Open the Door
I grew up with words like this, “It’s too terrible to tell you, it’s too much. I do not hate the Japanese; they were cruel to each other too.” Those words came from my father, every time I asked him what it was like to survive WWII in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia). He never told me.
Every survivor of WWII has differences in how they survive and thrive… After. For my father it was never to talk about 1942 -1945, except occasionally to cousins who also survived, or to a combat-survivor soldier. My father’s “combat” survival was in Japanese Concentration/Labor camps for Dutch civilians in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia). He was almost 16 and near death when the camps were finally liberated. His survival became to experience daily life as fully as possible – and to close the door on the past.
My aunt in the Netherlands (Holland) also a survivor, does talk sometimes, and has NEVER bought a Japanese car.
My father had no problem with the Japanese or Japanese cars, only the cruelty, torture, starvation, loss and more. (Although it should be known that civilian and POW slave labor was used in Japanese Labor camps where anywhere from 25% to 66% died. The owners of these factories went on to manufacture Japanese cars. Neither reparation nor formal apologies has ever been given by the Japanese government to survivors.)
So what is it like for you, me, our family members, or any survivor to open the door to the past?
Beginning to come to terms with enormous loss and trauma, what is left? Trust is impaired. One’s body is on high alert when least expected. Survivors wonder, if we could figure out every trigger for memories of old trauma, perhaps this high alert, tension, or memory flashbacks wouldn’t occur? This is just one form of wondering, the wondering goes on and on.
As the door opens and grieving advances, the time comes when healing thoughts replace the wondering, and replace false painful thoughts which wove their way into the past.