HerStoriaMagazineIssue9_japs.pdf Mar. 2014 - Page 3

a few extra handfuls in a tin using the tar as cooking fuel. In the last six months in the camp we worked in the kitchens. This was a privileged position and perhaps, looking back, it was the difference between life and death. We had thin tapioca for breakfast, rice and watery sayor (green vegetable mix) for lunch, and sometimes a piece of swede in the evening. People were dying every day from malnourishment and dysentery. Our periods stopped which had its upside as we no longer had to bother washing out the cotton towels that we used to absorb the flow. We caught snails outside the camp and it was our job in the kitchen to prepare them. When they boiled they turned into a grey viscous substance and when we added some vegetable stock the mixture turned a foul shade of green. We gave this to the women in the sick bay in the hope it would build them up. On average there were three or four deaths per day. On a bad day that could go up to seven. We had no news of the outside world and the way the war was progressing so it was a shock to us when we heard that in August 1945 the Japanese had capitulated. When our Japanese sentries disappeared our first thoughts were of escape. But where could we go? Our former home was miles away and leaving the camp was dangerous because of the hatred of the local people towards the Dutch. The Indonesians started attacking the camps. The British allies and the Ghurkas had arrived by then and Mr and Mrs Kiesling in Java before the War. kids would watch us from behind another outer fence. Every so often we had a chance to trade with them. We would give them a piece of textile we had managed to salvage from our former lives in exchange for an egg. We smuggled it back into camp inside the leg of our baggy knickers. Every time we entered the camp we had to bow three times in deference to the Japanese sentry. We were never discovered. Some women were caught and got punished for similar misdemeanours. Women would be punished at roll call or Tenko. They had their hands tied behind their backs and their arms suspended from a purpose-built beam, lifted up high enough so that their toes just touched the ground. The Japanese guards would scream at them, administering the occasional whiplash. They were left like that for hours in the blistering sun. Sometimes in the evening, to stave off hunger pangs, we would get together in our barrack and fantasise about food. Writing down our favourite recipes on little scraps of paper and exchanging them. Sleep was a good way of avoiding hunger but that was difficult because of the bedbugs. The Japanese gave us a thick tarry substance which was supposed to repel them. My mother saved that though and with a few bits of rice my sister and I managed to smuggle from the kitchen we cooked 18 HerStoria magazine Summer 2011 Transport van 17 March 1944, West Java. Pen drawing by woman in camp. Image: Image Bank WW2 – NIOD-C.W.C.A. Augustijn. www.geheugenvannederland.nl www.herstoria.com