For more than twenty years now scholars have recognizing that when we talk about colonialism, we have to realize that it was much more complex than a simple story of the “colonizers” versus the “colonized,” because each of these categories was made up of diverse groups of people.
Ann Stoler, for instance, has written a lot about poor whites and people of mixed blood in European colonies, and she has examined how such people created problems for the categories and ideas about the colony that colonial officials tried to create and enforce.
[For one of her early works on this topic, see Ann Laura Stoler, “Rethinking Colonial Categories: European Communities and the Boundaries of Rule,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 31.1 (1989): 134-161.]
In addition to the diverse types of peoples that Stoler has talked about, there was also political diversity among both the colonizers and colonized as well. And this had implications for colonial societies.
While all of this is by now common sense, one example I had never thought of was the fact that there might have been Nazi supporters in European colonies.
I was looking through the online archive that the National Archives of Australia has (It’s wonderful!!!), and I came across a 1940 report from the British Consul-General at Batavia (now Jakarta) about suspected Nazi supporters or sympathizers in the Netherlands East Indies.
The Consul-General reported on a couple, the Marcellas, who had recently left the Dutch colony. Both suspected of sympathizing with the Nazis.
The Consul-General’s description of Mrs. Marcella is definitely worth quoting:
“Mrs. Marcella was even more dangerous than her husband. She is clever, unscrupulous and of striking, even startling, appearance; she has large brown eyes, a long cadaverous chalk-white face and lips coloured dark purple. She is tall and thin, dresses in her own fashion, and cultivates a mysterious manner.
“Possibly due to her appearance, she was believed to be a drug addict and to be of peculiar sexual habits.
“It was a good day for the Netherlands East Indies, my informant said, when Mr. and Mrs. Marcella left the country. This they did separately, Mr. Marcella for South Africa, and Mrs. Marcella later for Manila.
“The latter stayed behind to attend to the auction of their household affects and particularly, as she was careful to explain to me, to find good homes for her eleven Persian cats.”
A Nazi sympathizer of peculiar sexual habits who had eleven Persian cats. . . that was a dangerous woman indeed!!
The paintings in this post are from another great archive, the “The Dutch East Indies in photographs, 1860-1940” collection of the Koninklijk Instituut voor taal-, land- en volkenkunde (KITLV).
That is not a picture of Mrs. Marcella. This woman does not look evil at all, and therefore does not match the description of Mrs. Marcella given by the Consul-General. However, that painting was made in Batavia in the late 1930s. So maybe this was the matron of one of the good homes that one of Mrs. Marcella’s Persian cats was adopted into. . .