Japanese Concentration Camps – World War Two

Held by the Kempeitai – Part Three

Terror struck my heart. There it was! Clanking noises. The iron gate opened and the mantri (Indonesian guard) mentioned me to come, not saying a word. I entered the room. White walls. A Japanese Kempeitai officer sat behind a table while an Indonesian translator sat beside it. Did I know so and so? No? You must know him! The Jap stood up and belted me one across the face. Speak up! I know you were at his house. Another belt right across my nose. Blood gushed onto the floor. There was a wash basin in the corner with a rubber hose. The translator pointed to it. If you don’t say the name, we will pump your belly full of water and stomp on it, he explained. I urinated in my shorts. Nothing more happened and I returned to my cell.

In the first camp, I had brushed my knee against a tree, breaking the skin. After several days this opening started festering and by now had become five times the original size and was oozing pus. Days went by. I had a lot of pain and was feverish. When I managed to attract the mantri’s attention, he looked at my wound and said I should go to the saal sakit (sick ward). That afternoon I was moved to a long low building with rows of beds. Beds! What a luxury! Later I found myself wishing for a concrete slab. The beds were infested with armies of lice and the itching was soon unbearable. My wound took a turn for the worse and now covered my whole knee. I could no longer stand. The mantra had gedebok pisang (the outer layer of the banana tree trunk) which he cut into ribbons. I nearly died when he attempted to cleanse the wound with salt. He had only quinine pills for malaria fever. These he crushed, sprinkling the powder on the wound, and bandaging it with gedebok. Between the pain, the itching and the moans of the dysentery sufferers around me, I did not sleep much.

There were maggots in my wound and I also came down with dysentery, but there was no pain. One afternoon they came for me. I was carried out on a stretcher to the same room with the white walls and the table. On that table was a large magneto, the kind of ignition magneto that was used in the first auto and marine engines. This one was extra large and it had a crank at the end. Wires hung from it. My stretcher was put on the floor. Judging by the reaction of the two men I must have smelled bad. Again they posed the same question “Do you know?” Again I denied it. The men then picked up the wires and wrapped them around my ears. The crank was turned and I was writhing sideways on the stretcher. The questions were repeated and once again the crank was turned. Dysentery did not permit me to hold back, and all my diarrhea ran out. Kicks and punches hammered down, which were especially painful on my wounded knee. Fortunately I must have made such a mess and caused such an odor that I was not kept there very long. The gedebok had come apart too. I was very lucky – more so when the dysentery subsided and the maggots cleaned the wound and allowed it to heal.

Sentenced to Life

One morning two Japanese came for me. I was chained by the wrists to other boys and forced onto a truck. An hour later, still chained together, slumped on the floor in a large building, we listened while a “judge” pronounced life sentences on us. After the war we heard that Benny van Dam and many others wee executed, and only through an error in documentation did some of us escape the same fate. We were herded into a train and left Malang. The windows were covered but from the sound of the centre-gear track system we guessed that we were headed for Ambarawa in central Java. Our destination was to be FortWillem I, which had been converted into a Kempeitai prison. A sorry troop of near-skeletons with swollen beri-beri legs marched in. Our quarters were large, open cement floors where we slept side-by-side. There were no latrines, only one large drum per floor. Upon this everyone perched with wobbly legs after waiting in lineup. Our luxury was a water pipe between the old fort walls where we could take a shower.

Excerpt by Robert Schultz, published earlier in  Four Years till Tomorrow 

To be continued

Listen to the sounds of War: the ominous sounds of Japanese soldiers marching, enemy aircraft, the Bomb on Nagasaki:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=01k6q9MvSpM&feature=youtu.be

As always, I welcome your comments.

Until next time

Ronny

 

Japanese Concentration Camps – World War Two

 Held by the Kempeitai  – Part Two

One day all those who were between the ages of fourteen and sixteen (that is how young we were at the time of this story) were summoned to report to the Japanese commandant on the alan-alan (city square) to be sent to what we were told were training camps. Ordered to climb onto open trucks and standing shoulder to shoulder, we bounced up mountain roads to what had been a plantation named Telogosari. Here we did forced labor, making arang (charcoal) by stoking wood in large earth mounds. We also planted jarak (caster oil bushes), the oil of which was to lubricate machinery. We were harassed, not so much by the Japanese, but by one of our own who had been appointed by the Japanese to be responsible for production.

We spent the nights sleeping on the floor of a large wooden structure previously used for drying out plantation products. One night a great commotion woke me. Shouting came from a far corner, “kolo jenking, kolo jenking!” (scorpions). The sound of boots and shoes crashing down came from everywhere; there were no lights. No one went back to sleep that night. Early morning revealed two dead scorpions. Everyone took a good look in his shoes and sure enough, there was another purplish-black scorpion, its tail menacingly arched forward. It did not last long, crunched under a boot.

One night a few weeks later, we heard trucks coming down the gravel road into the camp. Voices from the square became louder. Sounds of boots crunching on the gravel came toward the quiet barracks. Lights shone. Names were called out, interspersed with many bakaeros (stupid bastard). Rudi, Wim, Jim Brandligt, then,,,Rob Schultz – me! There were about twenty of us. “Ayo, keluar, jalan – lekas, lekas.”(Come on, get out, walk, quickly, quickly). In the square the commandant talked to us but all we could understand was the bakaeros and buruk (bad). Into the trucks we went, then up the road out of the camp. The wind felt cold as we stood in the back.

We arrived in the dark at a gate set in a stone wall. Herded inside, we had to dump all our belongings and empty our pockets. We were then led down a corridor, through an iron gate, into a chamber where many men were slumped down on long concrete surfaces. Hushed voices. This was the Lowokwaru Prison on the outskirts of  Malang.

I could not sleep. When morning came, tin plates clattered down at the gate. Kanji (laundry starch) was our breakfast, and not much of even that. Afternoon came, bringing tin plates with watery corn. My stomach ached: Hunger! This went on for several days. We learned to chew each kernel for half a minute, making the meal last an hour. It took an enormous amount of self-discipline.

In the evening the Amboinese men among us began to sing. Anyone who has heard Amboinese songs knows how heart-rending they can be. When sung n harmony in that desolate place, many of us felt tears well up.

After what seemed an eternity, names were called. Two at a time were to go, but none came back. My turn came. Two minutes later I was in another place, alone. It was a very small, solid concrete cell with a tall iron gate. My bed was a cement slab. The toilet was a round hole in the floor; cockroaches scurried at the rim.

What was that? A voice? From down there? I bent over the hole but could not make out the sound. Then I stuck my head part way down it. “What’s your name? I am Johnnie.” My neighbor was communicating with me – through the sewer connecting pipes! He gave me some information: Rooie lap (red rug) means the guard is coming. He then told me that Nono had just come back, and that his hands were swollen and red and he was unable to hold anything. He had been hung by his wrists from the wall for half an hour while the Jap had asked him questions. Then I heard an ominous warning, “You may be next!”

Excerpt by Robert Schultz, published earlier in Four Years till Tomorrow 

To be continued

Listen to the sounds of Japanese soldiers marching into town, the droning sounds of enemy aircraft, the Bomb on Nagasaki:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=01k6q9MvSpM&feature=youtu.be

As always, I welcome your comments.

Until next time

Ronny

 

 

 

 

Japanese Concentration Camps – World War Two

Many survivors of the brutal treatment by the Japanese during World War Two in the Pacific wrote down their stories. Some are widely published, others are not. I will be posting a series of excerpts from survivors on my blog in the weeks to come. Following is the first.

HELD BY THE KEMPEITAI

In December 1941 at the LBD (air-raid warning post in Malang, East Java) boys and girls from the local high school sat perched along a stone verandah, legs dangling, happily chatting. Although more interested in each other than in trying to comprehend what they were there for, a sense of foreboding was all around. The Japanese were coming! There were close! What did it mean? News was sporadic and rumors were many. What was going to happen?

In early March of 1942 all the schools were closed. Hundreds of kids were on the streets, most of them on bikes. People had been told on the radio to cooperate when the Dutch authority would be transferred to the Japanese. We were soon to see what this meant. A column of unfamiliar looking soldiers with rifles in hand came down the street. Many more followed. A peculiar smell of clothing textile and sweat accompanied them; I smell I would never forget. Where these the Japanese? Where were our people?

A friend and I kept going on our bikes, curious. we came to a large building, a hotel, and the gates across its driveway swung open. Inside we could see groups of our military men standing, no weapons on them, their sacks and things lying on the ground. At the gate stood a Japanese soldier wearing a cap with strips of cloth hanging from the back. He had puttees (strip wrappings) around his legs. He spotted us as we stood beside our bikes, watching. Immediately he screamed at us in Japanese, jumping toward us. The next moment his hand flung across my face, sending my glasses flying and me staggering, knocking my bike to the ground. Another soldier came to my friend, kicking his bike down also. Then the two of them dragged us forward while pushing down on our shoulders. Meanwhile from inside came voices shouting in Dutch, “You must bow to them! Bow forward!” and we could see our men pointing at us.

Then we understood. Introductory “lesson one” in Japanese authority: You stop and bow when you pass a Japanese sentry. Another smack across my face. Then one of the soldiers picked up my glasses from the sand and handed them to me.

The large number of kids roaming around on bikes must have begun to worry the Japanese. Soon, most Dutch people were concentrated into wijken (sections of the city) marked off as a camp. Those of mixed blood, part Dutch/part Indonesian, could stay outside the camps but had to carry ID papers. Within a few weeks, however, all the men in this category were rounded up and taken out of the city.

My father, a proud ex-KNIL man, refused to have anything to do with ID. Before the round-up occurred he took off towards the mountains, never to be heard of again. After the war I learned that he had been spotted, captured, and so severely beaten that he died the same day he was taken to Sukun Hospital. Whether he had actually connected with resistance groups I don’t know.

Excerpt by Robert Schultz, published earlier in Four Years till Tomorrow  

To be continued

As always, I welcome your comments.

Until next time

Ronny

Bataan Death March – April 1942 – World War Two

While part of the Japanese army landed on Java in the Dutch East Indies, marched into Soerabaja, separated and incarcerated families, a horrifying, atrocious event took place on the island of Luzon in the Philippines after the fall of Bataan, known as the Bataan Death March. If you have never read the details, perhaps this article, quoted from http://www.Roger Mansell.com/ will give you an idea of the cruelty of the Japanese.  And this was only the beginning of three and a half years of brutal Japanese oppression in Southeast Asia.

map of bataan One of the earliest and most severe mistreatment of prisoners of war became known to the world as the DEATH MARCH.  All troops, both Filipino and American, gathered at various points on Bataan after the April 1942 surrender to the Japanese and then were forced to march 65 miles from Mariveles on the tip of Bataan to San Fernando under conditions that no one believed could happen.  All valuables were confiscated; Jack Heinzel recalls: “All prisoners were stripped of personal possessions, watches, jewelry and cigarettes by the oncoming Japanese front line troops.” There was very little food, no water and no medical attention to the sick and wounded.  Ferron Edwin Cummins attests in “This Is My Story” that “we were placed in a kneeling position, searched again and left sitting in the hot tropical sun for about six hours without food or water.” Abie Abraham began his account, “The men started to march in a long column on the dusty road.  For many of the bloody, frail men this was the last march. The sun beat down unmercifully on the marchers with a continuous drum by the Japanese guards to hurry.  Furthermore, the Japanese treated the POWs with savage brutality. As Albert Brown recalled, “Those who fell out of line or failed to follow orders were met with beheadings, stabbings, or shootings.” In an article about ex-POW Paul Ehney, Curtis Norris writes: “Along the way, numbers of them were slaughtered by bayonet, sword, gun, truck, whatever the Japs could use to kill. Many wounded were buried alive, their moans smothered by hastily-shoveled earth. There was no rhyme or reason to the killings. They occurred as the fancy hit the individual Japanese soldier.” Around 70,000 men began the trek to the north, but only 54,000 arrived at Camp O’Donnell.  No one was ever able to record the exact death toll since many were unaccounted for or just escaped.   Approximately 600 of those who perished were American, and between five to ten thousand  were Filipinos.

Arriving at San Fernando, the troops were literally shoved and stuffed into small railroad cars with no room to sit down for last leg into Camp O’Donnell.  They received no water, no food and the heat from the tropical sun was relentless.  Thus they came to the end of the road, suffering from every disease imaginable.  They were dirty, unkempt, pale, bloated, and lifeless.  They looked aged beyond their years and had nothing to look forward to except degradation. Of those who survived to reach the Japanese prison camp near Cabanatuan, few lived to celebrate U.S. General Douglas MacArthur‘s liberation of Luzon in 1945.

The United States had informed the Japanese government on December 18, 1941, that it (the US) is a party to the Geneva Convention of 1929 on Prisoners of War, and intended to apply the provisions to both captured armed forces and civilian internees which may be interned by the United States, and requested the Japanese government to apply those provisions to those captured or interned by the armed forces.  On February 4, 1942, the Japanese government cabled that “IT IS STRICTLY OBSERVING THE GENEVA CONVENTION AS A SIGNATORY STATE AND WOULD APPLY MUTIS MUTANDIS PROVISIONS OF THAT LAW TO AMERICAN PRISONERS OF WAR IN ITS POWER.”
Also on February 4, 1942, Japan cabled that, “ON CONDITION OF RECIPROCITY, JAPAN WILL APPLY GENEVA CONVENTION TO POWS AND CIVILIANS INSOFAR AS APPLICABLE, AND THEY SHOULD NOT BE FORCED TO PERFORM LABOR AGAINST THEIR WILL.”  These cables are totally inconsistent with the manner that the Japanese military and civilians mistreated American prisoners of war in their power.

As always, I welcome your comments.

Until next time.

Ronny

Engineering Ground Zero

The 2001 terrorist attack on September 11  in New York City left two huge voids at the site of the World Trade Center. A once-in-the-history-of-the-United States project called Engineering Ground Zero is taking place at the site. A beautiful Memorial opened on the tenth anniversary. Six new towers are being built. Constructed from strong concrete called liquid steel for strength and safety and 1” prismatic glass for refraction of light at the base of the building, Tower 1 (Architect David Childs) will be the highest skyscraper in the world. Ground Zero is being rebuilt from the inside out.

Compare that to the lives of the hundreds of thousands of people who survived the systematic starvation, tropical diseases, and barbaric cruelties of the Japanese in concentration camps during World War II in the Pacific. Left with huge voids in 1945 after the Japanese capitulation they had to rebuild their lives from the inside out. For many people the losses were too great; many survivors still suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Our little family made it. I thank my parents for rebuilding our lives as a family and enabling me to build a happy life of my own after the camps.

I welcome your comments.

Until next time,
Ronny

 

The Shadow of War: Never-ending Pain, Haunting Memories and the Soothing Calm of Pitjit

A little girl, born after World War Two in the Pacific from Javanese parents, Cis learns from Ibu, her mother, the magical, healing effects of Pitjit, Indonesian massage.

Every night her father is plagued by devastating nightmares. He re-lives night after night the time that his battalion was ambushed and the years in the Japanese concentration camp laboring at the Birma railroad during World War Two. His back is aching all the time. In his temper flare-ups and in his screams you hear his anguish and his fear.

Her father lies face down in the center of the floor of the small front room. Carefully Cis climbs on his back, barefoot, and finds her balance. Her father’s back feels cold and spongy. Due to a lack of vitamin B1 during the war both her parents suffer from beriberi and are retaining a lot of fluid. Little dark brown spots indicate the scars caused by cigarette butts snubbed out all across her father’s back. The scar of a bayonet shows in his side. The wounds of war are permanent.

With straight feet Cis walks with small steps left and right of his spine, back and forth, and back and forth. Then again, but now with pressure from her heels, her arms wide, balancing like a tightrope walker. It gives relief and her father smiles.

Now a mature woman, married, with two sons, Cis Everhard is the owner of an Indonesian Massage Practice in Hengelo, the Netherlands. She practices Pitjit with love and healing hands. “Van top tot teen Pitjit”, the wonderful book in the Dutch langugage that she wrote about her family and the healing ways of practicing Pitjit with hands and heart and soul is available on her website www.pitjit.nl

It brought back memories for me of Java and Bali and the way it was, “tempo dulu”.

Excerpts from “Van top tot teen Pitjit” translated by Ronny Herman de Jong

I welcome your comments.

Until next time,

Ronny

 

Japanese Contingent signs Instrument of Surrender on the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay

September 2, 1945: Freedom at last

Every year on August 15, my parents hung out the flag to commemorate the end of the War in the Pacific. When Emperor Hirohito actually surrendered, on August 15, 1945, my mother Netty, Paula and I were still imprisoned in camp Halmahera in Semarang and were unaware of what was happening in the world. Mamma crossed out the days on her little calendar every night; the last day she crossed out was August 22.

Women and children still died during that week, not knowing the war was over. In other camps it took sometimes longer than that. But in every camp, when they heard the message, the prisoners experienced the most emotional time in their lives singing the Dutch National Anthem “Wilhelmus.” The most wonderful news for me, a little girl of almost seven, was that our Pappa would soon be home. Everything else just went by me.

On September 2, 1945 the Japanese Contingent signed the Instrument of Surrender together with representatives of all the Allied countries, on the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. That important date, when the end of the war became official, signed and dated, went by me completely for many years.

Until 1995, when I was invited to the 50th commemoration of that event. I stood on the deck of the “Mighty Mo”, anchored in the harbor of Bremerton, WA, on the actual spot where the document was signed, and I walked over to the bow where three 16” gun barrels pointed straight ahead. It was then that I realized the immense significance of that moment, fifty years ago, and I wept. My family had survived. I owed my life and my freedom to countless men and women who had fought the bloody war and won.

Ronny

Fear, Anguish, Death and Survival – The Asian Holocaust – Conclusion

Memories of a Young Boy

Walter Hobé

Reunited With Mother

There were already transports of POWs going to Batavia. An acquaintance was going, and my father asked him to take a pair of wooden sandals he had made for my mother. We had engraved them by burning her name on it with a magnifying glass. To this day I have these slippers as a memento. My mother did not wear them out.

My father had the opportunity to have himself declared unfit for work by a doctor, who recommended us to recuperate in Australia. The Red Cross saw to it that we would meet our mother at the departure point. We were put on a train transport to Batavia under heavy Gurka guard. We now had some protection from the British Gurkas. The Indonesians had a holy awe for these Gurkas as they were bald with one little string of hair. They were slit-eyed and fiery. With a sten gun in their right hand and a sword of a curved kind in their left, they were unbeatable.  We arrived safe and sound in Batavia where trucks were waiting to take us to a hotel. Well, the hotel was completely sandbagged and we slept on the floor. Again, we were arguing which was the softest tile. This was necessary, as it does not feel nice to have your bones sticking out making contact with something hard. At night, however, we could not sleep. We came from the mountains and were used to cool weather. Here, the air was so thick and hot that you could cut it. Outside, there was a pitched battle being fought with machine guns and hand grenades.

The next morning, we were put in trucks and driven to Tandjong Priok. On arrival at the quayside, we saw a crowd of women standing there, eagerly staring into the trucks. My brother cried suddenly, “I see her!” The truck had not come to a standstill yet, but we jumped out. We did not need to worry about luggage— we did not have anything, not even a toothbrush. (We brushed our teeth with crushed brick and our fingers. ) My mother was very thin and wearing our slippers. After our embraces and crying, we looked at each other and felt that we were all strangers to each other. My father had not seen my mother for three and a half years. For us it was a little shorter, but it seemed like a lifetime. I was now 12 years old and completely independent. After all I had been through, I was like an adult. I had not been sick one day, except for some ulcerated wounds. If you punctured your skin, infections would start and they became big, round, open festering wounds. There was no medication, so we tried drying them in the sun. But the most difficult thing was to keep the flies off. The best thing to do was to put your leg into the river where little fishes would eat away the pus—very painful, though! These ulcers would eat away the skin. My brother was less fortunate. He had no more skin on most of his lower leg. It was now all bandaged. After the war, we got medicine, a yellow powder, that was freely sprinkled on the wounds and the skin came back. Unfortunately, on part of his shinbone the flesh was completely gone (this eventually would cause his demise). No skin could grow there, and he always wore a bandage over it.

At Tandjong Priok we boarded a Japanese freighter, a miserable looking ship which took us outside the harbor to a big ocean liner, the MS Oranje, a hospital ship, on which we sailed to Australia and a new adventure.

This concludes the memories of the Japanese concentration camps as experienced by a young boy, Walter Hobé. Still haunted by the memories, Walter is 80 years old, lives in Canada and has been happily married for over fifty years.

I would appreciate your comments.

Until next time,

Ronny

 

 

Fear, Anguish, Death and Survival – The Asian Holocaust – Part 8

Memories of a Young Boy

Walter Hobé

We had made friends with the guys that were working in the kitchen. These were enormous, tall and strong guys. I was very small. Anyway, one day one said, “Come and visit me and play with my cat.” He had finished the night shift and had heard a cat’s meow outside the camp. Well, he made a hole in the wall and caught this animal with a basket. It was ugly, with pus in his eye, and he had no tail. The next day we came again and wanted to play with this cat. “He is in the bathroom,” he said. In the bathroom was no cat but only a pail. “No, look above and behind the door!” There hung a naked cat behind the door, and his pelt was in the pail. We cooked it—they had the meat and we had the soup.

Manna from Heaven

One day, a huge Liberator bomber flew over the camp. I climbed on top of the roof as it was circling the camp. Suddenly, the bomb bays opened and boxes were thrown out hanging on parachutes. They appeared to be Red Cross parcels. These parcels contained, among other things, cans with sweet milk, chocolate, cigarettes, etc. We could not eat the chocolate—the bars were too hard. The instructions were to scrape off little pieces and put them in boiling water. Thus we had chocolate milk. Otherwise, it was too rich for our bowels and we could die. But it was a beautiful experience to see these airplanes drop these goodies. It reminded everyone of the manna from heaven. Years later I was waiting on the ferry to go from Truro to Prince Edward Island. I got to talking to the guy in front of me and he asked me where I was from. I told him Indonesia. He knew it well, he said, as he was flying as a navigator in Liberator bombers, dropping parcels in the camps. Needless to say, there were no dry eyes there.

As was the custom, we had to congregate three times a day to be counted. This one time I remember as if it was yesterday. After all the formalities, the Japanese camp commander gave a speech. He told us the war was over. This was about September 22nd, 1945. Everybody started to sing the National Anthem “Wilhelmus”. To this day, I get tears in my eyes when I hear it, reminding me of this day. I climbed on the back of one of the kitchen helpers and cried, “Now I can go back to my Mamma!” The adults had already known what was coming. It appeared that there was a radio in the camp all these years. It had not been betrayed.

Reunited with Father

Then came the day that somebody warned me there was a strange guy waiting for me at home. I rushed home and met this guy, who claimed to be my father. He had come from Bandung to pick me up. “Well, I am sorry, but I do not know you and I am not going with you.” He said that he had already gone to the 4th Battalion Prison camp and picked up my brother who was waiting outside behind a tree. We took my belongings, which were not much anymore, and I had to get dressed. The clothes still fitted me somewhat. Now we had to report to the front office. My father identified himself to our Dutch camp commander and I was released into his custody. Outside the camp, my brother appeared from behind the tree. The three of us now started walking, but we had no strength to carry the stuff and go any distance. My father had no money to hire a native’s transportation. Fortunately, we heard a Japanese truck coming our way. We stopped it and hitched a ride to Bandung. We were now partly reunited, and a new chapter in our lives had begun.

Back in Bandung

When we arrived in Bandung, we settled in into a big hangar type building. My father had occupied a corner and had built two additional beds of bamboo for us. That was the only building material we had. The bamboo is hollow. It can hide all kinds of creepy crawlers…so we were bitten at night. There was a sweet smell around the bed—bedbugs. Well, out with the bed, into the sunshine, and stamp the legs and beat the bedding! One night, I slept with my mouth open and when I woke up I closed it, crushing a bed bug which had settled on a molar. It smells like cilantro, which I cannot eat to this day.

This 10th Battalion camp was huge. It housed many people from all kinds of backgrounds. There were a lot of inventions done in the camp. Like a lighter. Mostly it was made of a piece of steel against a flint rock with some dried moss. This one was made by an engineer, of course. It was a copper cylinder with a wooden head. You took the cylinder apart and put dry moss into it, then closed it and hit it hard with your hand. Due to the compression, the moss would burn and you could light a cigarette or a paper with it. Another invention was the water pump. It was made with all kinds of scrap material, but with hardly any tools. They were able to sink a pipe, with a filter at the end, some 100 meters down. We had very clean drinking water there. Talking about cigarettes, my first smoke was a rolled up dried leaf of the corn husk and my tobacco was the hair. Well, this was a coughing ceremony if you ever saw one. And with my history of bronchitis, this was my lesson never to try to inhale anything but clean air.

Now that “peace” had come, we were all upbeat, with lots of expectations for the future. That is a feeling that is hard to describe. We were going to rebuild, learn from our mistakes and make a better world.  The first thing to do was to regain our strength. My father had some money and we went outside the camp to the local market. We bought a little chick and a big chicken. The big one was for immediate consumption, the small one was to play with. We let that little one roam around our beds eating the bed bugs. In no time, this became a big chicken and…

This was the only time we went outside to market. We were told that things had changed and it was too dangerous. We could now no more trust the Indonesians. A boy, slightly older than I, was caught at that same market in view of the camp. He was tied to a tree and chinchang-ed (killed with knives). We could not do a thing. The Japs did not do a thing, although Mountbatten had told them that they were responsible for our well being. These soldiers were short of cash and were selling their weapons to the pemudas. A couple of days later a bunch of these pemudas were trying to shoot their way into the camp. We had to hide into all kinds of corners as the bullets were flying around us. They did not succeed.

To be continued

I would appreciate your comments. Does anyone have other camp experiences?

Fear, Anguish, Death and Survival – The Asian Holocaust – Part 7

Memories of a Young Boy

Walter Hobé

Like Ships in the Night

One day there was a transport of sick people from the other camps to our hospital. Walking there among the carriers we could ask them questions, whether they knew of this one or that one. So I found somebody that was looking for me—it was my brother! It appeared that we had passed each other a couple of times without knowing each other. He had grown tall, was dressed and wearing glasses. I had stayed small and was naked and bald. Anyway, from him I learned that my other Uncle Jan was also in that camp and that my father was in the 10th Battalion in Bandung. That was the only time we saw each other during that period—just for half an hour! The next time some people were sent on transport to Bandung, we made sure that they had messages for family. That way my father also knew where I was.

Daily Diet

Our mornings started with toebroek (black coffee). It was still dark then, and cold. We would be sitting there shivering in our blanket, djongkok (hunched), sipping the coffee. Breakfast came, and if you did not eat it right away, it separated into water and sludge. It was made of tapioca starch. Lunch was a bun of bread, made in my brother’s camp. The yeast was a Dutch invention. There was a chemist who found out that urine had a good source of Vitamin-B. To that end, there were big drums set up in the prison camp into which everybody had to pee. These drums were brought to the kitchen and boiled. The rotten stuff got separated and the yeast remained. The bread was made. The buns were hard.

Dinner consisted of a cupped hand of boiled rice. Sometimes there was little “meat” in it, usually of bowels and tripe. Vegetables were usually greens (now, we would call them inedible). Since the Japs had the habit of punishing us for whatever, we had to prepare ourselves for eventualities. From the bread, I sliced off one slice and dried that in the sun. The next day, I ate it as if it was toasted, and sliced off two slices. In a week, I had saved myself another bun. The same I did with the rice. Every day I saved a spoon of rice and dried it in the sun. The next day I would add water and eat it, saving two spoons. Boy, did that come in handy when our camp was punished and we did not get food for two days! The first day, I said, “Ah ha, I am smart.” But the second day, I was smarting. I never have had so much pain in my life from an empty stomach. At this time I was so thin, that when I inhaled and held my tummy in, I could feel my spine from the inside. I could completely cover my shoulder blade with my hand. When I went to move my bowels, I moved them all right—at least 15 cm of bowel was hanging outside, which I had to pull in before finishing. At this stage of the war, the natives were maybe even worse off than us.  There was a gutter through which we could creep and get close to the natives. It was agreed that, at a certain time, we would be there with clothing and they had to provide food (gedekken it was called—smuggled). I bartered most of the clothing that I still had for bananas. A  sisir (comb) of little milky pisang soesoe (bananas) caused my diarrhea to stop immediately for ever.

Torture

Our house was situated next to the exit to the hospital side. We heard a commotion outside one day and we went across to the hospital to check it out. What had happened? A native farm laborer with a spade on his shoulder had sauntered passed the Jap guard. When the Jap guard did not pay him any attention, he hit the guard over the head with his spade. The guard went down and the native ran away. However, the sentry at the main entrance had watched the proceeding and sounded the alarm. Well, the native was caught and brought to the main entrance. There he was tied up with a rope slung over a beam, his hands tied behind his back, lifting him up so that he was tippy-toed. As soon as he got comfortable, the rope was pulled up. In the end, his arms were stretched out above him but they were wrong side into the socket. The Jap wanted to interrogate him, and hit him over the head with the same spade. The handle eventually stuck in his skull and he was dead. We were watching this from afar.

One time, the Japs came in unexpectedly and forced some chaps to bring their table outside. They were just having lunch, so it was the hottest part of the day. They were forced to run around the table in the sun, until they collapsed. Another time, there were some guys rounded up. They had to stand opposite each other and had to slap each other in the face. At first, they figured out that when the one’s hand “hit” the other’s face, the other would clap with his free hands—as long as it made the sound. But then the Jap got his sword and started to participate. Well, that stopped that in a hurry! However, in no time at all, two best friends were now hitting each other as hard as could be, and it was a matter of survival.

When I went to a reunion in Holland after the war, I met a colleague of mine from KLM. I found out that he had been in the same prison camp as I. When I reminded him of this incident the said, “Why do you think my eye is crooked?”

To be continued

I would appreciate your comments. Does anyone have similar or different memories?

Until next time,

Ronny