The Ultimate Punishment

by Letty den Ouden

Age nine is young to be separated from one's parents. This was my lot when I, together with my brother Gerard and sister Ank, stayed with foster parents in the Netherlands for my education, while my parents, the Ploos van Amstels, my sister Carla and little brother Bob lived in Batavia. How I missed their hugs and kisses! They once came for a holiday. What a happy time! But after they left, the loneliness set in again.

In March 1940 my father, Elisa, a successful business man, made a trip to Holland to check if the rumours were true that Germany was about to invade neighbouring countries. I was then sixteen. He found that all was quiet in Holland, and therefore cancelled the plane reservations to take us back to the Dutch East Indies. He had no inkling that just two months later Germany would invade Holland. My father only had stayed for two weeks, and that was to be the last time that I would see him. For some strange reason, when he arrived back in Batavia he said to my mother, "I have seen the children for the last time." I have always wondered what went through my mother's mind when she heard him say that.

My father was picked up by the Japanese in May 1942, and jailed in prison Struiswijk. Shortly after, they let him go again, putting him to work in an office with other entrepreneurs to keep businesses and plantations going as well as possible. My father was considered to be the leader.

He seriously questioned whether he should let himself be used this way but decided that this way he still could help the people and his church without really compromising himself. He used the opportunity well. With the help of the church council, he organized an underground support group. They collected money to help women and children who were left without income because their husbands and fathers had been locked up in camps. Eventually most of the women and children also were imprisoned.

My father continued with this work until he was ordered to do something his conscience would not allow him. As a result he and sixteen of his co-workers were taken in by the Kempeitai. My father was tortured, but he would not yield to his captors, preferring to die instead.

He and the members of his group were beheaded without any form of process. The date of execution was September 23, 1943. His grave is in the Antjol cemetery near Tandjong Priok, where so many victims of Japan's campaign of terror were laid to their rest.

In 1947 when I visited my father's grave - it overlooks the wide open Java Sea - I was filled with sadness, but I also knew deep in my heart that his strong belief in God had given him the courage to face this ultimate punishment.

The communal grave where
Elisa Ploos van Amstel
lies buried.

For a similar account in Dutch from a book called Libertas ex Veritate, click the link below:

Elisa Ploos van Amstel