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Troosmeisjes cover


Introduction: Shame and innocence

“Comfort Women” they are called. But these veiled words can not take away the pain and the shame of the forced prostitution during World War II. In most cases this is kept quiet - by victims, perpetrators and government leaders. The taboo is persistent, even sixty years onward. Hilde Janssen discovered as much during her quest to find “comfort women” in Indonesia.

For the Japanese military the comfort women system was a pragmatic policy. It was meant to prevent venereal diseases and mass rape. The interviewed women tell a different story. They were kidnapped, threatened, snatched from the streets by force or with false promises, dragged from their homes or summoned by village chiefs and then systematically raped in military brothels but also in barracks, factory warehouses, railroad wagons and tent camps. Gripping stories and portraits of now old women, for whom the war never ended.

Journalist Hilde Janssen and photographer Jan Banning visited some fifty Indonesian women who during the war were victims of forced sexual labour. This resulted into the following:

1/ The Dutch language textbook "Schaamte en onschuld. Het verdrongen oorlogsverleden van troostmeisjes in Indonesië" (Shame and Innocence. The suppressed war past of comfort women in Indonesia), by Hilde Janssen, published by  Nieuw Amsterdam, ISBN 9789046807132.

The bilingual Dutch and English photo book "Troostmeisjes/Comfort Women", by Jan Banning, with an introduction by Hilde Janssen, published by Ipso Facto Utrecht/Seltmann+Söhne Lüdenscheid (Germany), ISBN 9789077386071.

The photo exhibiton "Comfort Women". Netherlands premiere in the Kunsthal in Rotterdam (April 2010). Indonesian premiere in the Erasmushuis in Jakarta (August 2010).

"Omdat wij mooi waren/Because we were beautiful". A documentary film following Hilde Janssen and Jan Banning during their quest to find Indonesian comfort women. Produced by Van Osch Filmproducties. This documentary has been broadcasted on Dutch television on 15 August 2010.


"My whole torso has been battered. My body can not forget it. The pain remains in my heart."
Icih (83)

"I so much wanted to be ugly. They ugly girls they quickly sent away. I had to stay."
Emah (83)


"What could I do? I was just fourteen. I wanted to live. But I felt dirty, impure and I still feel ashamed."
Paini (79)