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  • Writer's picturePauline Kok


I would like to share an opinion of someone who, like me, spent almost 4 years in Japanese concentration camps during WW II. I’ve done my best to paraphrase into English but in simply she states:

“When your body experiences the cruelty of a Japanese concentration camp, you will carry a scar on your soul for the rest of your life.”

She went on:

“The simplest little thing can set you off. For instance my good Japanese friend became so irritated and furious with me that he ended our conversation by smashing the phone down. He provided no excuses, not to someone 30 years older—just a little e-mail: “what do you want from me, I’m not Mother Theresa or Gandhi!”

Both the past and the camps; and now my friend treating me the same way the Japanese soldiers treated us prisoners: with contempt and arrogance; like we were some sort of vermin – all take me back to that moment in time. We couldn’t say or do anything; we were powerless! I wanted a strong stick to whack him over his face; I wanted a gun to shoot him in both his legs. This means ‘war’ for me!

But the only weapon I had was learning how to manage my negative feelings and the hate for those men with slanted eyes who spoke a language I didn’t know. Those men, who had the power to break, and rape, and kill.

Seventy years later, I now understand how important and forming those years were for me. Teaching me how to identify with all these feelings, how to conquer the art of surviving and learning how to control the negative state of my mind.

If I can pass this to my children and grandchildren, then perhaps I haven’t lived in vain during this long war.

Three years, when you are fourteen is a long time.”

Do I agree with those feelings? Do I consider those years forming and necessary in order to teach me control over my negative state of mind? Have the seventy past years been enough for me to forget and forgive?

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