Queen's University

Masters in the art of “dehumanization”

Reader R. H. Posma, Arts’69, from Oshawa, ON, says Alfred Bader's wartime experiences in a Canadian POW camp were not unique.

Re: “A word and a missing suitcase,” Issue #2-2011, p. 30

I enjoyed reading about the Alfred Bader experience as alien, POW, refugee, and prisoner, and I was somewhat reminded of my own experience in a Japanese concentration camp located in East Java, Indonesia from 1941 to 1944. The folks who run these concentration or POW camps seem to have been unusually capable in having made life as unpleasant as possible for their guests, and they were masters in the art of "dehumanization."

Why a 16-year-old Austrian national in England in 1940 had to be arrested and interned by the enlightened Winston Churchill ("Collar the lot!") is peculiar to say the least.

During this time, my German wife was a resident of West Prussia (now Poland) where her parents owned a thriving farm. There were British POWs there, and apparently they had a choice as combatant POWs, of going to a POW camp, or spending time on one of several farms to help with the various chores. My wife parents were assigned 12 British officers who spent the remaining war years (unguarded) on their farm. In due course these POWs sort of became part of the family, and when the Russian army was advancing westward, my wife's family and the British POWs all ventured westward to meet up with the western armies. My wife's father was taken by the Russians sent to some Siberian detention camp, and was never heard from again.

As for Alfred Bader’s stolen suitcase, as devastating as that would have been to the 16-year-old Mr. Bader, he may be assured that the women and children in the Japanese concentration camps in Indonesia were denied any of their possessions as a matter of course.


Queen's Alumni Review, 2011 Issue #3Queen's Alumni Review
2011 Issue #3
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