FEPOW Memorial Church




Susan van der Wal-Meyneken


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At the outbreak of the Far East war in 1942, Suus was a third year medical student in Batavia (Jakarta) on Java Ω. She planned to continue her medical career in the Dutch East Indies. At the outbreak of the real European war in 1940, all Germans were interned and her father became commandant of the internment camp in Northern Sumatra. When the Asian war broke out in December 1941, the internees were transferred to Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and Surinam; her mother and father returned and he joined the Royal Dutch East Indies Army Ω. After joining up they were initially based in Madiun in the East but after the Japanese landings they had to return to Batavia. They stayed for a time in friendís house whose husband was a military doctor. The Japanese requisitioned the house and they had to move out Ω.

She and her sister joined the others and got used to living, without servants, together with a number of other people, in the same house Ω. Although fearful of what the Japanese might do to the women, in fact nothing happened although rumours circulated of extreme measures taken against those caught thieving. They were however required to celebrate the Emperorís birthday while being prohibited from celebrating that of Princess Juliana Ω. They were fortunate in always being in camps on Java so transport was available and there were no long journeys by rail truck to be concerned about Ω. Food however, although readily available at the beginning, gradually became scarcer and cooking was centralised to ensure the same quantities were available for each house. Nevertheless, fear of losing out caused people to monitor the situation closely and as hunger took hold, to show the selfishness which results. Some, however, were able to maintain their principles throughout Ω. The absolute absence of privacy, the inability to be on your own, was a very great loss.

At the beginning of the war Suus worked on washing for two families, but as the war progressed she was better employed as a nurse in the hospital in whichever camp they were based. Her younger sister accompanied her in this work; her mother in preparing food and her elder sister in administration Ω. Being in a hospital, this work extended around the clock Ω. Roll call was taken twice a day and could sometimes take all day depending on who was overseeing the count. The Camp Commandant, Captain Sonei, was known for the brutality shown to camp members, for even minor infractions Ω.

Conditions in the hospital were of course very difficult with dysentery being a very serious problem. Medicines and disinfectants were almost non existent and special food they needed was unavailable for babies and small children Ω.

Despite the hardships suffered, and, as it turned out, the unfounded, fears the women had about being attacked by the Japanese, Suus remains convinced, all these years later, that the racism that existed on all sides was a wrong that has to be recognised and resisted Ω.

Recorded September 2007

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