“Can we get reconciled?”

6 November 2004, Oegstgeest


  1. Peace with the Past, yields Hope for the Future (synopsis)
  2. Deportation to Japan: Search for Clarity (synopsis)
  3. Thoughts in Connection with Reconciliation (synopsis)

1. Peace with the Past, yields Hope for the Future (synopsis) ⎮ Mrs. A. Goudswaard – De Vries

It is difficult to speak about this subject, as the audience is unknown to me. Hence, I understand that some will say reading the title: “A bridge too far.”

I got a letter to the effect that “I still don’t want to come close to Japan, so I won’t attend the conference.” As a matter of fact, I have gotten rather negative, myself.

I had left the camp along time ago, but I still was in an inner prison psychologically for quite some time.

At the age of 16 I returned to The Netherlands with my mother and five brothers and sisters. My Dad had died in Japan. I felt worthless. At last, I decided to write down my experiences.

I started in a post-war writing book of bad quality. I finished the first six months of the camp. I started crying and hid the writing book, as well as my tears. What was my life story compared to the story of the world. Well?

I became a teacher, married, had seven children. There were highlights and depths.

Having never had a childhood yourself may have bad consequences for your own children. You don’t understand their behaviour.

I had been taught obedience, hid myself, and heard that the Dutch were good-for-nothings. Result: Unhappy about my past. The same reactions among fellow-sufferers. I should do something about it.

Aunt Agaath from the camp once said: Any human being has his own camp experiences, but what are you going to do with them later on? An inner struggle followed. Ultimately, the Lord Himself made my bitterness disappear.

Even though no Japanese will ask forgiveness, I’ll be the first, for I need forgiveness myself.

In 1992, our children offered us an excursion to Indonesia. I felt surrounded by the Lord’s power. I had a dream at the end: Now you are grown-up. Maybe, the voice of the Almighty.

In 1997, I got to know some Japanese people in a German camp. They knew little about the war, were moved to tears, and offered apologies.

In 1998, Eidai Hayashi came to Holland to discuss his book on Japanese atrocities all over the world with me.

His own Buddhist father was murdered. He did not speak English, so try and find Japanese who either speak Dutch or English. We made the acquaintance of Professor Muraoka, an excellent translator. The professor and his wife will atone for what his country has done to mankind. One of his initiatives is: The Dutch-Japanese Dialogue – or The Netherlands-Japan Dialogue. Ideas on: Saying sorry, offer excuses, and forgiveness. Obvious facts: Humility and reconciliation, in the words of the Japanese Evangelical Church Association.

Thirty years after the war (1985), churches confessed their guilt in South East Asia. Sins committed in adoration of the Emperor. Christians who did not adore/worship the Emperor got killed. The Japanese church was silent; the church prayed for the victory of the Japanese. The cruel deeds of the Japanese army were mentioned: Lamentations 3:7.

The Zen Buddhist clergy offered excuses in 2002.

Cardinal Shirijanagi: The Catholic Church will try and prevent Japan from making the same mistakes again.

The atom bomb on Nagasaki: The book, The Bells of Nagasaki, by Dr. Nagai. Who destroyed the city? The people who started this cursed war.

Dr. Nagai references the Bible: Who takes the sword will perish by it. Victory was the ideal, but there was a price. Dr. Nagai cried out “Never war again,” and so did twenty-four thousand dead and thirty thousand badly wounded. The cry still rang in his ears when he wrote this book.

A number of Japanese leaders have offered remembrance on Dutch soil. This is not generally accepted yet, especially from those people who also offer tribute at the Yasakuni Shrine, a Japanese national monument. Professor Muraoka states that there are many hints that Japan is not yet ready for the lessons to be drawn from the past. For instance, Japanese leaders regularly visit, regardless of criticism in the newspapers, the Yasakuni Shrine, offering remembrance that includes military leaders who committed war crimes. Words should be translated into deeds, according to Professor Muraoka.

J.C.F.C and Christians in Tokiyo and Fukuoka offer trips to Japan besides offering apologies. A careful presentation. A very impressive excursion. Some special meetings during our journey: A memorial service in a high school in Koyagi, close to Nagasaki, with many official groups present. Telling the headmistress of a school about the farewell letter of Mrs. Goudswaad’s father speaking of forgiving the enemy. The headmistress emotionally confessed she had never known this type of suffering, but would tell her pupils. The headmistress’s reaction: “This must never happen again. I feel guilty.” Several other people asked forgiveness. Also, a memorable visit to the Cross monument in Mizumaki.

Indonesian students know that their parents suffered under the Japanese during the war, but they do not complain, showing that they understand the message of reconciliation.

[translation: Dame Elisabeth H. Foppen]

2. Deportation to Japan: Search for Clarity (synopsis) ⎮ Mrs. Paulien Greeven – Lels

In 1931, before World War II, my newly-married parents came to the Dutch East Indies, where my father, as an electrotechnical engineer, found a job with Radio Station Bandung. Because of a crisis in Europe, jobs were hard to get in The Netherlands. My father and the managing director, the engineer Mr. Einthoven, developed the station into an extremely modern “short wave” facility, operating all over the world. When Japan occupied the station after the invasion of the Dutch East Indies, they possessed by far the largest establishment in the Pacific, with many laboratories in the vicinity. Early 1938, three people went to the first international telecommunication conference in Cairo, Egypt, under the supervision of Mr. Einthoven. One day, a Japanese was ransacking Mr. Einthoven’s desk. At the time, a few American electronical engineers familiar to the scientists gathering round Professor Albert Einstein also visited Bandung. Einstein knew Mr. Einthoven’s father was aware of the work of his own son in Java. The Americans requested to set up a laboratory for reasearch with liquid air. Secrecy was paramount. It became clear that a youthful Japanese engineer being a spy and working in the laboratory must have known about the various tasks of various colleagues. After “Pearl Harbor” in December 1941, and Indies’ declaration of war, the capitulation soon followed. A few nights after this, Mr. Einthoven and my Dad never came home. It was a relief when Dad was home again the next morning. During that night, the two men had put the “American” laboratory out of action. Though we feared they would be killed, nothing happened.
Daily life came to a standstill, internment camps were inhabited, but the radio station should carry on. At length the workers concerned and their families were put in a separate camp.

In November 1943, Mr. Einthoven and four co-workers were to be deported to Japan to work there for the Japanese army. In the presence of his wife and eldest daughter, Mr. Einthoven furiously refused. However, he was forced to agree; otherwise if the five men refused, their wives and children would be held hostage in Japan. From that time onwards, the messrs. Einthoven, Lels, Levenbach, Leunis and Hasenstab regularly received their instructions at the Japanese office. The same officer was always assisted by an interpreter. When the latter was gone, he said in perfect English, ‘I can’t prevent your deportation to Japan, but once there, it should be slow-motion and keep asking for special literature. The source will soon be exhausted. Good luck.”

In these chaotic days nobody realised that this action might be the result of pre-war espionage. Soon after, on 19 January 1944, all of us – 11 grown-ups and 11 children – were transported to Batavia, and on board a Japanese coaster taken to Singapore within three days. Two hotel rooms were crammed with 22 people, so that quarrels arose for want of privacy. It lasted six weeks. The “Teia-Maru” in convoy with 12 ships set sail for Shimoneseki, where, after being torpedoed 11 times, we arrived on 26 March 1944.

In bad circumstances we went by train to Tokyo and were accommodated in two furnished houses belonging to the Chilean Embassy.

The men worked for Sumitomo, now known as the Nippon Electic Company (NEC) (mobile telephones0. The men managed to build a receiver and could listen to radio broadcasts from San Francisco. The management did not trust this contraption, and soon it disappeared.

In the houses, parents taught their children, but food became scarce.

In November 1944, American planes appeared and sirens went off daily over Tokyo. Bombardments were started and grew in violence in 1945. In extreme cold, we spent the nights in shelters, where we had to do sums, but often fires had to be extinguished.

In January 1945, we got the flu. Mr. Einthoven passed away on 15 February. A doctor only came after his death. A severe blow to his family, and to us all.

Heavy bombardments and unextinguishable fires.

Suddenly, in May, we were dispatched by train to a small temple not far from Toyota. Overwhelming nature. No sanitary conditions, one room, i.e., the porch of a Buddhist temple. Fourteen Italian prisoners were staying in a bigger temple nearby. They could cook, and three times a day we had a thin soup made of flour.

We got very hungry and started looking for food in nature, though forbidden. My Dad ate two slugs. In the far distance bombardments went on. The Italians provided us with news, which became more optimistic.

On the 15th August 1945, we were free. I was ill. The Swedish ambassador enabled us to go to Kanko Hotel in Nagoya. American liaison officers saw to our repatriation.

On 4 September, we went to the hospital ship “Rescue,” which was lying among American men-of-war off Hamamatsu. While being torpedoed, we arrived at the harbour of Yokohama, where we saw the battle ship “Missouri,” where the peace agreement was signed on 2 September 1945. Traveling through a devastated countryside, we reached the airport of Atsugi.

Via Okinawa, we were flown to Manila. After three more weeks we arrived in Australia to recuperate and appreciate our freedom.

Why had we been forced to stay in Japan? Maybe, my father surmised, it had to do with the development of radar. Who knows?

About 20 years later, in the summer of 1965, my parents were in Tokyo to attend an international radio conference. My Dad did his utmost to maked inquiries with Sumitomo as to why they had been taken to Japan. He was not even given admittance to the building. Later the Levenbachs also went to Sumitomo. They were received, but there were no answers.

Later, Mr. Levenbach realised that the five men working in Japan had been appointed by America to work in the secret research laboratory in Bandung. Years elapsed. The past was ignored. The parents died; the children were left.

Some time ago, I discovered the Association of Ex-POWs and Their Descendants. My brother and I went to Japan in the fall of 2001. I wanted to revisit the temple and get to know present-day Japan.

A chance to find out why the deportation to Japan had taken place. Subsidies were offered by the Japanese Foreign Office, so I applied to them with my question, and request for permission to visit the temple. No answer whatsoever.

Professor Muraoka learned of my quest and introduced me to his friend, Mr. Inoue, who, maybe, could be of help. This friend, at long last, managed to establish the required contacts.

So my brother and I reached Nagoya. With the Inoue couple we went to the Kanko Hotel, the temple of Kotakuji. A wonderful experience. The children of the past could enjoy several items of recognition.

Some days later we came to Tokyo, to the office of NEC. A 90 year-old veteran could explain that the reason for my Dad’s stay in Japan was the development of RADAR.

Somewhat dazed, we left. An honest answer after 56 years. Our mission was fulfilled.

The theme of today: “Can we get reconciled?” The efforts of the Japanese have made an honest answer possible. The priest and his wife earned a lot of money because they imprisoned us. Now we talked together. The old man, Mr. Osawa, only thought of the production chain of new weapons. He wrote later that “I may go so far as to say “My Ikuta was the Paradise of the Fool. Through this bitter experience I am convinced that it is most important to have ample information and a correct perception of history.” We felt convinced that he should be frank and friendly towards us.

My story is “history.” My reconciliation is due to the contact with Japan today. Official channels offered next to nothing, but personal relationships were and are soothing. The official attitude is the attitude of the Japanese administration. When will this change?

[translation: Dame Elisabeth H. Foppen]

3. Thoughts in Connection with Reconciliation (synopsis) ⎮ Mrs. Ina Buitendijk

(In 2009, five years after her speech, a TV docimentary about Mrs. Buitendijk was broadcasted in the Netherlands; Zen and War was about the involvement of Japanese zen priests with the war at the end of 19th and the begining of 20th century.)

Professor Muraoka asked me to discuss the theme “Can Japanese and the Dutch get reconciled from the point of view of Zen Buddhism?” Letters to Zen schools have led to excuses, deep regret. I wondered if a living faith should not be recognized in daily life. Discuss: Part played by Buddhist clergy and part played by Japanese Christians in wartime. May showing repentance lead to diminishing hatred and rancour with war victims? Possible? Is reconciliation possible with an enemy

On New Year’s Eve 1999, from midnight onwards, I watched tv each hour to witness reactions all over the world at the millennium change. There were festivities in Christmas Island. To me a symbolical value. In Christmas Island the third millennium started and here the first day ended. Especially feasting people, different styles, yet harmonious and helpful. I felt the oneness, also shown by modern means of communication. Third millennium awareness of mutual contacts. Individual deeds influence world affairs and private lives.

This became reality in 1999 when I read Zen at War, by Brian Victoria, a Zen priest and specialist in Asiatic languages. Practically all Zen priests and Zen masters had supported the Japanese policy.

My husband was in a Japanese internment camp as a child, but still feels the effects. Our family also feels this; for Dad has had psychotherapy for 17 years.

How to understand the Zen practice and the life of my husband? She wrote a letter to the Zen organization in Japan and asked them to ask forgiveness. The priest urged various leaders to apologize, but they often refused. For safety’s sake, the letter was in English. Yet, two years later, Zen schools were prepared to offer apologies. I was invited to address people and talk about the motives of my activity.

Why my concern about the collaboration of Buddhist clergy and Zen clergy? Had not churches in Europe done the same? Zen is experience, not doctrines; yet, roots in Buddhism, so rules of Buddha. Zen = meditation – no contact met outer world. Man is God’s temple; stress on holiness of life now, not in the future.

Buddha had reached enlightenment and then changed his experiences into his doctrines. Saying: Life is suffering – a deep truth and this means a devotion of the total personality. Man looks for happiness and wants to evade suffering. You may reach this. Important obstacles are desire, hatred and illusions. Conditions to reach nirvana are virtue, wisdom and meditation. (See Eightfold Path.)

A Zen master has reached the first nirvana. Second nirvana is reached at death. The master has the Buddha nature. First command is you may not kill or hurt others. No violence is all-important. What you don’t want to happen to you, don’t do this to others. You should not lie, but show respect in words. Conflict: Practice and teaching.

China: Any warfare is wrong. Japan: War may be justified, if the aim is good. The Japanese Emperor: He may kill to reach a higher aim. Suzuki: The weapon kills, not the person. The weapon has the function of justice and this is the function of charity/mercy. Kill communists?: How? Be loyal to Emperor. Emperor takes the place of Buddha. Japan had sacrificed itself by liberating Asian peoples from their Western oppressors.

Buddhism wants to be good patriots. Buddhism is not a native religion. Its origin is Shintoism. Western religion – Christianity. Thesis by Mrs. Huamin Toshiko Machman in 2003 at Birmingham University. Nationalism of Japan in 1900 > totalitarian state, make use of state Shintoism. Sun goddess – ancestress of Emperor. Japanese members of holy places. Emperor is holy and inviolable. Christians cannot live according to these rules, but government knows that both Christians and Buddhists want to belong.

Originally churches opposed to state sanctuaries, where the Emperor should be honoured. They voiced this at an international conference of Protestant churches in India in 1938. They dropped their objections as state Shintoism was not a religion but a Japanese tradition. Pressure to conform to tradition. One Toyohiko Kagawa, a prominent Japanese Christian, an evangelist and social activist was a staunch pacifist and criticized the Japanese expansion policy in the Thirties. This name is mentioned among Gandhi, Einstein, and Tagore in a petition for peace. In a poem he expresses sorrow about the invasion in Manchuria, for like other Christians he associated with Chinese Christians. After 1920 writings from him and his wife were confiscated and the police watched him. During sermon on opposition without force, he was arrested. After a month in prison he writes he will always protect the state as he loves his country. In 1943 he is interrogated by the police as he encourages youth to refuse to enlist. After this incident he only speaks like the government and joins propaganda via the radio. In a song for the churches he admonishes the Christians to obey their mission by conquering Asia in order to work for the Kingdom of God. He was by no means the only Christian who thought like this. Kagawa is sent to China to ask people to cooperate with the new world order led by Japan. After the war he advised the cabinet how to prevent the Emperor from being personally accused of participation in the war. Slogan: A hundred million people absolutely repent. The responsibility should go to the people and not to their leaders, the Emperor and military. Consequently, no one was guilty. So the Japanese population never thought of this anymore. Only self-investigation may prevent a repetition in the future. The refusal of authorities to think about the past is outdated. At a conference a Dutch man announced he had been in a camp as a child. After the conference, a Japanese woman of about 30 said she had never heard of camps before. This proves the importance of informing people of the past. Reconciliation needs two parties.

In the book Zen at war, the relentless system in general is blamed, but especially, the attitude of the Zen clergy. It is persons that matter, in this case, members of the Buddhist clergy. In a law court, the culprit is a person and not part of a system. This person has a conscience and is therefore held responsible. The Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt studied the attitude of Germans in the Hitler period. She draws the conclusion that not everybody has got a conscience. Strange. Arendt found people who did not cooperate in all layers of society: intellectuals and workmen, believers and non-believers. Arendt thinks these people only mind themselves: The proposition of Socrates, “It is better to suffer evil than to do evil; it is better to be at variance with the whole world than to live at variance with myself.” The people who refused blind obedience, even though in silence, and were prepared to suffer are those who saved the dignity and honour of man. They did not think it necessary to obey laws contrary to human dignity. Any government rests on affirmation not obedience. A sign of being grown-up. In a religious sense, obedience is found as the relationship God:man is that of grown-up:child. Hence, it was not crafty to portray the Japanese Emperor as a divine father so that obedience was required.

On their way to the international conference (1938), the Christians, already aware of the situation noticed that the delegates took part in the state Shinto ceremonies. Besides the Bishop of Winchester advised to lie low in order to prevent worse. He compared the worship of the Virgin Mary and holy apostles to the worship of the Emperor. The Bishop forgot that a Christian should not consider his own wishes, but his relationship with God. Weren’t Christians killed because they refused to worship the Roman Emperor? It appeared that accepting the lesser of two evils paves the way to unlimited terror. The Japanese government concluded that worshipping the Emperor implied that the Christians were no longer a threat.

All this clarifies that it is difficult to pass a correct judgement on a situation when you are in the midst of it. Many Zen masters were very intelligent. The Christian Reverend Kagawa did a lot for the poor, yet all of them remain responsible for what they had done. Writing to the Buddhist clergy, I assumed that they were held responsible by God. When we judge that crimes were committed through weakness, although people might have known better, we should wonder if we should have acted differently. We should pray and hope that we are granted the strength, this humbling knowledge which may contribute to reconciliation.

Reconciliation implies the recovery of relations between perpetrators and victims: In our jurisdiction, the perpetrator is punished or has to pay damages. In either case, reconciliation is not required. It is difficult when the perpetrators live far away or are unknown. The feeling lives among war victims from the Dutch East Indies that damages paid are not sufficient, and that the Japanese people don’t realize their guilt.

Repentance and apologies of the Zen Buddhist Benzai School come 60 years after the crimes committed. Very late. Most of the survivors are dead now. Explanation: Zen masters are very influential and cannot be wrong. Yet the acknowledgement that they were wrong and we will apologize. This is an honest gesture and is addressed to every victim separately.

Should the answer to repentance be reconciliation? No. Sometimes wounds are too deep. Jesus does not oblige people to be reconciled. He only sees it as a liberation from the imprisonment of the past. Talking with fellow sufferers may give support, but the opposite is also possible.

You may conclude to let bygones be bygones. You may include the perpetrator in your thoughts, which does not involve understanding why he acted as he did. Wrong is wrong. On the other hand, he is also a creature with the same desires of happiness as you. The perpetrator also punishes himself because of the consequences of his deeds for the future. Giving up hatred, vengeance, may heal you and the ensuing peace benefits the world.

You may change the past, look at it differently. You may say “I am disappointed.” You may also relive the pain, etc., and change it into something positive (with or without help). Accepting the past is a way to look for God’s will. The difficulty does not lie in the events themselves, but in the willingness to shoulder the consequences of the deeds. Scars remain, but you no longer blame the perpetrator; the natural process of hatred and retribution are turned around. The past loses its hold over you – which is a miracle.

[translation: Dame Elisabeth H. Foppen]