This month’s guest on my Blog is a gentleman in Canada, another survivor of the World War Two Japanese concentration camps, whom I met on the USS Missouri during the Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Japanese Surrender and the end of the War in the Pacific.
Walter Hobé was incarcerated by the Japanese on the island of Java, like me, and in his unpublished Memoir he tells about his childhood memories and the cruelties, diseases and hunger he experienced as a young boy under Japanese oppression.
War: 1942 – 1945
By Walter Hobé
I was born in April 1933 in Yogyakarta and later moved to Batavia. My time in Japanese prison camps had tremendous impacts on me, physically, emotionally and spiritually, which I have had to live with the rest of my life. Those memories, coupled with Japan’s on-going insistence on ignoring this period in history, have kept the issue of restitution a constant undercurrent in my life.
The period in my life up to 1941.
Those were marvelous times. We were healthy and happy. Those were the years I remember as being heaven on earth. Beautiful, lush country; wonderful people of a variety you will not find anywhere else in the world. It is a country that can be considered one of the most densely populated in the world. We were not aware of the dark clouds hanging above our heads. Of course our parents knew what was going on in the world.The Germans had invaded the Netherlands on the 10th of May, 1940, and we were very worried for our families.
The Japanese had already invaded Korea and the Chinese mainland on July 7th, 1937, of which we children were blissfully unaware. Sunday, December 7th, 1941 stands out in my memory. We were not going to church that Sunday morning because of the world news. We had an old Philips radio 42 that stood in the corner of the dining room. My parents were listening to the radio broadcast from Honolulu and crying their eyes out. Pearl Harbor was being attacked. My father said, “How long will it be before they come here?” Little did we know that at the same time they had attacked Hong Kong and Malaya.
The Dutch government declared war on Japan the next day. However, there were Japanese “sleepers” living in Indonesia who had immigrated there years before. They were highly trained officers in the Japanese Imperial Army and everything was already betrayed. Even the organization of government was already set up, so that when the Japanese forces came in, the new government took over the next day. Our bicycle repairman turned out to be a Japanese officer and our barber was seen riding a white stallion wearing his officer’s uniform, giving instructions in Dutch to his prisoners.
I remember the day the Dutch Government decided to destroy all their holdings so that they did not fall into the wrong hands. I was sitting in the cherry tree in the garden, looking out over the horizon. There was no sun. It was very eerie. Thick black clouds were hanging over the city with a terrible stench of sulfur in the air. All the oil installations in the harbor had been set ablaze. The day had turned into night. The perpetrators were later hanged by the Japanese.
To be continued.
I welcome your comments and additions. Please let me know your thoughts.
Until next time,