This blog is part 14 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.
There is much activity below decks as the Marnix approaches Batavia (now Jakarta), with passengers packing in preparation for departure. Once docked, the passengers bound for Australia and New Zealand, ready themselves for a train journey through the night to Surabaya. With only a few hours to tour the sights of Batavia, Egon takes a taxi ride to Hotel des Indes but wastes precious time taking a circuitous route with a driver who speaks not a word of English. Hotel des Indes was once one of Asia’s most glamorous hotels, frequented by countless famous patrons (it was demolished to make way for a shopping mall in the 1970s).
In the open-air dining room, Egon enjoys a simple meal of rice and vegetables served by Javanese boys. In a few years time, his mother and sister, will be interned in the primitive conditions of Camp de Gurs, beneath the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains in southern France. Egon will eventually learn of his mother’s daring escape bid to cross the Pyrenees into Spain – and more will be revealed in a later blog.
Thurday 24 August (continued)
“At 8 o’clock precisely the ship docks. Now begins the great welcome of the returnees home from Holland and at the same time also the good-bye of the departees, who from Batavia are traveling some to Manila-Shanghai, some to Sidney direct, some to Australia via New Zealand. I belong to the last group.
We have until 18 o’clock in the evening to see something of Batavia. I now travel with the train to Batavia Koningsplein, the centre of the city. From the train station, I walk around a little and get as a first impression “in Batavia one cannot go on foot; everybody travels by bicycle, car or taxi”. The city is so irregularly built that one can walk on the broad streets for a very long time and still not get anywhere. Because it is very difficult to communicate with the taxi drivers except in Malay, I make a city tour of numerous kilometres before I land at the right address in order to make a visit.
A midday I get invited to a Dutch-Indian specialty of the famous rice table in Batavia’s first hotel, “Hotel des Indes”. The hotel is wonderfully built. Large spacious halls, open on all sides, provide for pleasant ventilation. Now, the rice table consists of very dry steamed rice and an unbelievable amount of side dishes of salads, meat, fish, sauces, vegetables that are offered in sequence by Javanese boys. Then beer is drunk. In the afternoon I take a look at the beautiful swimming pool “Batavia”. In the evening at six o’clock we travel with the night train through all of Java to Surabaya.”
Previous blog: Singapore, the Gibraltar of the East
Next blog: A change of ship
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.