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:
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Until next time