life stories

Welcome to Coconut Connections

Real life stories

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The scars will always remain.


                                             NGO, STATUS ROSTER

His Excellency Shinzo ABE
Prime Minister of Japan

The Hague, March 12,2013.
Petition: 220
Subject: "Rewriting war history"

Senior politicians of the American House of Representative and the European Parliament made it clear that Japan's denial of its war issues would have grave implications for the relationships with both the United States and Europe. Senator Honda commented that "It will ignite unnecessary tensions and provocations with neighboring countries. Government is a living, breathing organism that is responsible for its past, present and future". It is apparent that one cannot rewrite history and as a nation one has to accept and take responsibility for the consequences of military misconduct and political opportunism. These strong political and international statements were made before you visited the United States of America.
As Prime Minister you must deal with this and cannot hide behind Japanese culture, which for its military misconduct and political opportunism carries no respect in the rest of the world.

Prime Minister,
As a result of your discussions in the United States the Foundation of Japanese Honorary Debts recognizes the political position you and your party are in. You are faced with the choice: do you seek future economic well being for Japan or do you remain conservative and preserve the past by continuing to deny any redress of war victims. Despite diplomatic utterances of Japan's important role in the world, Japan undoubtedly realizes that there is little respect for Japan's attitude towards its war victims. The Foundation of Japanese Honorary Debts is not alone in this observation. It expressed its view together with other NGO's in a resolution as a result of the 11th Asian Solidarity Conference for the Issue of Military Sexual Slavery by Japan. It submitted the resolution as a written statement to the Human Rights Council 22nd session agenda item 6 as part of the Universal Periodic Review of Japan due to be issued on 14th March, 2013.

Prime Minister
You spoke with President Obama of the United States of America on February 22,2013. According to the media you reiterated the role of Japan in the world and your resolve to calm manner and diplomacy. A number of important issues such as "rewriting war history" were not mentioned in the media, but assumed to be discussed. On the international stage of politics you do not negotiate via the media, but with the parties directly involved. Your resolve must therefore include our suggestions and deal with the redress swifly and in a calm manner directly with the Foundation of Japanese Honorary Debts.

We did not receive acknowledgement to our previous petitions.

On behalf of the Foundation of Japanese Honorary Debts,

J.F. van Wagtendonk

The scars will always remain.

My mother taught me; "You must never give up".
Even when you fall down face flat on the ground.
You still get up again, again and again
Even if you first try on one knee,
You stand up straight again.

This is what her mother taught her, and what made her go on, while in Japanese concentration camp. Many times while she received a beating, this is what she said to herself over and over again.

Just arrived in The Nethrlands,April 25,1946.

When we grow older we get caught up in our past.Since my mother and my stepfather died it seems like the past will not let go of me.
When they died I started to think about myself and began to wonder about our tumultuous past. It's when you reach a certain age, and the persons most dear to you pass away, you begin to wonder how it was that I had become the person I am today.When you are young you are too busy building your future, you have no time reflecting on the past, all you think about is your future.Although my nights were often disturbed by demons from my childhood, I managed to push them to the background.Now I am retired my mind has been constantly occupied with my past and what happened to us during World War 2 in the Far East. I am getting totally caught up in the past and I often am thinking about my mother what happened to her and her husband during that time. It seems like I cannot let go of it.I often wondered about what kind of path my life would have taken if this war had not taken away my father. Life is a journey and you never know what is around the corner, it can change in a blink of an eye.Enjoy each day and never take happiness for granted.I like to leave a clear picture behind for my children and grandchildren and for our next generations, how life sometimes can change you forever. My biggest wish ; that nobody ever has to go through what my mother, my father, her sister and husband had to go through.I have been very lucky to grow up with a step father who loved me as if I was his own child. It's probably because we, my mother, my stepfather and I had so much in common. We met on a ship the Boschfontein in 1946, fleeing from Indonesia, where we had survived the Japanese occupancy and the brutal concentration camps.During World War 2,my stepfather served on a merchant ship shuttling men, food, guns, ammunition, and other supplies across the dangerous waters in the Pacific, for four long years he and the crew of the Boschfontein faced danger from submarines, mines, armed raiders and destroyers, aircraft,"Kamikazes" and the elements, often thinking he would never see his homeland again.He escaped death many times. Nineteen of the twenty merchant ships allocated to General MacArthur's command were Dutch.
The Boschfontein as it was before the war.
The Boschforntein as it was camouflaged during World War 2.

After World War 2 was over he went back and forth from The Netherlands to Indonesia to pick up repatriates. It must have been heart braking for him to see all these women, children and men leaving the country they so much loved.For three hundred years the Dutch East Indies had been a colony of The Netherlands. Many of these people were born in The Dutch Indies and because they had Dutch blood in them they were literally kicked out from the country they loved so much.
Our children are caught up in their own future right now and have no time to ponder about what happened to me as a child and their grandparents during that horrible time 1941-1945 and after World War 2 was over and my mother and I were caught up in that other horrible civil war, when the Indonesian nationalists were fighting for independence of their country and The Netherlands refused to except their Independence. Her husband 'my father' had died as a POW of the Japanese, and for my dear mother the war had never ended.Her heart was broken.Her struggle to leave that part of her life behind was impossible.It's so easy to say; 'get on with your life', when your life has taken that terrible bend in the road. Mind you, I have to say that she has done a mighty job with bringing me up, and made me forget all the things I had seen through the eyes of a four year old. When I got older I asked many questions, and she seemed to be surprised at what was on my mind. She always asked me where I had heard such a thing and I would tell her that it was in my head.
She would tell me all the beautiful things from the Dutch East Indies. How beautiful that country was and how happy she had been.That I was born in one of the most beautiful places on earth,Bandoeng on the island of Java in the Dutch Indies.
When my mother and my stepfather passed away we found a black satin pouch full of photographs from the Dutch East Indies. The pouch contained letters from way back 1946, they came from Bandoeng, Java. I wonder if these people were able to leave Indonesia. In one of the letters it says that they had to wait another year before they could leave. They wrote in the letter that the fighting was fierce and that bombs still went off everyday and they were so glad for her that she was able to leave so quickly, thanks to Mr. Veenstra. When I started to read these letters I became aware that these were letters from my mothers friends who had been in Japanese concentration camps with her. These letters must have meant a lot to her.There were photographs from my father with me as a baby in his arms. They were such proud parents.
My proud parents. Bandoeng, 1941.
 Then all changed when the Japanese attacked the American fleet at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.The Dutch East Indies became involved in World War 2 on December 8, 1941. I was only nine and a halve months old. My father was in the army, and the KNIL (Koninklijk Nederlands-Indisch Leger/Royal Netherlands-East Indies Army) surrendered on March 9,1942. Some 42,000 of them, were made prisoners. In the course of the following months, the citizens of the Allied Powers and of other western countries, about 100,000 persons all in all, were interned in civilian camps. The Dutch Flag disappeared; from then on the Japanese flag with the rising sun flew everywhere.The Japanese tried immediately after the KNIL's surrender, to 'Japanify' the Dutch East Indies. The Japanese time zone and the Japanese calendar was introduced; the clock was set ahead an hour and a half and the year 1942 became the year 2602. It's funny because I found a newspaper from Soerabaja, the Soerabaiasch handelsblad, with the announcement of the birth of my cousin Toby van Driel. It is the newspaper from May, 1942 when she was born. But here it says she is born in May 2602. The Dutch newspapers were taken over by the Japanese.
third announcement from the top.T.A.van Driel-Sijtsma.

Soon after my cousin was born we were interned.Life in these camps was hell. Each camp had its own Japanese commander. Every internee received a number and had to carry it on his or her person at all times.The internees had to do all the work in the camps themselves.Not only did they have to look after their children the Japanese used them to do all kinds of other slave labor.

In a book I wrote I tried to tell what my mother, her sister and all these women endured.The book is called "I Thought You Should Know".
The scars will always remain, but these stories should always be kept alive.
Thea...Moentilan Febr. 1945. 
 This drawing was done while we were interned in Moentilan. I have not been able to find out who N v/d Molen was.

Eyes which saw a lot
Thoughts which you had to work out,
The solution is always, keep laughing and be strong.
What happens in your life takes a spot in your mind forever.
The scar will always be there.
Sometimes things in life happened which were unexpected.
They sometimes break your heart and make you forget how to laugh.
And still these are the things which make you stronger,
Stronger than you ever think you were.

                                                    Thanks for the memory!

Thanks for the memory
 And thanks to the lovely Jap
Who we never  forgot
The pleasures we had were so nice
There, in that over full paradise
Oh, I thank you so much

Many's the time we feasted
And few the times we fasted
Oh, well, it was swell while it lasted
We did have fun, and no harm done.

Thanks for the memory
and thanks to uncle Yamaha
Of whom we laughed so much 
And Charley, the succulent little man
He studied to become a police man
How lovely it was with these yellow men.

The author of this verse is unknown.

For my mother.
Your story will be told, and we will never forget what you women had to endure during the occupation of Japan. The atrocities the Japanese military inflicted on innocent women, children and men. History will never be forgotten. We will always remind Japan about their past, because it seems Japan has forgotten.

                                                                    Lest we forget!