prisoners

Feb

13

1943

Working on the Railway of Death – Hellfire Pass

13th February 1943: Working on the Railway of Death – Hellfire Pass

It was the beginning for us of what would become the most notorious railway construction that the world had ever seen. The japanese engineer came over to inspect our work. He studied the clearing from several angles, using various surveying instruments, before declaring, ‘No gooda! Do again! Deeper!’

Feb

5

1943

The death camps begin burning the evidence

5th February 1943: The death camps begin burning the evidence

In this way some twenty-five hundred corpses are piled on. Then the specialist orders dry twigs placed underneath and lights them with a match. After a few minutes the fire flares up so strongly that it is difficult to get any closer to the oven than 50 metres. The first fire is lit, and the test is successful. The camp administration show up, and all of them shake the hand of the inventor.

Jan

31

1943

German 6th Army surrenders at Stalingrad

31st January 1943: German 6th Army surrenders at Stalingrad

Von Paulus confirmed, through General Schmidt, that he was no longer in command of the army, that he was a private citizen and would therefore not sign the capitulation order, He refused to receive our delegation, but asked that, as a field marshal, he be personally taken prisoner and escorted by one of our generals.

Jan

22

1943

On the road to Tripoli

22nd January 1943: On the road to Tripoli

He was taken as you know by an armoured-car patrol, sent back to Afrika Corps HQ and lodged in a tent next to Rommel’s. He asked to see Rommel but he was away. He had a big talk to his Chief of Staff and was extremely impressed not only by the smartness of the Germans but by their kindness and charm.

Jan

21

1943

Dr Mengele intervenes at Auschwitz

21st January 1943: Dr Mengele intervenes at Auschwitz

For this the S.S. had sound reason. When they opened the waggons, the sight was so revolting that they could not face it. So they whipped in the prisoners to handle some of the dirtiest work that even Auschwitz had witnessed. In some of the trucks nearly half the occupants were dead or dying, more than I had ever seen.

Jan

8

1943

Soviets offer ‘Gingerbread or the Whip’

8th January 1943: Soviets offer Stalingrad troops ‘Gingerbread or the Whip’

Your encircled troops are in a grave situation. They are suffering from hunger, sickness and cold. The harsh Russian winter is only just beginning: hard frosts, cold winds and snowstorms are still to come, but your soldiers do not have winter uniforms and are living in unsanitary conditions. You, as commander, and all the officers of the surrounded troops know very well that there is no longer any realistic possibility of breaking through the encirclement.

Jan

3

1943

Survival strategy on the Railway of Death

3rd January 1943: Survival strategy on the Railway of Death

Life accordingly evolved into a blur of continuous work, people dying, guards bellowing, heavy loads to be carried, fever which came in tides of heat and cold on alternate days, dysentery and hunger. All those became the normal. Upon them, occasionally, an event super-imposed itself with suflicient violence to be remembered.

Dec

25

1942

Another Christmas for a war weary World

25th December 1942: Another Christmas for a war weary World

There was some carol singing last night and this moming. One can’t but feel a certain melancholy at spending Christmas in this depressing camp. An almost intolerable sense of oppression and futility overcomes one at times, as month after wasted month passes. At this time, of course, one thinks much of home, and one realises they must be going through a period of anxiety. And there are many at home who have yet to learn that their relatives out here are already dead.

Dec

21

1942

Struggle to survive on the Railway of Death

21st December 1942: Struggle to survive on the Railway of Death

At first he did not question that they were diphtheria cases; but he said that he had no antitoxin and that as Thailand was so backward he could not get any. This is obviously nonsense – there is a famous Pasteur Institute in Bangkok not far away. But Nobusawa was clearly not going to bother himself about it.

Dec

13

1942

Conditions deteriorate inside the Stalingrad cauldron

13th December 1942: Conditions deteriorate inside the Stalingrad cauldron

The shelling gradually flattened our positions, which had to be improved. Where could we get building timber? For us and many others, the wooden houses in the suburbs were the only supply of wood, and only daily hunts, which also brought in many other useful things, gave relief; a packet of long nails, wire, and white flare rounds, which I traded for my cigarettes, ensured friendly faces in the position at evening.