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Remembering Leiden-Indonesian resistance fighter Irawan Soejono

Large numbers of Indonesians were active members of the resistance during the Second World War. One of them was Irawan Soejono, a student at Leiden University. He was shot dead on Boommarkt, during a raid on 13 January 1945. Seventy-five years later he was remembered in a small ceremony in the very same spot by the children and grandchildren of Indonesian resistance members.

Irawan Soejono was born in East Java in 1920, to a good family: his father was a member of the People’s Council of the Dutch East Indies. The family moved to The Hague in 1930, and Soejono began his studies in Leiden in 1940, just before war broke out in the Netherlands. When the German occupier closed the University in 1941, after Rudolph Cleveringa had given his protest speech, Soejono continued his studies in Amsterdam. He joined the resistance in the same period.

In Leiden he and nine other Indonesian students formed a group within the Interior Forces. His codename was ‘Henk van de Bevrijding’ [Henk from the Resistance] and he was active for De Bevrijding, the resistance paper of Perhimpoenan Indonesia (PI), the Indonesian student organisation in the Netherlands. Their motto was ‘First liberate the Netherlands then Indonesia.’ For these resistance fighters the war did not end with the liberation of the Netherlands in 1945; they went on to fight for Indonesian independence. Soejono did not get to fight this battle: on 13 January 1945 he fled during a raid on Breestraat because he had typewriter parts on him, but was shot dead by a German soldier on Boommarkt. The members of his group renamed it ‘Irawan Group’ afterwards.

Children of PI fighters have come together to form the Merapi workgroup. Their aim is to keep the stories and memories of their parents alive. They held a memorial ceremony for Irawan Soejono on 2020 January 2020. At Boommarkt, on the spot where Soejono was shot, Murjani Kusumobroto gave a speech. Her father was a very good friend of Irawan. The workgroup also laid a wreath at the memorial stone for Soejono at Groenesteeg Cemetery. Soejono lay buried there until his body was taken for burial in Indonesia in 1946.

Text: Marieke Epping
Photos: Melissa Schriek

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