This blog is part 12 of the story of 24-year-old Jew Egon Schoenberger and his flight from the Nazi Holocaust of World War II to New Zealand. Egon’s story has been adapted by Museum writers Greg Meylan and Kirsten MacFarlane, using archive material submitted to Auckland Museum by Egon’s New Zealand family. There will be 24 posts in total.
At the time of Egon’s arrival, Indonesia has endured three and half centuries of Dutch colonalism. It will be another six years before this archipelago of around 17,508 islands gains independence. The previous year, the Banda Sea region was rocked by a 8.5 magnitude earthquake which caused tsunamis but amazingly no recorded loss of lives. The Imperial Japanese forces invaded Sumatra in early 1942, taking it under their control. In 1944, a Japanese base on Sabang was the target of a dawn attack by the Allied Naval Forces. Here is what Egon records on his arrival in Sabang a month before WWII begins…
Sunday 20 August
“Sabang is a free port; therefore everyone leaves the ship in order to buy perfume, cigarettes and shirts. No passport formalities, something that we are not at all used to. Sabang is a village with a Javanese and Chinese population (the latter control trade). A small Dutch colony lives in tidy bungalows on a hill over the harbour. In the Societeit (club) I wait out a tropical downpour, brief but intense. A walk to Anak Laut in wonderful tropical vegetation is a small adventure. At twelve o’clock sharp, [the ship] moves on again. The passage is less monotonous since we are now entering into the Strait of Malacca and are travelling along [the coast of] Sumatra.
Previous blog: First encounter with Oriental world
Next blog: Singapore, the Gibraltar of the East
Throughout this series of 24 blog posts we’d love to hear from you. If you have any questions, would like to learn more about any aspects of Egon’s story or share your thoughts please use the comment box. We’ll do our very best to respond and answer your questions. And thank you to everyone who has commented so far.