life stories

Welcome to Coconut Connections

Real life stories

Monday, December 19, 2011

A letter from Richard Kandler. author of " The Prisoner list".

Dear Thea

Many thanks for contacting me through the website- and thanks, too, for buying my book.

Interesting about the date of 8 November. Strictly speaking the publication date was last March, but because of the way that the book is produced a date always appears on the very last page which is the date when that particular copy was printed. The fact that your particular copy was printed on the very day of publication of your own book is certainly a remarkable coincidence.

THE PRISONER LIST is a compelling account of the experiences of a former prisoner of the Japanese: the humiliating defeat at Singapore, forced labour on the Saigon docks, and the horrors of life on the infamous Burma Railway.

I THOUGHT YOU SHOULD KNOW  is a true story about the life of women as prisoners of the Japanese.The brutal atrocities they had to endure, whilst in these camps, and how they survived.

The Universe works in mysterious ways; 5507 kilometers or 3422 miles apart, a son( Richard Kandler) is writing about his fathers experiences as a former prisoner of the Japanese and miles apart
 I am writing at the same time about my father who died on the infamous Burma railway and about my mothers experience as a former prisoner of the Japanese in these infamous women prison camps.

Many stories have been written about the holocaust  in Europe.But what happened on the other side of the globe was often overshadowed by the Holocaust in Europe.That world war 2 was also fought on the other side of the world was forgotten. When world war 2 was over in Europe and people were celebrating, the POWs in Japanese prison camps, and the women and children in Japanese prison camps were still trying to survive.
The Japanese surrendered on August 15, 1945, not a moment too soon.
All the POWs- tens of thousands of them- had been scheduled for total annihilation later that month, at the order of the Emperor Hirohito.

Another letter I received from Richard Kandler. Wednesday March 16, 2011
subject: "I Thought You Should Know"

Dear Thea

I've just finished reading your excellent book "I Thought You Should Know".

Your children were absolutely right to encourage you to write it, and I am glad that you did- even though I imagine that the exercise must have been very painful for you at times. I have read many books about the railway, but not about the treatment of women and children, and so I believe that I learned a lot from reading it.

I do not understand how innocent civilians could be treated with such cruelty, with mothers being beaten and humiliated in front of their own children. Your mother must have had a very strong personality to survive all that and protect you from the true horrors of what had happened in the years after the war, but of course you heard what you heard on the stairs and eventually you pieced it all together. The title of your book-"I thought You Should Know"- really hits the nail on the head.

The book is very movingly written- straight from the heart- and is excellent set out and presented. The use of photographs worked particular well, I thought- particular the one of you on page 57, looking so sad and so haunted, and your father's photograph on page 42 which is almost completely worn away from his holding it. I found that heart-breaking.

It is terrible sad that your father never came home. Incidentally, my own father (who fortunately survived) was at Kinsaiyok at this time, which was just one stop along the line from Rin Tin. They may perhaps even have seen each other on the railway.

Thanks again for writing this marvellous book and for drawing my attention to it.

Best regards


A left-hand page from the original 'prisoner list'- but the true horrors were on the right-hand pages.

Written by his son, The Prisoner List also tells of the astonishing twist of fate that saved all the surviving prisoners from mass extermination at the end of the war.

The book's title refers to a handwritten list of names (which still exists today) maintained under the most dangerous of conditions during WWII. The list was compiled by the author's father in a succession of Japanese POW camps and became one of a number of forbidden items that he kept hidden from his captors at risk of torture and execution.

It was a list of the first thousand Allied prisoners to have been shipped into slavery following the fall of Singapore- not just their names, but what had happened to them since; deaths from starvation, tropical diseases, the refusal of medicines and the daily beatings of sick men onto the railway; and deaths at sea on "hell ships" bound for Japan.

The central red entry records an execution at Saigon, following a failed escape attempt.

He was concealing other items too- including a stolen newsreel and a secret cash box containing illicitly obtained local currency used for the benefit of the sick prisoners. As security tightened and the camp searches intensified, he went to increasingly extreme lengths to hide these from the prison guards and from the dreaded Japanese military police- with the net closing in all the time.

The Japanese surrender on 15 August 1945 arrived not a moment too soon-and not just for him. All POWs tens of thousands of them-had been scheduled for total annihilation later that month.
The first few lines of Reuben Kandler'[s 6-page essay("my Expieriences as a POW in Thailand"), written shortly after completion of the Burma Railway and reproduced in full at the end of the book.
(note the splinter of bamboo used as a staple)

If you like more information about his book go to: 

My book "I Thought You Should Know" is available at at barnesandnobles .com and in your local bookstores. My book is written under my maiden name;Tetske T. van der Wal

My father was a very good artist. He had made a drawing of me on two Japanese postcards, which a fellow prisoner Mr. E. Veenstra had been able to save for my mother. He had a few more items from my father, which he had hidden., after my father passed away  in September 1943. Finally in March, 1946 Mr. E. Veenstra located my mother and me in the Java Center in Bandoeng, where we were taken after the war.At the Java Center my mother was recovering from malnutrition, malaria etc.She had been very sick,and was barely alive when we were freed from the Japanese occupancy.In the letter from mr. Veenstra, which I found in  my mother's possession after she passed away, he wrote that he had been very concerned about her health.It took my mother three months to get her health back.
It's a drawing of me on a postcards.The card on the right was suppose to protect the drawing the stamp is cut away.
This drawing is done by my father, he never was able to finish it.

The above picture is drawn in camp Moentilan and it is signed Nv/d Molen, it's February 1945.This drawing of me was done on a piece of paper with some Japanese propaganda on the back. I was 4 years old.This drawing I used for the front page of my book.

1 comment:

  1. I am waiting for the book to arrive, my dad died on the railway, I try to understand the horrors he had to endure, perhaps one does not want to read the full story, it being far removed from the normal human behaviour. I know one should forgive, I was robbed of a father and lost my childhood expectations. I have no grave to visit, so few memories, I know I am not on my own, it does not help the sadness and sorrow.
    I think of you most days dear Dad, rest in peace
    Ted, Eileen and robert Lay


Blog Archive