Behind barbed wire - Mieke van Hout


“I’ve made a picture of the Adek camp in West Java. We stayed in this camp about nine months. Before that we stayed in the Tangerang prison camp for a year. ‘We’ were my mother and her six children. I was the eldest. My father worked for the government. He was taken prisoner and sent to Japan for forced labour. We all slept on planks of wood, as I show in my picture. We had 3 ½ m of floor space for our use, half a meter per person. A lot of people looked at us with jealousy, we had small children and so relatively more space. I’ve drawn a table and chairs and picture. This was wishful thinking on my part, we didn’t have them. The situation in the camp was very bad. We were hungry all the time, food was scarce. The high point of the week was the pudding we got on Sundays. We called it ‘blubber pudding.’ We made a song about it; On Sunday we always get blubber pudding, so go ahead and eat a bit from the yummy blubber pudding. It was a grey coloured wallpaper paste substance. It was something to celebrate, at least once a week we had the feeling that we had a full tummy.

Bowing to the Japanese everyday was humiliating. Once my younger brother was tied to a post in the burning sun as punishment. He had to stay there for a long time. My mother kept telling him, ‘Don’t cry, don’t cry.’ I think back about my mother with great respect and wonder. She made the very best out of the situation despite her ill-health and the terrible conditions. She made little gifts for us. She made a doll from a small piece of material for me. My mother remained supportive and positive; ‘The war will end tomorrow.’ she often said. Dropping the atomic bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima meant we were no longer prisoners. If the war had continued for a few more months then it was certain that an incomplete family would return to the Netherlands.” - Mieke van Hout

Behind barbed wire

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