The Forgotten Army


The other day, I blogged some pictures of the Holocaust and commented how we must never forget this part of history.

I’d like to add to this. On 15th May 1945, Japan official surrendered and ended the second world war. We celebrate this day as VJ day. This moment in time may not be as famous to us in Britain as VE day, but it is just as significant in our history and the sacrifice on the par with the European soldiers.

A few figures for you (courtesy of Imperial War Museum, London):

  • The Japanese captured 190,000 Allied PoWs
  • 50,016 of these were from the UK
  • 12,433 UK PoWs were killed or died in Japanese captivity
  • 100,000 British troops fought in the Burma Campaign between 1941 and 1945
  • More than three million Japanese died
  • During the war in the Pacific, the Japanese were famous for total ruthlessness in battle and towards their captives. This can be put down to the Japanese culture of surrender being dishonourable (just what I’ve heard). However, the fact remains that PoW’s held in camps in Thailand and Burma (and others) were treated as sub-humans, brutally beaten and starved. Due to the tropical climate, disease was rife in the camps and little or nothing was done.

    Two emancipated soldiers liberated from a prison camp on Formosa, November 1945

    PoW being executed at a prison camp

    My mother told me of a story: One of her uncles (Billy) fought during the war based in Burma. According to him, his troop used to reccy through the jungle in single file due to the undergrowth and, as a precaution, they would tie a rope around themselves and use it as a guide to know no one got lost. One day, Billy’s friend was bringing up the rear of the column. when they got back to camp, he was no longer there. They went back into the jungle to find him. They found him dead, nailed to a tree. The Japanese had cut the rope and took him from the back of the column without anyone realising.

    Here is a piece by the BBC on the Forgotten Army. The effects of these prison camps became real to me when I tried speaking to an ex-PoW who my mum looked after for my school homework. He refused to speak of it. All he would tell me is that not one night has gone by in 50 years (when I spoke to him) where he has had a full nights sleep. Every night he has woken up suffering nightmares and will never forget. He passed away last year, still never having a peaceful nights sleep.

    During the japanese occupation, they used forced labour to construct a railway from Bangkok, Thailand to Rangoon, Burma. This railway ran for 258 miles through tropical jungles. About 180,000 Asian labourers and 60,000 Allied POWs worked on the railway. Of these, around 90,000 Asian labourers and 16,000 Allied POWs died as a direct result of the project. The dead POWs included 6,318 British personnel, 2,815 Australians, 2,490 Dutch, about 356 Americans and a smaller number of Canadians. this railway became know as The Death Railway

    My point of this is simple and ties in with my Holocaust post: we must study this, learn and evolve. We can never go back to treating people the way these PoW’s were treated. War is not acceptable. Diplomacy is the only way this world can become what we all want: a peaceful place were all can live together.

    *I’d just like to point out that I am in no way against Japanese or Germans. The sins of the father can NEVER be put on the sons and daughters.

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    Pictures of Horror


    I’m reading an amazing book called Voices of Yesterday by Michael Yarwood. It is set in the Warsaw Ghetto during ’42-43 and the oppression and systematic extermination of the Jews by the Nazi’s. And the vivid words of the writer got me to thinking and imagining what these people went through, the suffering and brutality forced upon them by the Nazi’s (and not just Jews, but Romani, homosexuals, ethnic minorities and many more). The figures stand at around 6 MILLION Jews wiped out by the Nazi regime (2/3 of the European population of Jews). If you include the other  groups killed by the Nazi’s this figures rises to between 11-17 MILLION PEOPLE! All non-soldiers.

    So I’ve done some surfing and found some pictures I’d like to share with you. Next time you hear someone verbally abuse someone or say racist or homophobic comments, show them these photos and ask them to look into the people’s eyes and put themselves in their shoes:

    April 12, 1945: Lager Nordhausen, where 20,000 inmates are believed to have died.

    A member of Einsatzgruppe D is about to shoot a man sitting by a mass grave in Vinnitsa, Ukraine, in 1942. Present in the background are members of the German Army, the German Labor Service, and the Hitler Youth.[94] The back of the photograph is inscribed “The last Jew in Vinnitsa”.

    Jews captured and forcibly pulled out from dugouts by the Germans during the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. The photo is from Jurgen Stroop’s report to Heinrich Himmler

    A child dying on the streets of the Warsaw Ghetto

    Starving prisoners in Mauthausen camp liberated on May 5, 1945

    Romani children in Auschwitz, victims of medical experiments

    A grave inside Bergen-Belsen concentration camp

    I’m sure some people who see this will still stick by their disturbing views of racial and religious superiority, but these people have no soul. No human being can look at these images, think clearly about what is being done and still condone secular violence or hatred of any kind. Please, I beg you all, educate each other and the youth of today.
    Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it
     
    -George Santayana

    SS Solider Finally Convictedof Murder


    I have always been of the opinion that if you do something wrong, you must be punished for it. only would you send this man to prison for life:

    His name is Heinrich Boere and he was a member of the SS during the war. He has recently been found guilty of three murders in 1944. He was initially sentenced to death in 1949, albeit the trial occurred without him present. In the 1980’s, a German court ruled this to be an illegal trial as he wasn’t present. Lots of legal wrangling later, he’s finally been tried and found guilty.

    He claims that he had no choice but to kill the 3 men (one a bicycle seller, one who helped Jews go into hiding and one a resistance fighter), or be shot himself by his Nazi superiors. The court did not buy this and he was found guilty.

    When I first saw his picture, for a moment I felt sorry for him. An 88-year-old man being dragged through legal proceedings for something that happened over 65 years ago. He looks like someone’s kindly old granddad.

    But then I remembered. I remembered every school history lesson. I remembered everything I learned about fascism and Nazism. I remembered every stupid, insane comments made by 1001 different racist b*****ds. I remembered every story I had ever heard about the treatment of people by the SS. I remembered learning about the Nazi war machine trampling Europe and it’s people, killing with little or no regard, invading, controlling, exterminating people like rats. How can I feel sorry for this man?

    He claims he had no choice but to kill these men. Maybe so. I’m sure SS soldiers were not above the fanatical whims of their officers. But he DID have a choice about signing up for them in the first place. He DID have a choice about choosing to live his life according to Nazi belief’s.

    He has been sentenced to Life In Prison for his crimes. It still remains unclear if he will serve his time, but I hope that he does. We have people on the run still for Nazi war crimes and also on the run for crimes during the Bosnian war. If we don’t punish these people, what message does that send to others? Time should be no factor where Justice is concerned.