Looking for information

Oded Cohen would like to establish contact with some Dutch prisoners of war, who were employed by their Japanese captors as slave laborers in the jungles of Burma (most likely in connection with the infamous Thai-Burma Railway works or road constructions) and saved my late Father. Those POW's, sick and famished, performed the heroic task of carrying his very sick Father on a stretcher through the jungle across a distance of 150km to a military field hospital in Chunkai (phonetically written by my Father as Tjoenhai) in Thailand. (Thailand). Thanks to them, his Father survived.

I would dearly like to meet those stretcher-bearers and their families and thank them for their courage and grave hardship, which they had to suffer during this 150 km journey in order to rescue my Father, exactly 70 years ago. - Oded Cohen

Some background information, which may be of help:

  • My Father, Henry Maurits Cohen (nicknamed Moshe or Maui), born in Oldenzaal (Netherlands), studied law and functioned as regional judge in Java (amongst others in Passoeroean). Moshe married in 1938 Rachel, born in Palestine. His son, Oded, was born in 1940 in Malang, where the family lived at the time of the Japanese invasion in 1942. Moshe was mobilized by the Dutch army (KNIL) and was made POW when the Dutch army surrendered. Father was imprisoned in various camps and the last prisoner camp was in or nearby Chunkai (phonetically written by my Father as Tjoenhai) in Thailand. From there Moshe was transferred in the beginning of 1945 to Burma for building of roads in the jungle.
  • Moshe wore spectacles and suffered from impaired hearing.
  • While working, Moshe was called by the Japanese commander to present himself. Already deaf by that time, Moshe did not hear the order. The Japanese commander was about to inflict a severe punishment upon my Father, when his fellow-prisoners, who were aware of the situation, let the commander understand that Moshe could not hear. This completely changed the attitude of the Japanese commander. He embraced my surprised Father and took him to his tent, where he could rest the remainder of that day.
  • Moshe was a great admirer of the Hebrew language and Zionist. Even under the awful conditions of the jungle, Moshe used to tell his fellow-prisoners about the revival and development of ancient (biblical) Hebrew into a modern, living language. He used to call himself proudly "Knight of the Hebrew language".
  • Somewhere towards the end of February or the beginning of March 1945 Moshe became severely ill (malaria, heavy anemia, dysentery) and was transferred by his fellow-prisoners (names unknown) on a stretcher through the jungle in order to save his life.
  • The field hospital was located in or nearby the village of Chunkai and near the POW camp called Ranbury (which I could not trace).
  • Rollen is the name of Moshe's friend, who took good care of him during his illness, Rollen stayed in the same camp as Moshe, when the war ended. The camp was in or nearby the village of Tammoean (also written as Tha Mueang). The following is a citation regarding this camp:
Tamuang (Tamuan), Thailand. c. 1945. Typical attap huts used by the Japanese to house prisoners of war (POWs) at the Tamuang camp thirty nine kilometers north of Nong Pladuk (also known as Non Pladuk), eleven kilometers south of Kanchanaburi, or 375 kilometers south of Thanbyuzayat. Tamuang served as a transit camp and hospital for POWs during the 1943 to 1945 period. Following the Japanese surrender, it became a temporary holding camp for Australian, British, Dutch and American recovered POW, who had been engaged in railway maintenance or the construction of Japanese defense positions in various locations in Burma or Thailand. Another recovered group had been part of the Wampo-Tavoy road construction work force. This group of 400 had been dispatched from Tamuang in December 1944. Their work load was extremely demanding under very poor conditions. They suffered a thirteen per cent death rate. (Donor B. Theobald)
  • A short while after the surrender Moshe and his friend Rollen went back to the Ranbury camp (a distance of 15km from Tammoean) to take back his books, which were confiscated by the Japanese (A Hebrew dictionary and the Old Testament, which had accompanied and comforted him during all the years that he was POW).
  • See here for more information about the family Cohen in the Indies.

Oded would like to know:

  • Does anyone recognize something or someone in connection with this story?
  • Does anyone know the stretcher-bearers, who have saved his Father?
  • Does anyone know Rollen?

In case of any recognition or additional information please contact info@jhm.nl stating ‘to Oded Cohen’.

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