It’s a miracle we survived – not only the years of imprisonment but the aftermath of the Japanese occupation. There was a full-scale revolution going on in Java, where the Japanese had for years brain-washed the younger generations of Indonesians to throw off the colonial yoke. The rampaging Indonesian youths (pemudas) imprisoned the Japanese, whom they had come to view as detested occupiers, then turned on us, hated colonials. They murdered a sizable number of former civilian prisoners, including women and children, before the British troops finally landed on Java and evacuated us to Singapore. Not too many people know about our plight during this political vacuum, yet it is part of World War II history.
My mother and I were eventually reunited with my father and Ivan in Surabaya. By then the city had become a cauldron of seething fanaticism and hatred. We barely escaped being attacked and butchered as we were taken to the harbor in a convoy of trucks with a Ghurka soldier positioned on the roof of each one, machine-gun ready. We traveled between thick rows of angry natives, hissing at us and looking very threatening. It was a great relief to embark on a British landing craft and watch Surabaya disappear in the distance.
We had been totally at the mercy of the Japanese occupiers, then again at the mercy of the rioting Indonesians. It was a wonderful relief to arrive in Singapore, even though we landed in another camp. But this was very different. We were free, we were well-fed, and – above all – we were safe!
We learned later that the atomic bombs had ended the war. It killed many Japanese civilians, men, women and Children, but it also wsaved hundreds of thousands oflives of prisoners of the Japanese, like us. Violence, death and destruction are inevitable in wars, but we have to take a balanced view, because all sides suffer casualties. In the end, nobody wins.
This concludes the memoir of Vera Radó, who survived to tell her story, lest we forget. Vera currently lives in Australia.
Next week you will find excerpts from the memoir of camp survivor on Java, who currently lives in Canada.
I welcome your comments and additions. Please let me know your thoughts.
Until next time,