Camp Kareës


Our first camp, Kareës. The Japanese created the internment camp Kareës. It must have been in the beginning of the year 1943 that we arrived here, since Kareës opened on 12 December 1942.



Collection: H.A.M. Liesker: Our first camp: Kareës, district of Bandung, surrounded by the Papandaja lane, Tangkoebanprahoe lane, Windoe street, Gaoengoen lane, Halimoen lane, Malabar lane-East, Wajang lane and Boerangran lane, enclosed by walls made of bamboo.

The greatest sorrow of the following years, in which families lived torn apart, was not knowing whether or not the fathers and brothers were still alive. How long this would last and if help would arrive. Heart rending scenes when boys were taken away again. The uncertainty if mothers would ever see their sons again was unbearable. We were

happy that we could stay together, five sisters and mother.

The complete lack of privacy was more difficult for the Western internees than for the Asian internees, who were used to living together. We had a room for ourselves, with a row of mattresses on the floor. This was pretty comfortable, compared to that what awaited us. We all received a registration number. You could still buy certain things in the beginning. We got, for example, wooden slippers, so that we did not have to walk on scalding hot asphalt. The attitude of the Indonesians varied from the booing of transport prisoners to throwing food-parcels over the bamboo walls.

There was a soup kitchen with big barrels, in which they made a soup from everything that was usable. The doctors advised slags, because of the amount of proteins they contained. I searched for slags and frogs together with other children in the drainage canal between the houses. Unfortunately, the frogs did not have a lot of meat on them. We received fifty gram of rice, together with a slice of something that looked like bread, which was made of tapioca. It looked a little grey with white, undercooked dough. As picky as I was already then, the “bread” remained untouched for a while. Mother bid the others to leave it for me. Lidy had to eat it herself! We also got tapioca porridge, just like the bread, made of cassava. It is the same stuff that we use in the Netherlands to adhere wallpaper against the walls. It does not have any taste but filled the stomach to some extent. In spite of my pickiness, my mother apparently took good care of our nutrition before the interment camp. And maybe my tiny stomach helped me through my camp days as well. Madam Sillevolt from Soekaboemi was so extremely fat, that she did not fit any chair. She died within three months. As it turns out, the heart of obese people could not cope with the fast way of losing weight, which caused them to die first.

The quarter-, block- and house superiors had to distribute the tasks, such as cleaning, picking up garbage and cleaning the public conveniences and latrines. Our eldest sister of 15 years old, Trees, had to drag sacks with rice. Later on, the damaged backs had to carry sacks with salt. The work in the soup kitchens was considered to be most lucrative (licking clean the barrel of the soup!). They made soup of some vegetables and sometimes pieces of potbelly in big barrels. Mother was assigned to the shift that cleaned the potbelly. Others had to take care of the pigs of the Japanese, work in their vegetable gardens, patch up their clothes or make uniform caps. Together with other eight year olds, I had to sweep the street before the 7 AM appeal. People had to knit socks for the Japanese to wear in their boots. We had to knit the socks without heels with four sticks of bamboo. This could bring us 1 ounce of sugar (goela jawah) or beans. I did not learn this! At the appeal, we had to stand in rows of ten before the houses, with our faces in the direction of Japan. They screamed. When they screamed Jotskee, you had to stand straight. When they screamed Kirei, you had to bow (not too deep, because then you bowed for the dead). When they screamed Norei, you could stand straight again. This was always an anxious moment. Mothers got beaten when something went wrong.

Comfort women
The term comfort women is a wrong term. In reality, these women were sex slaves, who were held against their will and forced to prostitute. Historians today talk about

approximately 50.000 to 200.00 women, mostly teenagers and some of them not older than twelve years old, who had to bring “comfort” to Japanese soldiers. They were raped, tortured and sometimes even killed. There was food, but not enough for everyone, which caused malnutrition. The girls did not receive any medical care and had to undergo a forced sterilization or abortion quite often. None of us five had to go through this. A friend of mine escaped this fate as well, because she felt very sick during the selection and did not look well. The “comfort house” appeared everywhere where the Japanese stalled their troops.

Medical experiments 
Some of the cruelest deeds of the Japanese war did not happen on the battlefield, but in silence, away from the frontlines and out of sight. Japanese doctors and their assistants carried out the cruelest experiments on people. (Unit 731, Hal Gold). The experiments with smallpox at Ancol, Timor, are known. Prince Chichibu, the younger brother of emperor Hirihito has killed 427.000 medical trial subjects, named maruta’s, with his unit in China. Furthermore, the Japanese newspapers proudly published more murders of 75.000 maruta’s in other occupied areas, such as the Philippines and the Dutch East Indies. In addition, at least 1290.000 Indische forced laborers died, according to the state of Indonesia even 2 million, which was then 2.5 percent of the population. De Moor argues that the statement that the Japanese committed genocide is true. (htttp:// The in 2006 84-year old Makino wanted to do penance before his death. Even though his colleagues threatened him, he admitted to drug maruta’s en then cut them open in order to give an anatomic lesson to his students. If the maruta still lived after the demonstration, he had to strangle him according to the Shinto-manner. Dik de Moor, our friend and fellow guest lecturer, describes in his book “Leven met geleende tijd” how he escaped a bizarre experiment. They used his blood for six months, because it contained many anti-polio substances, with which they could treat other patients. These patients were Japanese, Chinese, Indonesians and a Dutch boy. Furthermore, they infected him four more times because they expected the structure of the poliovirus to change. He survived an attempt to an “Igatutaki” (medical) “Seppuko”, a ritual murder, because of a Dutch doctor with Manadonese blood and the Thai-Korean captain Kondo, who let him go into hiding in the camp Grogol, without registering him. This caused him to be untraceable. His damaged windpipe has been repaired in the Netherlands. (Leven met geleende tijd). The amount of our clothing became scarcer. The climate and the work caused the textile to deteriorate quickly. The girls that were growing made ends meet by putting on a tea towel. In my “spare time”, I entertained the little children and sometimes told them stories. We were sitting in a withered ditch when I entertained them. There was a German family (that mother is now “my witch”!) in the same house as we were in. They had made a little place to cook behind a bamboo fence. Food aromas rose from that place, to which I felt attracted. It came closer and closer. Until a daughter of that family suddenly came to me and threw me of the elevated hallway with a bang (I was very light!). I hit my temple on the stones that I had decorated around the plants. The skull always bleeds heavily and as a reaction to my crying my mother came. She demanded bandages from the German family. A little scar by my left eyebrow still reminds me of that incident. Birthdays were still remembered. I got a doll of cloths in that camp, which I absolutely adored.

This was the trading of mostly clothes for food. It was named after the fence of bamboo and barbed wire. It was trading with the natives who stayed outside of the camps. A duck egg, I remember, was the most important capture. The Japanese did not want us to study. Therefore, this had to happen on the quiet, with someone looking out for us. A little French and mathematics is all I learned in this camp.

Staying honest became difficult. The children learned that you had to lie to the guards. And if you were going to trade, you did not do that close to your own place, because if you got caught, that part of the houses got punished. You needed textile to trade. Obviously, you had to make sure that your clothes were not stolen! Stealing (we called that tjoepen) from the Japanese was okay, but not from each other! They antagonized the prisoners a lot. For example, we kept being moved to smaller spaces, where the places of the dead had to be filled in. Transports in boiling hot, closed off trucks or goods carriages.