Eighty years after the launch on 8 September 1938, the passenger ship Oranje continues to speak to the imagination with its iconic status and eventful history. Initially a liner between Indonesia and the Netherlands, it was soon deployed for a different purpose due to the Second World War.
What is there to see?
The exhibition, divided into two parts, illuminates both the history of the ship and personal stories of ‘returnees’.
For whom is this exhibition?
This exhibition is for real art lovers and this with an interest in cultural history.
How long will the exhibition be on view?
The exhibition can be visited until 18 July 2019, and is made possible by het Mondriaan Fonds and the BankGiro Loterij.
Where in the museum is the exhibition?
You will find the exhibition on the ‘MS Oranje | Changing course’ on the Northern wing of the National Maritime Museum.
MS Oranje The largest, finest and fastest passenger ship
In April 1937, under the direction of naval architect Huibert Nicolaas Prins, construction started of the passenger ship MS Oranje. A year and a half later this very luxurious ship was ready. It can be said that the MS Oranje was the largest, finest and fastest passenger ship ever built on an Amsterdam shipyard. This extraordinary ship offered space to no fewer than 700 passengers. It also included amusement: a cinema and a swimming pool were on board.
The MS Oranje was to serve as a liner between the Dutch East Indies and the Netherlands. Normally, this trip would take a month, but thanks to its powerful diesel engines sailed to the Dutch East Indies in three weeks!
From passenger ship to hospital ship
On 4 September 1939 the ship embarked upon its first voyage, but it was immediately interrupted off. The Second World War broke out, which meant there was a great risk of sea mines in the North Sea. The course of the MS Oranje changed to Sydney for this reason. Here, it was converted into a hospital ship and transported a total of 32,461 injured soldiers.
After the war the Oranje took many ex-detainees and allied soldiers back home. After almost 7 years the ship returned to its home port of Amsterdam and was restored to its previous state. However, liner shipping was no longer as popular as it used to be. Between 1945 and 1965 the ship served as a passenger ship for returnees, taking approx. 300,000 Indo people to their new homeland.
Television programme maker Coen Verbraak interviewed people who made the life-changing journey from East to West
Dieter van der Schilden shares his memories of the Oranje: ‘The Oranje was our ticket to a new life. That ship represented freedom. The overwhelming feeling was: we've survived. […] The ship was moored there in the hot sun with the red cross on the side. That was our escape route.’
After the Japanese surrender and the ensuing Indonesian National Revolution leading to independence, the first of thousands of migrants set sail from the Dutch East Indies (present-day Indonesia) to the Netherlands. An estimated 300,000 people made the voyage to their new home between 1945 and 1965. A few thousand of them travelled on the Oranje, the ship that changed the course of their lives. Especially for this exhibition, television programme maker Coen Verbraak spoke to ten people who travelled from Indonesia to the Netherlands on board the Oranje. These personal stories about leaving the land of their birth, their time on board, and their new lives in the Netherlands are told in a moving film. The film is screened as part of the exhibition, and powerful portraits of the individuals concerned – taken by photographer Jitske Schols – are also on display.