Bung Tomo: War criminal or Hero

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Bung Tomo: War criminal or Hero

Type: Master thesis
Title: Bung Tomo: War criminal or Hero
Author: Pagee, Marjolein, van
Issue Date: 2019-12-21
Keywords: Indonesian Independence War
Bung Tomo
Anti-colonial Violence
National Memory
Dutch Colonialism
Simpang Club
Abstract: This thesis focuses on the role of the Indonesian propagandist Sutomo (or Bung Tomo) during the Indonesian revolution in Surabaya, 1945, questioning the Dutch and Indonesian different perspectives and memory. Nowadays in Indonesia Sutomo is remembered as a hero, yet in the Dutch historiography he is often portrayed as a war criminal, responsible for inciting the masses to kill Dutch, Eurasians and other minorities. One Dutch testimony in particular holds him accountable for the brutal massacre in the Simpang Club. This case-study analyses the different views on Indonesian anti-colonial violence during the so-called "Bersiap-period" and how Bung Tomo became the personification of these brutalities for the Dutch memory in particular. How does the latter relate to the Indonesian positive memory of him? As such, the topic of this thesis also relates to the growing academic attention to the Bersiap, in which terminology (should we call it a genocide) and the possible trigger (why did it happen) are the main topics of discussion. The first section provides a brief historical outline from the pre-war colonial situation to the Japanese occupation and finally the capitulation on August 15th, 1945. To give a clear understanding of the variety of social and political factors that led to the violent outburst of the Bersiap. The second section traces the basic history of Sutomo and his place in Surabaya and the first two months of the revolution in September and October 1945. This includes an analysis of the horrible events inside the Simpang Club. The third section pays attention to the period after he established his organization BPRI, when he became internationally known as radio-maker, actively countering Dutch propaganda. This section aims to explore the possibility of a Dutch slander campaign against him and the subsequent impact of that on the later historiography and memory. The conclusion returns to the main question on how to make sense of the conflicting memories of Bung Tomo. The conclusion also touches upon the larger question regarding the responsibility for the Bersiap and whether the term genocide is appropriate in this case.
Supervisor: Mark, Ethan
Faculty: Faculty of Humanities
Department: History (Master)
Specialisation: colonial and global history
ECTS Credits: 30
Handle: http://hdl.handle.net/1887/67954

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