2017 Japanese Internment Camps

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Japan and America and China - Concentration Camps for Each Other. What if we DON'T need them, and they just kill people off?

Torture, starvation and hell of Japan's concentration camps



NOW in his mid-70s, Ron Bridge can still catch house-flies with his bare hands.

HORRIFIC Conditions endured by Britons in the Japanese camps were brought life in film
HORRIFIC: Conditions endured by Britons in the Japanese camps were brought life in film
It’s a talent he learned at weifang in China where he was among more than 2,000 civilians interned by the Japanese during the Second world war.
Food was desperately scarce but the young Bridge and his friends could earn a square of chocolate from a rare Red Cross parcel by capturing the insects in a matchbox to control disease during the stifling summers.
In winter, when temperatures dropped to minus 20C, there was  another task. Then, the nine-year-old would mix powdered coal with mud to make precious fuel balls, which helped keep his father, mother and baby brother alive.
During those bitterly cold months in northern China, Bridge was forced to wander shoeless in the camp. By the time he was liberated after three years in captivity, he weighed just four stone.
Ballard was interned age 13
Ballard was interned age 13
Hardly surprising, then, that the death rate at the civilian camps run by the Japanese in the Far East was one in 20.
The majority of the inmates were women, children and elderly men. Many who did survive the war, including Bridge’s father, were to die prematurely, their bodies and spirits broken by hardship.
The camps they endured were depicted in Empire of The Sun, the novel by JG Ballard who died aged 78 at the weekend.
He drew on his experiences when he was held with his family after the fall  of Shanghai. His novel and a subsequent Hollywood film helped highlight the plight of victims who lived yet received compensation only eight years ago.
Hardly surprising, then, that the death rate at the civilian camps run by the Japanese in the Far East was one in 20.
Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 and declaration of war led to thousands of British and Commonwealth citizens being rounded up by the Japanese.
Many were caught by surprise – even though China had been at war with Japan since 1937 – or tried to flee too late. when Singapore fell, hundreds were captured when boats carrying evacuees were seized.
Almost 21,000 British and Commonwealth citizens were held at scores of camps in Japanese occupied territories.
Many were professionals and their families who had gone to outposts of the British Empire in search of fortune and adventure; others were teachers, civil servants or skilled workers. it was common to have servants. For them, the transition from privilege to scavenging for foodin the camps was hard to bear.
At the time Shanghai, where 7,000 Britons were interned, held the dubious honour of being the “wickedest city in the world”. Expatriates drove luxury cars to meetings at the city’s racecourse, dressed in their finery for wedding receptions at the French Club, and danced until dawn at legendary parties at the British embassy on the Bund.
Outlandish consumerism was rampant in the city, which heaved with bars and brothels.
“There was a very large British economy in the Far East,” says Bridge, 76, from near Tunbridge wells, Kent.
Olympian Eric Liddell was celebrated in the film Chariots of Fire
Olympian Eric Liddell was celebrated in the film Chariots of Fire
“Shanghai was a melting pot, so at the internment camps you would see ladies of the night next to teachers. At the others, it was more managerial people like my father, who was an  importer and exporter. when the  Japanese arrived he was beaten for the combination to a safe.
“At first we were under house arrest but later, in 1943, i remember being carted off by train to the camp. As we walked to the station we were spat at by a rent-a-mob of Chinese people who probably had Japanese bayonets pointing in their backs.”
Bridge’s mother concealed tins of food in a pram carrying his little brother. He adds: “we travelled third class on wooden seats, which was a shock because i’d always been used to first class. initially conditions in the camp weren’t too bad but they got pro- gressively worse as food became short.
There was a culture  of violence and a constant threat of aggression from the guards.
It was their way of wielding power. i don’t recall any kindness.”
At weifang roofs leaked, allowing rain to pour into dormitory rooms, kitchens, and mess halls. There weren’t enough stoves for cooking and there was no running water or toilet facilities.
At the camps, able-bodied men were seen as a threat and given “honorary” military ranks by their captors. They were hollow awards, simply entitling them to the harshest treatment because they were regarded as a danger to authority.
“Effectively, they became slave  labour,” says Bridge, who is chairman of the Association of British Civilian internees Far East Region.
He recalls that school lessons at weifang, where there were more than 200 children, involved scratching words in the dirt because there was no paper. The  olympian Eric Liddell, who was celebrated in the film Chariots of Fire and later became a missionary, died at the age of 43 in the same camp.
Beating, torture and execution were constant threats. in Hong Kong, the site of another large camp, seven Ballard was interned aged 13 internees were executed by the Japanese in 1943 after guards discovered some radios.
A commission set up to investigate conditions at the Changi camp, in Singapore recorded how inmates suspected of wrongdoing were dragged to a building in the city occupied by the Japanese police.
One excerpt reads: “It resounded all day and all night with blows, the bellowings of the inquisitors and the shrieks of the tortured.
From time to time victims from the torture chamber would stagger back or, if unconscious, would be dragged back to their cells with marks of their ill-treatment on their bodies.” JG Ballard was interned in 1943 at Lunghua camp, a former school in Shanghai, where he spent the next two-and-a-half years.
Prior to the war, his family had driven around the city in a Buick and his mother had once been voted the best-dressed woman in Shanghai.
At first, inmates were determined that life must go on. They listened to classical music on a gramophone and rehearsed amateur operas.
There were games of tennis, variety shows and dances. Gradually, though, morale sagged as conditions deteriorated and squabbles broke out between nationalities. Ballard, however, who was 13 when he was interned,had
bitter-sweet memories.
He said: “I enjoyed my years in Lunghua, made a huge number of friends of all ages (far more than I did in adult life) and on the whole felt buoyant and optimistic, even when the food rations fell to near zero, skin infections covered my legs, and many of the adults had lost heart.”
Unlike Bridge, he forged friendships with some of the guards who would  allow Ballard to sit in their hot tubs and wear their ceremonial armour.
Towards the end of the war, Ballard and his family survived by eating maggots found in their meagre rice rations. The camp was liberated in 1945 when American aircraft flew overhead, opening their huge cargo doors.
Ballard thought he was about to be bombed but parachutes containing parcels of food drifted to the ground.
He said: “There were tins of Spam, cartons of Lucky Strike cigarettes, cans of jam and huge bars of chocolate. I remember vividly the extraordinary taste of animal fat, sugar, jam and chocolate. The vast lazy planes that floated over-head were emissaries from another world.”
After their release, many former inmates from the camps struggled to adapt to a free life.
Having been deprived of proper nourishment and medical treatment for many years, the survivors’ health had inevitably suffered. 
More than three-quarters of men aged between 40 and 50 years old when liberated were dead within a decade.
In 2001, after a long campaign and the threat of legal action, the British Government agreed to pay £10,000 to all surviving former prisoners.
Today, Ron Bridge estimates  that only about 2,500 of the original 21,000 civilians are still alive.
Time is said to be a great healer but, for many, it still rankles that the Japanese government never offered adequate compensation for all the suffering caused by its soldiers in the internment camps.