In Japanese Captivity: Story of a Teenager in Wartime Java – part 3

Vera Radó:

A women’s camp was set up in one of the suburbs of Surabaya, called the “Darmo Camp”. It held about 6000 women, whose husbands had been interned, and their children. The gates finally closed on them in January 1943. My father, along with a small number of other Europeans who worked in essential industries and services, was still needed, so we were still free. The Japanese had no army doctors with them, so they imposed on my father and about a dozen other physicians at all times of the day, mostly to treat them for venereal diseases. However, as the last of the white population was clapped into prison, our turn came too.

Doomsday arrived on 31st August 1943, the Dutch queen’s birthday. My brother and I had to go to Council Chambers in the morning on official business, and when we returned at lunchtime, my father had already been taken away by Japanese soldiers. They had ordered my mother to pack for herself and us and be ready to be interned in a couple of hours. The time lapse had given my Mum a spell to figure out what to pack, and to this day I have to praise her for her presence of mind. I watched her as she pulled out the bottom drawer of her dressing table, and upended it into her suitcase. It was full of patent medicines. By this act of foresight she saved my life – and that of a few others.

Presently, the Japanese returned, and we were taken by ‘dokkar’ (horse-drawn carriage) to Werfstraat Jail, a regular jail for criminals, murderers, thieves and what-have-you, which also served to house political prisoners. At the gate we had to say goodbye to Ivan, who was led away to the men’s section. We joined a queue of women and children, amongst whom we recognized friends and acquaintances. We were registered, stripped of money and jewelry, and led away in small groups.

To be continued…

I welcome your comments and additions; please let me know your thoughts.

Until next time,



4 thoughts on “In Japanese Captivity: Story of a Teenager in Wartime Java – part 3”

  1. Thank you, Ronny. This is a wonderful service you are providing. I hope you can keep it up for a long time.

    • Thank you John.
      I’d like to invite you both to my PowerPoint presentation at the new Peregrine Book Company on Cortez next Saturday May 25 at 2:00 p.m. I know you already have my book, but I would love to have an audience

  2. Just a bit of information on Werfstraat Jail, Ronny. In Soerabaja there were two jails – Boeboetan in the ‘upper city'(bovenstad) and Werfstraat in the ‘lower city'(benedenstad).
    The Darmo Camp was located in a south-western suburb (Darmo-buurt) of Soerabaja, and consisted of a large section of houses and streets which had been closed off with a barbed wire and gedek (woven bamboo) fence, including a barbed wire gate which was permanently cosed in January 1943, so that nobody could go in or out without being checked by the Japs. Also a kind of jail, in fact. Werfstraat was a rat-infested old jail, used for political prisoners as well as criminals. Boeboetan held mostly public servants, including teachers, and businessmen. Darmo was used for women and children of men who were interned and some sick and/or elderly couples. Love, Vera

    • Vera, thank you for giving us more information!
      I have an Indo friend here in town who, after he read your story, told me that his two cousins were in Werfstraat jail. They survived as well.
      Love your additional comments; keep them coming.
      Love, Ronny


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