Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Maria Hertogh Saga...part 6

Photo: Maria with her adopted sister in Kemaman, Trengganu 1999

After Maria was taken back to Holland in 1950, she eventually was reintegrated into the Roman Catholic faith. With marriage came children and the raising of a big family. However, she had never forgotten her adopted Malayan homeland especially her kampong friends whom she grew up with in Kemaman, Trengganu. She had longed especially to see Che Aminah her foster mother again. But times were hard and financial considerations did not allow this to happen.
It was sad that Che Aminah passed away in 1976 without seeing Maria again.

Then in 1999, Maria's dream of returning to her kampong days were fulfilled. She was in the news again when she made that eventful trip to meet up with her kampong friends ( those that were left...and there were many who still remembered her and vice-versa, with great fondness and nostalgia ). Maria also met up with Che Aminah's family, including an adopted sister who was actually Japanese ( as seen in the photo above). They were together in the kampong after the war until 1950.

Maria's gripping life story has been the subject of many books, plays and even movies.
When I did some basic research on the internet I was especially glad that quite a number of our schools had their students doing presentations and projects based on not only Maria's story but the lessons that can be learnt from the whole saga. They had compiled their own video clips or photos found in the net and other places to showcase their viewpoints.

Then on July 10, last year, I got quite a shock when I saw this piece of breaking news on Straits Times online.
The main character in this historical saga has finally departed the scene where, for more than a time, she was on the world's foremost stage and attention.

Breaking News > Singapore > Story
July 10, 2009
Maria Hertogh dies

Born in 1937 in Java, Ms Hertogh (above) was adopted by a Malay woman during World War II when she was five years old. -- ST FILE PHOTO


THE young Dutch girl at the centre of a highly publicised custody battle that sparked the 1950 Maria Hertogh riots has died, Bernama reported on Thursday.
Ms Hertogh died of leukaemia in Huijbergen, the Netherlands, on Wednesday. She was 72.
In 1950, when the High Court in Singapore awarded custody of the 13-year-old girl back to her biological Catholic Dutch parents, the ruling ignited three days of riots. Eighteen people were killed and 173 injured.
Ms Hertogh's name has come up in issues involving race and religion in Singapore ever since.
Last month, Deputy Public Prosecutor Anandan Bala raised the spectre of the Maria Hertogh riots when he pushed for jail terms for a Christian couple sentenced to eight weeks in prison for distributing and possessing seditious publications.
Born in 1937 in Java, Ms Hertogh was adopted by a Malay woman during World War II when she was five years old. Her parents had been interned as prisoners of war after the Japanese invaded Java.
The little girl was brought up as a Muslim and took on a Malay name, Nadra Ma'arof. Troubles began when the Hertoghs tried to claim their daughter back after the Japanese surrendered.
What followed was a legal tussle between the Hertoghs and Cik Aminah, Ms Hertogh's foster mother, which played out for more than half a year under intense media scrutiny.
In mid-December 1950, Maria and her mother left Singapore for the Netherlands.
Learning from the lessons of one of the worst race riots in Singapore, the Singapore Government chose to emphasise multi-culturalism and the importance of race relations.
Read the full story in Friday's edition of The Straits Times.


Yeo said...

Heart touching story... Just studied about her in school.

Yeo said...

heart touching, learnt about her in school for the past month!

Yeo said...

heart touching, learnt about her in school for the past month!

Anonymous said...

yes I agree its better for us to learn of her , the struggles of the times and what happened to the two families. Better than learning shakespeare. honestly . i read her story from a book in the library..My heeart went out to her,aminah and their stories. they both suffered...
no one won. both sides lost what was dear to them. I dont think Maria recovered seeing how her adult life suffered...so many children , husbands and the devastation in her life. KNowing her real mother gave her away. I wonder if she was ever given counselling. so sad for the little girl to carry such baggage into adulthood

Unk Dicko said...

It's a valuable though painful part of our history. The lessons learnt from the way this entire episode was mismanaged by the authorities in charge back then provided much food for thought for the later Govt of S'pore under LKY.