Many stories about the Second World War have not been told, or not told often enough. On June 28th a new museum will open in The Hague. It’s called Sophiahof museum, dedicated to the cultural and historical legacy of the Dutch East Indies. The first exhibit is called “Fighting for freedom”. Part of this exhibit tells the story of the resistance against the Germans by people from the Dutch East Indies, which included the island group the Moluccas.
One of the resistance fighters featured in the exhibit is Victor Makatita. He was the son of a Moluccan father and an Indonesian mother.
In 1927, when Victor was 8, he moved with his parents, brother and sisters from the Dutch East Indies to The Hague. They came to live at Zonnebloemstraat 64. In his free time, he played football with the Quick soccer club.
Apparently he was a talented player, because by the age of sixteen he was a member of the first team. He was also good at cricket, playing on Quick’s best youth cricket team in 1934.
In 1938, Victor went to study at the Royal Military Academy (KMA). The Germans invaded the Netherlands on May 10th 1940 and the Netherlands capitulated five days later. That was the moment when the students of the KMA were dismissed and sent home.
Resistance and attempt to escape
During the first years of the war, Victor was involved in underground activities. Among other things, he provided courier services to the resistance movement against the Germans.
On December 7th 1941 the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor — not to occupy American soil, but to prevent the US Pacific fleet from interfering in the Japanese conquest of the Dutch East Indies, whose rubber plantations and oil fields were needed to support further conquest in southeast Asia. By January 1942, the Japanese were well on their way to taking the Dutch East Indies from the Netherlands.
Victor wanted to go to the Dutch East Indies to fight the Japanese invasion. To get there, however, he had to get out of the Netherlands and travel through France, despite the fact that both nations were then occupied by Germany, in order to reach Switzerland and from there go to England for further travel to his homeland. In February 1942 he and a fellow student started their escape journey.
They left The Hague on February 10 and arrived six days later in the French town of Besançon near the Franco-Swiss border. The first attempt to cross the border failed because there was too much snow. Unfortunately they were caught during a second attempt, two days later. At first it seemed that they would get away with a prison sentence, because their action was looked upon as an amateurish attempt by distraught youngsters. But on 7 April 1942 they were sentenced to death.
Victor was allowed to write a letter to his older brother. In his letter he wrote, among other things: “I hope you understand that I had to do this. After all, I was planning to become an officer and the Indies were danger … I will never forget what they all (at home), in particular Mum and Dad, meant to me. … I ask forgiveness if I have caused them sorrow through this act, but I cannot help it. …. Keep up the good spirit! Your brother Vic. “
Two days later, on April 9, 1942, they were executed in Dijon. Victor Makatita was 22 years old.