Fates worse than death

“When the war ended, it became possible to compare the fates of Allied servicemen under the Nazis and the Japanese. Just 4 percent of British and American POWs had died in German hands. Yet 27 percent—35,756 out of 132,134—of Western Allied prisoners lost their lives in Japanese captivity. The Chinese suffered in similar measure. Of 41,682 sent to become slave labourers in Japan, 2,872 died in China, 600 in ships or on passage, 200 on the land journey, and 6,872 in their Japanese workplaces. These figures discount a host of captives who did not survive in Japanese hands on the battlefield, or after being shot down, or long enough to become statistics. Of 130,000 Europeans interned in the Dutch East Indies, almost all civilians, 30,000 died, including 4,500 women and 2,300 children. Of 300,000 Javanese, Tamils, Burmans and Chinese sent to work on the Burma-Siam railway, 60,000 perished, likewise a quarter of the 60,000 Western Allied prisoners. There seemed no limit to Japanese inhumanity. When a cholera epidemic struck Tamil railway workers in Nieke in June 1943, a barracks containing 250 infected men, women, and children was simply torched. One of the Japanese who did the burning wrote later of their victims: ‘I dared not look into their eyes. I only heard some whispering “Tolong, tolong”—“Help, help.” It was the most pitiful sight. God forgive me.’ ” – Max Hastings, Retribution

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