Of all the people my mother mentioned in her camp journal on which part of my book is based, only three are still alive. They are Corrie den Hoed, Rob Vierhout and I. Corrie and Rob live in the Netherlands, I in the United States. The following is an eyewitness testimony by Corrie den Hoed in her own words.
“A little girl of five, I felt very much alone in the world right after the war. I had lost my mother and her unborn baby just before I was incarcerated by the Japanese in a camp on the island of Sumatra. Her grave was washed away by a torrential flood; we have never been able to locate it.
After the Japanese surrender my father, who had narrowly escaped torture by the extremists fighting for their independence, finally found me and we went to live in Surabaya where he became the district manager in the Darmo area. We became friends with the Herman family who lived close by. Tante (aunt) Netty was so wonderful; she became a second mother to me. I loved to play with Ronny and Paula and we went to the same school. We all eventually ended up in the Netherlands; in 1998 Oom (uncle) Fokko died; then, unexpectedly, Paula died in April 2011 and Tante Netty in November 2011. She was almost 102 years old and until the end of her life she was always thankful, loving and hospitable. She saw the silver lining of every threatening cloud.
For me, Ronny’s book Rising from the Shadow of the Sun is truly a Story of Love, Survival and Joy. Part One, based on Tante Netty’s camp diary, fills in the gaps of my life in the camps as a toddler and has happy memories of the years thereafter. For you, the reader, it may fill in the gaps of four years in WWII history when innocent women and children were incarcerated, tortured and starved to death by a ruthless army of Japanese and it will tell you about women’s strength in dire situations. Women survived because of the love for their children. Part Two, Ronny’s Memoir, shows the resilience of the human spirit, which makes it possible to truly survive deprivation and misery and find joy in life.”
Two days before Paula died Corrie visited her in the hospital: the last friend to see her alive. Paula died alone. Always my little sister’s protector during our early years in the camps and thereafter, I could not be with her at the time of her death. I will always regret it.
Until next time,