South Sulawesi Reconsidered

a Dutch-Indonesian project on colonial violent events on South Sulawesi 1946.

Jakarta (Indonesia) / The Hague (Netherlands), may 2018

Project brief

The project South Sulawesi Reconsidered (SSR) aims at connecting colonial history between Indonesia and the Netherlands with regard to the so called South Sulawesi Campaign.

The Sulawesi Campaign is regarded as one of the most violent episodes in the colonial endgame of the Netherlands and Indonesia. This event started in December 1946 and lasted for twelve weeks. Thousands were killed in a brutal counter-insurgency campaign.

Until now, there was hardly any mutual Indonesian-Dutch reflexing on the events in Sulawesi. This project aims at connecting multiple perspectives, emotions and opinions.

The project is organized by publisher Obor in Jakarta and author Maarten Hidskes in the Netherlands.

Hidskes previously investigated the active participation of his father in the Sulawesi actions. His book At home, no one believes me (Di Belanda, tak seorang pun mempercayai saya, Dutch: Thuis geloof niemand mij) will be published by publisher Obor in Indonesia at the end of September 2018.

The project will be situated on Java, Sulawesi and Kalimantan, starting with the book launch at 28 September 2018.

Painful research into a father’s colonial past

Dutch author Maarten Hidskes conducted research on the role of his father in Indonesia in 1946 afer joining the Depot Speciale Troepen, an elite military unit, commanded by Captain Westerling. Only afer his father’s death Maarten became fully aware of his father’s role in colonial violence. For twelve weeks, his father Piet acted in an atmosphere where any sane judgement over life and death had evaporated. With a shock Maarten discovered his father volunteered for summary executions. During his life, Maarten’s father never talked about his inner thoughts or whereabouts during the Sulawesi time. Afer his death, Maarten approached former fellow special troopers of the DST. In time, these causious old men gave insights in their inner emotional world during the executions on Sulawesi, half a century earlier.

In his non fiction book Di belanda tak seorang pun mempercayai saya Hidskes tries to uncover the events from the persepective of his father. He uses interviews, secret intelligence reports and private, undisclosed archives to reconstruct the insane environment in which his father acted for three months. What were his fathers inner thoughts during the executions? How did his father transformed from a decent, ordinary serviceman to someone who mechanically executed people on the spot?

Although his work is fact based, Hidskes doesn’t want to value his book as the only truth. “I discovered that this history contains a lot of pain and multiple truths. In the last five colonial years, multiple worlds co-existed and intermingled. If we want to develop a deeper understanding of what happened, we’ll have to respect this multi-sided character of history.”

Hidskes emphasizes that he represents only himself and his father. “In my book I don’t want to accuse and I don’t want to defend. I hope my own vulnerability will contribute to an atmosphere of mutual openess. The project succeeds when it will create shared feelings and insights. I hope the project encourages a young Indonesian into research on the whereabouts of his or her Indonesian family during this dark period.”

Project goals

The project aims to provide greater insight into and transparency of the shared Dutch-Indonesian history with focus on the Sulawesi Campaign. Dialogue, improved awareness of our mutual past and connecting several histories are set out as goals of this project. The discussion may bring to surface personal motives and insights, and Hidskes and Obor hope that people are encouraged to exchange their opinions. A main condition for the discussions is respect for the mutiple ownership of the story. The dialogue is characterised by an open, inquisitive approach, focussed on showing variety. Even conflicting or excluding versions of history could arise and should be judged usefull.

The project is of interest for Indonesian (and Dutch) relatives of former fighters, veterans, academics and individuals with an interest in colonial violence, in particular the Sulawesi Campaign.

Project activities

From September onwards, publisher Obor and the author organize nearly 16 discussions and meetings throughout Indonesia. Main locations are on Sulawesi, Java and Kalimantan. The theme of At home, no one believes me is only a starting point of the discussion. Several Indonesian historians will be invited to join the discussions.



  • This project is financially supported by the shared cultural heritage program of Dutch Culture, Amsterdam and by publisher Yayasan Pustaka Obor, Jakarta. With the kind support of Atlas Contact, publisher, Amsterdam and the support of Foundation South Sulawesi Reconsidered.