100.000: The magic victim number

Historian Bart Luttikhuis examines the origins of the widely-used estimate of 100,000 Indonesian victims of the Dutch-Indonesian War of Decolonization (1945-1950), and calls into question its accuracy. Ultimately, he wonders, does the number really matter?

Rode Kruis Oedjoengbroeng Red Cross Oedjoengbroeng

Door Bart Luttikhuis

Why is it that humanitarian tragedies seem more tragic if we can quantify them?

Unsolved questions surround the number of victims in the Dutch-Indonesian War of Decolonization. Dutch military casualties have been meticulously registered and come to either just under 5000 or around 6000 (including victims of accidents and illness), depending on how you count. (Indo-)European civilian victims of Indonesian violence number either between 5000 and 10,000 or between 20,000 and 40,000, depending on who you ask. But the most uncertainty remains around the number of Indonesian victims, both of Dutch military violence and of internal Indonesian conflicts. 

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journalist/ writer, print, television, radio photographer
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