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'The city of Nagasaki was gone'

NOS 75 years of liberation
Japan is hit dubbel this week. The attacks on Hiroshima and three days later on Nagasaki have always been called to be the markers for both the begin and the end of the battle. But the news that Russia is now also opening attack is devastating for Tokio: their land has now completely been surrounded. With the Americans in the East and South, the British in the West and the Russians in the North.
Three days after the nuclear bomb in Hiroshima, the port city gets wiped off the map. Dutch prisoners of war are witnesses of the apocalyps. Next to that, the drama of the USS Indianapolis and the deadly story about the demon core.
These geopolitical developments do not concern the victims in Nagasaki when the city gets wiped off the map. They are simply trying to survive. Dutch prisoners of war are among the crowds leaving the city, trying to escape the inferno. “The entire city is gone!”
There wouldn’t be much attention for the Dutch survivors of Nagasaki. René Schäfer would even come to speak of “the forgotten Atomic bomb”, simply because all of the attention was usually given to Hiroshima. After the POW’s were freed a couple of days later and had regained strength the prisoners had were called up to serve in the Dutch-East-Indies, where the battle for independence was being fought. Back in the Netherlands there was little interest in their survival story. It was not until the 70s that they would be acknowledged as“hibakusha” (“survivors of the explosion).
The survivors could never agree on the need for the bomb. Dick Jansen was convinced that the bomb had saved his life because he would not have survived the Japanese camps. René Schäfer speaks of mass murder. “Was my freedom worth these 60.000 deaths?”
The world was waiting anxiously whether Japan would surrender unconditionally. If not, the American army could have a third atomic bomb at the ready in no time. Tokyo was mentioned as the target. But it turned out to be unnecessary.
This a third atomic charge would make more victims. It was used during experiments for the Manhattan Project, the American atomic program. Due to human error, on two occasions scientists were exposed to a lethal dose of radiation from this charge. It was therefor given the nickname Demon Core.
Reconstruction of the accident with the Demon Core
Reconstruction of the accident with the Demon Core
In the Netherlands a helping female hand is deemed indispensable for reconstruction. From all over the country volunteers come to the heavily struck areas to repair war damage. Traveling could be quite the hustle because of the poor state of the roads and low fuel supplies. Hitchhiking therefor becomes quite popular. Even princess Juliana takes a traveler with her from time to time.
On the island of Rottum, the smallest inhabited island in the Waddenzee, people are also busy with cleaning of damages. The Germans had been here from the first day of the war. And they left quite a mess, island supervisor Jan Toxopeus discovered.
In our story we made use of the impressive archive of Ties Groenwold, operator of the war museum in Middelstum. He is working on a book on the island during the war. We were also happy with the help of Wiepke Toxopeus, who as daughter of the last island supervisor is giving lectures.
In Den Helder people fear that all the reparations will be for nothing: people are seriously doubting whether the naval port will return to the damaged city.
The quotes of general practitioner Vroom in this story come from the thesis e wrote in 1942 on basis of his experiences in Den Helder. In Schrik, angst en vrees he researched how he and his fellow townspeople were suffering under the constant exposing an the dangers of bombardments. That is how he discovered that he himself started to forget things sooner because of stress. During the bombardments he experienced “the urge to get rid of everything that would otherwise be valued. They leave home with a certain feeling of well-being”.
Vroom earned a degree with his work, but the thesis was immediately locked away by the Germans. It was not until after the war that he could made his publication available.
Now the battle has been fought the Dutch Interior Forces can been dismissed. This group of soldiers never could never live up to their true potential. Sometimes their work even devolved into benevolent bumbling. Of course nothing about this has been put in the exhibition that is devoted to these troops.
The exhibition shows that the Netherlands has started conceptualizing the war. Monuments are created and the 5th of May becomes a national holiday. An important role is played by the Rijksinstituut for War Documentation, nowadays known as the NIOD. The institution is working hard to create an archive on the war. The goal is to create the definite history of the conflict.
The RIOD assumed that it would take until 1960 to write the history of the was, however it was not until 1969 that the first part of Het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden in de Tweede Wereld Oorlog (The Dutch kingdom during the Second World War) was published by Loe de Jong. The fascinatingly difficult creation of the work and the further developments of the NIOD to become the institute for war-, holocaust- and genocide studies is described in the recent published book Oorlog in onderzoek.
War reports
Other messages this week:
  • In the hamlet Zwarte Plak in Limburg resistance members are being honerd for theiir help in getting Allied pilots to safety
Bert Poels places the wreath that the Allied planes dropped on the grave of his father
Bert Poels places the wreath that the Allied planes dropped on the grave of his father
Not on the site
In the story on the atomic bombs on Japan the faith of the USS Indianapolis is a wry footnote: the ship that had brought the bomb to Asia experienced the biggest naval disaster in American marine history immediately after.
The Indianapolis was returning home when the ship was hit by Japanese torpedo’s. 300 people lost their lives immediately. Roughly 900 survived the explosions, but due to the secrecy around the mission, miscommunication and misunderstanding no one on land knew that the “Indy” never made it home.
It was not for another three days that the drowning people were spotted. Many survivors had already died by then by drowning, dehydration or suicide. Also, dozens of people fell victim to the sharks that attacked the victims. Of the 1196 crew members a total of 316 was saved.
The disaster was censored for days by the American government. It was not until the day of the attack on Hiroshima that little headlines appeared in the papers. Fellow soldiers had written messages on Little Boy, the atomic bomb for Hiroshima: “This one is for the Boys of the Indianapolis”.
75 years later: WO ll and liberation news from 2020
Yesterday, the Japanse surrender was commemorated in The Hague. A day earlier, the memorial was covered in paint by protesters. Earlier, prominent persons with a background in the Dutch Indies asked to give more attention to the suffering of the indigenous victims, like Tirto Pawiro, who worked on a forgoten death railway.
A commemoration for Nagasaki was also held this past week. There was supposed to be an unveiling of a memorial for the Dutch victimS, but due to the coronacrisis, this was postponed.
Officially, it has nothing to do with World War II, but because many people saw a Hitler-salute in this statue, the Amsterdam Olympic Stadion decided to remove it.
Next week the power vacuum left behind by Japan culminates in the independence of Indonesia. Festivities in Rotterdam end in a fireworks disaster and a specials Jewish brigade of the British army comes to our country.
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