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