The Newsletter 62 Winter 2012

Indies prison notebooks

Elizabeth Chandra

During World War II, one’s chances of survival depended very much on one’s race. This was most certainly the case in the Siantar (North Sumatra) prison in the former Dutch East Indies, then under Japanese occupation. From the painstakingly detailed accounts by Kho An Kim in his Pendjara Fasis [Fascist Prison], we learn that only 252 of the 536 detainees in the Siantar prison survived the Pacifi c War. As the prisoners were organized according to their race, the mortality rate in Siantar is quite telling: 66% of the European prisoners perished during internment, 62% of the ‘Indonesians’ (mostly Ambonese, Manadonese, Timorese, and Javanese soldiers of the former colonial army), and only 1% of the Chinese detainees (7 out of 95). Death did not come to all – it came to some before it got to others.

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