Evy Poetiray

13.06.1918 - 27.08.2016
Evy Poetiray © KITLV

19-year-old Indonesian Evy Poetiray came to the Netherlands in 1937 to study. Three years later, the Netherlands was occupied by Nazi Germany. Evy resisted the Nazi regime. As a young woman, she helped people in hiding and distributed resistance newspapers.

Indonesia, then called the Dutch East Indies, was a colony of the Netherlands. There were 800 to 1,000 Indonesians living in the Netherlands in 1940. Like many Indonesian students in the Netherlands, Evy Poetiray was a member of the student association Perhimpoenan Indonesia (PI). The PI members were in favour of Indonesian independence and opposed to Dutch colonial rule. But they were also against the racist Nazi regime. After the German invasion the PI members had to decide if they would now fight on the side of their colonial oppressor. The board called upon members to resist the German occupation.

The PI was forbidden by the German occupiers, but the members continued working together in the resistance. Evy: It was well organised. Out of five people, only one person was in contact with the leadership of Perhimpunan Indonesia. We met every week.”Evy hid people in her house and began distributing resistance newspapers. “Distributing those magazines was very dangerous, but I was young and I dared to do so.” Evy worked closely with Dutch members of the resistance. “The Indonesians constantly appealed to the conscience of the Dutch. Because they themselves were now being oppressed, they came to understand the Indonesian struggle. And they published articles about the independence of Indonesia.”

People of colour were seen as inferior by the Nazis, but they were not actively persecuted. As a young woman of colour, Evy was not easily suspected. She never got into trouble because of her resistance work.

After the liberation of the Netherlands, Evy dedicated herself to Indonesian independence. She was very disappointed when the Netherlands did not recognise Indonesia’s independence after the Second World War and started a war to regain control over its colony. After four years of war, and under international pressure, the Netherlands recognised Indonesia’s independence in 1949.