It is heart breaking to realise how many lives are broken and lost during war time. Even after the endurance of extreme hardship there is no guarantee that your fellow countrymen will welcome you home with medals and sympathy. How do you cope with a shattered life, on-going poverty and your health blighted by past experience? Well some, like Paula Kogel, write down every painful word, no matter how hard, and remind the world that war is not about great battles and generals dripping with ribbons, itâ€™s about everyday families caught in the crossfire of nations and the hollow echo of their experiences upon the next generation.
The House at Ampasiet is a book written in back flashes, moments in time that are frozen forever in Paulaâ€™s mind. The contrast of a train trip to Batavia with her husband and young children, the heat and the buskers resonating like a brave new world, to her abject terror living within the Tjideng prisoner of war camp, facing inhuman cruelty, protecting her two young sons from starvation as inmates died all around them.
This also highlights a time in Dutch history that is long ignored. Dutch Citizens returning from far-flung post were considered a burden to the local population, and instead of being welcomed home the survivors were forced into camps, pilloried by locals and faced a permanent loss of normality in their lives. It is rare to find a memoir that can span such contrasting experiences with a voice as memorable as Paulaâ€™s.
by Cassy Green
Paula Kogel's book The House at Ampasiet was published posthumously by her daughter Lore van Vuuren-Ridings.