Monday, April 7, 2014

Imperial Past Returns to Haunt the Netherlands

In July 2012 a Dutch national newspaper, de Volkskrant, published two photos on its front page showing Dutch soldiers brutally shooting dead unarmed victims in a mass grave. The images were shocking to a nation that prides itself as being upright and humanitarian.  Never mind that the photos were nearly 70 years old. Found in a rubbish tip, they were, in fact, the first ever photos to be published of Dutch soldiers killing Indonesians during a war of decolonization that is still euphemistically referred to as “Police Actions.”  

To read the rest of my article click here to visit the Centre for Imperial and Global History at the University of Exeter.


  1. It seems inevitable.. and important to show.

    Unless a nation at war manages to totally censor _every_ private letter, every newspaper journalist and every box camera, something will get out about what happened in the battle. That the photos belong to another era and another place is no comfort at all - people do disgusting things in battle, against soldiers or civilians or nuns for that matter. Even the Dutch.

    Every time I see the British Army put their own 18 year old boys into No Man's Land for wandering away with shell shock, I know there is no moral baseline below which we cannot fall. Why didn't the British Army simply massacre their own boy soldiers, rather than getting the German machine gunners to do it?

  2. Could I translate this post for my blog ( I'm a professor at Thanks

  3. See at:

    1. Thanks for publishing this Spanish translation of my article.