Best read of the week

It’s only Wednesday but I can’t imagine a better piece coming along than this first-person narrative by a British ex-soldier who was waterboarded. By the Japanese. During World War Two. At Kanchanaburi, Thailand. (The link is flaky: archived version here.)

As they say over there: What a corker of a read! That this writer Eric Lomax is at the very least in his mid-80s makes it all the more riveting. Prisoners in Kanchanaburi death camp

The piece refers to the barely compassionate interpreter. In fact, author Lomax knows personally and up-close that he is Nagase Takashi, still alive at 90 in Japan.

Nagase was a military interpreter for the dreaded Kempeitai, or special Japanese police at the Thailand prison camp made famous in the movie Bridge on the River Kwai. (In real life, the Thailand portion of Death Railway to Burma was completed. After the war, however, it was abandoned as too costly to maintain. A train a day runs a few kilometres up the line from the famous bridge to give tourists a minor thrill.)

Takashi meanwhile has become the Japanese version of the Good Nazi… well, okay, actually the only one. Takashi has spent almost his whole life trying to understand and atone for the horrors inflicted on individuals and nations by his countryman. Lomax, author of The Railway Man has noted that, “You never forgive,” but has also taken part in helping Takashi repent.

In 2006, A group of Thais imprisoned by Takashi’s brutal team built a statue of Takashi at the site of their former prison camp.


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