Mon, Aug 12, 2019 - Page 2 News List

Event honors World War II prisoners in East Asia

Staff writer, with CNA

The Taiwan POW Camps Memorial Society on Saturday held an event to honor the thousands of prisoners of war who endured hardship, and in many cases lost their lives, at camps in Taiwan and elsewhere in East Asia during World War II.

Participants observed a moment of silence after remarks by guests that recalled what they endured.

The 2001 film To End All Wars, which depicts the story of prisoners at a Japanese camp during World War II, was screened.

The event was held on Far East Prisoners of War Day, a day of tribute to those held by the Japanese during World War II, including at 16 sites in Taiwan.

According to the society’s research, 4,373 prisoners, including British, Australian and Dutch nationals, were held in Taiwan at 14 camps and two temporary evacuation camps from August 1942 to September 1945.

More than 400 of them died in Taiwan, it said.

The idea for the day of remembrance was conceived by a group of former prisoners and their families and friends, as well as historians in the UK.

Society chairman Michael Hurst, who has studied the history of Taiwan’s prisoner of war camps for 23 years, said that the prisoners, including civilian internees such as nurses, engineers and other members of the armed forces, endured horrific mental and physical torture at the camps.

For those who made it home, many continued to suffer because no one cared for them due to the general desire among many to let go of the pain brought by the war, he said.

Hurst thanked the government for supporting his efforts to raise awareness of the history of prisoners of war and said he was glad that knowledge of wartime events was growing among Taiwanese.

“It’s been very rewarding and I think the word is spreading,” said Hurst, who initiated the effort to construct monuments at former prisoner of war camp sites in Taiwan.

He plans to establish a museum in Taiwan to educate people about former prisoners’ stories, which he described as “unique, but not as well-known as the Bridge on the River Kwai,” referencing the real-life events of the film about British prisoners of war at a Japanese camp in what was then Burma.

“One of the things I want to do is to open a POW museum either in Taipei or New Taipei City. That’s going to be a big project. We are going to need help from the central government and local governments,” he said.

Hurst is also working on a book that tells the stories of the camps, which is to be released this year.

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