took hostage

1977 Dutch school hostage crisis

On the morning of Monday, May 23 1977 four armed South-Moluccans took hostage of 105 children and their 5 teachers at a primary school in Bovensmilde in the Dutch province of Drenthe. At the same time nine others hijacked a train in the nearby De Punt. Both hostage crises lasted for 20 days before being ended by military interventions.


The South-Moluccans had arrived in the Netherlands for a temporary stay, promised by the Dutch government that they would get their own independent state, Republik Maluku Selatan (RMS). For about 25 years they lived in temporary camps, often in poor conditions. After these years the younger generation felt betrayed by the Dutch government for not giving them their independent state and they began radical actions to gain attention for their cause.


  • May 23 9:00AM:

When the hostage crises begins the children are forced to cover the windows with newspapers preventing the outside world from knowing what was happening inside.

  • May 25

The day of the elections for the national parliament. To increase pressure on the government the children are forced to shout out of the windows: "van Agt, we want to live". The first ultimatum expires at 14:00 without any problems. Later that day, additional demands are expressed.

  • May 27

All children are released because many children became ill from some unknown disease. The cause and nature of these disease is still unknown, but it is often speculated that the provided food might have been deliberately poisoned by authorities to force a break-through. Four teachers were retained as hostages.

  • June 11 5:00AM

Marines attack the school in the early morning, an armoured car and explosives punches a hole in the wall and marines enter the building. The Moluccans surrender without fight after hearing about the military attack on the train.


The 4 attackers were convicted with sentences varying from 6 to 9 years. The Moluccan community has never made any apologies, but two of the hijackers, motivated by born-again Christianity, have had a meeting with former victims in 2007.

Thirty years after the events in question, on May 23 2007, a monument was erected and the first memorial ceremony is held where symbolic white balloons were released.

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