Memories of a Young Boy
Tjideng Prison Camp
On Aug 29th, 1942, on a moment’s notice, we (2,500 people) were told to pack our belongings and stand ready at the gate for transportation to somewhere. That was the Jap’s favorite pastime. With a bamboo stick in his hands he herded us on: hurry, hurry, hurry! Whatever was left of the furniture was left behind. Only our mattresses and our trunks could we take.
Why did the Japanese make these moves? I believe that it was a nice way to relieve us of our belongings. Later on in Tjideng, we got a moment’s notice to get everything out on the street (this was Tjilamaja Road). We had to stand at attention, ready for inspection. Again we had to stand in the hot sun for hours. There came a uniformed guy on a motorcycle wearing a black topi (hat) like the Indonesians do. It was Sukarno as head of the police, working for the Japs. He stopped and looked at our stuff. Various things were taken away, as we had to move on and leave things behind. We had to go to the other side of the camp (to Batanghari Road) and move in with other people—and on and on this went.
Then we had to be counted. We would kiotski (stand at attention) in three rows of 10, facing towards Japan and the Emperor, and count: ichi, ni, san, si, go, etc. There was one person in charge and he had to report to the Jap that all was well (ijo arimassen, everything in order). We had to bow down (keirei) and stay that way till the Jap was satisfied we did it well enough and then dismissed us (naore). Of course, it was under the blazing sun! Sometimes it took minutes and sometimes hours, depending on their mood.
When you hear Japanese speak to each other, the language is stunted and rough. It is like a grunt. And when they raised their voices, to us it sounded like animals. We were scared of them! We never talked back, because it always had consequences. When we spoke to them, it had to be done in Malay. If they found out that you understood Japanese, then you were automatically considered to be the go-between, and when anything went wrong you would get the first beating.
Tjideng was just on the other side of town. My mother had to work in the hospital, so it was our task to move. To this end, we obtained the under side of a baby carriage. We fastened a plank to it and thus we were ambulant with our trunks and mattresses. We also did some work. Some gardens still had grass and this had to be cut. Since it was very hot, we only walked around in shorts. We conserved our energy and our resources by washing as little as we could. Washing was done with a little water and soap, if there was any, and then we left it on the lawn to be bleached by the sun.
School was not allowed. However, we had a little place on the side of the house shielded from the front by a wall, where a lady volunteered to teach us something. We had a slate board, as there was no paper. Needless to say, these were not accredited courses, so that after the war, I was missing four years of primary schooling.
These were scary times, because the outside population was being manipulated by the Japs and by their own leaders like Sukarno, and were having more difficulties than we had inside the prison camps. The Indonesian pemudas (hooligans) made it a point to jump over the walls into our prison camp and rush in and steal the clothing off the wash line, or whatever they could gather. Our boys and girls had to stand watch at night.
To that end, they were armed with bamboo sticks. They could not catch these rampokkers because they were in the nude and had covered themselves with soft soap. However, someone was tinkering with electric wire; he had wires running through the yard at 220V. We heard some screaming from his yard one night because soft soap is a beautiful conductor! One chap caught a thief by throwing his stick between the legs of the thief while running after him. This was a very unfortunate incident. The thief was put on display at the camp’s entrance tied to a wooden contraption with barbed wire. He was in the nude and standing barefoot on asphalt. Every now and then, a Jap would come with a bucket of water and throw it on the ground in front of him. It did not take more than one day to have him succumb to this torture. After that incident it was decided never to catch another thief, as the punishment did not fit the crime.
In the prison camps there were no Bibles permitted, unless they were approved by the Japanese. My father’s Bible still has the stamp of approval from Adek. My mother had taken along to the Far East a whole set of handwritten sermons from her father. When there were no more church services permitted, these sermons were circulated until they fell apart. If my grandfather only had known that his sermons would serve a dual purpose!
To be continued.
Please leave your comments. Does anyone have memories like these?
Until next time,