Rising from the Shadow of the Sun, A Story of Love, Survival and Joy -- Free Excerpt!

Social IssuesWomen's Issues

  • Author Ronny Herman De Jong
  • Published March 19, 2012
  • Word count 1,433

Rising from the Shadow of the Sun, A Story of Love, Survival and Joy by Ronny Herman de Jong is a fascinating chronicle based on the detailed diary of Netty Herman, her courageous mother, who records the inhumane treatment and unbearable living conditions in WW II Japanese concentration camps for women and children on Java, and who, despite all the deprivations lives to be a centenarian; and the inspiring story of Ronny’s journey from a childhood in captivity in Southeast Asia in the 1940s to peace and prosperity in the United States in the 21st century.

Following is your free excerpt. Enjoy!

Part One

Eluding Death

Sticking his bayonet through the gedèk (bamboo fence), the Japanese soldier aimed to kill me. He missed. A little girl with blond braids, I was only five years old in March of 1944. The bayonet sliced through the air over my head. "Mamma!" I cried. "Ronny, come here!" cried Mamma. Dropping my flowers I scrambled across the slokan (ditch) and into Mamma’s arms. "Oh Ron!" said Mamma. "I am so glad you could run so fast through the slokan! You’re such a big girl!" "What was that, Mamma?" "You probably came too close to the gedèk. On the other side is a soldier. He thought you were running away and put a stick through the gedèk to scare you." "Can you get my flowers, Mam? They are for you." Mamma took my hand. "We will get them later, when the soldier is gone. All right?"

That morning, Mamma and I were walking along the edge of the camp. I was picking wildflowers for Mamma across the slokan. On the other side of the gedèk, a Japanese guard heard voices and intended to kill me. It is one of the bad memories I have of those three and a half years in Japanese concentration camps. At that time, Mamma, my little sister Paula and I were incarcerated in Halmahera, a Japanese concentration camp outside of Semarang, on the island of Java in the Dutch East Indies. The war had gone on for two years. The Japanese Army had conquered our island in March of 1942. Civilians—men, women and children—were put into concentration camps. Our captors withheld food and medication and treated the prisoners in the most inhumane way. Many were tortured and raped and beheaded. The Imperial Japanese Army’s instructions were to exterminate the Western Race in the islands at all costs so Japan could achieve a monopoly in Southeast Asia.

It was a near miss. I did not die at the hands of that Japanese soldier in 1944 because I was too small. I could have died a year later from hunger edema. In August of 1945, I was six. My legs were like sticks, my tummy was bloated and my cheeks were puffy. I was in the last stages of beri-beri, hunger edema. Paula, then four years old, had dry edema and was a mere skeleton. She could not walk or sit anymore. I imagined how it would happen. Paula would die first. Mamma had "wet" edema, like me, and she would die soon after Paula. I would have a month, perhaps two, before it was my turn. The Japanese would throw me into a mass grave outside the camp; a large hole in the ground dug especially for this purpose. When the war was over, allied rescue troops would unearth my body with all the others and bury it properly in the cemetery outside of town. They would top my grave with a nameless white cross. They put white crosses on thousands of graves in memory of the women and children who perished under the cruel treatment of the Japanese.

Forty-nine years later, I stood at that cemetery and wept. I wept tears of sorrow for all those mothers and children who had perished, and I wept tears of joy because I was alive.

I did not die in 1945 from hunger edema, because on August 15, 1945, the Japanese Empire abruptly surrendered and the war was over. With perseverance, great love for her little girls, faith in God, trust in the ultimate victory of the Allied Forces, and hope to be reunited with Fokko, our Pappa, Mamma kept the three of us alive for almost four years. During our time in captivity, she wrote letters to her parents in the Netherlands, which was occupied by Germany, in a thick, black diary. Initially she wrote how we little ones grew up, then how Fokko, our Pappa, had to leave when the Japanese army invaded our island, and then about all the things that happened to us during those grueling years under Japanese occupation. When the war was over in Europe as well as in Asia, we returned to the Netherlands for a six-month furlough and she gave the letter diary to her parents in Middelburg.

The world knows a lot about the war in Europe, the German occupation and the Holocaust. This book captures an aspect of WWII that is unknown to many: the torture and deaths that took place in civilian concentration camps all over Asia under Japanese occupation.

Following are the experiences of my family during the war in the Pacific. Thanks to my mother’s love and courage I was given a second chance on life. To understand the full scope of the effects of the murderous invasion and four years of captivity on the lives of civilians it is important to begin with a description of their lives in the tropics some seventy years ago.

Part Two

Life on a Roller Coaster

The bulging skin popped open amidst the smooth feathers. Pappa held the white-and-gray dove upside down so I had access to the opening I had just slit with the scalpel. I scooped a spoonful of undigested slimy seeds out of her gizzard, then another one. Interestingly, there was no blood. It didn’t seem to hurt either. Neither one of us could detect a cause for the blockage she seemed to have developed in her digestive tract. After some deliberation, Pappa handed me the large curved needle already threaded with cotton yarn. It was about four inches long. I had to tug hard to get it through the dove’s skin back and forth across the gap. Poor dove, I thought. I closed the wound and Pappa put the dove inside the pigeon-house, where she would stay for a few days so we could keep an eye on her.

On a Saturday afternoon, just after the sun dropped behind the roof and shaded the back yard, we walked to the chicken coop together. Two of our Australorps had developed some strange growths around their beaks and nostrils. Although Pappa didn’t know whether they were malignant, he knew they were contagious, so we had to treat them. A brief chase resulted in a good catch and I sat down on the upside-down feed bucket with one of the affected black beauties in a firm grip turned over on my lap. Her dark legs kicked wildly in the air in protest as Pappa wound a piece of rope around them. Dabbing iodine on the growths on her red face made her screech with pain. Poor chick, I thought. It was a quick job, and she ran off in a flurry when we set her free.

From the time I was twelve and still lived in Soerabaja, Pappa involved me in all kinds of medical hands-on tasks. He trained me to become a doctor. I wanted to be an actress. From the time I was a little girl and we lived in Soerabaja after the war, I performed puppet shows for the children in the neighborhood. In high school I won leading roles in several plays. I wanted to go to acting school. "Acting school?" said Pappa. "Nonsense. As an actress you will have a very uncertain future. You will not have a happy marriage." He was adamant. I adapted. I lived according to my parents’ expectations.

Read this fascinating chronicle based on the detailed diary of Netty Herman, Ronny’s courageous mother, who records the inhumane treatment and unbearable living conditions in WW II Japanese concentration camps for women and children on Java, and who, despite all the deprivations lives to be a centenarian; and the inspiring story of Ronny’s journey from a childhood in captivity in Southeast Asia in the 1940s to peace and prosperity in the United States in the 21st century.

The book is available in different versions from the publisher Booklocker.com.

I survived four horrifying years in Japanese concentration camps for women and children during WWII in the Dutch East Indies. In my Memoir Rising from the Shadow of the Sun, A Story of Love, Survival and Joy, you will find the story of my childhood, my later years and the original in the year 2000 declassified NARA Files, Japanese War Crimes Files.

Visit my website http://www.ronnyhermandejong.com/

Order the book from the publisher Booklocker.com at http://www.booklocker.com/p/books/5367.html?s=pdf

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