My mother is very excited. A man in Australia has put together a whole website devoted to, Tjideng, one of the camps in which she was interned. What especially thrills her is the camp roster, which has so many familiar names, each one with a complex memory attached.
Mom always told me that the camp commandant was one of a handful executed for war crimes. Although I never doubted her descriptions about the many atrocities he committed, she’s delighted that her story is now confirmed. The website spells out Capt. Sonei’s many sins in some detail:
For fifteen months, April 1944 to June 1945, the camp was under the command of the infamous Capt. Kenichi Sonei. He came to Tjideng from the POW camp of the 10th Batallion in Batavia better known as the Cycle Camp. He was notorious for his cruelty particularly when the moon was full. Many of his most barbaric acts occurred at such time.
It is not possible to list all his crimes here. See references below. Briefly, punishments included ‘kumpulans’ lasting several hours in the hot tropical sun which even the sick had to attend, reduced food rations, head shavings, beatings. He had dogs beaten to death by the older boys, tipped food over in the central kitchen and buried bread in rage. His reign was one of absolute terror!
He was sentenced to death by the War Crimes Tribunal on 2 September 1946.
In December 1946 Captain Sonei got justice from a Dutch firing squad. His appeal to acting Governor General Hubertus J. van Mook had been rejected. Mrs. van Mook had been one of Sonei’s prisoners.
The only point my mother takes issue with in the above description is the bit about standing in the tropical sun for several hours. That’s an understatement. She vividly remembers a forty-eight hour stint in the sun, with two hours allowed off each night. Many people died where they stood.
Maybe it’s not surprising that I never did fit comfortably with the feel-good liberalism that paints all people as being good if you can just talk with them. While my parents didn’t come out of the Holocaust, They were close enough to evil for me to understand that the best you can do is try to control it (with traditional morality being as good a method as any). The one thing you can’t intelligently do is try to pretend it doesn’t exist.