prisoners

Jun

15

1943

Cholera strikes the POWs on the Railway of Death


15th June 1943: Cholera strikes the POWs on the Railway of Death

Three thick pieces of bamboo about two and a half feet wide were laid on the ground as the head, middle and bottom of the bed frame; and long pieces, flattened out, were laid on top of them. These were the standard pieces which we supplied by joint labour. Over them we each built the best shelter we could devise, most of us using our groundsheets. We had also to dig ourselves a latrine.

Jun

10

1943

German Police report on the Katyn massacre

10th June 1943: German Police report on the Katyn massacre

Preliminary excavations undertaken in various parts of the wooded area invariably led to the discovery of mass-graves (‘fraternal graves’) in which the bodies of Russians of both sexes were found. Some of these bodies were carefully examined and it was proved that, without exception, death was caused by a shot in the back of the neck. From the documents found, it appeared that they were prisoners from the NKVD jail in Smolensk, the majority being political prisoners.

Jun

1

1943

Japanese-American POW discovered by Japanese

1st June 1943: Japanese-American POW discovered by Japanese

He called me back up to the front of the room and looked me up and down, sucking his teeth and muttering something incredulously about Fujita being a POW. He tried to carry on a conversation with me, about me, and finally decided that I really could not speak the language. He would feel of my skin and then put his arm next to mine and compare them, and like the guard at the wash rack, he said ‘Somma, Somma!

May

21

1943

A short spell in the ‘Cooler’

21st May 1943: A short spell in the ‘Cooler’

I hated the solitude — I cannot begin to describe how much — with nothing to read, nothing to look at, nobody to talk to. Even the food was punitive: a thin round of black bread for breakfast, thin ‘soup’ and a few potatoes for lunch, and another piece of bread in the evening. One lunchtime I had a bit of extra protein in the shape of grubs in the soup. Although very hungry, I passed that one up.

May

12

1943

The Germans surrender in North Africa

12th May 1943: The Germans surrender in North Africa

At the end the battlefield fell to pieces and lost all pattern and design, and those who had fought hardest on both sides found they had nothing to say, nothing to feel beyond an enveloping sense of gratitude and rest. The anger subsided at the surrender, and for the first time the German and Allied soldiers stood together looking at one another with listless and passionless curiosity.

Apr

13

1943

Nazis announce Katyn massacre of Polish officers

13th April 1943: Nazis announce Katyn Wood massacre of Polish officers

He told me that he had proofs that the Soviet Government had murdered the 15,000 Polish officers and other prisoners in their hands, and that they had been buried in vast graves in the forests, mainly around Katyn. He had a wealth of evidence. I said, “If they are dead nothing you can do will bring them back.”

Apr

9

1943

Welcome to Gros Rosen – “ARBEIT MACHT FREI”

9th April 1943: Welcome to Gros Rosen – ARBEIT MACHT FREI

My work assignment was in the stone quarry. My first job was to load stones into carts. We had to work in the open air, whatever the weather, from dawn to dusk. We worked without a break, under the watchful eyes and the brutal clubs of the “Kapos.” The Kapos were the concentration camp’s gang foremen. They were usually German, and had criminal records and sadistic inclinations. They held absolute power of life and death over their gangs. It seemed that the more cruelty they exhibited, and the greater the pain they inflicted, the greater they were esteemed by the camp administration.

Apr

1

1943

Death railway bridge built like ‘a pack of cards’

1st April 1943: Death railway bridge built like ‘a pack of cards’

As we sang these numbers, we’d pull on the rope. This huge great lump of steel would rise up. On the last ’nisio’ we would all let go. Down would come the pile-driver and the pole would sink another inch. All day seven days a week, for weeks on end, with not a single day off, we drove these bloody things into the ground.

Mar

24

1943

Horror of journey to the Railway of Death

24th March 1943: Horror of journey to the Railway of Death

It was baking hot during the day and bitterly cold by night, and by now dysentery had got a grip on many of the lads. As each day in those horrific wagons passed we prayed that it was the end of the line and I said a silent prayer when the guards finally shoved us out of the trucks for the last time at Pan Pong, about forty miles west of Bangkok.

Mar

18

1943

The Akikaze Atrocity

18th March 1943: The Akikaze Atrocity

Each internee passed beneath the forward bridge on the starboard side and came upon two waiting escorts. Here they were blindfolded with a white cloth and supported by each arm. By this time the interrogation of the second person was begun. Meanwhile, beneath the bridge of the quarter-deck on the starboard side, both wrists of the first person were firmly tied and he was again escorted to the execution platform.