INTERNMENT BY THE JAPANESE:
arrived at the ancient walled City of
was sixteen acres in size, thirteen of which would be for our convenience,
while the rest was for the fifty Japanese guards who were there for our
"protection". We understood the camp would house seventeen hundred to
two thousand people, all the Allies in
arrived in front of the gate all got out and our Japanese guards ushered us
into the compound. When we passed guards at the gate we were formally prisoners
of the Japanese. We were taken past the Church which stood near the gate, and
over to the ball field. The people from
Included in the welcoming party were Milwaukee School Sisters of St. Francis, Srs. Eustella, Hiltrudie, Blanda, Donatilla and Verna, also Father Vos, a Hollander who was the Rector from Tsingtao, and about one hundred thirty people of various businesses from that district, the east tip of Shantung.
We were told to line up and were then given a number which was to be worn for identification. We were told that we were now "Enemy Citizens" and that we would have to abide by the laws given us but fortunately, there would be freedom of religion as enemy subject. This was our first Roll Call and we were to have hundreds more. The lights would be controlled by the Japanese and we were not to turn them on or off. They did have a system of electric lighting, admirable for that part of the country at that time, in which all lights went off or on at the same time.
After the assembly we were permitted to get settled with housing. We were led to an upper classroom, which would house thirty Sisters for that first month. After that things would be more settled and we could have a little more room. The Fathers helped bring in our bed boards as well as the trunks which had already arrived. Someone was al-lowed to get straw from the Chinese outside and we filled the bags to be used for mattresses. We ate supper from the supply of food we had brought along, trying to save be-cause we didn't know what we could get after that.
We had plenty of room that night because some of the other Sisters had not yet arrived. I was beginning to feel almost like a Carmelite, able to do penance by sleeping on boards, but the other Sisters beds had not yet arrived, and so we shared. Two on one board bed is about as uncomfortable as it can get, so I was happy the next day when we saw the other Sisters beds being moved in. I didn't care that they had iron beds, all I wanted was a whole bed to myself so I could roll around, board or iron didn't make any difference. But again, I was to be disappointed because on Monday night there were other Sisters arriving in without beds, and 'so on during that whole week. After that I very extravagantly had a whole bed to myself for the rest of the camp time.
there would be another group from some other part of
On the morning of March 22nd, one of the American Franciscans came and said Mass in our room, disorderly as it was, and then we ate breakfast. While we were eating two Chinese boys arrived with a can of red paint and told us they were to paint the side walls of the room half-way up so everything had to be moved away from the walls. For the next three days those boys were painting and we had to be careful to keep away from the paint. The paint had Lysol or some disinfectant in it which was to prevent bugs. I had no doubt that there were enough in the place but at least the Japanese were trying to make it comfortable for us.
We went down to meet the group and what a wealth of missionary life was coming through those gates! I stood there cheering with the rest praying at the same time that God would bring this all to a safe end for the good of souls and that all these great missionaries would not have to end their lives here.
comprised all the Allies of the two Provinces of Honan and
also seven Benedictine Sisters of St. Joseph, Minnesota in the group as well as
ten Sisters of Providence from St. Mary of the Woods, Indiana, and from Sinsiang, which is North West of Kaifeng, came nine S.V.D.
Fathers. Their Bishop, Thomas Megan, S.V.D. who knew this country got across
From Datung came thirty-one Dutch Fathers of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, with their Bishop, Francis Joosten, CICM. In all there were about one hundred twenty-five missionaries coming in that evening, as well as business people and Protestant missionaries of the area.
evening was yet more interesting as the arrivals were the group from the far
We had five
Bishops in the camp and an Abbot-elect, also an Episcopalian Prelate, Bishop
The priests said Mass in their own rooms, or in the Sisters quarters but we had to rise early because the three Masses had to be over before camp work began, and our room had to be arranged for Mass also. The church was filled in the mornings with priests in every corner saying Mass, even on the piano, because any place that could serve for a table was used.
The camp was laid out in small streets with about seventy little cottages, large enough to hold two beds and little more. The compound had been a Presbyterian Seminary and was about the most convenient place the Japanese could think of for a Concentration Camp. There was a hospital, that is what was left of it after all the x-ray and other equipment had been removed, two school buildings which had two stories and a basement, and the church, which was made of Chinese brick, Oregon fir beams, German steel binding plates and rods, Belgian glass windows, Manchurian pine pews and British cement. In the back of the compound, which of course was off-bounds for us, were the five or six homes of the former American Missionary personnel, which were being occupied by our Commandant and his fifty guards. The cemetery for these missionaries was located in the south-east corner, opposite the personnel homes and directly in front of the cemetery but also "out of bounds," was a little hut which was to be used for the "jail"
of the Camp, Mr. Sukigawa, spoke fairly fluent
English, having previously held a consular position in
first week papers were being sent around, asking us what work we were most
interested in. While we were at the camp, we did not know how long we would
remain and some thought that perhaps the Japanese would in time send us over to
I signed up for kitchen duty and got it. Each person in the camp was required to perform at least three hours of camp duty. In no time the labor committee organized the camp.
Next came the general organization. The Japanese, always very practical, insisted on nine departments of government with one of our men and one of theirs at the head of each. Those departments were: 1) General Affairs, 2) Discipline, 3) Employment, 4) Education, 5) Supplies, 6) Housing Quarters, 7) Medicine, 8) Engineering and 9) Finance. At first these were taken by someone offering himself for the position. Later they were voted for by the people, with regular campaigning.
When we first came into the camp, we noticed the left-over furniture in heaps outside the buildings. Obviously the former missionaries had much more than what was left there and it will never be known how much had been carried out before we arrived. In no time it was all gone as everybody took what they wanted to furnish their bare rooms. I got a stool and that stool was worth its weight in gold to me. I didn't need it so much in the room because you could always sit on the bed boards, but when you had a one or two hour roll call each day and had to stand in the open, a stool was about the most welcome thing in the world. Also it was convenient when you went to the evening lectures held out under some tree. We needed tables for the altars and during the day it could be used to store the things ordinarily found on the tables.
One little house was kept for storage. We could keep our trunk or other things in there if there was no room for them elsewhere. This house was kept locked and was only opened on certain days by the men in charge. All the books of the former school were stored in the basements of the personnel houses.
There was a grand piano in the church. Perhaps it had been too heavy to move out, or it may have been left there just to make us happy, but we were delighted to see it there. There was also a large harmonium which was a little hard to pump, but manageable.
A brick wall about eight feet high separated the Japanese quarters from our own, but the gates were always open. There were many venerable old trees which the former missionaries had planted which were marked in Chinese and Latin botanical terms.
All unattached persons were housed in the former class-rooms while couples got one of the little homes, which were about nine feet by twelve feet, and if they had a small child they could keep it with them. If they had two older children the family might also be given the room next door. Those in the dormitories got a space about nine feet by five feet, and most managed to find something to use for a washstand to hold the wash-basins that we had been told to bring along. The housing was one of the biggest headaches of the camp because everybody wanted more space and fought for it. One certainly learned the value of space.
The camp had
three kitchens. The largest was called the "Tsingtao" or Kitchen One,
next came the Tientsin, or Kitchen Two, then the
Punctually at 7:30 each morning someone went through the camp ringing a hand bell, which was evidently one of the old school bells, to summon us all to roll call. Everyone was required to attend and if a person was too sick to go, he had to be reported by a friend and the Japanese "counter" would go to the home to verify the statement. The same procedure was used for those on duty at the stoves, kitchen, or other important places because every one had to be counted. Sometimes the count would be wrong in one place and all would have to be recounted. Sometimes the "counters" would be late. The best thing was to take a book or some work along. You might see a lady bring along a dish of apples to peel if she had been fortunate enough to get them, and someone might go over to sit next to her, just to get the smell of them. Sometimes the teen-agers would bring their accordions or harmonicas along and there would be singing. Once we got a longer roll call because the boys were using slingshots and one hit a lady right in the eye. She had to be taken to the hospital immediately and lost the eye and that of course, slowed everything up. At another evening time roll call while waiting for the "counters", the boys were standing alongside a building trying to see how high they could reach. One of them, Brian Thompson, a sixteen year old who that day they said had made a wonderful witness of Faith in his morning service, challenged the others to reach a wire above him. He reached out for it and was immediately electrocuted, as it had been a live wire. The mother was nearby but they rushed the boy to the hospital just to keep her from shock. We did not know why our roll call was lasting so long until we found out. If it rained the "counters" would try to hurry, and you took your umbrella.
During our first week in camp Sr. Reginald came in and told us that she heard that one of the Trappists became ill after the first meal cooked in camp. Apparently he was not used to eating meat. She asked if any of us had some food left so she could take it over to him where he was rooming at the hospital. I had a grapefruit left and the others gave what they had. Sr. Reginald asked me to go along and when we got to the hospital we were told that all the Fathers were on the second floor. As we looked in one room it was filled with mattresses, bags of straw like our own, only they were all sleeping on the floor and the mattresses were close to each other. We asked for the Trappists and a priest came out and said he was one.
It was our first meeting with Father Scanlon, who was to become, during the five months that he remained there, one of the most, if not the most, popular person in the camp. His English accent was so different that I had to ask him if he was speaking English or Chinese. He said he was Australian, then he spoke more clearly and told us that the sick
Father was all right, but he would be very glad for the food. We gladly gave it and left.
The next week Sr. Reginald asked Sr. Esther if she could do the washing for the five Trappists. There was enough to keep us busy, crowded as we were, but Sr. Esther said she could, on condition that she asks none of us to help her. I felt sorry for her because I thought the washing for five men would be too much so I offered to help. She went over to get the sheets and other wash and came back loaded down. Father Scanlon offered to carry the water and Sr. Reginald managed to find someone who would lend her a twenty-four inch basin and I took our two basins along and we found a place outside to wash. The sheets were made of a material almost like canvas and we wondered when they had been washed last. Sister managed to borrow two scrubbing brushes and together we scrubbed. I had only a small basin so I could scrub about a six inch square at a time, but we felt we were doing good work so we might as well en-joy it while it lasts. Each week after that we did their washing, with Father Scanlon standing by to get us hot water from the boilers about two blocks away. And while we scrubbed he would talk. One day Sr. Reginald got tired be-cause she couldn't scrub and listen intently at the same time to his Australian dialect, so she told him to please go away. He was hurt and so after that he sent Father Alphonsus L'Heureux instead.
was a Canadian and had come to
Father L'Heureux brought the hot water and then sat on the ground to pray his Office. If we asked for more water he would tell us to wait, as he had to finish that Psalm first and he must have said them very meditatively because sometimes we waited quite a while. The scolding we did after he left for the water would not have taken place had we known we were dealing with a future martyr to the Faith.
Sometime during those early months Father Scanlon put a notice on the Bulletin Board that he would give a lecture on the "Life of a Trappist". There was more interest shown by the non-Catholics than those of our Faith and the hall was so packed that many could not get in. He gave it a second time and again it was packed so he gave it a third time. Sr. Reginald felt that since she was his "wash-woman", it was her duty to go and she asked me to go along. He spoke very beautifully of their life and he also played some records which were Gregorian Chants made at the funeral of a Trappist. After that the people appreciated him all the more. Sr. Reginald's remarks after the lecture did not strike me much until after her death. She loved the music best and wanted to hear it again.
At first the
Japanese could procure enough flour for the camp. There was an Armenian from
It would have
been interesting to compare what the Japanese Government was spending per
month, with what the American Government was spending on the upkeep of two
thousand Japanese civilians in the
There were several varieties of meat. Opinions, if polled, would say it was mostly goat meat and one time one of the men said he was sure the material that came in that morning was camel. Be that as it may, it was meat and it was all consumed and none was wasted.
The leeks were
interesting things. They were about two feet long, and of course, mostly
greens, which the one in charge said were to be cut off and put into the
garbage. Gradually we began to recognize the value of these greens and used
them in Kitchen One. One day we found Sr. Ludmilla
trying to fry onion tops with some potatoes she had gotten somehow. On being
asked where she got those from she said "from Kitchen Three's garbage
box." She had taken them from the top of the bin and washed them off. One
day I happened to be working alone in a room outside the kitchen chopping the
tops off. I had a bunch cut off and when I turned to them, they were gone. Mr. Echford was just snatching them away. The British ex-Consul
Cleaning of the vegetables was a job for the ladies and we had ladies at it who perhaps hadn't ever done it before in their lives, and now for want of something else, they got that job. They willingly peeled the potatoes and clean the vegetables but when it came to the leeks there was always trouble. That seemed to be something too demeaning. Some generous soul had donated two potato paring knives but it didn't take long and we had only one, then none. We were given a few knives for use on the vegetables, but the one in charge had to guard them with hawk eyes because they were precious things.
It was the men's duty to bring the vegetables to the kitchen and also to wash the potatoes. Outside the kitchen were two bath-tubs which we figured the army personnel had taken out of the houses in "out of bounds" because they preferred showers. The men were to fill them with water from the well and scrub the potatoes for the ladies to peel. Brother McCoy got that job and he hated it. I gently reminded him of what he said about not having anything to do in a concentration camp and he advised me that his opinion had changed.
served at 8:30 A.M. or after roll call was held. We queued up for it, bringing
our dishes and if you happened to leave the dishes there by mistake, they would
be gone quickly. Although arriving early meant waiting in line you could always
converse with your neighbor and sometimes the queue conversations would get
rather animated. For some reason the Japanese never entered the dining room.
For breakfast the fare was usually bread cut up and cooked in water and a
little sugar, and tea. Coffee was out of the question entirely. Dinner was
served at twelve noon, and it meant another wait in line, but it also meant
another chance to get acquainted. The serving was usually just a ladleful of
stew, a spoon of vegetable, occasionally a kind of dessert. The evening meal,
which was "tiffin" (someone brought in the
word and it stuck. I think it may have originated in
It certainly was a mixed group for meals as you might be sitting next to a Bishop, or a night club singer, a minister or a mining business man, a lady missionary or a mother of a family. One Belgian man, who had a family of seven, wore a beard, and he enjoyed having the nuns address him as "Father." You couldn't tell who were priests and who were not and he said he really deserved the title more than the priests because of his family.
Mr. Watts, who
had been born in
There was one aged Sister there who used to say her rosary while waiting in queue. Her lips were moving and I don't doubt but that she said a whole rosary, but her eyes were all over and she didn't miss a thing in the dining room. One day, as Mr. Watts was next to me in line, he suddenly poked me and asked "Tell me, who is that nun over there always talking to?" I had a job explaining that.
There was a
little lady from
In the beginning of our camp life we could go back for seconds if there was some left in the "guo", but later on this changed and we had to be counted. Mr. Echford was given the job of counting us as we got our ration supplies. It almost looked as though someone's job was to think up other unheard of duties. Some of the ladies were shirking their duties or coming late, so they got a very special man time-keeper.
Father Gus weighed about three hundred pounds and of course could not be given a heavy duty, so he checked the ladies off and on duty. Since he was very humorous the la-dies soon got to like having him there and began calling him "Father Time" although to the rest of the camp he was "Father Gus". When he came up for his ration of food he would often say "I'm two" and whoever was dishing out would forget all rules and give him two rations. Nobody ever objected to it. He told the story of how when he was a student at the Seminary the boys gave a play and in it he took the part of a nun. He then had his picture taken and took it home with him on vacation to show his parents. At that time there was quite an article in the daily papers about a nun who had left her convent and created some scandal. His father was ranting about it. The boy said "But at least she is quite good-looking". The father gave him a look and asked how he knew and Father Gus replied he had her picture. The father asked him how he got it, wondering why the boy was so interested in the nun. The boy went to his grip and got out his picture and showed it to the father. He looked at it and admitted she was good-looking, but he added "Can't you just see the evil in her eyes?" We can imagine what happened next.
One of the worst jobs in camp, although there were many other unwanted ones, was cleaning fish. We finally got a little crew together. Sr. Mercedes and I, three of the Protestant missionaries and perhaps one or two others. Each time the fish came in we would be alerted and we clung to the job and if the rest didn't want to do it. . . . well let them go hang. In winter it wasn't less pleasant because the fish were packed in huge boxes of ice and we had to pull them apart and besides the work had to be done out-doors on an old table. It was always interesting to note the different kinds of fish that came out of the box and some-times we wished one of us had studied fish before we came because there were varieties none of us had ever seen be-fore, even baby octupi.
must have been a problem to those who were preparing the place. Generally
the beginning of 1945 the Japanese got in a long urinal along the other wall of
the room. We wondered why and finally it was thought that since in
In each room there was a little stove and we were given a ration of coal. In April it was announced at roll call that the guards had orders to remove the stoves. Underneath the stoves were sheet iron pans and someone had suggested that these might be nice for ironing, so when they came to our place I asked the guard if I could keep two. We expected the stoves would come back in the winter if we were there that long. I told him I would take good care of it, explained why I wanted it, and that if he needed it at any time he could come and get it. He was most obliging and I kept them until we left. The pans came in very handy for the church wash, and I could even get the long altar cloths ironed by folding the cloth and laying the two pans together in the sun. The wash had to be laid out flat and the hot sun was enough to dry it and the underneath came up nice and shiny, as if laundered. Handkerchiefs came off better than if ironed. Of course, while I had the pans out in the sun I would have to take a book or something to do and watch because we had all kinds of people around and some could not be trusted. We had brought wash lines along and some-times the wash would be taken off the line if not watched.
washing of clothes had to be done in our basins and for the sheets, during
those first five months we borrowed a tub from anyone who was generous enough
to lend it. Some of the Sisters had brought electric irons along but they had
to be used without the Japanese knowing about it. One never knew when a guard
would pop in and so if any-one was ironing someone else had to watch. The
electrician, who of course wouldn't give the Sisters away said the one building
where most of the ironing was being done was a real fire trap and we were
afraid that something might happen, but he tried his best to help and they got
all the ironing done for the Fathers besides their own. They started out as
soon as they got up, changing off at the iron, while
some got ready for
At that time our veils had the long white starched strips. The guimps were also starched but we each had two celluloid guimps and the coifs were not starched. After the first few weeks we took out the white strips, keeping the fore-head band to which the veil was attached.
It felt strange and when I got over to the dining room that noon Bishop Pinger looked at me and said, "Why don't you take off the guimp too, and make yourselves comfortable?"
In the end, Sr. Esther decided that we would keep the guimps. One day Sr. Ludmilla walked over to the dining room without a guimp. If we were in our room very long, we usually took them off because of the heat, and some-times we even removed the veil. As she entered the dining room, she noticed it. When she came back she was telling us how embarrassed she felt. Sr. Bede thought she should be more careful and told her so, but the very next day, Sr. Bede walked outside and halfway down the outside stairs without her veil. She did get teased for that.
Actually we could just as well have removed the guimp also because during the summer the heat became almost unbearable. Additionally some of the Sisters of different Orders who wore celluloid guimps had some that were so yellow, it would have been much more "religious" to go without them.
One day Sr. Reginald told us that she heard there was a priest in camp who had the stigmata. We were curious to know just who or where he was. She told us where she thought he worked. We were about ready to go over and find him, when I happened to ask who told her and when she mentioned the source, I doubted the veracity and suddenly remembered that there was one priest in camp from the Order of "Stigmatines", an Italian Order. The mystery was solved.
There were always new ideas cropping up. Someone decided that the children in camp would not be getting enough calcium, so everybody was to save their egg shells and bring them over to the kitchen. Next we were asked to volunteer some free time in pulling the skin out the shells. We sat there for hours and there were plenty of eggs be-cause everybody was happy to cooperate when they could. Someone had a pestle and crushed the shells, and the powder was given to the parents to be fed to the children. After months of this, it was finally decided that it wasn't a good way to get calcium and the egg shells could be thrown away.
The hospital was also getting organized. Doctors Grice and Robinson, Corkey, and Gault were busy from morning until night. The Swiss Consul, Mr. Eggers managed to bring in some medicines and supplies. All the men and Fathers who had been sleeping in the hospital had to move out and find quarters elsewhere and as it was prepared for the sick. It was a real hospital now with a good staff.
The next thing
we needed was a diet kitchen with food of a little better quality for the sick,
so one was organized. Mrs. Wormsby was put in charge,
and she was good be-cause she could put everybody under her in their place,
whether you liked it or not. Rough as she was, I finally got to like her. I was
placed in charge of dining room service and she told me just how much to give
each so there was something left over and I could give seconds. The work wasn't
hard since I only had to be there at meal times. Several of the Fathers had
jobs around the kitchen and dining room. Father Corneille Louws,
a Dutch priest and
Abbot-elect, Father Ildephonse, O.S. was ailing and
in fact he died about two years later in
Father Philip came around looking for more straw. He complained that all his visitors had to sit on his bed. No doubt he had many visitors and they had good times together, but the result was that his straw in his mattress was quite thin. We tried to help him out by giving some of ours, but there wasn't much to give. With our boards we naturally could afford to have less straw than when the mattress is directly on the spring.
One day as I
was coming from the pump house with hot water, I met a man who was Greek, Mr. Piasis, and at first I thought he was a priest, but then he
told me he was Orthodox and I knew we had no Orthodox priests in camp. He was a
very fervent member of the
dawned. The Protestants had their beautiful sunrise services with singing very
early outdoors. In the church the Catholics, as many as could get in church met
for one of the biggest, if not the biggest, event ever held in that church. The
five Bishops and Abbott-elect came in procession and our mixed choir directed
by Father John Sipps, with Father Gilson, an
Auxiliary Father of
In getting to
know these people of other faiths, we had to admire many things. I especially
revered the Anglicans for keeping their "quiet hour" as they called
it, each morning before roll call. Rev. John Hayes, the son of the Mr. &
Mrs. Hayes who had come with us on the train from Tsinan, was there from
Fitzgibbons, S.V.D. was on the housing committee so he had to get the Sisters
and Fathers placed and had been given the allotted space for it. There were two
rooms which would house about six persons on the second floor of a building but
none of the Sisters wanted them. He got to Sr. Esther and she accepted and told
us we were to move over. Although we felt sort of martyrized,
we went and got settled. At least it was roomier than what we had before and we
were eleven, with room for twelve. We had a table for Mass and each one had her
own stool and our trunks were transported up by the Fathers, who were always
willing to help. The move took place on April 30th and the next day at six in
the morning as we were having Mass, we were surprised to hear the Angelus from the
little Catholic Church over in the city of
One of the
most important things or places in the camp was the bulletin board. Almost
immediately a large board was put up outside Kitchen One and that was the only
way of reaching the entire population since there were no loud speakers. There
was also no paper to print periodicals or news, and the Japanese were careful
as to what news was to reach us, although they could not always prevent us from
getting things over the wall, or under it for that matter. But it didn't take
long before we realized that the bulletin board also needed control because
there were all kinds of things being hung on the board. So there was another
duty open, Bulletin Board Director, and you had to get his permission to put
anything up. On May 1 there was a notice that we would have May devotions every
Brother Jannings, SM, who had gone south, for some reason or other must have been up in
There was quite a variety offered including French, Chinese, English, Art, Commercial Art, and History. The children also got their regular schooling in the mornings and in the afternoons they were free to help with camp work or do their homework and play.
Father Keymolen taught French and I signed up for his class, but
later found that I had to give too much time, so I discontinued. One of the
classes that got the most names was soap-making. A Hollander, Mr. Stalk, who
had spent his life at that job in
One of the
Belgian Fathers was a real artist and some-times he made pictures for the
bulletin board. There was one of the Blessed Mother looking over his home town
During the first month we were told we could write letters. Although I think there was some little limitation, we wrote and wrote. A month passed and we were getting anxious for answers back but none came. Instead a notice on the bulletin board said "From now on everyone may write one letter per month but there will be no mention of the weather or questionable remarks". The fact was the poor censorer didn't know enough English to cope with the thousands of letters he had to censor, so our first letters were returned to us. At least they were honest about it.
had brought a can of "Canned heat" along to camp. One day, during the
month of May, while we were still in the "upper room", Sr. Charitas decided to use it. It was a hot afternoon and a
few of us were in the room resting. Suddenly she called "Fire!" We
ran to see, the thing had caught fire and she had thrown it on the floor. She
had it off the floor by the time we got there, but the floor was on fire. The
Japanese had put that red paint on the walls and floors and the fire was
licking it up fast. Immediately below us was a room with eight ladies, wealthy
The Sisters of
Franciscan Missionaries of Mary was Mother Montana, the one who had endorsed
the check for me in
The "stitcher" was an old-fashioned one, with a handle on the side to turn, so that while one sewed, someone had to turn the crank. But it was constantly in use and she lent to whoever needed it. One of the Dutch Fathers used to come to the dining room dressed in a very dark blue suit. It did look a little classy compared to the rest of the Fathers, but perhaps he had some kind of a white-collar camp duty and no one minded. But one day he came in wearing the trousers cut off to the knees, which certainly looked funny.
When we mentioned it to Mother Montana she said "But I'm not going to be washing that whole suit in this hot weather."
"But what about when the winter comes?" we asked, "He'll freeze".
"Then I'll just sew them back on again," was her prompt reply.
Camp duties could sometimes be fun, even washing dishes. We set up some old tables outside Kitchen One and had two very large dishpans that had been left there. The men carried the hot water and we took turns, although it meant sometimes an hour. As the people finished their meal they brought their dishes out and we washed them and rinsed them. They had to queue up for this too, but one got so used to queueing up for everything that it began to seem strange when you didn't have to. The people had to bring their towels along if they wanted them dried. When they didn't, by the time they got to their room the water had all dripped off anyway. One of the first days we were there and came to the dining room a little late, Bishop Pinger was at the dishpan washing his and some of the others' dishes. He queued up just like everybody else. For the first few days the European Bishops stayed in their rooms and had one of their Fathers bring their meals to them but later they also mingled with the crowd. Rev. Connelly, a Baptist minister, made a rubber scraper to help along with scraping the garbage from the dishes before washing and we certainly appreciated that gesture.
There were quite a few babies in camp, so for their sakes a herd of cows was sent to the camp. Of course they had been taken from the internees and one of the men even recognized his own, but could do nothing about it. A Chinese man took care of them and daily led them in and out the gate to where the cows had quarters back near the cemetery. There was usually a goat or two running along. One day, about noon, Sr. Reginald caught the goat because it had been straggling behind. She told me to run quick and get a dish, as she was going to milk it. I did and I held the dish but she couldn't get any milk from the goat. Someone had obviously gotten to her ahead of us further up the line.
Some of the
On May 24, the Japanese Emperor's Birthday, we were supposed to celebrate but it was a little difficult to create a festive mood and the Japanese resorted to their own celebration without any assistance from us.
be lost and found in the camp, so a department was set up to take care of that,
with a former chief of police of
All of us learned much in the camp. There were children of twelve or thirteen years of age who had never washed or dressed themselves because their "Amah" (Chinese nurse-maid) had always done that for them. On the other hand mothers used to be teased that they should be concerned that when their children finally got back to the States or England they would go searching around in the garbage cans as they did in camp, or perhaps the ladies would pick up pieces of coal from a wagon and put it into their fur coat pockets, as they did in camp. Or perhaps they would go around picking up cigarette butts to take out the tobacco and make new cigarettes to sell. The women (at least some of them) did make a little money doing this, and I'm not ashamed to say that I helped them in the business.
There was a canteen, but the things were very expensive. Sr. Esther did all our buying from the canteen. We could buy honey, sorghum syrup, peanuts, Chinese plums, eggs and some fruit. Someone had brought a grinder along to camp and we could borrow it so we ground the peanuts and put honey in it. Since that was the only spread we had for bread, we usually ate it dry. The Chinese plums were something like our prunes as you could cook them without sugar and they were sweet enough. That was our main fruit during the camp duration, and seldom did we get other kinds because when we did they were quite expensive. I remember getting apricots and peaches, and not having fresh fruit for so long, you just long to bite into a fresh peach, but the nurse insisted that they had to be put in boiling water first.
All water had to be carried from the pump house. Drinking water was provided by the kitchens and it had to be boiled first. We got it in containers and kept it in our room. There were shower rooms for the men and women, and al-though there were separate buildings, there were no partitions. We took our sponge baths in our room after dark. Finally the ladies offered us a time, one hour, in which we could have the shower room to ourselves, but we had to put up curtains and it was rather messy.
Mr. Saberwal, from
On June 29,
1943 we had our first death in the camp. Father Pierre deLeeuw,
CICM., one of Bishop DeSmedt's
priests, died. There would be about thirty deaths during those two and a half
years of internment, but this one took us all by surprise since he was quite
young. A Chinese coffin was ordered from the city of
Sr. Ursula had been put in charge in Hungkialou and the school there kept in operation, as did the ones in Shang Pu, Hai Hsing, Dee-chow and Tai-an. After we were in camp about two weeks she came to see us. The Commandant al-lowed her to come to his office and we could meet her there. She came once more but after that was not allowed in because the Chinese Sisters of the different Orders were also coming and it was getting too much for the Commandant to cope with and the chief of guards insisted that the visits cease.
Some of the Fathers and men were getting produce from the Chinese outside and selling it to the internees. This was black-market and although the Japanese suspected it, they could never lay their hands on the right person because they never found out. Most "notorious" of the black marketeers was Father Scanlon, the Trappist. He had cleverly managed to get a room against the wall where he could get a few bricks loose and the food could be passed in. Usually the food had to be stored under his bed. He sold it to the people at cost, unlike some of the others, who were getting quite a profit. Naturally there was some jealousy here and one day one of these profiteers squealed. Two friends happened to hear of it and before the Japanese guards could get to Father Scanlon's room, these two managed to get a garbage box, and without Father Scanlon even knowing any-thing about it, they went to his room, dumped all the food in the box and carried it over to the hospital. They saw the Japanese going to Father's room and later on the food was returned to Father Scanlon and he sold it. Another night they caught him near the wall. He had the money to pay the Chinese in his hands, while they were taking him to the guardhouse. He stopped to make believe he was tying his shoe, but laid the money down by the sidewalk in a safe place. When he got to the guardhouse he was searched, but they found nothing, so he was let go. Finally on June 29th, they decided that he definitely was guilty of black-marketing. The next day at 2:00 P.M. he was sentenced to prison for two weeks. The little jail wasn't much worse than the room he had been living in. The Head of Discipline was to bring him his meals three times a day. It was a real treat and retreat for him although none of us could visit him. His waiter, however, went to all three kitchens each meal and each gave him a portion. Anyone who had a cake or other dainty would also remember Father Scanlon during his imprisonment. He amused himself with singing and reading so that all in all he was better off there than he had been before. After the two weeks, he was allowed to go back to "civilian" life.
I think any
one of us would have preferred that little prison to the prison of the city.
The Peking people told us of a lady living in
In order to keep the people busy and entertained, the Fathers started a little orchestra for Sunday evenings. They duplicated songs and we could have community singing. Bishop De Smedt also played violin in the orchestra. One song the Belgian Fathers made up was a round about bean sprouts. Since bean sprouts were one of the more common vegetables and you put the beans under wet dishcloths for a few days and they sprouted and thus were a little more than the beans would have been, this song with the words "Bean sprouts without end," certainly was appropriate
entertainment included an occasional production staged for the benefit of the
"residents." One Priest became quite famous for his portrayal. Father
Schneider's mission was in the Deep South but he had been studying in
Percy Gleed, a British internee, managed to get copies of Elijah by Mendelssohn and formed a chorus. Although that took quite an amount of evening time for rehearsals, it was worthwhile. By this time we had changed to our white habits. The Benedictine Sisters also wore white shoes while we had black. Percy advised me to borrow a pair of white shoes so that the Sisters could be completely in white. One of the Benedictines lent me hers, but I had to fill out the toes because the shoes were too long.
On July 2, 1943, Sister Charitas had her Silver Jubilee, twenty-five years of Profession. Sister Leola of the Chowtsun group, Sister Blanda of the Tsingtao Franciscans, and Brother Schlund of the Brothers of Mary also celebrated theirs. A special High Mass was celebrated in the church and we tried to make things as nice as we could for them. In the afternoon as soon as he could get off duty, Father Madian Schneider came over from the bakery with a unwrapped loaf of fresh bread under his arm. This was his gift to Sister Charitas.
That week it
had rained heavily and the flood on the eve of the Fourth of July washed almost
all of the north wall of the compound away. We were
forbidden to go near it in the morning and extra guards were stationed. The
Japanese tried to order our men to rebuild the wall, but they refused saying
they didn't wall' themselves in in the first place,
neither could the Japanese force them to rebuild it, so extra forces of Chinese
had to be brought in for the work. The whole affair was a disappointment to us
as we had planned on celebrating the day, which was ironic enough as we were
non-independents! The Fathers, especially the American ones, had planned an
outdoor program for the evening but there could be no free day, excepting where
school was concerned, because the camp duties had to be carried on. Finally it
was decided to have the program in the church, which was our largest meeting
place. The Japanese permitted extra lights, but no national anthems of any
nation were ever permitted on the campus. The Fathers had the stage for the
evening. Father Cary,
The next day as we sat in the dining room chopping leeks, one of the ladies suddenly remarked—"Why are all those Catholic Fathers so good-looking?" and the others thought the same. I hadn't given it a thought but after that when we had programs and the Fathers were on the stage I realized how true it was.
after our arrival we faced an important decision. In the south, in
To us who were left it was indeed a sad parting. So many great missionaries had chosen to depart, and the questions in our minds were "Should we have gone along with them? Is it the best thing to stay?" But the decision had been made and so we had to carry on as before, which we did. Seeing the negotiations had worked with the missionaries, some of the business people went to the Japanese and asked to go to Peking also, but the answer they got was that those Fathers and Sisters were to be compared to the spirits that go round at night—they do not really belong to any country, theirs is a different life entirely and Tokyo had to give in to them!
Now that one
decision had been made there was yet an-other to be faced. There would be an
evacuation and any of us left in the camp could be repatriated, beginning in
September. We figured that the war could not possibly last much longer because
Srs. Charitas, Veronica and Elaine decided they would
repatriate. Three out of the five Tsingtao Sisters also went. There were more
stringent orders for those who repatriated than for those who had gone to
Mrs. Dobrinina, a Russian ballet dancer, who had a boy about ten, was leaving. She had her Russian icon which she said was about five hundred years old, and had been displayed in front of all the weddings, baptisms, funerals for many generations of her family. She put it in her suitcase. The luggage was to be in front of the church two days be-fore so that the Japanese could censor it. They threw out the icon. Mrs. Dobrinina was crying over it. Finally I suggested to Sr. Bede that she and I go to Mr. Sukigawa and ask for it and perhaps keep it for her, possibly there would be a way of getting it back to her later on. We went and he was very gracious and sorry but we were told to wait a few days and he would get it for us. He never did, most likely he couldn't and our guess was that by that time it was al-ready sold to a Chinese market or kept by one of the guards as a souvenir. The problem was that the head of the guards and Mr. Sukigawa were not on such good terms. Some internee had put money in the lining of his suitcase and the guards had found it. That had angered them, and Mr. Sukigawa's intercessions were not well received.
The evening before they left, Sr. Eustella called me over to her room. She closed the door and told me that she was sending a report to the Mother Superior along with one of her Sisters and she wanted me to help. She had written the report on a long piece of white goods and she wanted to sew it inside the hem of Sr. Verna's habit which she would be wearing home. She had Mother Montana's "stitcher" and my job was to turn the handle while she sewed it in. It was our secret so naturally we were anxious to see if it went through. In the morning as the repatriates left after breakfast we were all there to see them off. It was the morning of September 15, 1943, bright and sunny. The front of the church was roped off. One by one they entered this area now "out of bounds" for us. Some of them were going out of our lives forever and we would never see them again. Sister Eustella had agreed on a signal from Sr. Verda if she got through safely. As the queue moved through the church they were searched after which they came out the other door and then moved slowly out the gate to freedom.
Unfortunately they were buying that freedom at a greater price than they expected as they had no idea how hard the way back to home was going to be. Our three Sisters came out of the church and gave their sign that all was well as far as the censors were concerned. Then Sr. Verda came out and also gave her signal, three waves. Everything was fair in war, even to fooling the enemy. Across the road outside was a green hill and the repatriates went over and sat waiting for their bus. We could still talk to them over the wall. Eventually the buses came and took them away.
The day before they left Rev. Connelly gave a party for the Sisters who were leaving. He had brought an ice cream freezer along to camp and he managed to get some cream and milk from the black market. That freezer was turned practically all day as he got the men to take turns at it, so that the Sisters could have ice cream. Needless to say, it was appreciated.
Father Clementine OFM was also leaving but had no suit to wear, only his Chinese gowns. He didn't mind going to the States in one of those, but Sr. Ludmilla thought different. One day standing in queue for dinner, she asked the man next to her if he was going. When he said no, she asked him if he had any suit that he could possibly give up, or knew of anyone who had. He brought two suits for Fr. Clementine.
fifty priests and Sisters had left for
Fr. Ildephonse was appointed Acting Ordinary of the Catholics in camp and he now had about two hundred fifty parishioners. He could confirm when needed. In the beginning months of the camp he was Head of Discipline, and later when voting was the method he was out by about ten votes. His camp duties were then garbage collecting, hauling coal and cleaning the out-house. With such onerous du-ties, he managed to maintain the respect of the people in general. He was considered one of the best cooks in camp and was especially an expert in baking pies, which talent he had little chance of exercising.
Fr. Ghyselinck was from
I was also
asked to take care of the church work, which meant that on Sundays I had to
carry the materials to the church and get them ready for
At 10:00 A.M. the Episcopalians had their service in the church, so I would have to clear everything away before they got there. Father had told me to take the crucifix and candles off since they did not want them, but leave the rest. The first Sunday I mistakenly left the alter cloth but Father told me after that I could leave it on for them and they were grateful for it. Bishop Scott usually celebrated the Episcopalian services. Rev. Jones usually attended our Mass each Sunday, then stayed for their own or celebrated at theirs.
One of our big problems was candles. Although we had brought some along they were quickly gone and while we also rationed about two short stearine candles every two weeks these were so soft that they would melt right down. At this time we had a good pailful of wax drippings left, so I figured if I could have some kind of pipe, perhaps we could make candles of the stearine plus the harder drip-pings. Father Dallaire happened to be present when I mentioned it and he offered to get the pipe any length I wanted. In a short while he was back. I asked him where he got it so quickly but he said I wasn't supposed to ask, but he didn't have to tell me. It was from the upper wall in a lavatory. Now I needed string and a stopper at one end which was easy enough to obtain. I then melted the wax and poured it in the "forms". After it was hard all we needed to do was dip the form in very hot water for a few seconds and the candle rises up and out. I was proud of my candles until we had burned them for three Masses, by which time they had melted down and filled the bottom of the saucer. The next thing we tried was to wrap a piece of hard paper around the top of the candle. This helped considerably and, in fact, it saved the situation, excepting for the times when the paper would catch fire and I would have to get up to the altar in the middle of the Mass and put it out. I made quite a few candles and gave some to the Fathers.
eight sisters left in camp now, Srs. Esther, Bede, Ludmilla, Cecilia, Julian and I, also two of the Tsingtao
Sisters, Eustella and Hiltrudis.
We moved down from the upper room, so the six of us had a larger room than
before, and the two Tsingtao Sisters moved in a small room right next door to
us. On the other side of our room was another very small room which was vacant.
We asked for a chapel and were allowed to have that room. Some of the Sisters
who had gone to
Sisters had also left their iron for making hosts, plus a twenty five pound
sack of white flour. Now I was supposed to make the hosts, but although I
tried, it wouldn't work. The little stoves we had were not the thing we needed
to get the irons hot. Finally it was arranged that Father Ladislas would come
We Sisters agreed to do the washing for the eleven Fathers since we were now allowed Wednesday morning of each week at the laundry. There were three stationary tubs and also a large tub for rinsing. Our biggest problem was soap. The second problem was that the clothes were very black as a result of the dirty jobs the Fathers were taking on in camp. Srs. Eustella, Mercedes, Bede, Reginald and I did the washing, or I should rather say, scrubbing because we actually used scrubbing brushes to get most of the things clean. During the summer especially this was one of the hardest duties because the clothes we had on were almost as wet as those we were washing as we perspired so much. The Fathers took turns in hanging out the wash and watching it on the line so no one ran away with any of it. Father Madian's seminary training showed up here as he would have the wash all hung up in very straight lines. Sr. Bede was the supervisor of the laundry and she had quite a job teaching the Fathers how to rinse. When Father Ildephonse had his turn he wanted to tell stories the whole while and although they were interesting enough, he wasn't doing justice to his rinsing and Sr. Bede had to take him to task at times.
One day however, it was Sr. Eustella who took him to task. The Fathers used to bring in their wash and put it in a heap on the floor in the middle of the laundry. This day I pulled out one very black sweat shirt. Sr. Eustella immediately guessed it was Father Ildephonse's, so she was waiting for him to come in. I started scrubbing it and it really was a challenge. After about ten minutes I had a piece about six inches square all nice snowy white and I was proud of my accomplishment and kept on until I had the whole thing clean. Finally Father Ildephonse came in and Sr. Eustella gave him a piece of her mind for wearing that shirt until it got so black. He simply said he hadn't worn it at all, it wasn't his. Nobody wanted to own the shirt until finally it came out that Father Hanquet had bought it at the "Lost and Found" for five dollars, a bargain indeed. Now he had a nice clean shirt and was happy.
Sr. Bede being in charge, was constantly telling us not to use so much soap, a most natural thing for anyone in her position under the circumstances. So whenever she would leave the room or wasn't looking, Sr. Mercedes would take a good rub off Sr. Bede's bar. I used to tease Sr. Mercedes that if I ever got mad at her, I could easily have my revenge by telling Sr. Bede what she was doing. Sr. Ludmilla took care of the mending, and the ironing was no problem. All the church wash was put on the two tin pans, plus our own coifs and handkerchiefs.
20, 1942 the American repatriates arrived in
One of the
White Russian ladies requested an English teacher. She didn't want to attend
classes so I went over to her room a few times a week. Her husband, Johannes Johannsen, had been a sea captain, and had traveled around
the world working in different countries. He was quite ill, but he loved to
have company and I often thought that was his wife's main reason for not
wanting to leave him alone while she went to class. He had many stories to tell
and he used to joke about the fact (and we all knew it was true enough) that he
had always felt best on sea and now that he had to stay on land, he was ill,
while it was just the opposite with the rest of us. The English lessons were
interesting indeed. I listened to more sea stories than she to English. The
captain got gradually worse and finally passed away. I continued teaching and
one day she told me that she had come to
The people at
Back in Hungkialou school was going on, but there were also other
things going on. Mr. Du was taken by the Ba-lu (the
Communist guerillas) on August 15 and kept for a few days. The Sisters refused
to pay any ransom money and they eventually released him. Then on the evening
of September 24th, Feast of Our Lady of Ransom, the Ba-lu
came again. They got passed the gate to the front door and wanted Sr. Ursula.
Father Lucien went out to them and tried to talk but they took him instead. He
had to walk for miles, until finally he didn't know where he was going any
more. He was taken to the soldiers’ quarters, his clothes taken from him and he
was given some of theirs to wear instead, not very clean either. They kept him
until December and by that time he had no sense of time anymore, no idea of how
long he was there or what day of the month it was. One night he saw his chance
to get away and he did. He walked several miles and came to the railroad. He
managed to board a freight train and rode until he realized he was getting near
A notice was tacked on the bulletin board asking for books to organize a library. That was one article most of us had brought along and it was surprising to see the number of books available. The variety was another surprise. Actually it was a wonderful idea because the books were circulated and it gave the people something to keep their minds on. During my spare time I translated the book "One Lord, One Faith" into Chinese, intending to get help on it after camp, but although I reached the end of the book, it never got corrected, but it did give me a lot of practice in Chinese.
We had more
room now, but were going to lose some of it. There were still people outside
who were of the Allies and they all had to be brought into the
"fold". Up in the northern part of Shangtung,
in the city of
Fathers Wenders and Schneider offered to move in together, although
they each had a tiny room, so that we could use Fr. Wenders room for a chapel, but to get to it you had
to pass through Father Madian's room, or through the
Jesuits room. None of them minded if you came through during the day as the
people also went in to make visits. One Russian Orthodox lady made her hour of
ado-ration there every day. Father Ghyselinck had
brought along a tiny monstrance which folded up flat and Father Ildephonse had a specially thin
set of vestments which was handy for the summer. One day as I passed through
Father Madian's room, I thought the room was empty
when I heard a voice which came from under the table. Father Madian was scrubbing the wood floor and he stuck his head
out from under the table. Father Wenders was
seemingly just another priest, but no one knew how many degrees he had, and I
think he sat up until after midnight in many a little home in camp talking on
different subjects to people. Up until then I had given little thought to the
little country of
Thanksgiving Day was another special day for the Americans and we got together in a hall and had apple pie. It cost each of us $5.00, but it was the only thing we could think of, considering the resources we had, that would make the day look like Thanksgiving. There were speeches and anyone who wanted to say something fitting for the day was invited to do so. It seemed to tighten the bond between us and all our fellow Americans at home.
December, 1943 arrived and it was getting cold. We were rationed coal, a bucket of coal dust, more or less, per per-son something like every two weeks. People were beginning to make stoves and of course they needed material to make them. The material was right on the campus, and we naturally made use of it. The good Presbyterians like all Americans, (unlike the Chinese) had eave-troughs on their school or other buildings. Someone realized they would make nice stove pipes and in no time they were off the buildings as far up as man could reach. Bricks were needed and there was plenty of wall around to pull bricks out of. Before long one inside wall had most of the bricks pulled out. No one was ever caught at it but each day more were gone, until the entire wall between the "out of bounds" and the "in-bounds" was gone. The Japanese didn't seem to mind really as long as it was making us comfortable, and that they wanted us to be.
A stove needs a hot-plate and guess where we got those from? One man had a room with his boy who was about 15, but a rather good-for-nothing. In this event he proved that he did know something. One evening as the boy was out; a note was slipped under the door. The man took it and read, "We saw you in the lavatory taking out the iron tops of the boxes." The water boxes were on top, but by this time were of no use to anyone anyway. The letter continued, "We want two composition books, or the money to buy two and if you don't give it to us, we will tell the Japs on you. Put the money outside your door and close the door so we can get it." The man was still reading it and wondering, when the son came in and he told the boy about the letter. The boy then told him about the two lads he had just seen around the corner outside and he ran out. In a short time all the "hot-plates" were put to better use and the blackmail ended.
One man was an expert at making stoves. He made one for us during his spare time for $100.00 which at that time was the price of a half dozen eggs. It was a good bargain, because we could do a little cooking when we wanted to in our room. Of course, one could easily imagine what happened in the next spring when the heavy rains came, with the eave-troughs gone.
Sr. Reginald had been having periodic pains and so she went to see Dr. Gault. She was told she had a tumor which would not have to be removed in the immediate present and she could keep it two or three years if she so cared or it could be removed now. She decided on now because she figured that perhaps by the time we got out of camp she would be all over the effects of the operation and ready for work. Dr. Gault then said she could come as soon as she could get ready. At washing we teased her and told her she should go on a Thursday and be back at the tubs the next Wednesday, so she wouldn't miss any wash-days. She said she would, but she also said that if she should happen to die with the operation we should sing the Pie Jesu at her Requiem, for Offertory. During the summer she handed me a copy of the Requiem organ accompaniment that she had brought along and we wondered why she should want to bring that to a concentration camp, but more than once I was glad she brought it. She went to the hospital on December 1, a Thursday. The next day four doctors operated; Drs. Robinson and Grise of Peking, and Drs. Corkey and Gault, two lady doctors. Dr. Corkey specialized in obstetrics and of the thirty babies born in camp she had lost only one. Sr. Esther was present for the operation and pronounced it a success. Later that day we saw Sr. Reginald and she was glad it was over. Previous to going, she had asked Sr. Julian to stay at the hospital for three or four days, then the danger would be over, so she thought. Sr. Julian did, although it was an inconvenience on account of the little room in the nurses' quarters. We visited her daily and she seemed to be recovering nicely.
On the eighth day Sr. Julian remarked about 4:00 P.M. that she thought she could get her bedding and came back to our room to sleep now. I offered to go along and help carry. While she went up to get her things I stopped in to see Sister. She was propped up a little although until then she had been lying flat every time I saw her. We talked until Sr. Julian came down but she didn't want us to leave. I said that Sr. Esther wanted to come over as soon as I got home and she seemed satisfied then, and we left. About 8:30 that evening there was a call for Sr. Julian who had home nursing as her camp duty, so we thought nothing of her being called out. Since she was to report at the hospital, Sr. Esther thought it might be for Sr. Reginald so she said she would go along. The rest of us retired. I was sleeping tight when Sr. Esther woke me about an hour later. When she saw that I really was awake, she told me that Sr. Reginald had "gone to Heaven". She and Sr. Julian then quickly left with Sister's habit and clothes to dress her. Srs. Bede, Ludmilla, Cecilia and I were stunned and silent. Finally, Sr. Ludmilla suggested that we pray the rosary. We did and then waited for the other two to return. They came back and told us that the nurse had been with her and noticed the strange sound and knew she was going. As she got up to call someone, Sister squeezed her hand very tightly. She ran out and got another nurse to call Father Ildephonse who was about a block away. He came immediately but she was already unconscious. He gave her Extreme Unction, and then Srs. Esther and Julian arrived. Sister Reginald did not recognize them and passed away. They dressed her and left her on the bed.
In the morning two of the Fathers helped to carry the body down to the morgue, which was a little hut aside the hospital. Undoubtedly this had always been the buildings purpose. After breakfast we went over to see her. Her face was black, because the Fathers had carried her head down-ward down the steps. At noon she was lighter, and in the evening she looked normal and very natural.
went to the Commandant and he expressed his sympathy. She asked if the body
could be taken to Hungkialou to be buried there and
he said that could be done. She asked if two Sisters could accompany the body,
he said he could not give permission for that, but he would phone our Chinese
Sisters to have someone at the station, he would send two guards along, and he
ordered a coffin. It came but was very large and we realized that we were going
to have a job lining it. Dr. Gault was a great help
and she and I went around begging for pillows or anything that would fill the
extra room. It took a day for us to get it ready but in the evening it was
finished and carried over. They had laid the body on a sheet in the morgue with
candles and she looked exceptionally natural considering that there had been no
embalming whatever. One thing rather amused me. When they were to place the
body in the coffin, Mr. Hannigan, always a perfect gentleman, pushed through and managed to help lift her into
the coffin. During the day the people came to view the body, the children
especially came. Later I overheard one of the British mothers say she thought
it was a crime to let little children view a corpse. Evidently it wasn't their
back in Hungkialou were worried that perhaps this was
our way of getting her home. She looked so natural that some said they didn't
believe she was dead. Finally Sr. Ursula sent word for Dr. Scher
to come out and formally pronounce that Sr. Reginald was dead. He did and
preparations were made for a large funeral at the Cathedral. It was a sad
occasion for all present. They took up a collection and bought a large
tombstone and on it they in-scribed that she had been born in Luxemburg, left
that country for
The nails for the coffin were large wooden pegs about six inches long. Father Palmers was pounding them in, but finally they wouldn't go any further. We suggested that he cut them off, and it was the only thing he could do. When they put the coffin on the truck, the lid jumped up a little. Someone mentioned that there was no danger those guards would ever lift that lid, but perhaps it was the looseness of the lid that induced the Sisters to open the coffin which caused all the concern about her actual death. Sr. Reginald was the only one ever to be buried in that little cemetery in Hungkialou. Had she known that earlier she would have been very much afraid to go out there because she was always afraid of being buried alive.
Bishop Scott took to carpentry. You would find him at his bench many hours of the day, always cordial, even though he was about in his sixties. It must have been difficult for him as far as his congregation was concerned because the Low and High Episcopalians had to worship together and often their views did not coincide, as I learned working with the women at the vegetables. We were told that one Sunday when a man had been given a host with a cross on it, he threw it back. He must have been rather conservative.
DeJaegher was holding to his one hour per day schedule of Chinese writing with
brush. I couldn't see the improvement because he had been almost perfect from
the start, but the training he had gotten from Father Lebbe made him strive to
be as much like the Chinese as possible. One day he mentioned that word had
also gave me my first orientation or hints of the vernacular in the Liturgy.
The Chinese had the permission from
Tan - turn er - go Sa - cra - men - tum Ve- ne - re mur Tang to-mu ai-er gau sa ko-la men to-mu wai neh lai mu-er cer - nu - i Etan - ti - quum do - du - men – turn chai-er nu ee ai-tai an ti kk-um dau- ku - men - to-mu
"r" is used only at the end, never at the beginning of a word, so the
reader will notice that in Latin words beginning with "r" the
"1" is substituted. The Japanese is just the opposite here. The Mass
servers also had quite a time learning the prayers, and also for the choir it
meant a lot of really wasted time spent on pronunciations. Then too the Latin
gave the whole religion a "foreign" flavor, and in fact we were the
"foreign religion". I think many of the missionaries who were in
arguments were all for the Latin. She argued that it meant so much to our
servicemen in foreign countries to find the Mass the same all over the world,
and of course this argument has come up time and again. But what difference
would it have made to them to hear it in Chinese instead of Latin, since they
didn't understand either. Besides what percent of American people get to
foreign countries, and of those who do, what percent of their lives are they
there? Then, why bypass all the advantages the vernacular has to the people at
large? As far as
Jesuits and Father Martin now had a room together. They were quite satisfied,
although one of the Jesuits always snored, so the other one got a bamboo pole
with which he could reach over and give the snorer a pat when he started. In
time he was induced to lie on his side which helped. Then with more of the
"flock coming into the fold" they were given another room-mate, Mr. Delare, who was a business man from
Father Ildephonse, the pastor, had a room to himself which was a
good thing because his room was usually the messiest. We said that anybody who
wanted to hide any-thing from the Japs should just give it to Fr. Ildephonse be-cause he wouldn't be able to find it himself
in that room. By 1947 he was back in the
During the month of December 1943, the "Bamboo Wireless" was working overtime. Chinese men were brought in, with bricks and a wall was gradually enclosing the northeast corner of the compound from the gate over to the east wall. There were many surmises, including; there were more guards coming and they were going to live there, the Germans were coming into camp, it was going to be a special prison, etc. etc.
internees living in that section were told to vacate and find quarters
elsewhere which wasn't easy. But if you valued your life, you just don't
disobey orders, so the response was "We'll move, but everything goes along
with us and we leave no single piece of furniture". As a result, all
shelves came down, as well as any fixtures they had put up, and everything was
moved out and the bare walls were left for the coming occupants, whoever they
were. The mystery, of course, was something else for the men to bet on. It was
a challenge to our imagination, but the Japanese kept the secret. Finally in
December "they" came; a group of sixty Italians from
Finally, we learned that the doctors and nurses would be allowed in under guard, as well as Father Ildephonse, because most of them were Catholics. They had little luggage and needed help so we would send things into them, as there were always ways of smuggling outside the vision of the guards.
"why" was soon answered. Down in the Whang Pu River outside of
It didn't take
long until this news leaked out to us, but we had known
The bricks were always a temptation to the stove makers and once one brick was out the second and third and all the rest had to follow in the same direction. It was better that way because the children had to be in school, and they could hardly live under the original conditions. It was said that they brought along some kegs of brandy and in order to be able to take them along, they put olive oil on top, so that the Japanese thought they were kegs of olive oil, which they knew the Italians needed.
All along each of us had been getting a ration of cigarettes although we took our cards and gave them to the Fathers. They were Chinese cigarettes and although I like the smell of American ones, these were horrible and I can't see why anyone would want to smoke them, but it was all they could get. The SVD Fathers do not smoke according to their Rule, but Father Kowalski had given them permission, saying that they had so little in camp as it was. Later he was sorry he did.
Coal too was rationed, but it was pure dust, so that someone got the idea of making briquettes and we all followed suit. You took ground a proportion of one to three, coal and earth, mixed in water, formed them into balls and laid them out in the sun to dry. They did give a little warmth to the room and it also gave the flock something to do, as well as giving us nice black hands. Some used gloves but it was much easier without, and if you had the time, it was a nice past-time.
On New Year's Eve there was a party in Kitchen One. We did not attend although all were invited. While those in attendance were playing cards they got a nice little surprise. Father Hanquet had gotten a uniform somewhere and dressed like Hitler. (Apparently he had done it before out-side of Weihsien] He walked into the dining room and around all the tables looking at the people sternly, saying nothing. Most did not recognize him and some of the ladies were even frightened until someone gave out who it was. But while it lasted, it was a good act in more than one way.
The next morning, we Americans got another surprise, although we Sisters were out of this one as well. It seems the English custom on New Year's Day is for the men to kiss all the women they meet, which they did here, surprising those not of their country.
On January 19, 1944 Father Palmers was called to the guardhouse because he had turned on the lights contrary to the orders. There had been a good reason for doing so, as the one who was supposed to turn them on didn't do it. He got slapped in the face for it, and then sentenced to one day in jail. Being winter and with no heat in the jail, this wasn't so pleasant, but he took his bedding over and spent the day without any further ado.
One of the carpenters found a way to earn a little spending money making Japanese shoes or clogs for the people. He got to be quite proficient in it. Sr. Ludmilla bought a pair and wore them in order to save her shoes. I didn't bother because I had two pair of shoes with me and thought they would last. Clogs were getting to be the style there especially during the summer, although many of the children went barefoot.
On the 27th of January, Father Dalaire opened our retreat which meant that for three days we did our camp duties and tried to keep as recollected as possible and had the three conferences daily. As a sort of preparation for the retreat and because Father Ghyselinck was having a birthday on the day, Sr. Eustella had told us long ahead of time that we were going to have ice cream which meant a lot to us but Father Ghyselinck hardly knew what ice cream was. Sr. Eustella had no way of getting cream, but she did manage to get milk and the sugar was also in short supply so it was pretty far from the real thing. Of course we had to be polite and say it was good and it certainly was better than any-thing we had for a long time. After one taste, Father Ghyselinck couldn't see why we made such a fuss over ice cream.
A troop of Boy Scouts was organized with Father Hanquet and Rev. MacChesney-Clark in charge. The minister was of some special American denomination, but he was the only one in camp of that denomination. When we had the Boy Scout's Mass and sang hymns he would be in the front pew sharing a hymn book with one of the boys and singing as though he had done that all his life, and the boys revered him too.
On February 12, Sr. Eustella called for me. She was too ill to teach that day and asked if I would take her place teaching about twelve pupils of the lower grades. I went and opened my eyes to a situation that I had never dreamed existed. If ever there were "mentally disturbed children" these were the ones. There were hardly any books as all the books left by the former missionaries had been consigned to the basements of the "out-of-bounds" houses. Additionally little paper, added to the discipline problems of the day. By the end of the day I was worn out, and glad to give her the room back because I felt she was a teacher and knew how to handle them. But the next morning she went to the hospital and I had to return to the classroom, for the next two weeks. I longed to go back to the kitchen to the leeks and potatoes because they at least were easy to handle and if the ladies didn't want to do the work you could do it yourself.
Then I thought
it over. Perhaps she was sick just because of that classroom and if so, I felt
I should offer to take some of the youngsters out and form a separate class. I
went over to the hospital and proposed the idea. She was delighted and I
realized that it was a big favor to her. I was given a classroom of my own with
a few benches in it and seven pupils. Manuel Sottolongo
was a little Cuban boy but his mother was from
I said, "That's right, Billy, take your punishment like a man!"
He looked at me with his big eyes and replied, "Do man get punishments?"
I didn't care so much what "mans" got but I had to get him out of that jar before Sr. Hiltrudis came along, as well as getting the coal dust off him before his mother saw him.
Another pupil, rather interesting, but just as unwilling to learn, was Emmanuel Roccocucci. He could spell his name, but not the simplest words. Because his father was the captain of the Conte Verde, the boy had made his home on the ship and now his home had been torn from him and he had watched the ship go down to the depths. I often thought he and Columbus had many things in common as they were from the same town and the same love of the sea coursed through their veins.
Then there was
Joe Wilson, from
Each child in the class had a reader. I had none so I learned to read backwards looking into the child's book as he read. One day the boys asked me if I wanted some geographies. I said yes, but when I asked them where they were, they told me over in the Japanese house's basement. I had to be careful and not give them any chance to say that I had sent them, should they get caught. They didn't get caught and we got more books to work from.
Lent came and Father Ildephonse wanted to have Lenten devotions, so he asked for fourteen crucifixes to make the Stations. We then had Stations of the Cross once a week. There was no Friday abstinence because it was impossible with the conditions at the camp. With Lent coming to a close we needed an Easter candle. In the building where we lived there was a large basement in which some Chinese were doing welding, and other construction. We were not allowed any contact with them. I inquired if there were any Japanese there during the day and as far as anyone knew, they only went down occasionally. I had to have piping, so I dared and when I got down there, I found only Chinese and asked one of the men for a pipe about the size needed and he gave it to me. We had a good chance to talk but he could not give me much outside information. Father Ildephonse gave me four candles to melt down. Someone had given me a little red candle and with that I made the four red spikes because by then we had no more incense, but were using punk instead. Punk is made from the sandal-wood tree and is used as incense in the temples so I managed to get some of that inside the red wax, and we had a real Easter candle. When finished I took the pipe back again, not thinking I should need it the next year, but we had another Easter in camp and then I had to repeat the whole procedure to borrow the pipe over again.
Mr. Ding managed to get eggs to us, although sometimes we wondered if we got all that he sent. Sr. Esther tried to save them, but every now and then, especially when it was warm, one would pop and the odor in the room just wasn't nice. One day he sent two cans of salmon, which was a treat for us.
On June 10,
very quietly the news went around that two of the men, Tipton and Hummel, had
gone over the wall to the Chinese guerillas and by that time they were quite
far away. The Japanese did not yet know it. They had left early and a friend
had excused them from roll call. The next morning they could also be excused
possibly, but then the guards would be getting suspicious. By the time the
guards caught on it was too late to find them. The escape angered the guards
and they decided that in order to tighten up, we would have to have two roll
calls daily, so another was added to the late afternoon before
At the roll calls one day they asked us each to yell out our number, instead of them calling the number and we answering present, as had been done until then. When it got to 222, the young man who had it screamed out "toot-toot-toot" and of course the whole group broke out in laughter. The guard didn't know what was wrong, but he told the interpreter to tell us that we weren't supposed to laugh at roll-call. By this time we were so used to roll calls that we didn't mind it, and besides you could get quite an amount of work done, unless it was too cold, or raining.
The children were prepared for the Sacraments and we tried to make their First Communion a happy day. Little Amelia Rocco-cucci, age 5, made a cute little flower girl. She was perfect at practice, but at the real event she did the unexpected thing. After the first communicants had all received she led the last one to the edge of the stage then went straight back, knelt down and put out her little tongue to receive. Father Ildephonse gave it to her while we all looked aghast, wondering how he could do that. He later told us he too was so surprised that he had to think fast and then decided she was in truth ready for it.
One day the bulletin board had a special request: "The supply of yeast is giving out and there is no way of procuring more. Does anyone know how to make it? Does anyone have any suggestions? The situation is getting desperate ... . Help!"
Everybody read it and shook their heads so it remained there for a few days. Finally, a man offered to try, but he needed a room for his experiment. My classroom went and for a month I taught outside wherever we could find space. He managed to get the secret and the situation was saved.
On July 11,
the "fold" was increased by sixteen Italians from
The new group
included more interesting people. Mr. Mina had a garage with cars for sale,
plus a movie house, with a large screen that he had been very proud of. The
Japanese came in, took one car, give him a paper and left with the car. This
was repeated until there were no more cars left. His movie house went the same
direction. Mr. Di-Giacomo owned a night club but that
was confiscated, as were the businesses of many of the others. Mrs. Mina was very
ill but she was forced to come and they put her in our hospital. When our
doctors protested that she needed other care, they sent her together with Sr.
Julian as nurse to
On July 17 we were asked to give up our passports. There was no alternative and we were afraid we would not get them back. Most likely their intention was to pre-vent anymore of us from leaving as it might be difficult out-side without a passport, but they kept them safely and after the war we got them back. It is strange how a little book with your picture and description can mean so much to a person.
One day, Miss
Clara Hinckley, who been manager of the kitchens of the YMCA in
The Chief of Police, or Head of the Guards as we called him, invited some of the Sisters to a meal at his house. Srs. Esther, Bede, Hiltrudis and Eustella went. While they enjoyed it, it was another question of what the internees as a whole would think of it. No comments were made and the Sisters thought they had at least made a good will gesture. Sr. Eustella even talked of teaching some of them English, but that was frowned upon by the people so she didn't.
On July 25, 1944 we were alerted to the fact that Sr. Ursula and a postulant were at the gate but seemingly were not allowed to get in. Sr. Esther was called to the guard-house and got a severe scolding as possibly they thought she had asked the two to come. But we did in the end get to see them for a few minutes and Sr. Ursula introduced us to the new postulant, Rose Wen, our present Sr. Wendelin, and we welcomed her to the Community. The guards then ordered them to leave.
A few days later Father Ladislas was seen coming into the compound and we were again alerted. There would always be someone who would happen to see him and let us know. I ran up to the Commandant's office immediately, not waiting for Sr. Esther, because I did not want to miss seeing Fr. Ladislas. It was too good seeing anybody from outside to let the opportunity pass. I walked in and greeted, first the Commandant and Mr. Ibara, according to protocol, and then Father. I asked him how he was, and those at home. He answered rather shortly and handed me the box of hosts (rather abruptly I thought) saying "They want the boxes back." I said all right and then proceeded to ask more questions. He answered as though he were in a hurry and repeated-"They want the boxes back"—I thought they must be hard up for boxes back in Hungkialou, but they should know how few we have here. A light then dawned and I rushed off. On the way to our room I met Sr. Esther on her way to the office. I told her to quickly follow me as obviously there was something else in the boxes besides hosts and by this time I was sure of it.
We dumped the hosts out into a dish and there on the bottom were a pack of letters, some to us from the Chinese Sisters and some to the Fathers. Sr. Esther had one from Bishop Jarre. She opened it up immediately while I was sorting the others out to distribute. I felt I had to act quickly if those Fathers wanted to give him any answer back. Sr. Esther was reading when suddenly she screamed, "My God ... Oh!" I looked at her but she said nothing to me. I took Sr. Eustella's letters over to her and told her we got some awful news, perhaps Sr. Ursula was taken after all, or perhaps they burned down the school. I went over to the Fathers and distributed the rest, then back to the Commandant's office where I met Sr. Esther at the door and we went in together. She was trying to keep cool and composed. She went through the greetings, said a few words about the weather, and then "By the way, some time ago I got a letter from the Bishop; tell him I said yes, he could go ahead". That was all. I gave the boxes back to Father Ladislas and his little ruse had worked. I walked back with Sr. Esther but she said nothing on the way and for that whole day I went around wondering.
Finally in the
evening, she told us that one of the novices Sr. Susanna had left. To me that
did not seem like material for such a fuss, but then I thought perhaps, being
In the meantime Father Alphonse came and we got to see him. One of the Fathers asked him to take a letter along, but he refused to commit himself.
Despite Fr. Alphonse's reluctance we were well prepared for the next visit from Father Ladislas. When he came and I was alerted, and I ran back for the pack of letters. Sr. Esther and I went to the office. I had the pack in my pocket because I had to be empty-handed and Sr. Esther had some "important questions" to ask the Commandant. She had to especially hold Ibara's attention because he was the more suspicious one, while I talked to Father Flesch in very plain English. He was sitting and I walked over behind him casually slipping the letters into his back pocket. He gave me a sign that everything could be all right. I took the host boxes and we left. There were more letters again in the bottom of the boxes and we wrote again. This was a golden opportunity for us as well as the Fathers because it enabled us to communicate with our missions.
The next time we ran into a little trouble. The Commandant was not there and Ibara had in his place another aide. The new man wanted to know all about the contents of the box and opened one. Father Ladislas immediately took it from him and handed him a host explaining what it was for and that Ibara quite understood. Father handed me the boxes and I did not linger that time, and in fact I did not even wait for Sr. Esther. At least the letters were safe and I hurried home to get them out of the boxes because I wouldn't want Father Ladislas to get into trouble. One could feel that the Japanese Commandant and all the guards had a great respect for him because he at least could speak their language and very fluently at that.
On August 2, 1944
Mr. Hayes, the father of the Rev. John Hayes passed away. He had been ailing
and Mrs. Hayes took it very nicely. He had a large funeral and it was sad to
see that long double life of self-sacrifice broken. The Hayes' had given sixty
years of their life to God. In
The bulletin board
gave notice one day of a lecture to be given by Father DeJaegher on "The
Life of Father Lebbe". To the Catholics in camp, Father Lebbe had meant
nothing and they were not interested. The lecture was to be under the elm tree
outside Kitchen Two. Sr. Eustella and I took our
stools and went and during the lecture she nudged me and said "Do you
notice that we are about the only Catholics here?" I did, but I realized
that the non-Catholic missionaries must have been rather interested in Father
Lebbe or they wouldn't have come either and they knew if Fr. De-Jaegher had something to offer, it must be good. In the
audience was a young lady from the
The first time was when the people from the school first arrived and when she entered the dining room all eyes were turned to the door. The universal question was, "Is that a boy or a girl?" She had very short hair and was in jeans and no one could answer the question. Then a few days later someone was scolding about all the scrounging and stealing going on in camp and she remarked that it was one good thing those Fathers had all left, there might be less of it now. Now, while I was enjoying our library because there were all kinds of books by Protestant missionaries and I was getting a chance to read non-Catholic books, there was another one coming to the same library, searching for all the Catholic books, a Miss Brayne, the same young woman.
One day Father
DeJaegher came to us telling us he had a "Nicodemus" coming to him by
night and he wanted prayers, many of them. She and her two Catholic room-mates
in the beginning had a few arguments on religion and finally ended the
arguments by an agreement never to mention religion and thereafter they were
getting along nicely by it. Now she was asking them questions so they sent her
to Father DeJaegher. She did not dare go to his room openly, so one of them
would go with her after dark. She finally decided she would turn. Two weeks
before the date set for her Baptism she went to the Head-master of the
felt that she did not have enough contact with the Chinese Sisters and she was
also having trouble with her eyes, so she put forward the latter problem and
asked if Commandant Sukigawa could possibly get
permission for her, Sr. Julian and Sr. Mercedes to go to
middle of August there was a very important and welcome notice on the bulletin
board. The Americans were to get one parcel each from the American Red Cross.
It would contain butter, crackers, coffee, meat and cigarettes. Almost
immediately we began bargaining. One
Finally after the few days of suspense word went round like wildfire that the parcels had arrived. We waited a day then the notice came to queue up in front of the church and we would get our parcels. Each weighed forty-nine pounds so the Fathers carried ours home for us, and just like little children we had to wait to see what was in them. I have often wondered how much of the contents of those parcels were still in American hands by evening. There were so many friends and neighbors who weren't getting any that you could hardly keep a whole box yourself. Two of the boys took a can of Spam and butter put them on a piece of bread with the Spam cut as thick as the bread. They then hid behind a house and sat down to eat it, just as though they were doing something wrong. Many of the cans were used for cups in the dining room. While some found their way in the garbage cans, the Chinese outside got them and it wasn't long before they found their way back to our canteen in the form of oil lamps or such and were repurchased.
We had only one dentist in camp, and he was busy constantly as practically everyone visited him at one time or another. One evening I was having a bad toothache and next morning I awoke with a swollen jaw. I went over to his room and asked for an appointment. He was very gracious and took care of it and he gave me some myrrh and glycerin to apply. Being the only dentist in the camp we were grateful for his care.
There were two
families of Armenians with us. One be-longed to the Orthodox Church and the
other to the Uniat, but since there was no Uniat church near where they had lived in China, the second
family usually attended the Orthodox services because they felt more at home
there than in one of the Western Rite. While in camp they all attended Mass
with us. The Armenians had quite a history. In their early days they had to
Miss MacKenzie, a missionary passed away. She had seemed like an angel to everyone in camp and they said she had a beautiful death saying "Peace, at last, peace!"
and another winter was beginning. We wondered if we would spend the whole
winter in camp. The Bamboo Wireless was busy again and there was talk of us
Thanksgiving Day was on November 30th. There was no hall available, and before most of us knew anything about it, a group had decided that we would meet at certain houses. Sr. Bede was to go to Dr. Chan, while the other Sisters each got an assignment. I was designated to have my dinner with the Reinbrechts. Rev. Reinbrecht was a very congenial Lutheran minister. He and his wife had one room, while their two teenage daughters lived in the room next door. Each of us took our plates to the dining room and got our ration of stew, plus a piece of apple pie, which had cost us $5.00, and went to our group. When we got there, Mrs. Reinbrecht had moved the beds almost on top of each other and they had a little table around which we could sit. The group consisted of the four Reinbrechts, Rev. Hayes and his aged mother, a Dutch Reformed Church lady minister, and myself . . . four denominations. Later Bishop Scott came by and talked a while but would not stay. Rev. Reinbrecht said grace, a beautiful prayer which made us all feel united with the whole American nation all over the world even though we were of the Diaspora. Then we ate. The two girls were allowed to have coffee, which they would not have had otherwise. The coffee was so weak that it couldn't have hurt them anyway, and this time it didn't keep me awake all night.
Mr. Sims-Lee, who had been ill the whole time in camp suddenly passed away. We mourned him with Mrs. Sims-Lee. Together they had been missionaries and had adopted a little Chinese boy and raised him and he was with them in camp. Mr. Sims-Lee was an artist and he used to draw cartoons of incidents in the camp. After he died his wife had quite a collection to show us. He was buried in the cemetery and she would often go out to the grave. One day the Japs declared the cemetery "out of bounds." She pro-tested vigorously and threatened to tell the American Government after the war so they allowed her to go in after that.
Our second Christmas in camp was nearing, and Father Dallaire had an idea to work out. He found out that some-one had brought a large wood carved crucifix to camp and he thought it would be nice to use it hanging high above the altar, if he could get some drapes to cover the window in back of the altar. But, of course, drapes are hard to come by in a concentration camp. He started visiting houses and asking for them but no one had any. Finally in desperation he came back to us and asked if we would give up the yellow ones on our altars, so we gave them to him. He worked all day getting the altar ready and we all thought it was beautiful and artistic. We were having mid-night Mass and the Japanese had promised us lights, al-though otherwise all lights would have to be out at that time. The Italians donated a dozen candles for the altar. One of the choir members luckily brought along two candles. Father Ghyselinck had prepared the choir and we were all keyed up for it. In fact to me it was the most thrilling Midnight Mass of my whole life, even if under those circumstances. The Japanese allowed us only candle-light and so the Mass was done by the light of the Italian candles and the two in the choir. There was another High Mass at 5:00 A.M. and then I had to clear the altar for the Episcopalians. Bishop Scott was there early and I asked him about taking the crucifix down. He said "No, leave it there. It is too beautiful to remove".
For Christmas dinner we had our good old stew and wormy bread but perhaps it was more than many others in war-torn countries were having and we knew it.
Our "education" continued as we were learning new words. Few of us had heard the word "scrounging" before, but you immediately knew what it meant from the way it was used. The children would ask, "Is it a sin to scrounge?" What could you answer? And nobody wanted to define it or theorize on it. We only knew that at certain times it must be punished, that is, when it did harm to the community. The general meaning that the term took on was, "taking something from the Japanese or the camp." If you took from one of us, that was stealing, pure and simple. The men would come in pushing wheelbarrows of coal for the Japanese, which usually had good lumps of coal, not the dust as we were rationed, and all you had to do was walk behind and take off a few pieces when no one was looking. We were only helping the man by making his awful load a little lighter. This was also scrounging; however it was certainly not stealing. Eventually this practice got to be just too common and so the Head of Discipline had to call a halt and anyone caught was brought to his office and given a punishment.
One day a sixteen year old boy named Marinellis was caught. Of course, everyone knew that he had not only taken pieces but a good supply of coal. He had been the opposite puzzle of Miss Brayne in the beginning as he had a very girlish, innocent looking face, so that in the beginning we just guessed, boy or girl?, But he always followed Goyos, the chief of black marketeers and the camp's number one profiteer. Maybe Marinellis even sold his coal to Goyos. Anyway, he was called in and given a sentence of water pumping, three hours a day for several weeks. The hours had to be separated during the day, because one hour in itself was a good punishment, as it was hard work. He did a few of the hours, then just quit and walked down the street. There some young men were cutting down a tree, and having trouble with one of the branches. Marinellis said he could help and he climbed up and stood on the branch. The branch broke and he fell to the ground, dead. Another sad funeral and this time for a young boy. He had two sisters in camp and for their sakes we attended the funeral.
It was said that Goyos made a million dollars on the black market while in Weihsien, but even if that were so, when eggs were $5.00 apiece, a million dollars wasn't what it was at that time in the States. It was also said that he had four passports and we all believed that story. One night we were awakened by a noise in the little corridor outside our room. It was a hot summer night and we had not locked the door; there was just a little sliding half-door which was hooked. Then a loud knock on Sr. Eustella's door. There were a few more quiet noises and all was still. In the morning I asked Sr. Eustella about it and she said the guards most likely were after Goyos again and that our quarters was one place he thought was safe for hiding. The Japanese would not easily come into the nun's quarters. But try as the Discipline Department could, they could never stop the scrounging any more than they could stop the breathing of the camp. Those who worked in the bakery took home flour, those in the kitchen meat, and the ladies at the vegetables stuck some vegetables in their pockets. It was nice to have a job where you had a chance to scrounge something to cook on your little stove at home, and it just meant a little less in the dining room and fewer seconds.
Both the 1944 and 1945 winters were cold and we tried to dress accordingly. My feet were always cold, so one morning I was practically running around the little block trying to warm them by exercise when I met Mr. Beck, the Hawaiian. We greeted and he saw that I was almost in tears. He asked and I told him what was wrong. He said "I'll tell you what to do. You go right back to your room, fill your basin with cold water not hot and put your feet in, then take a cloth and rub them well". I went back, It was a few minutes before I could plunge those cold feet in colder water, but it worked and ever after I followed his advice. He was glad it helped.
New Year's Day
ushered in the year 1945 and we wondered where we would be at the end of it.
The war just couldn't last much longer. One of the very big events of the month
of January was the arrival of fifteen hundred more Red Cross parcels but now
there was to be one for each person in camp and one and a half for the
Americans. The Red Cross had been sending them ever since we had gotten the
first ones, but since the other nationalities had complained that they got
none, the Japanese kept them until there were enough for the whole camp instead
of giving them to us each month. We were resigned because there was nothing we
could do about it, but one group of young Americans were
not. They went to the Japanese and put in a complaint. The Commandant referred
the matter to
The Palestinian Jews couldn't eat pork so they were asking for an exchange. I took my canned corn beef and as many others as I could collect and went over to their house. In exchange the lady gave me liver paste, not exactly what I would have liked but better than the kitchen fare by far. She was a young woman with a baby about two months old. I sympathized with her on account of having to get so many diapers washed and so little soap. "Oh!", she said, "he doesn't need any diapers because I have him toilet trained".
One of the ministers had always been against the cigarettes coming into camp. He would tear up his ration card, not giving it to anyone, and he had even asked that all bring their cigarettes and sacrifice them to a bonfire. Of course, he got very little response, if any. Now he had cigarettes in his pack, so before he had the parcel open, he had a host of visitors offering him food from their parcels in exchange for his cigarettes. The answer he gave was that his wife would not allow him to give them away.
The news leaked out that the Canadians had received Red Cross parcels some time after our first ones, but it had all been kept very quiet as most probably the Japanese were trying to avoid a scene.
On the 2nd of February, Mr. Liddell our faithful friend and interpreter passed away. We mourned him, attended the funeral service and he was buried in the cemetery, one of the twenty-nine who were to swell the number of the former missionaries who had been buried at the camp be-fore we arrived on the scene. Someone else took his place at roll calls.
While we did
not talk usually to our guards, they seemed more friendly.
Perhaps they realized that they were losing the war, but at least they knew
much more than we did, and maybe they were glad the war was coming to an end.
Certainly they could feel much happier than their brothers out in the war zone
or those even in
One of the guards was more or less disliked by the internees. It seemed whenever anyone asked him for some-thing, the answer they got was "bu-hsing", which in Chinese means "not-do," in other words "it won't work." So the camp dubbed him "Bu-hsing". One day a little puppy came into the compound through one of the holes. The children grabbed it, and at last they had a pet. They fed it and took care of it for a few weeks. They called it "Bu-Hsing". It happened that big "Bu-hsing" was walking along the street towards the guardhouse, when a little child called "Bu-hsing". The Japanese love children and he felt rather flattered that the child was calling him, even though she did use his nick-name, but then, turning around; he saw that the child was calling the dog which was directly behind him. Angrily, he grabbed the little dog and threw it over the wall. The children managed to coax the dog in again, but after that they kept him hidden.
came in like a lion, with rumblings about the war in
The next day
word was passed around quietly that
Dr. Gault received news from her folks in the
By this time the people in the camp were getting restless. The older ones especially would tell us it was all right for us because we had plenty years ahead of us, but they had perhaps only a few and were afraid that they must spend them all in Weihsien. It was upsetting them and we couldn't help them out.
Once again for several weeks the Japanese kept us wondering. They were measuring off the spaces in front of the little houses but no one could guess what they were up to now. In the end it came out. They wanted us to plant "victory gardens." Evidently the Japanese who had returned on the Gripsholm had told the country how the Americans were using their little plots of ground for "victory gardens" and they thought we should do the same. Well, those who had the room did plant, but the tomatoes would come up, get nice and ripe and then were stolen. This wasn't scrounging; it was downright stealing, but was it by the internees or Japanese? No one knew, and it took all the enthusiasm for gardening away from the camp.
years of internment began to cause a great despair among many of the people.
The Rev. MacChesney Clark was found with his wrists slashed but fortunately,
they saved him. A young man went to the hospital, complained of sleeplessness
and they gave him sleeping pills. He kept them until he thought he had enough, and
then took them all at once. It nearly killed him too, but they got him to the
hospital in time. Another man was caught trying to do away with himself. I was
talking to Mr. Davies who was half British and half Chinese about this man. He
believed they should be punished. He said anyone in
Mr. Davies had
asked me to give instructions to his wife, who was Chinese and a Catholic but
had little instruction in the Faith. I went over several times a week and found
her very interesting. Once she asked me about the Pope. She had seen the movie
On the bulletin board one day in April there was a short notice that President Roosevelt had passed away but no details were given. Once again the camp was astir with rumors about the matter, but no one had any real information.
It was up to
all of us to try to keep body and soul together and help keep up the morale of
the camp, which certainly was deteriorating. It was not an easy task. Father Ladislas
was coming only every two months now and we kept on smuggling letters back and
forth through him. And all this time, unknown to us, Teilhard de Chardin, was
only 175 miles north of us, as the crow flies, writing his "Phenomenon of
Man" as well as continuing with his studies on the evolution of the
universe, all in spite of war. Later these would all be brought before the
entire world, and so much so that Gary McEoin, the
Irish reporter at the Council, later said that the Vatican Council was his
"show" more than that of Pope John XXIII. De Chardin was the
theoretician of the dignity of man and Pope John was the politician who brought
it before the church and the world. At this time de Chardin was still under his
cloud, lonely as the great usually are, but dedicated to the work that only he
could do. Like Vincent Lebbe, he towered above his Superiors as they knew he
was the greater. But unlike Lebbe whose relationship with his superiors was
strained to the breaking point so that to continue in his work, he had not
choice but leave his order, Teilhard de Chardin could and did remain a faithful
Jesuit all his lifetime. Unfortunately, his name was not mentioned in the camp,
at least I never heard of him until I got back to the
One day I
noticed a dark spot on one of the hosts. It seems the Franciscan Missionaries
of Mary back in
The other little bugs to bother us were the bedbugs. Sr. Eustella was complaining that they were biting her unmercifully and she was not getting any sleep at night. We didn't think we had any until we searched, there were plenty. I wouldn't doubt but that the boards we had been sleeping on were filled with them when we brought the boards to camp. Sr. Ludmilla was sure she didn't have any. She had a round mosquito net which went up to a point hung on a hook in the ceiling, the bottom of which would be tucked under her mattress at night. We thought it strange that only she should be immune. One afternoon as I was resting I noticed the corners at the top of my net were quite black. I got up to examine and found them full of bedbugs. That gave me an idea. I went over and looked at her top and it too was black and then she had to believe.
The Red Cross
sent us a supply of shoes and blankets. My two pair of shoes were
holding up and I could always get clogs made if I needed them. The
Talking to my
pupils one day, Emmanuel Rocco-cucci told me of a woman whom he thought was
Chinese, the wife of an Italian in camp, who never went out of their house. The
children all seemed to think there was some-thing queer about her. Shortly
after Father Ildephonse came to our room and asked if
we would take this lady with us for two weeks. Her husband was Amadeo DiGiacomo and at one time
he had been a Texas Ranger. Later in the service he was sent to
Mrs. DiGiacomo also had learned to speak English fairly well in
By June of 1945 eggs were up to $16.00 apiece (Chinese National Currency) in the canteen while fresh apricots were $160.00 a pound, sorghum syrup $200.00 a pint, peanuts $125.00 a pound, pencils $30.00 each. It was getting so complicated you had a time figuring it all out. In 1943 the exchange had been about $10.00, but now it was $50.00.
In July we
lost our Commandant. In a way we were sorry because he tried to help, was
sympathetic with the internees and tried to keep us as happy as he could. It
was not always easy for him to deal with the other Japanese who were of the
military service, some of whom had perhaps been in the war and were retired to
our camp. Naturally they would be filled with more hatred towards us. Father
Alphonse came but we did not see him, nor had he asked for us. Since
On July 15 we were told that Mr. Daliantz the baker had made $75,000 profit in black-marketing, getting produce from the Chinese outside and selling it to internees. That week in the canteen sugar was $200.00 a pound, peanuts $160.00 a pound, and pencils $30.00 each. The rest of the internees did not resent his profits but were glad to get the products because those in the canteen were rationed.
The bulletin board announced an exhibition of things made in the camp and everyone was invited to furnish material of any kind whatsoever. About the most interesting was the stove section with their drafts as of how to make them. We were all interested and spent time copying them down. I took my copies along to Hungkialou, not that I ever expected to make one, but all the same they were interesting. There were other kinds of crafts and needlework, recipes and many useful articles that only human ingenuity could think of.
camp there was digging going on, but it was within the outer barbwire fence.
Again we wondered what it was going to be. Rumors went round that it would be a
cemetery and they proved true. We had to wait for the thirtieth funeral before
we really found out. Mrs. Lawless, from
The men went
to Mr. Izu, our new Commandant but he was powerless
since he had no orders, so he left immediately for
Friday morning dawned, just another hot morning, but what a difference! We were all walking around on clouds because the "word" was that tomorrow the American Army would arrive. We all had great faith in the bamboo Wireless, but the Bamboo Wireless had made a slight error this time. About 10:00 A.M. a plane was flying overhead but at first we made nothing of it since they came often. It came lower and circled and someone shouted, "Its an American plane!" By that time everyone was outside and shouting and waving up to the plane as it kept circling, coming gradually lower, we were all running back and forth with it. Then it went out westward. A wave of disappointment surged upward until we thought they must have heard us up there. It kept going west about two miles, then the hatch opened and a red, then green, then yellow, five parachutes, the first most of us had ever seen, opened up. In the sunlight, it was a beautiful sight to behold. The parachutes gradually descended to the ground. Everybody then pushed to the front gates.
The guards had no orders and they had to hold us back. Two ex-marines pushed them aside saying, "Those are our men out there", and out the gate westward the crowd hurried, across the fields. Sr. Eustella and I happened to be together. The guards went along and we followed behind them. Those who got there first picked up the five men and carried each of them on their shoulders. The guards looked in wonder at the scene scarcely saying anything. As the men who had gone ahead came back carrying the five rescuers, the Russian ladies pushed forward and threw their arms around them and kissed them over and over.
LIBERATION AND MY FINAL
A. Staiger was in charge of our liberators. The seven had volunteered for this
special service and at the same time another plane was going up to
Major Staiger asked someone to free him from the Russian women because he had work to do. Most likely he was a little worried about the outcome the confrontation with the camp officials. He was led to the Commandant's office, where Mr. Izu laid his gun on the desk before him, a sign of surrender. From then on, we were under American rule, but we did not realize the difficulty outside. The Communist guerillas had blown up all the bridges and there was the tough problem of getting us out of the camp. We didn't think that day that we would have to stay over a month. But even so that was a very different month from those other twenty nine months. We were introduced to our rescue crew, however those first few days there was little chance to talk to them. The girls managed to relieve them of all badges or buttons as these were prize souvenirs. The boys were willing to give them away good naturedly.
Japanese newspaper had said ninety American bombers flew over
Father Wenders was discussing the bomb with us in our room shortly
after. He said he always had thought
On the 18th of July some more news went through the camp like wildfire, Tipton and Hummel were back. Al-though they were the cause of our second roll call, even after all those months, we didn't bear any grudge against them, because they didn't intend it and in leaving they evidently had good intentions. They had their heads shaved to make them look more like the Chinese outside and be unnoticeable to the Japanese. The stated that seemingly the food they got outside was not sufficient enough to make their hair grow back so for the time they were stuck with their bald heads.
We were told
that the rescue mission to
We did have one more death in camp as Mr. Rawson passed away on August 25, 1945.
On the August
27th twelve B-29's came over from
The planes also flew higher and faster than the B-24's (Armored Angel), and unfortunately the food was not packed for dropping, so much of it was spilt and cans were broken. One can of fruit landed on an empty bed in the hospital. No one was hurt but we certainly thought some one would be during this pleasant raid. Two of the planes dropped messages, with the names and addresses of the boys who were in the planes.
The next day
twelve of the sick were flown to
On August 31, Colonel Hyman Weinberg and his crew of nineteen landed. These were to be our "permanent" super-visors now, appointed officially. The crew included: Commanding Officer; Lieutenant Colonel Hyman Weinberg, Executive Officer; Major J. A. Staiger, Assistant Executive Officer and Mess Officer; Captain G. R. Kranich, Adjutant; Sergeant A. S. Levy, Special Service; Captain Avery Ash-wood, Transportation and Airdrome Officer; Lieutenant J. G. Griffin, Supply Officer; Lieutenant S. A. Farr, and Intelligence and Communications Officer; Captain R. Brandt. The identifications were all listed on the bulletin board for us. Colonel Weinberg's problem now was to get us out, but the Communist guerillas had blown up the railroads, one after the other, and now the Colonel had to negotiate with them and he was only partially successful.
September 6th, Mr. Eggers, the Swiss Consul appeared with an American pilot who
had been shot down and hidden from the Japanese by the Chinese. Father Maus, one of the SVD Fathers of Tsingtao reported the case
and the pilot was taken to
Captain Ashwood's work was to orient the camp to what had been
going on in the world during our stay in Weihsien. It was a big task because we
were completely ignorant and couldn't understand some things. Some of the
internees even thought he was Communistic. One morning at 5:00 A.M. the camp
was awakened with Bing Crosby's crooning and although some were provoked at
getting called that early, most of us enjoyed the music because it was so new to us as it came over the loud speaker. One of the
officers on night duty had simply mixed switches and didn't know he had the
amplifiers on. Captain Ashwood asked the forces in Kuinming for a jeep and some movies and we were very
anxious for them, but by mistake they were shipped to
Soon after we faced another big decision. The officers wanted us to go back to our respective countries, but most of us did not want to go. The missionaries wanted to get back to their posts and the business people wanted to get back to their homes and get their property back, but at least there would be a ship going to the States and we were invited to repatriate. Should we? Father Ghyselinck suggested that I should take a piece of paper, make two columns. In one column I should put down all the reasons I could think of for going and in the other column, all the reasons for not going. I went back to my room and started out writing.
I had only a
few lines down when Sr. Bede came in. I told her what I was doing. She said
"Sister, we don't know if the three in Peking are going to return to the
I quit writing
and went to find Father Ghyselinck. He was just as
glad as I was that the decision was made. Sr. Ludmilla
decided to go and Sr. Cecilia to stay with us. All unknown to us, Mother
Bartholomew was sending us a telegram that all should come back to the
during that month, Sir Stafford Cripps and Lady Cripps came to visit the
English people of the camp, and Sir Cripps was announced for a lecture in the
ball field in the evening. We all went, anxious to hear what he had to say. He
congratulated his countrymen on their courage, but then told them they should
not expect help from the English Red Cross, because the Red Cross work was left
allowed to go over to the city of
were returned to us in good condition. We all had to appear separately before
the officers and tell how we were treated during our stay. Our group had
nothing to complain of. The date for the first departure from camp was to be
the 24th of September. Those who were repatriating were especially chosen, and
The next morning the ground was dry enough and the exodus was on. Three buses stood outside the gates at 7:30 A.M. waiting. They were marked "Greased Lightning", "Dying Duck" and "Honking Horace". We bade farewell to the rest of the internees, then out the gate and into the buses. It was a glorious ride, and for most of us the most enjoyable bus ride we would ever have in our lives. Arriving at the station, we saw the train, that train that had been such a headache to Colonel Weinberg, now it would finally be on its way. The second group was to leave in two weeks on the same train and the third group after that, at least we thought so then. The Colonel was to get a few more head-aches before he got his flock all out because of damage to the tracks.
permitted to take baggage along with us, so we took one trunk for Sr. Bede,
Cecilia and I, since we had no idea how long we would stay in
there must have been about ten, each had a large American flag painted on the
side with three large letters "Mee-chuin yung," for the use of the American forces. Didi Sayles was our coach captain. We started at 9:20 A.M.
and what a ride it was. At each station along the way there were groups of
Chinese cheering. Some towns had their bands out playing for us, and they must
have been waiting a long time there for us to come along. Crossing the bridges
along the way as a hair-raising experience. You could see the cracks and the
mending and we dreaded coming to more of them. We reached
were being taken out in bus loads and transported over to Edgewater Mansions,
the large hotel near the beach. Tsingtao is on
Finally, we left the train and got into the buses. Sr. Ludmilla and I happened to get separated from the rest and on the way our bus was having trouble, so we had to stop while the others all got ahead of us. Finally we were loaded off onto other vehicles and both of us were ushered into a jeep. This really was a thrill, just what we had wanted. That was Tuesday, the 25th of September, 1945 and back in the States the churches were celebrating the Feast of Our Lady of Ransom because there it was still the 24th.
headed for the Edgewater Mansions and we had orders to go there first and from
there we could check out to wherever we wanted to stay in the city. It was a
grand feeling to be driven through the streets of
--- end of the Weihsien episode ----