Studio portrait of Jan O'Herne, taken at Bandoengan, Java, shortly before she was interned with ...

Accession Number P02652.001
Collection type Photograph
Object type Negative
Place made Netherlands East Indies: Java
Date made 1942
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945

Item copyright: Copyright expired - public domain

Public Domain Mark This item is in the Public Domain


Studio portrait of Jan O'Herne, taken at Bandoengan, Java, shortly before she was interned with her mother and two sisters along with other Dutch citizens by the Japanese Imperial Army after its capture of Java on 8 March 1942. The prison camp was in a disused and condemned army barracks at Ambarawa in Central Java. On the 26 February 1944 a truck arrived at the camp and all the girls seventeen years old and above were forced to line up in the compound. The ten most attractive girls, including Jan O'Herne, were selected by Japanese officers and told to pack a bag quickly. The girls were taken to a house surrounded by barbed wire in Selarang, forty-seven kilometres away. Seven of the girls remained here, the others taken somewhere else. This house subsequently became known as "The House of the Seven Seas", a military brothel, and the girls were now enslaved for the pusposes of sexual abuse by the Japanese military (known as 'comfort women'). Over the next four months the girls, who were all virgins, were repeatedly raped and beaten. They were then moved to another camp at Bogor in West Java and reunited with their families. This camp was exclusively for girls who had been put into military brothels. Under threats of death to themselves and their families, they were forced into silence. After a couple of months they were again transferred to a camp at Batavia (Djakarta). This camp was liberated on 15 August 1945. Jan married one of the liberating soldiers, Tom Ruff, in 1946 and emigrated to Australia in 1960. At the invitation of the Dutch organisation, the Foundation of Japanese Honorary Debts, Jan spoke of her wartime experiences at the International Public Hearing of Japanese War Crimes in Tokyo on 9 - 10 December 1992.