Maria Hertogh Riots


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18 people were killed and 173 were injured during the Maria Hertogh riots. For three days, mobs of Malay and Indian Muslim rioters attacked any European and Eurasian in sight. They set up barricades along major roads, set cars and houses on fire and took control of districts in the vicinity of Sultan Mosque, North Bridge Road and Jalan Besar. Rioting was stopped only after two troops of the Internal Security Battalion were called in, supported by several Malays within the troops. Even so, scattered attacks continued over two days. A 24-hour curfew had to be imposed for two weeks before the Constabulary regained control of the situation.

Bang Bang

Background: Maria Bertha Hertogh a.k.a. Nadra bte Maarof (sometimes spelt Natra) (born 24 March 1937, Tjimahi, Java) was the central focus of racial riots, sparked off by controversy over her custody between her Malay-Muslim foster mother Aminah and her Dutch-Catholic parents, the Hertoghs.

The Japanese invasion of Java during World War II saw Maria’s father become a prisoner-of-war in 1943. Maria’s mother gave Maria to the care of a family friend, Aminah bte Mohammad, on 15 November 1942. Maria was raised as a Muslim and given the name Nadra bte Maarof at her circumcision a year later. In 1947, fearing that Maria’s Dutch background made her vulnerable during the Indonesian War of Independence, Aminah and Maria fled to Terengganu, Malaysia. She grew up in Aminah’s hometown Kemaman.

After the war, Maria’s parents began seeking for their lost daughter.  The authorities spotted Maria at a school competition in Kemaman. A custody battle then ensued over Maria, which, through sensationalist press reports, drew much public attention and fuelled religious sensitivities.  Initially, custody of Maria was given to Aminah. Within four days of the ruling, on 1 August 1950, Maria was married off to Mansoor Adabi, a 22-year-old teacher at Bukit Panjang Government School (Singapore) heading a second-year Normal Class. The marriage of the juvenile 13-year old-Maria was raised in court, at Adeline’s appeal for custody over Maria. On 2 December 1950, custody over Maria was gained by Adeline who whisked her to Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Update: Ms Hertogh died of leukaemia in Huijbergen, the Netherlands, on 8 July 2009. She was 72. Maria married a Dutch cabinet maker, Johan (Joep) Gerardus Wolkenfeld, on 20 April 1956 at the age of 19 and they had 10 children. In a 1975 television production on Maria’s story stirred up Maria’s unhappy memories and led her to tragic actions. Miserable over working at her husband’s cafe-cum-bar, the “T Pumpke”, from early morning to midnight, she plotted to murder her husband through two friends but the plans were found out and she was brought to court on 16 August 1976. However, after reviewing her tragic past, Maria was acquitted within one day of hearing. Her marriage ended by the 1980s. Maria was extremely unhappy. Many times she expressed her desire to return back to Singapore but could not due to financial difficulties. She has said that her happiest times were her childhood in Singapore.

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