Kamp Karees

Our first camp, Karees

In Bandung, the Japanese had created the Kareës camp. It must have been around early 1943 when we arrived here, because Kareës was open from December 12, 1942.

a map of a map of a map of a city
a map of a map of a map of a city

Collection: H.A.M. Liesker: Our first camp: Kareës, district in Bandung, bounded by Papandajalaan, Tangkoebanprahoelaan, Windoestraat, Gaoengoenlaan, Halimoenlaan, Malabarlaan-Oost, Wajanglaan and Boerangranlaan, enclosed with fencing.

In the coming years, during which families were torn apart, the greatest sorrow was not knowing whether the fathers or brothers were still alive. The uncertainty of how long this would last and whether there would still be help for us was unbearable. Heartbreaking scenes when boys were taken away again. The uncertainty of whether the mothers would see their sons again was unbearable.

We were happy to be able to stay together, five sisters and mother.


The total lack of privacy was much more difficult for Westerners than for the Asians among the internees, who were used to living more closely with each other.

We had a room to ourselves, with a row of mattresses on the floor. Quite comfortable compared to what would come next. We all got a registration number. In the beginning, things could still be bought. That's how we got wooden slippers, so we didn't have to walk on the boiling hot asphalt with our bare feet.

The attitude of the Indonesians could be different. They would jeer at transports of prisoners, but also throw a food package over the fence!


There was a soup kitchen with large barrels where a soup was made from anything that was usable. Snails were recommended by the doctors because they contain a lot of proteins. I searched for snails and frogs together with other children, in a sewer passage between the houses. Unfortunately, there was hardly any meat on the frogs.

We received 50 grams of rice. And a slice of something that looked like bread, made from tapioca, starch. A bit grayish with more whitish, uncooked dough in the middle. Even though I was already picky, that "bread" stayed with me for some time. Mother ordered the others to leave it. Lidy had to eat it herself!

We also got tapioca porridge, just like the bread, made from cassava. It is the same stuff that is used to paste wallpaper to the wall here in the Netherlands. It has no taste but somewhat filled the stomach. Despite my pickiness, mother apparently took good care of ensuring that we got the right food before the camp. And maybe my small stomach also helped me get through the camp time.

Mrs. Sillevolt from Soekaboemi was so extremely fat that she did not fit in any chair. She died within three months. It turned out that the heart of those very fat people cannot handle that rapid way of losing weight and that these people died first.


Ward leaders and household heads had to divide the tasks. Cleaning, garbage collection. Cleaning public toilets or latrines. Trees, our oldest sister (15 years old), had to carry bags of rice. Later, we had to carry salt bags on our damaged backs.

The work in the kitchen was the most lucrative. (Licking the soup out of the barrels!) Large barrels were used to make soup from vegetables and sometimes bits of offal. Mother was in the team that had to clean the offal. Others had to take care of the Japanese pigs and work in their vegetable garden. Or mend clothes for them and make uniform caps. And I had to sweep the street with other eight-year-olds before the 7 a.m. roll call.

One could knit for the Japanese. Socks to wear in their boots. Knitting with 4 bamboo sticks, socks without heels. This could earn you 1 ounce of sugar (goela jawah) or beans. I didn't learn it!

At roll call, we had to stand in rows of ten in front of the houses facing Japan. They shouted: "Bij Jotskee, stand up straight, bij Kirei bow (not too deep, because then you would bow to the dead!) and bij Norei you could stand straight again. This was always a frightening experience. Mothers were beaten if something went wrong.

Comfort women

The term "comfort women" is a wrong designation. In reality, these women were sex slaves, who were held against their will and forced into prostitution. Historians estimate that there were around 50,000 to 200,000 women, most of whom were teenagers and some were as young as 12 years old, who were forced to provide "comfort" to Japanese soldiers. They were raped, tortured, and even killed.

There was food, but not enough for everyone, resulting in malnutrition. The girls did not receive medical care and often had to undergo forced sterilization or abortion. None of us five had to experience that. A friend of mine also escaped from it, because she felt very sick during the selection and did not look well. The "comfort houses" appeared wherever the Japanese stationed their troops.

Medical experiments

Some of the most cruel acts of the Japanese war did not take place on the battlefield, but in silence, far from the front lines and out of sight. Japanese doctors and their assistants conducted the most gruesome experiments on people there. (Unit 731, Hal Gold) At Ancol, Timor, experiments with the smallpox disease are known.

Prince Chichibu, the younger brother of Emperor Hirihito, and his unit murdered 427,000 medical test subjects, called marutas, in China. In addition, Japanese newspapers proudly published even more murders of 75,000 marutas in other occupied areas, such as the Philippines and the Dutch East Indies. At least 1,290,000 Indonesian forced laborers also died, according to Indonesia even 2 million, 2.5 percent of the population at the time. De Moor rightly considers the statement that the Japanese committed genocide. (http://indisch4ever.web-log.nl)

In 2006, 84-year-old Makino wanted to repent before his death. Despite threats from colleagues, he admitted to having drugged and dissected marutas for an anatomical lesson to students. If the maruta was still alive after the demonstration, he had to strangle him on Shinto command.

Dik de Moor, a friend and co-guest lecturer of ours, describes in his book "Living on Borrowed Time" how he escaped a bizarre experiment. For six months, his blood was used because it contained many anti-polio antibodies and could be used to treat other patients.

These patients were Japanese, Chinese, Indonesians, and a Dutch boy. He was also reinfected four times because a structural change of the poliovirus was expected. He survived an attempted "Igatutaki" (medical) "Seppuko" ritual murder thanks to a Dutch doctor with a Manadonese bloodline and the Tai-i Korean captain Kondo, who allowed him and his family to go into hiding in Grogol camp without registering him. From that moment on, he was untraceable. His damaged trachea was later repaired in the Netherlands. (Living on Borrowed Time)

Our clothing became scarcer. The climate and the work quickly wore out textiles. The growing girls sometimes managed by tying a tea towel around themselves.

In my "free time" I kept smaller children busy and sometimes told them stories. We sat in a dry ditch.

There was a German family (let that mother be "my witch" now!) in the same house where we were staying. They had set up a cooking area behind a bamboo fence. Food smells wafted out, which attracted me. I came closer and closer. Until a daughter from that family suddenly came towards me and threw me off the elevated walkway with a hard blow (I was very light!).

I landed on pointed stones with my head, which a child had placed as decoration around plants. Severe bleeding always occurs on the skull, and my mother came at my cry. She demanded bandages from the German family. A small scar on my left eyebrow still reminds me of that incident. Birthdays were still remembered. I got a rag doll in that camp, which I loved.