Dutch-Canadian Survivors of Japanese Prison Camps

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Smuggling Sugar

by Lynn Huysman van Frankfoort

In camp Banju Biru, everyone had to work and the tasks that needed doing were assigned to different groups. I had to help empty the poeptonnen or poopbarrels. These were carried on long poles which rested on the shoulders of two persons. A group would go to a nearby stream and empty them in the water.

Sometimes, while we were there, I would see a head appear above the high grass on the other side. Others would notice that too and then deals were made for sugar. The sugar had to be smuggled into the camp and to hide it, it would be put in one of the barrels.

Since the guards never thought we would put food in those dirty barrels, this worked well for a while. Then, one day, they found the sugar when we returned to the camp. To re-enter the camp, a gate was opened and we were let in. Once we were behind that closed gate, the second gate into the camp would be opened.

That particular day, the second one was not opened and we were trapped between the two closed gates. All the women and I — the only child in the group — had to line up. We feared what might be ahead of us as we knew what punishment could be handed out. The guards were known to heat up a metal bar, place it behind a prisoner's knees and then force her to kneel. Not only was having the bar there painful, but the metal would burn the skin. This time, though, they burned the first person with cigarettes all over her body, and hit her twenty times with a bamboo rod. When the first woman did not tell who was responsible, they worked on the next one. I was waiting for my turn, like all the others.

I glanced down the line and could see there were five persons ahead of me. They finished with another woman, that left four. Another one and three left. But then, suddenly, I felt that I was lifted up from behind and put in the next place in the lineup. I was still a young girl at the time, and very small and thin, so it must have been easy to pick me up.

This went on for a while and I was moved along a few spaces. In the meantime, the torture of the other women went on as well.

Suddenly, a woman walked our way and approached the gate. The guard opened the inner gate, she came in, lifted me up and carried me away.

I do not know what happened to the other women, nor do I know who the lady was who carried me off, but to me she was an angel sent to save me.

About the Author

Lynn Huysman van Frankfoort was born in Amsterdam, but lived in Surabaya when the war broke out. During the war she moved from Malang Wijk to Banju Biru, and during the bersiap to Ambarawa. She spent the war with her mother and sister, while her father was in the Ambarawa men's camp. They returned to the Netherlands in 1946 and lived in Bussum. She met Kees van Frankfoort while she worked in the Juliana Kinderziekenhuis (children's hospital) in Arnhem as a nurse and they were married in 1952. They emigrated to Canada in 1958 and after fifteen years returned to Holland for a one-year period. In Canada, they lived in Montreal and later in Ottawa. Their family consists of a daughter and two sons. Kees passed away in 1999.

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