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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Remembrance day, August 15, when Japan surrendered.

On August 14,1945, it was announced that Japan had surrendered to the Allies, ending World War 2 in the Pacific.
Since then, both August 14 and 15 have been known as  "Victory over Japan Day" (V-J Day)
After six years of hostilities Japan's capitulation in the Pacific came finally to an end at a cost of millions of deaths.

It's important to remember those, who gave their lives, so we could live in freedom.
It's sad that we have a short memory. The worst part of memory is that we tend to forget, and lose sight of the importance of freedom. Our freedom came with lots of lost lives. There are many, many war graves to remind us. These graves are the witnesses.My father's grave is one of them.He died as a Japanese POW, on the infamous Burma rail road in Kui Yae near Rin Tin.Rin Tin was the worst camp on the railroad line, where my father was for three month.The Japanese decided to close this camp, there were too many deaths. They called it valley of death.My father was with his friend Ecko Veenstra transported to another camp Kui Yae, where he died a couple of weeks later. Mr. Veenstra survived and visited my mother after the war in March 1946. My mother was recovering in Bandoeng at the Java Centre, where they had taken her.She was so sick and so thin. It took her almost three month to get her strength back. It was a miracle that she survived.

My father's first resting place.
His remains were transferred to Kanchanaburi in Thailand, where they laid him to rest with thousands of his comrades.

rows upon rows
My father was only 26 years old.
Remember me! (The voice of the dead)

Remember me!

Duty called and I went to war
Though I'd never fired a gun before
I paid the price for a new day
As all my dreams were blown away.

Remember me!

We all stood true as whistles blew
And faced the shell and stench of hell
Now battle's done, there is no sound
Our bones decay beneath the ground
We cannot see, or smell, or hear
There is no death, or hope or fear.

Remember me!

Once we, like you, would laugh and talk
And run and walk and do things that you all do
But now we lie in rows so neat
Beneath the soil, beneath your feet.

Remember me!

In mud and gore and the blood of war
We fought and fell and move no more
Remember me!, I am not dead
I'm just a voice within your head.

Harry Riley. 

Lest we forget!

The silenced history of the Dutch East Indies.

For those who experienced the other side of World War 2 in the Pacific, on the other side of the world,the horrible memories from that time is hard to come to grasp with. My mothers bitter memories of Japan's WW2 militarism runned deep.
She told me once that it was for her impossible to forgive Japan for what their military had done to her and to innocent women and children. The hardest part for her was when she thought about these innocent children. Many died as a result of starvation and a lack of vitamins . The look in their eyes and their little faces was forever carved in her mind. How helpless the mothers were, and how guilty they felt, when their child died. "How can you forgive these Japs", she would say," they had plenty to eat". She was never able to forgive or forget.She passed away in 2003, and suffered all her life of horrible nightmares.
It's even harder for one to fully grasp and understand the fear, pain, suffering and sadness, that they went through while imprisoned by the Japanese in these horrible camps, behind barbwire and fences. Tucked away and rotting away as if they were nobodies.
There has been very little attention devoted to the Pacific war in World War 2, even less recognition has been directed to the women and children who suffered under the Japanese military. Thousands died in these camps.
In remembrance of the Dutch victims in Japanese women camps.

                                                              Dutch-Indies. 1941-1945

I was only 1 1/2 years old when we were put in these so called Japanese internment camps. My mother and I, her sister Eke and Eke's four year old son and newborn baby  daughter Toby were internment in camp Moentiland from October 1942 till August 1, 1945. On August 1, 1945  we were transported to another camp, called Banjoebiroe 10 on the island of Java.The Japanese meant to kill us all, round up as many women, children in one camp and do what ever you can to get rid of them, it does not matter how it will be done, as long as there are no traces left behind. The same was planned for the men and boys, who were in separated camps.
My cousins and I spend our first years of our life in these filthy camps, with hundreds of other women and children, amongst rats, flies cockroaches, bedbugs, lice etc. on a mattress which was our living room, our bed room, our play room and ding room. Every day we were asking when we would see our Daddy's again. How hard it must have been for the mothers to tell us children that they did not know.Why did our daddy's left us. My mother told me that they had told us that we were going camping and that our daddy's would come later. My cousin Fop really had a hard time and kept asking month after month for his Daddy. He seemed to withdraw from the world and would sit quietly in a corner sucking his thumb.He barely survived. My mother always said, sucking his thumb saved him.I look at my grand children and one of them is now four years old, the age I was when I must have walked on bare feet with hardly any clothes on my back in this dirty filthy prison camp, hungry and thirsty, my hair full of lice.
War is dirty,war is cruel. The sad thing is that it is still going on in numerous parts of the world.It seems like mankind has not learned a thing.

I think about my father at the age of twenty five, fighting for his country. Then taken as a prisoner of war to Burma to build a rail road line through the jungle for the Japanese.How these young men must have suffered.
I look at my oldest grand daughter who is now 27 and married to this lovely young man, then I see my parents at that age and think about the hell they must have gone through.How grateful I am for them who fought for our freedom, so our children and grand children are living in peace.

Once we reach adulthood, most of us assume we know all there is to know about our parents and other family members. However, if you take the time to ask questions and actually listen to the answers, you may find there is still much to learn about people so close to you.
Oral histories are a dying art. Which is sad indeed for they show appropriate respect for the lives and experiences of those who have come before us.And just as important, they document those remembrances for those who's lives are over, that personal knowledge is lost forever. We live in a time now where everyone seems to be just looking ahead as though we deem nothing in the past worthy of our attention. The future is always fresh and exciting and it has a pull on us. Times past simply disappear. But yet it is important to "discover" by simply looking behind us.
You can learn from the past, from the good and the bad.It is important to remember. The past should never be forgotten.

So remember them who gave their lives, so we could live in peace!

Carla,Sietske,Ruud and I, visiting the memorial monument in Arnhem.

Bronbeek, Arnhem. Monument the Three Pagoden.
My fathers name, forever carved in stone. Klaas van der Wal.
 I never had a chance to know you. You were taken away too soon. But you always will be remembered. Your loving daughter Thea.

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