elder brother. He is Dutch.” The man was startled.

His half-brother was born in Java in April 1946. His father cultivated cotton there.

According to the Dutch government, the Japanese military interned about 130,000 Dutch people, of whom more than 20,000 died from malnutrition and other reasons. About 40,000 of the internees were soldiers and treated as POWs. The other 90,000 were civilians.

After settling in the Netherlands, de Winter was often bullied because of his Japanese looks. His mother, who raised him as a single parent, died in 1993.

On her deathbed, she still harbored fond memories of his father. In her personal effects, she left a note written by his father. It included his parents' address in Japan.

It was the clue that led him to his younger half-brother.

In autumn 2011, de Winter came to Japan. Guided by his sibling, he met his father for the first time. The man was suffering from dementia and living in a special facility.

De Winter embraced his father and showed him a photo taken when the man was young, which his mother had treasured. The father was startled to see the photo and began to cry.

It is not often that Japanese-Dutch citizens succeed in meeting their Japanese fathers or other family members in Japan.

“It may be a shame (for the fathers). But children are victims because they were separated (from their parents) against their will due to the war,” said the younger brother of de Winter.