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Saturday, May 9, 2015

The forgotten mothers of the "War in the East".

Today it's Mothers Day, and this is for you Mom and for all the mothers who suffered so tremendously under the occupancy of the Japanese  during World War Two.You were the forgotten once. As of late I am thinking a lot about you. You were my hero. The unbelievable pain you and all the other mothers suffered during those years is not to describe.
 Not many stories have been told about the suffering of this group. Indeed, when we reflect on that part of World War Two we think, automatically, of these brave military men, of whom there were 132,000. Yet there were 130,000 Allied civilians- predominantly women and children- who also endured appalling privation and cruelty, but whose story is barely known.
Once Japan had conquered South-East Asia, the Europeans, Americans and Australians who had been living there as planters, teachers, missionaries and civil servants were rounded up and trucked away to the 300 "civilian assembly areas"- in reality concentration camps- that the Japanese had created.

Line up, and hand in all your money and valuables.

New internees arrive in camp.
Camp Moentilan were we were taken in OCTOBER 1942.

Our second camp, Banjoebiroe 10.

Our beautiful view.
By far the largest group were the 108,000 Dutch civilians, 62,0000 of them women and children, who were sent to camps on Java, Sumatra, Borneo and Timor. Their ordeal was to last three and a half years and would claim the lives of 13,000, due to starvation, exhaustion and disease. Many people all over the world had never heard about this.
All women and children between the ages of 11 and 60 had to do so called "useful work". In addition to this distressing, undignified and exhausting work, the women were subjected to constant brutality. To look a soldier in the eye, or fail to bow to him instantly would incur a vicious beating that could break a nose, or loosen teeth. At Tenko, or roll call, which took place twice a day, our mothers had to stand for hours in the blazing sun, no hats were allowed and even the elderly and children were not allowed to sit down.Another punishment would be the shaving of your head. This would be done in such a vicious way that the women would simply wrap a scarf round her bloodied scalp and would carry on.
Bowing lessons, all day long.

A severe beating because she did not bow correctly.
Worse even was the fear of starvation. Our mothers would be desperate to keep us alive. They would catch frogs, lizards and snails and boil them in a tin cup on the back of their irons.
Or they would sneak to the fence (gedek) to trade their meager possessions with local people for a banana or an egg. But if the Jap would catch you, you would receive a severe beating or even executed.

By the time liberation came on August 15,1945, the degradation of our mothers was complete. Like the POWs in their loin cloths, our mothers had virtually no clothes, many wearing old tea towels for bras, and sandals fashioned out of strips of rubber tyres. My mother had traded all her bra's for food. I even traded one bra for my mother, while she was near death, at the "gedek". Sadly when I took it to my mother I had received a stone in a " pisang blad"  (banana leaf). Our mothers were like skeletons, so thin, half-blind with malnutrion and huge numbers of children and mothers had died.
Our mothers were heroes and we should never forget what they endured in these camps, thousands of our mothers and their children lived with hunger, disease, cruelty and death, and we should remember their ordeal and their courage. Not only on Mothers day, but every day.

HAPPY MOTHERS DAY MOM, wherever you are. I am always thinking about you.


Many years have since past,
But memories forever last.
Women, children in prison camps
Where nobody was able to give them a hand
Put there by the Japanese Regime
With soldiers who were so terrible mean.
Although it is so long ago
My mind goes back to 1944
How we women shed our tears
In that hell three and a half years.
These Japanese were brutal and vicious
Cruel and heartless and twisted.
Endless roll calls, just for fun
Everyday in the burning hot sun.
They screamed "Kiotskay!", "Kiray!", "Nowray!" and waved their whips
And we women knew better than to give them lip.
We kept our wits together
Because our children was all that matter.
When I am thinking about those years,
They come back with so much fear!Swamped by misery, grief and pain
We hoped God would hear his name.
We sang of his glory and begged to be heard,
We prayed, we pleaded, but never a word.
We reached for the last straw in despair
And hoped somebody outthere would care.
Why, oh why was it, that no help came
Did you not hear us calling your name?
Why was it, you let innocent children die??
I will never forget that you passed by.
There was thunder and lighting all around,
I was sure you would strike these Japs to the ground.
We were in so much agony, grief and pain,
We hoped for mercy, but it never came.
There in that horrible prison camp
"YOU" never offered a helping hand
Most women lost their fate,
For thousands freedom came too late!
And when my times comes to face "YOU"
I only have one question...WHY??
Would you let innocent children die??

I wrote this poem in 2012,. I remembered my mothers stories about the time we were in Moentilan in that horrible camp. Where every day children were hungry and died of starvation, while the Japs had plenty to eat.She told me that terrible things had happened in the church, many women were tortured and beaten right under the watchful eyes of God. She told me about the thunder and lighting, and why God would not strike these Japs to the ground.That's when she told me that she was not able to believe anymore.I wrote this in my book as well. "I THOUGHT YOU SHOULD KNOW", which I wrote in 2010. How these mothers have suffered , and how they were the Forgotten women of the "War in the East".

But today its Mothers Day, and we remember our mothers our heroes.
Mom you left us 12 years ago, but you are always on my mind. I love you.

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