Darkness in Paradise: Memories of Omno VanDemmeltraad From His Youth in Indonesia During WWII, by Gloria VanDemmeltraadt ISBN 9781480815391
Four out of five stars
This book is basically a factual recollection of the experiences of Omno in his youth, where he was a young Dutch National living in Indonesia during the Depression and the Japanese occupation in World War II. While some aspects of the occupation were brutal, other than his soldier father spending years in a POW camp, the family emerged largely unscathed.
Omno witnessed bombing and other war events, yet mentions the positive actions of some of the Japanese soldiers he and other members of his family encountered. Some of the soldiers were conscripted Koreans that avoided engaging in the cruelty that they were expected to exhibit to the conquered. Many of his experiences during the war were things that boys would consider adventures.
In Indonesia, there was more dangerous violence after the war than there was during the war. When the war was over, the Dutch government tried to reassert control over Indonesia and criminal gangs arose that were thugs, although they professed to be fighting for independence. The growing oppression of those of Dutch ancestry led to his family moving to Holland.
Once in Holland, Omno and his family experienced the bias of the Dutch people towards those that moved into the country from former colonial lands. Eventually, Omno’s father went back to Indonesia in order to restart his business importing and servicing motorcycles.
Although Omno made his way to the United States after graduating from college in Holland, this autobiography largely ends with his arrival in the U. S. Structured as a history, there are no major revelations in the book. The most interesting aspect is the kindness expressed by some of the Japanese soldiers. One of them even smuggled clothing into the POW camp for the prisoners that were often in rags. With so many people living in occupied countries during the war, there are millions of such stories that could have been told. Each one adds something to the history of that time and this book is no exception.
This book was made available for free for review purposes.