- Contributed by
- Wentink, Bernt Paul
- People in story:
- J.J. (Joost) Wentink, LtZ 3rd class, Dutch Navy
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 11 November 2003
My father, Joost Johannes Wentink, was born in Utrecht in 1902, he studied law at Amsterdam Free universtiy (VU) in the early thirties. As there wasn't any work he took on a job at an uncle's newspaper in Bandoeng (Dutch East Indies), where he married and both my brothers were born.
He was quite interested and studied Chinese as a hobby, with the political developments he also had a keen interest in Japanese. he was also very active at the local Church.
When The Netherlands were overrun in 1940, he joined the homeguard (Landstorm); in his time of he guarded water mains, ploughed through mud and practiced with unreliable grenades...
Later a school friend helped him with a job at the Naval Headquarters in Bandoeng, he ended up as a lieutenant ("luitenant ter zee, 3e klasse) in the cipher department (known as "room 14"), I think it very possible that he must have known something of the Pearl Harbour attack.
After capitulation he was POWed, first on Java and later he was transported via Singapore to Japan.
As it became clear that the camps would be split up, church people and the camp leadership agreed to accompany each transport with an (lay) almoner, where-ever they would go they had to found communities to help people through, my father was also asked for this.
These almoners often risked their lifes, not only for doing something illegal but also while visiting hospital barracks to attend those that were "allowed" to be il.
At first my father acted as translator, which meant he got beaten up several times and wasn't exactly appreciated by his fellow prisoners.
In Japan he ended up in the camp of Tsumori where he had to work in a coalmine, a depressing place, where people sometimes committed suicide to escape from the misery.
Differences between various denominations disappeared as conditions got worse.
Things got mixed up when he was sent to this camp and they forgot that he knew Japanese, now he could even give more support by translating the bits people picked up at working parties or in the mines and help people hanging on.
Much information came from illegal receivers and from the paper scraps used in the latrines.
Thanks to these scraps some of the internees figured out what the Americans must have tried "wich only caused minimal damage"...
He was liberated by the U.S. Army, reunited with his family at Soerabaja and sent to Holland with the first boat back.
After a wile at naval headquarters he took up his former job at a newspaper in The Hague, after retirement he studied theology at Leiden University and became the oldest student with a degree (in 1972 then).
He got knighted for his work in 1977 and he also got a special pension for his time in the camps at this time, he died in 1993.
Although he had many reasons to hate but taught us not to but to learn from other people instead and never let this happen again.
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