V-J Day

On the eve of V-J day, I was going to Japanese forces enter the city of Surabaya start a rant about the Dutch resistance in The Netherlands and particularly, the armed fight of the Dutch (remarkably lead by Communists) against the German forces. The funny thing is that Dutch history books generally don’t list political backgrounds of Dutch resistance people: people who simply died for doing what is supposed to be right are simply heroes. Dutch students are (if I’m not wrong) still taught about the most influential protest against the deportation of Jewish people in 1941, the February strike, which was organized by the Dutch Communist party (you may remember that before the German invasion of Holland that the Dutch had a thriving democracy). The strike lasted only 2 days: German troops broke the strike killing 9 and wounding 24 participants. The 3 main organizers of the strike were arrested and shot by a firing squad.

Right, but the point was no ranting about what happened in the Second World War in Europe, which generally did not affect my family: there was this other portion of the world where after a short skirmish, Japanese forces conquered Asia and rounded up everybody with any European blood and put them in either ‘female camps’ or ‘male camps’. My parents were among them: my mother was not separated from her mother (she was too young). However, my dad had reached that magic age of eleven and was considered to be an adult and hence, was moved to an adults camp, where he, just like ‘other adults’ ended up having to fight for his food and for his life. That said, I won’t bore you with details but I thought the following remark of my dad tells about true human survival skills after the war:

After all these years and after all they did to me: I do not hate the Japanese. If possible, I would have liked being able to confront the guards and ask them how they could do this to 11 year old kids. But hate, no; hate gets to you, and at the end it becomes and destroys you.

So, with that, I’ll mark today’s V-J day, which ironically is also the birthday of my late mother. When that war ‘ended’ officially, she turned 7. My dad was only 15.

Update: ‘Spiced up circumstances’, a moving (Dutch) memoir about the war and the Bersiap period after that from the perspective of a young girl.