Monday 16 February 2015

World War II atrocities recalled at new exhibition at National Museum

Records of war crimes in Singapore go on show
New exhibition sheds light on prison horrors and efforts to convict WWII criminals here
By Melody Zaccheus, The Sunday Times, 15 Feb 2015

They were kicked and slapped around by Japanese soldiers.

At night, the prisoners of war (POWs) and civilians interned at Singapore's Outram Gaol were given nothing more than wooden planks, a wooden block for a pillow and soiled blankets that were never washed, to sleep with. They were also deprived of food and, often, the chance to bathe.

The squalid and unhygienic conditions meant that scabies - an itchy skin disorder caused by parasitic mites living under the skin - festered within the facility's walls.

War survivor Samuel Dhoraisingam, 90, a former secondary school principal, said: "They were tortured terribly and many were killed. My brother-in-law, George, an electrician in charge of the Sembawang Naval Base, was one of those who died in jail."

By the end of the war on Sept 12, 1945, 39 detainees had died.

The conditions within the gaol were so appalling that it led many to nickname it the Belsen of the East - after the notorious, disease- riddled Nazi concentration camp in northern Germany.

These war-time horrors that played out in the largest prison facility in Singapore are on display at a new exhibition, called Case Files From The Singapore War Crimes Tribunal, at the National Museum of Singapore.

They were extracted by National Heritage Board (NHB) researchers, who were given access to copies of records of the War Office at the National Archives of Singapore. These documents included transcripts of court proceedings and interrogation reports.

"We wanted to showcase a lesser known aspect of Singapore's war history, and highlight the efforts expended to bring war criminals to justice in Singapore," said the board's group director of policy, Mr Alvin Tan.

The exhibition is part of the board's efforts to commemorate the 73rd Anniversary of the Battle for Singapore and the 70th Anniversary of the Liberation of Singapore. It opens today, and ends on April 5.

Also on show are records of the horrors that took place at Alexandra Hospital, Selarang Barracks and Oxley Rise, as well as the Sook Ching massacre.

They also detail the physical abuse of Allied soldiers and civilians who helped in raids and operations against the Japanese forces.

The abuse ranged from being beaten with iron bars and wet, knotted ropes, to being given electric shocks.

Several weapons and ammunition, including a Japanese machine gun, and POW belongings, such as a handmade radio, are also on show at the exhibition.

The tribunal, run by the British, heard a total of 131 cases over two years. The accused included high-ranking Japanese officials, rank-and-file soldiers and members of the Japanese military police or Kempeitai.

Life sentences were rolled out, and many of them faced the firing squad or death by hanging.

Mr Samuel believes the exhibition will help shed light on a trying time when many were gripped with fear.

He said: "The exhibition shows the brutality of the Japanese troops... It can also inform current generations of the suffering the POWs and civilians went through which aren't fully detailed in textbooks."

Over 1,000 attend war memorial service for civilian victims of Japanese Occupation
By Janice Tai, The Straits Times, 15 Feb 2105

Mr Teo Hong Mong lost his father when he was just one year old. His father, then a 26-year-old volunteer fighter with Straits Settlements Volunteer Force, was rounded up by the Japanese soldiers, driven off on a lorry and brought to Changi to be shot.

"I grew up not knowing my father and not experiencing the love of a father," wrote Mr Teo, 73, on a wreath he placed near the memorial column. "I pray that such cruelty and slaughter of civilian victims will never happen again," said the former engineer, who also handed over his dad's certificate of commendation for serving the country during the Japanese Occupation to a war historian at the service.

Mr Teo was among the more than 1,000 people who attended the 47th War Memorial Service, organised by the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Saturday morning, to remember civilian victims who died during the Japanese Occupation. Held at the War Memorial Park in Beach Road, representatives - including those from schools and religious organisations - took turns to lay wreaths at the foot of the 67m high war memorial. Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong was the guest-of-honour at the service.

Singapore fell to the Japanese on Feb 15, 1942. Built 25 years later, the memorial has four vertical pillars symbolising the shared war experiences of the four races here. Underneath the structure lay the remains of unknown war victims. The Japanese occupied Singapore for more than three years before surrendering to the Allied forces and returning Singapore to British control in 1945.

On Saturday, which is also Total Defence Day, the ceremony began when the Singapore Civil Defence Force sounded the "all clear" signal from the Public Warning System. The signal is used in an emergency to inform the public that danger is over and life can return to normal. Participants then said prayers, observed a minute of silence, and paid their respects to the dead at the memorial.

No comments:

Post a Comment