Week 43 - Oops, don't look now.

Diary by Meta Peelen-Reith 

My grandmother Meta Peelen peeked over the garden hedge one late afternoon wanting to see what the commotion she heard on the street was all about. She saw the Japanese soldiers rounding up the neighbours and loading them on trucks and Oops, she was seen and told to get on the truck herself, without any further ado.

This happened on 15 March 1944 in Bandoengan, Java, Indonesia. The Japanese forces had invaded and occupied this Dutch colony in March 1942 and from that moment on life would never be the same for the Dutch civilians and even the local people. Very soon after the Japanese forces surrendered on 15 August 1945, Indonesia under the leadership of Sukarno declared independence but it would take a further 3 years before the Dutch Government recognised the new state.

Between 1942 and 1945 all European civilians were rounded up by the Japanese army and imprisoned in concentration camps. The same day that Meta stuck her head up over the hedge, her two daughters were ordered from their family home earlier that morning to report to the Police Station with just one suitcase each. They had only one hour to get ready and were frantic, not knowing how to get word to their mother. Fortunately they ended up in the same prison camp to their immense relief.

The camp they were in was located in an old school building and some 30 women and children at a time were crammed into the classrooms. Over time more prisoners were brought in, and living conditions worsened from an already bad state. Unhygienic toileting and bathing facilities, little or no food with very little nutritional value and overcrowding. Dysentery and malaria were rife and the camp hospital had no drugs to treat the patients.

Just over a year later Meta succumbed to dysentery and malnutrition on 25 August 1945. She was only 54. She kept a diary and I've translated it and is the subject of my other blog http://metawrites.blogspot.com.au/.


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