20th August 1945
POW camp Miyata Fukuoka
Mary, Queen of Peace. Do we still have to doubt her, to whom
we turn in endless prayer, begging for peace, for an end to the
war, an end to martyrdom of the POWs, an end to the slavery,
reuniting families, torn apart. Why is it that on the feast of
Her Assumption, the silence, the deep silence spread over the
slave camp Miyata, where a few hundred human beings for 19 long
months were hit, bashed, kicked and beaten by a hoard of two
legged, short armed, bowlegged, slitty eyed creatures. Because
this island kingdom, that is known as Japan, is not inhabited
by 80 million humans, as we learnt in our geography classes,
but by 80 million two legged creatures who have not yet reached
the stage of development where they play with science and technique.
The tribe of 80 million barbarians still requires several generations
before they have the right to the title of human being.
I am well in body and spirit. In my heart there is no bitterness,
no hate against this cruel hoard. Only contempt, deep contempt
for these arrogant, stupid creatures. Now that peace and quiet
has returned to my mind. (soul)
The war is over, the daily Way of the Cross to the mines is over.
On this road many died. The weak in body and mind are left behind.
God had pity on their suffering and called them home to his house,
where these poor souls now have eternal rest. Those of us left
behind now live in expectation, the blessed expectation, for
Although still enclosed by the high wooden fence, we are still
beaten by this scum, the food we receive from our suppressors
leaves not a little, but a lot to be desired, but peace has returned
to our hearts and we are convinced that it is over, although
there has not been an official announcement yet that the war
is over. On the contrary, our guards are doing everything they
can to keep us in the dark.
When on the 16th of August, we were ready in the morning to go
to the mine, we were sent back to camp with the information that
that outside the camp an epidemic had broken out and because
of it we had to stay in the camp. (How do they know this)
Suddenly on the 17th of August, Red Cross parcels were distributed,
we received better and more food and vegetables arrived. The
mood in the camp improved by the minute.
On the 17th August, at evening roll call, sergeant on duty, Kusihara,
said that there would be a fire drill, the sirens would sound
and then we have to walk out of our barracks and dive into an
The silence, the strange silence, which has reigned for several
days, was about to be broken by the sounds of planes, heavy bombings
and the thunder of anti aircraft guns. We couldnt believe
it. It didnt happen either, but in the meantime, the disappointed
ones went back to bed. (this sentence is a bit hard to understand.
I think it means that they thought the fighting was over, but
the noise etc returned, bringing back fears that it actually
Then suddenly on the 19th August, in the middle of the day, a
plane circled above the camp and dropped pamphlets. A little
while later the rumour spread: the war had restarted.
The Doctor, Captain Hilffman, our camp commander, had been beaten
by the Japanese translator. A few minutes earlier, a pig had
been slaughtered for us on the order of the Japanese Camp Commander.
The minute the scum saw this, they entered the kitchen and begged
for some. This was refused. Suddenly all the officers had to
change into their work clothes and report for fatigue duty. This
was accompanied by bashings and kicking. During this melee the
"scum" made off with the pig. Then the whole camp had
to report in work clothes. The prisoners were shattered. Chris
Joha fainted, many looked grey from the fright, from the disappointment.
We were put to work.
Then something strange happened. In our camp, since the beginning
of the heavy bombardments on this island, there were ditches
and small pill boxes used as machine gun nests. These were suddenly
(magically) turned into air raid shelters. This was strange and
brought doubts to the masses. I remained convinced that it was
really over and immediately made several bets. Even so, the Doctor
and the officers remained very pessimistic. In the meantime,
the entire rice supply was removed from the camp. The pig was
returned, after the best pieces had been divided and eaten by
the scum. Slowly the peace returned. Most of us accepted our
lot, more suffering, waiting for release.
In sombre mood we attended evening roll call.
Two announcements: Smoking was again permitted from morning till
night; we were allowed to grow our hair as long as we wanted.
Another doubt, although this raised spirits. This therefore,
was a war of nerves.
It is three oclock in the morning of the 20th August. There
was no alarm the whole night, which would have been the case
if the war had restarted. So I won my two bets! Only a little
while and then we will see each other again. How will that be?
Meanwhile, I have lost a lot of my fat. My lowest weight has
been 57kg (125 lb), at present I am 60kg (132 lb). How we suffered
from hunger. Now I can see the disadvantage in my past life of
eating too much.
[Note- the following is an extraordinary
description of the hunger and starvation imposed by the Japanese]
What a dreadful feeling, never feeling satisfied. The serving
is always just enough so that you do not die of starvation. But
your body constantly diminishes. You are unsteady on your feet,
you drag your feet, you are troubled by all sorts of rashes,
boils, wounds take a long time to heal, weak eyes. All this through
lack of food, lack of vitamins, vegetables, fats and protein.
Salt has not been provided for several months and before then,
only very little. Sugar has been unavailable since the beginning.
The only sweets were provided by the Red Cross parcels. Oil or
fat we had for one month. Eggs, 1 for Easter 1943. Meat only
from the Red Cross, it was tinned. Because of this lack of provisions
we all suffered from hunger visions. You remembered huge feeds
from your past life, dinners and parties etc.
During the night I often woke, or during the monotonous work
in the mine, where you slept more than you worked, I saw before
me: a Christmas morning, sausage rolls, coffee or huge cakes
on New Years day. I began to imagine which puddings I would
have when I got home. And not only the fine delicacies, but also
the simpler Indonesian treats, eg. Gado- gado and tahoe. God
this was unbearable, everyone suffered like this. All conversations
were about FOOD. Many of us began to copy recipes so as to be
able to enjoy the re reading of these recipes; others rummaged
round in the rubbish tips to see if there was anything edible
to be found in there. But these Dungbeetles (that is the literal
translation of mest keevers) got their punishment. They all ended
up in hospital with the vilest diseases and many died from them.
Some others resorted to stealing food, either from the kitchen
or from the Japanese pantries. If they were caught, a thrashing
from the Jap would ensue. The thief would be belted up till he
fell to the ground, he would be revived and the bashing would
continue. Then he was thrown into a cell, received no other food
at all or one small potion of rice per day.
The hunger expressed itself differently in each one of us. I
had the good fortune that I dont smoke. I constantly swapped
my cigarettes for food such as rice, vegetables, sweets or fruit.
You cant help wondering how it is possible that there are
people who, although they are hungry, can swap their rations
for cigarettes. And yet, I have learnt to understand how men
can be so addicted to smoking, that they would rather swap a
portion of their rations than go without cigarettes.
Eventually I found a way to forget the gnawing hunger: STUDYING.
With utter despair I threw myself into the study of maths and
electro technique. I would get up at 3AM, grab my notes which
I had made in Tjimahi. (POW camp in Java) I no longer had any
books. The desire to study was so great, that I spent every spare
hour studying. I even smuggled my notes into the mines, so that
I could study in a quiet corner, leaning against a pine wood
prop, or sitting on a heap of newly dug coal, under the poor
illumination of my miners lamp. This desire for study became
an obsession. Summer and winter, at exactly 3AM I woke up and
grabbed my notes. Even in the worst cold, when your breath froze
on the blankets and when the icy wind howled though the cracks
in the rickety barracks. But it was hopeless, the way your memory
deteriorated. Formulas that you had pounded into yourself in
the morning would be forgotten by next morning. This was so depressing.
But I kept it up to the present day. ( It is now 3rd September)
Not only did I forget the hunger, but also the Jap bosses in
the mine noticed that Number 28 (that was my slave number) studied.
I was questioned, tested and found to be good enough to work
in the Electrical section (the DENKI) in mine number 5 run by
Tukusha. I was known as electro technical engineer and after
3 months of stupid monotonous slave work of throwing baskets
of coal into empty carts, I landed in the electrical workplace
of mine number 5. Into this section together with me came Geelhoed
and two others. Geelhoed is also an engineer. I became the head
of our team number 4.
Then began for us in DENKI, a more humane time. Not that our
work was lighter than the miners, on the contrary, it was sometimes
much heavier. But the big advantage was: we didnt always
work in the mine, sometimes it was the workshop, working on lathes,
repairing engines, transformers etc. At other times it w as the
laying of heavy cables in t he mine. Add to this that our bosses
were engineers, so were a little more educated Japs. Here they
call every technician "engineer". My top boss, the
head of the Electrical section, Matsubara 2nd class engineer,
is actually the same level of a MTS person. (MTS stands for Middelbare
Technische Hoge school in Indonesia and was considered a very
good school) Our treatment by the Japs from this Electrical Section
was more humane than that of the churlish bosses in the mines.
We never received one beating and were never verbally abused.
This was a huge difference from the cursed devils in the mine.
The grave dogs beat, whipped up, drove, wore out and thrashed
our boys. Remember the physical condition we were in
weakened and not enough warm clothing in the winter.
In the aisles (corridors) the water came down in torrents, we
had to work up to our ankles in freezing cold, foul, black muddy
water. Most of us contracted diarrhoea , every 15 minutes we
had to go to the latrine. For this you had to ask permission
and give an explanation. God how we suffered. The devils didnt
understand or didnt want to understand and if you soiled
yourself, they laughed and ridiculed you into the bargain. For
diarrhoea you were not allowed to stay in barracks. Besides,
the one who decided whether you were capable of going to work
was a moron of a Jap soldier, and as long as you didnt
fall in your tracks, you had to go to work.
It often happened that as we lined up for roll call before going
to "hell", suddenly someone would collapse and lie
there shivering from a fever. The Japs would attack him shouting
and belting him with sticks until he came to and proceeded with
a shaky gait. "You see he can stand up, so off to work"
was the opinion. If he stayed down no matter how hard they belted
him with their sticks, only then he would be allowed to go to
hospital. But even that was not the end of the suffering. Those
who were sick in the camp were given less to eat than those who
went to work. The Jap stuck to the rule: "He who doesnt
work, will not eat." Healthy provisions were unavailable.
The sick received very little rice and a little vegetable soup.
Everyday they were checked by that Jap soldier ; Ando this grave
dog was called, and if their fever was almost gone, they would
be forced to return to the mine. Neither our Doctor or our Officers
had any say in the matter. In this manner we lost 30 souls to
pneumonia and fatigue.
We were exploited to the end. Work commenced at 7AM and we would
return at 7 or 8PM. Rest period before mealtime was approximately
30 minutes, although this however w as lengthened. The worst
time was from November to December 1944, when the mine workers
didnt get home until 10 or 11PM and had to be out again
at 7 the next morning. For this overtime we were rewarded. This
reward consisted of 2 or 3 balls of rice. (these rice balls were
about as big as a billiard ball)
The working "week" was usually 10 11 days, then
we had one day "rest". That is to say, we had one day
when we didnt have to work in the mine, but then came the
masterly logic of the scum: "You are free arent you?
Well then, you can easily work in the garden or on the farm.
The word "farm" was a stately title for a poor piece
of land about 10kms (6 ¼ miles) from our camp. There w
ere a few miserable cows doing what cows do in a cows life.
The ground was mostly sandy and on this "farm" we had
to work, drain swamps, dig and plant. And all this privation
on a very small ration. Our ration consisted of 500 grams (1lb)
of raw rice per person per day. On days off, that is when "we
didnt work", this was reduced to 350-400g (11
13oz). You can imagine how we climbed the walls from hunger.
To give a small personal example: On Christmas Day 1944 we had
a huge dinner. The whole day we actually had good and adequate
food, mainly due to the Red Cross. We started the morning with
krentebrood (fruit loaf) 200grams (6 ½ oz). I was later
able to buy one more piece in exchange for cigarettes. Lunch
consisted of a mug of rice as well as a hearty soup consisting
of a good deal of vegetables and corned beef. In the evening
was the actual Christmas dinner. Once again we were issued with
a large mug of rice and soup with meat and butter. I received
2 extra serves of rice and soup from guys who couldnt finish
theirs. I ate the two servings. Then we got a sort of Bengal
rice. Then came the pudding, again two servings. Nevertheless,
I still went to bed not fully satisfied. A few of the men left
the hall looking very pale. Too much to eat I chuckled to myself.
That promised something for the next day! And sure enough most
of them didnt want their breakfast on Boxing Day. The saying
was: "Give it to Maul" That morning I was given ( as
opposed to having to swap cigarettes for it) a total of 5 complete
portions of breakfast consisting of a mug of rice and soup. On
top of this, I was able to buy a serve of pudding and a serve
of Bengal rice with cigarettes. At midday I said "I am satisfied",
but by 2PM I was on the look out for another feed! Rice on its
own is not filling. The lack of meat, fats sugar, protein, other
foodstuffs and vitamins cause the hunger. Oh dear there were
a lot of people who suffered from the trots on Boxing day. You
only had to say to them, "Do you want some more rice?"
and they would turn deathly pale and run for the toilets!
What a difference with today
.6th of September 1945. We
have raised our own rations to 900 grams (1lb 130z)! Many now
ask for only half rations thanks to the extra portions we receive
from the Red Cross and that which the Americans throw over the
camps from their blessed B29s. Now I weigh, after 10 days,
29th September: A lot has happened since I last wrote. Today
we are entering the harbour of Manila. How long we will stay
there is not yet known. We are counting on about a month. While
there, I hope to receive news from you. I havent heard
from either Huib or Jan (brother and brother-in-law, both of
who survived the war in different camps). You probably have,
because they too would have now been given the opportunity to
send you a telegram.
Dear ones, so long for now, much love Hans.