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Explosions of Punishments

by anak-bandung

Contributed by 
anak-bandung
People in story: 
inhabitants of the camp
Location of story: 
Women's work camp Kampong Makassar, Java, Indonesia
Background to story: 
Civilian
Article ID: 
A2922356
Contributed on: 
16 August 2004

Introduction

In the third part of Nel’s story where she talks about her experiences in the women’s work camp Kampong Makassar, she only touches upon the horror of the hunger days proclaimed as punishment by the Jap camp head. Rose-of-Java has given us her tongue-in-cheek story in ‘Deadly Manna’ how the exchange between the women’s protest and the Japanese commandant may have taken place. I would like to hook on to this but in a more serious note. Rose can still vividly remember what happened in the camp and may find it more difficult to talk about it. As I was too small to remember and have to rely on my mother’s memories and those of others, it will be a bit easier for me to go a bit deeper .
A good insight of what actually took place and what kind of punishments amused the Japs, can be read below. It is part of my unofficial translation of an extremely moving book by Ko Luijckx called ‘Het Verbluffende Kamp’ (The Baffling Camp) and was originally published in Dutch by AD. M. C. Stok, Zuid-Hollandsche Uitgevers Mij. — Den Haag — year of publication unknown, but assumed to be soon after the end of the war.
Nel, my mother, can verify what has been written in ‘Het Verbluffende Kamp’ and the Hut 14 which is mentioned here was the hut we ‘lived’ in and she was one of the sixteen women concerned.

- o -

“Explosions of punishment (taken from ‘Het Verbluffende Kamp’)

In the evening of 27 April [1945] it was announced that the following morning, at ten o’clock, the residents of the upper huts — also those who were bedridden — would have to fall into line on the field, together with all their luggage, amongst which the cabin-trunks, all neatly packed. The general opinion was that we were going on transport again.
On the 28th the Japs arrived at eleven with the order: ‘only one suitcase per family!’
In that suitcase the most necessary items had to be packed. As many did not possess a
case, one of the Japs gave the permission to pack one cabin-trunk per large family. Another Jap hastened to countermand that, so re-packing once more.
At twelve o’clock some food was handed out, on a field without any shadow in the burning sun. Finally at three o’clock the gents started their inspection of the cases and at seven hut 14 was dismissed, together with what they could carry in one go. Nobody was allowed to help. The remainder of the luggage stayed behind on the field and would be taken to the ‘gudangs’ (storage barracks) the following day.

Hut 14 was forbidden any contact with the rest of the camp. Mattresses and tubs, which also had been dragged outside, were allowed inside again for the night.
The following day bits of bamboo were missing from hut 14, where the building squad was at work. The building Jap was furious. It also turned out that some cases from other huts had been smuggled inside hut 14. The order followed: ‘within ten minutes the hut had to be emptied’. Hei-hos (native guards) came to chase the women and children out with sticks; they had to file in front of hut 13. By then many women were too tired and nervous to bring their possessions and had left them.
After standing in the sun for several hours, the ladies were allowed to enter hut 13. As punishment all the cases and small luggage that had been left behind had to stand for days in the rain. After that everything was stored wet inside the gudangs.
Mind! This unlucky hut counted now at least 500 (five hundred!) women and children of whom a great number suffered from dysentery. The long stay in the sun, the dragging of trunks and cases, the packing and re-packing, the fear and the scandalous treatment had shaken many for a long time.

Many women took part in the ‘gedek’ trade, that’s to say, they bought rations through holes in the enclosure, especially eggs and fat and sold those at a great profit in the camp. The Japs often aided the women, for part of the profit or other payment (!?). If a newcomer arrived or if one of the Japs wanted to cross another, a ‘discovery’ followed. That was how around 25 June 1945 two women in Kampong Makassar were caught trading at night. The punishment was very business-like and matter-of-fact:
1. They were put into a detention cell of 1 by 2 meter.
2. They had to lie on the red earth without cover and ‘klambu’ (mosquito net).
This was a severe punishment for Kampong Makassar for, at night and in the morning it would be extremely cold and damp
3. With a Jap, they had to walk past the women kepping ‘tenko’ (roll-call)
(a) dressed in a bra and briefs and with
(b) traces of heavy maltreatment to be seen on their bodies
(c) and they were shorn.
4. Carrying a notice announcing their misdeeds, they had to stand next to the hei-hos at the entrance of the gardens when the women were going or leaving.
5. They were neither permitted to wash nor change.
6. Their rations were curtailed.
7. The punishment took 7 days.
8. For the remainder of their stay in the camp they and all their family members were forbidden to work in any of the duties with the consequences that they no longer could earn any extra rations.

Our own camp leadership did all they could under the difficult circumstances. They organised coats and blankets and ensured they received the normal amount of rations.
It was at this occasion that the Japs staged the witty game of ‘shaving’. They had heard about this punishment from their girlfriends, some of whom were from the camp Tjihapit. The first time they wielded the scissors themselves without any egard,
making sure that their victims were not fit to be seen.

On the 2nd and 3rd July the camp faced two dreadful hunger days. On 1st July the corvee rations were so small and so bad, that sixteen women from hut 14 boldly decided to ‘talk’ to the Jap. [note: these small bread rolls were supposed to weigh 110 grams, but had been reduced to less than 60 grams and were of extreme poor quality] Amongst these women was one of the four doctors, Dr H. The women explained to the camp leader, Mrs S, that they would like to speak with the Japs to ask whether they knew how bad the bread was, which had been delivered by a bakery from town. Moreover, this awful bread was given in too small a portion for the worker of a work camp.
It was a pity that Mrs S took the message to the Jap without an interpreter. When the Jap arrived at the office, many women from the surrounding huts had gathered around, most from curiosity, others to show solidarity. The Jap had the impression this was a beginning of a rebellion. Before everything had been explained, ‘camp punishment’ was ordered:
1. The evening rations for hut 14 had to be returned.
2. The fires in the kitchen and bakery had to be doused immediately
3. Bread and half-cooked food had to be taken to the pigs by the women themselves.
4. The entire camp was given several hunger days. Their food was destroyed in front of them.

‘The Japs never make mistakes and never do anything wrong’, we were assured
repeatedly. To have it pointed out that they had let themselves (perhaps) be deceived by one of their suppliers, was felt as a disparagement to their honour.
The individual punishment for the sixteen women was the same as those who had been caught trading at the ‘gedek’ and took five days.
Again our camp leaders intervened and asked commander Tanaka for blankets for the prisoners, but — according to Tanaka — these women were like cats and dogs: they did not appreciate good food given to them and like cats and dogs could sleep without blankets.
Two of the victims had to be taken to the hospital before the five days had gone by, one of which with severe dysentery. A third, who had a serious abscess in her jaw, was not permitted to consult a doctor. Amongst the victims was also an old lady.
This time the Japs tried to make the shaving of heads a public entertainment on the big field. The hairdressers had to execute this sentence which they of course detested, but had the advantage for those concerned, that it was done properly. The hairdressers even took a chance and left a few centimetres of hair!
The Japs got a taste for this new game. They loudly boasted about it to their friends over the telephone. In the middle of an ordinary conversation with a hut leader, one of the possessed idiots suddenly said ‘I hope we shave at least 100 women!’ But even for him the capitulation came too soon!

Understandably, the sixteen punished women suffered most from the thought that their well-meant protest had had such terrible consequences for their camp mates.
Sometimes, when we talk again about these hunger days, we again feel, involuntary, that miserable feeling of disgust and weakness. The punishment was stipulated carefully: several days without food or drink for the entire camp, including the hospital; nobody was permitted to leave their huts; nobody was allowed to bathe; nobody was allowed to do the laundry.
To prevent sabotaging these orders, the Japs had shut off the water where possible.
We tried to take the blow as well as we could. In all huts the women were advised to move as little as possible and especially to keep the children calm. Only a few amongst us had some rations left apart from some pieces of the unsurpassed ‘bungkil’[a by product used for pig feed and fertiliser for the gardens, pressed in small cakes]. But because we had hardly any water to wash this fodder, we could only soak it, because there was no fire either too roast it. It made many of us vomit.
We took care of the children first by giving them an occasional little spoonful of sugar or a minuscule slice of stale bread.
Worst of all was that the hospital too had to share this scandalous punishment. The
nurses achieved the near impossible. The first night they stole the remainder of dough
from the bakery, the only thing the Japs had forgotten to throw to the pigs. From
that dough they baked small pancakes and made porridge on a small electric plate.
A long and tiring job. All the nurses stayed on their post day and night without any
food.

There was dead silence in the entire camp. We caught ourselves whispering. Most children were totally apathetic, hardly complaining or wining. How long would ‘several days’ take, we asked ourselves, but everybody bore themselves splendidly.
Finally, after fifty hours, the news came at ten o’clock in the evening: ‘all shifts to their post immediately’. The exhausted women did not let themselves stopped by weakness and within a quarter of an hour the fires burnt high in kitchen and bakery. Children were woken up en did not understand why mummy cried.
At twelve midnight everybody had enjoyed tea with sugar, bread and half an egg, ‘pisang’ (banana) and ‘djeruk’ (orange). The kitchen and the ‘toko’ (shop) had been admirably busy for this achievement.

The regularly returning punishments we can now regard as Jap jokes compared with previous punishment explosions. One evening, one of the women on ‘tenko’, being distracted, bowed a second too late. The 180 women and children from the same hut had to stay in the cold from half past seven till midnight. They had not had their evening meal yet.
One of the favourite shows was to let one stand for hours in the sun on the scorching field. Hei-hos were present to prevent the women looking for a moment’s rest or trying to find shelter from the sun.
The hardest punishment was the sudden halting of our extra rations, which would arrive via the toko. Up to three times such a delivery, which had just been unloaded, had to be loaded up again and returned on the pretext that we had not bowed deep enough, that a piece of bamboo had disappeared or that the terrain had not been kept clean enough.”

- o -

Yesterday it was 15 August — VJ day. No mention was made as far as I know of this in the media. In Holland a wreath was laid by Prime Minister Balkenende at a monument in The Hague, paid for by the survivors, not by the Government. Is it a wonder that so many of the survivors of the Far East POW camps, both military and civilian, are feeling bitter?

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These messages were added to this story by site members between June 2003 and January 2006. It is no longer possible to leave messages here. Find out more about the site contributors.

Message 1 - Kampong Makassar

Posted on: 16 August 2004 by rose-of-java

No wonder you had no time to reply! I wanted to write the "tongue in cheek" version, because when I read your translation of your mother's journal, I sensed that the women had felt responsible for the destruction of the food.
And that, of course, would be blatantly unjust. The Japs were looking for an excuse to humiliate and torture us all the time.

Will we ever be able to put these memories behind us?
And while we sit reliving the past, in Africa another massacre has taken place, in a camp.
Sometimes I sits and thinks, sometimes I only sits.

I don't know who wrote these memorable lines, but they about sum up the situation here. Greetings!

 

Message 2 - Kampong Makassar

Posted on: 16 August 2004 by anak-bandung

16/8 Dear friend, you read that contribution quickly! I do hope they allow it in, for it needs be be told, despite it has been published before, but is now out of print (precisely because of that, I think, for who else would bother to buy it now, no commercial benefit there!). We are now one above the other on the editors' desk!
'sits and thinks' is good. Why not and only 'sits' is good too. One does not always have to be busy. As long as it does not become 'sist and stinks'
MUST have my lunch now! Rob

 

Message 3 - Kampong Makassar

Posted on: 17 August 2004 by rose-of-java

Dear Rob I have just sent you 2 e-mails, one before visit of physiotherapist, one after. But when I checked the box "letters sent" there was nary a letter to you to be found. Zilch. Yesterday, Outlook was on the blink. It looked normal this morning, but you never know. Hope to get a reply one way or the other.
Am now going to do lots of shopping.
Love Roos

 

Message 4 - Kampong Makassar

Posted on: 22 August 2004 by ODYSSEY

 

Message 5 - Kampong Makassar

Posted on: 22 August 2004 by ODYSSEY

Hi Roos -Aug 22- I just read your note about Outlook Xpress on the blink. I hait for a long time ,but didn't like it and threw it out.So they are still doing their disappearance acts,`Did you get the long" Meel"I sent you yesterday?
Talk to you sometime.Tulip@

 

Message 6 - Kampong Makassar

Posted on: 22 August 2004 by ODYSSEY

It did not work,see next message,T.-2

Message 1 - Forgotten Day.

Posted on: 18 August 2004 by Frank Mee Researcher 241911

Hello Anak,
How right you are there was no mention anywhere in the media about VJ Day. It is as if people wanted to wipe some of the war's history off the page.
We saw film and other news of those camps when the war was over but the war in Europe had been over a couple of months and the people wanted it all to be finished with. We realised the Japanese were in-human and I think we felt you were unlucky to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
At sixteen I took note but like all teenagers put it from my mind and got on with my own life, I think this was the general feeling around me, you were safe now so why make a fuss.
I did not realise what scars it would leave until I started to read books from people returned from those camps, it really sank in when I started to read Len Snowy Baines account of life as a POW. It really sank in then just how bad it must have been for the men and women trapped out there. I should think worse for the women as the Japanese thought of their own women as only chattels so foriegn women would be as nothing.
I can only give you the thoughts of us youngsters and that was forget it and get on with life. Callous and unfeeling without doubt but it was how things were then.
All the fuss going on about the European war has wiped Asia from peoples minds. Churchill could take some of the blame as he thought the surrender at Singapore cowardice and never mentioned it again. He never apologised to those men even when we found out the true facts of that surrender. He wiped defeat from his mind and concentrated on Victories taking most people along the same route.
Thank you for putting it down for us all to read and maybe spare a thought for those brave people who managed to survive by helping each other, that is how life should be all the time.
Regards Frank.

 

Message 2 - Forgotten Day.

Posted on: 22 August 2004 by anak-bandung

22/8 Goeiemiddag Frank, as you may have read in 'return to the fold'- message 82', I am back with a vengeance.
Thank you for your explanation of how the Far East were forgotten. It is quite understandable that people, having gone through it - and everyone experiences suffering in his own way - really did not want to know anymore. Especially the younger ones, like you were one then, just wanted to get on with their lives. And the politicians? Well, they are quite a different kettle of fish. Why else do we usually only learn of victorious battles in the history books?
When we were in Prague these last few days we paid a visit to Theresianstadt or Terezin. It used to be a garrison town housing 15 000 and a large fort. Hitler chucked them all out and 60 000 jews and also christians were incarcerated in the emptied buildings. They made it into a 'model' camp for the Red Cross to visit. The children lived 'ideal' lives with lessons and games, etc. but not for very long. We saw a film there where they showed some real footage of the propaganda stuff of people having 'fun' and 'how grateful' they were, but in the background these people quietly and unseen disappeared to other camps where most of them were gassed, especially the children. There are lots of drawings done by the children and poetry, very moving. At the end of that short film there was a Jewish lament, whether it was sung in hebrew or jiddish I could not tell but the emotion it contained was intense and raw and the only few words I understood were at the end where he sung out all the infamous campnames. When the lights came on after this, nobody moved in their seats for at least a few minutes and we were actually startled by the opening of the doors. Nobody said a word.
It made me actually grateful I was born in a Japanese POW camp where at least the children were not sent away to be systematically gassed. At least I was given some chance of survival.
The whole town of Theresienstadt is depressing. There are few people around but quite a few live there but noone seems to smile. The past must hang heavily over their heads. There was only one small place where you could use some refreshments but I do not think anyone used it much. We were thirsty and hungry but waited until we were back in Prague before we had some. We just could not stomach it there.
Also moving was the cemetery, showing lots of small, numbered plaques - some with names but lots without. Between the endless plaques were small red rose bushes, all very simple. At one end a large cross with a crown of thorns to commemorate the Christian dead and at the other side a large Star of David for the Jewish dead. On top of all the plaques laid a variety of small stones, some more than others, especially those bearing a name. A few larger altar-like stones were also erected and these were topped with a large variety of loose stones. Having seen a documentary of some of the survivors who were helped by Schindler and who helped to erect a monument to him, as he died a pauper, I understood what these stones meant. They filed past his grave and each person placed a stone or pebble on it. Each stone representing a person who remembered him. I thought that was a lovely symbolism and it touched me deeply seeing it there in that cemetery in Theresienstadt.
Regards, Rob/Anak @->--

 

Message 3 - Forgotten Day.

Posted on: 22 August 2004 by ODYSSEY

22 Aug.Dear Rob, I just read the story about the terrible Tx.of the Japs.It is good that these stories are told.May be humanity can learn somrthing from it but I doubt it:History repeats it self.
One name struck me as familiar.A Ko Luyckx visited my parents in Bandung.I remember even a picture of him in the family album.
It is too late to check it of course as my mother died several years ago.I'll ask my sister in Holland whether the book he wrote is still available.
I wrote somewhere in a "Thread" that the german occupation was no picnic ,but the occupation by the Japs was,I think worse because the intense hatred for the Europeans. When I was working in Batavia to get the hospital working again the J. who just lost the war had to protect the nurses_per order of Mountbatten-Every time we passed they saluted us in a most obsequious manner.One could feel the disdain they felt for white women.The thing that upset us as well was that they were allowed to work with gloves when they had to dismantle some fortifications.
I saw a documentary about Theresiën Stadt.

I am glad you are back "in the Fold"i hope.I'm looking forward to our banter.Love Josephine.

 

Message 4 - Forgotten Day.

Posted on: 22 August 2004 by anak-bandung

22/8 11pm - Dear Josephine, I was under the impression that Ko Luijckx was a woman. She wrote all about the goings on in Kampong Makassar camp, which was a women's work camp. The only man who was there for a while, apart from our guards, was a male doctor.
I doubt very much whether the book is still available, as it had been printed in a very old spelling, which was not even used anymore by the time I started school. They would write something like 'de groote wensch' instead of 'de grote wens' But please, by all means, check it out. They may have been related!
Love, Rob @->--

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