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HOME  > Past issues  > 2019 April 10 - 16  > Documentary sheds light on Japanese women who survived POW camps in Siberia
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2019 April 10 - 16 [PEACE]
column 

Documentary sheds light on Japanese women who survived POW camps in Siberia

April 11, 2019

Akahata ‘current’ column

The Support and Documentation Center for ex-POWs and Internees by Soviet Russia after the WWII, Japan (SDCPIS) recently held an event to showcase documentary films. These films provided proof that hundreds of Japanese women had also been captured by the Soviet military along with men and showed footage of women prisoners, such as nurses in military uniform, typists, and housewives.

After Japan’s surrender in WWII, the Soviet military took 600,000 Japanese soldiers and civilians to Siberia from the northeast part of China and other areas which were occupied by Japan during the war. They were kept in Japanese POW camps for years and forced to do hard labor in Siberia which is known for its extreme cold weather. Around one in ten internees died in the camps due to diseases, injuries, and malnutrition.

Among female Japanese POWs in Siberia were young women who had just been employed as hospital assistants to make up for the shortage of nurses. Each of them received a small bottle of cyanide and was instructed to commit suicide with dignity as a Japanese woman rather than be raped by the enemy. In POW camps, some women were ordered to log trees from forests together with male prisoners.

One of the POWs was shot to death after attempting an escape and the frozen body was placed in the camp yard as an example to others. The then Soviet leader Joseph Stalin secretly issued an order to use Japanese POWs as forced laborers in violation of international law. The Japanese Imperial military and government at that time even offered to cooperate with this unjust act by Stalin.

Now the nucleus of the Japanese government is occupied by politicians who turn their back on historical facts. One of the women in the films said that she has been searching for her missing sister and stressed, “No more war. The wartime regime told us to sacrifice ourselves for the state, and what did the government do for us?”

Past related articles:
> Ex-Japanese POWs want remains of the dead to be collected [August 24, 2016]
> Materials related to Japanese POWs in Siberia and Nanjing Massacre inscribed in UNESCO World Heritage list [October 11, 2015]
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