Led by a bagpiper, 50 people from foreign and local communities gathered yesterday to rededicate a memorial at the site of a Japanese prisoner of war (POW) camp in Taipei County.
The memorial was erected in 1999 by the Taiwan POW Camps Memorial Society in memory of Allied prisoners interned at the Kukutsu camp in Hsintien by the Japanese during World War II. Yesterday's ceremony marked the relocation of the memorial's monument stone. It was moved because of construction in the area.
According to information provided by the society, the Kukustu camp housed around 300 POWs from May to August of 1945. Originally the prisoners were interned at the Kinkeseki camp in Chinguashi, where they were forced to work under brutal conditions in the nearby copper mine. However, Allied naval blockades prevented the Japanese from shipping the copper, causing them to shut down the mine and move the prisoners to other locations, including Kukutsu, said society director Michael Hurst.
PHOTO: SEAN CHAO, TAIPEI TIMES
Because they could see the end of the war looming, "the Japanese really didn't care if the men [in Kukutsu] lived or died. If they wanted shelter, they had to build their own huts. If they wanted to eat, they had to figure out how to get food," Hurst said.
"Although the men were only there for three months, many survivors told us that Kukutsu was the worst POW camp because of the starvation and beatings," he said.
Wang Tsai-ching (
"I was only seven years old when the POWs came. The POWs were really pitiful; they couldn't eat or walk without getting hit by the Japanese soldiers. The Japanese really looked down on the prisoners," Wang said.
"They were given almost nothing to eat. When they were given time to bathe, they would pretend to bathe in the creek nearby and beg the locals for food," he said.
The British Trade and Cultural Office representative at the ceremony, Deputy Director Rod Bunten, said that the memory of the POW camps in Taiwan held special significance in light of the recent outcry over abuse of Iraqi prisoners in US camps.
"The experience of the POWs in Taiwan should serve as a timely reminder that prisoner abuse has happened and will happen again," he said, adding that it is important to remember the past so that abuses will not happen in the future.
There were a total of 10 Japanese POW camps throughout Taiwan, holding mostly British, US and Dutch prisoners.
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