1977 Dutch school hostage crisis

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

1977 Dutch school hostage crisis
School Bovensmilde na aanval met muur waardoor tank reed, Bestanddeelnr 929-2247.jpg
The school after the military intervention
LocationFlag of the Netherlands.svg Bovensmilde, Netherlands
Coordinates52°58′30″N 6°28′46″E / 52.9751°N 6.4794°E / 52.9751; 6.4794Coordinates: 52°58′30″N 6°28′46″E / 52.9751°N 6.4794°E / 52.9751; 6.4794
Date23 May – 11 June 1977
TargetPrimary school
Attack type
WeaponsGuns / Handguns
PerpetratorsMoluccan youth (4 perpetrators)
MotiveA free South Moluccan Republic (Republik Maluku Selatan)


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.


  • 09:00 23 May

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.

  • 25 May

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.

  • 27 May

All the children are released because many children have become 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 with laxatives by authorities to force a break-through, this is substantiated by a statement from Dutch Prime Minister Dries Van Agt in a Dutch documentary where he said "Ik vind het een uitstekend idee (…) een laxeermiddel hebben we allemaal wel eens nodig."[I think it's a great idea (…) everybody needs a laxative now and then.].[1] Four teachers were retained as hostages.

  • 05:00 11 June

Marines attack the school in the early morning, an armoured car and explosives punched a hole in the wall and marines entered the building. The Moluccans surrendered without a fight after hearing about the subsequent military attack on the train at "De Punt".


The four attackers were convicted with sentences varying from six to nine years.

The Moluccan community has never made any apologies, but two of the hostage takers, motivated by born-again Christianity, have had a meeting with former victims in 2007.[2]

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

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