Filling the Emptiness of a Stunned Inner Silence: Survivors' Memoirs of Japanese Internment Camps in Indonesia during World War II

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2010-05-21

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Abstract

War stories are so often reported with the number of victims. Statistics break down the logistics into birthplace, military versus nonmilitary, or even men versus women. With constant exposure, readers are numb to the significance of these numbers; one cannot fully grasp the fear, pain, suffering, or sadness that accompanied the over 15,000 Allied prisoners of war that died building the Burma Railroad or the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis. This desensitization results in indifference or ignorance. Perhaps what may be more impactful and memorable is to read war stories from the view and experience of the survivors. The surviving prisoners of war have memories and stories that provide insight and force the reader to feel and experience the memory; an understanding that is impossible to gain from war victim statistics.

This thesis analyzes written narratives of Dutch women and children survivors of the Japanese internment camps in Indonesia during World War II in an attempt to give coherence and presence to the fragmentary existence of their experience. The fragments of these individuals exemplify the tragedy, disappointment, emotional anxiety, difficulty in articulating their story and isolation from the outside world felt by each survivor in their distinct experiences. These stories reevaluate how this experience has shaped the survivors as individuals despite the unaware, unwelcoming, and unperturbed observers of the outside world. By assembling these various memoirs we can construct an image of the larger, collective experience of the internees and fill the void that each story individually cannot fill.

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Senior Honors Thesis awarded the honor of Highest Distinction

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Citation

Emery, Lindsay (2010). Filling the Emptiness of a Stunned Inner Silence: Survivors' Memoirs of Japanese Internment Camps in Indonesia during World War II. Honors thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/2522.


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