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WWII veteran sues Netherlands over slave labor in Japanese POW camp

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A nonagenarian WWII veteran on Thursday launched a last-ditch effort to claim compensation from the Dutch state for physical injuries he suffered while forced to do slave labor in Japanese prisoner-of-war camps 70 years ago.

Jan Bras has been involved in a five-year battle to get Dutch judges to rule that a severe back problem was the result of forced labor as a POW after Dutch forces surrendered to Japan on the Indonesian island of Java in March 1942.

Bras spent the rest of the war building the infamous Burma railway line under appalling conditions, before being shipped to Japan where he survived forced labor in an underground coal mine.

He was freed after Japan surrendered in 1945.

"My father is not claiming for lost earnings. He is claiming for physical suffering and what he really wants is recognition for that," said his daughter Gina Jennings, a British-based lawyer who represented him in court.

"From the time he was 28 he has suffered from backache as a result of spending three-and-a-half years as a slave to the Japanese," Jennings told a judge at the Dutch Administrative High Court, based in the central city of Utrecht.

Although Bras receives a small amount of money from the Dutch state for "psychological damage" he suffered as a POW, his request for compensation for physical damages has so far been turned down.

Bras first filed a claim in early 2009 under a set of unique Dutch laws that allows the Dutch state to pay compensation to those affected by war, based on medical and psychological grounds.

Previously judges have ruled that Bras indeed suffered from a degenerative spine, but that his condition was a result of old age and not because of forced labor he did as a 19-year-old POW.

Bras, a doctor himself, was examined by several medical specialists after lodging his claim and they then concluded his condition was due to old age, court papers said.

"There are no new medical facts and therefore no reason to change our viewpoint, based on the conclusions by the medical doctors," who examined Bras, said Anette Vroom-van Berckel, representing the Sociale Verzekeringsbank (SVB), the organization responsible for paying out state pensions and grants.

More than 60,000 Allied prisoners of war worked as slave laborers on the Burma railway line, also called the "Death Railway" in 1942-43.

Some 13,000 POWs and 100,000 indigenous workers died -- said to be one man for every sleeper laid -- in the line's construction between Rangoon in Burma (today Yangon in Myanmar) to Bangkok in Thailand.

The suffering of these prisoners were later captured in the 1950s classic movie "Bridge on the River Kwai."

The court will hand down a ruling on Bras' claim on January 30 next year.

© (c) 2013 AFP

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

6 Comments
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Now if this was a Chinese making the claim he would be told to just forget the past and move on. Sad the old guy is still tormented 70 yrs after the fact. War sucks and hawks like Abe and Xi Jinping who would never ever run the remote chance of service get a hard on for sabre rattling.

-2 ( +2 / -3 )

'What slave labor? They were all vounteers who gave their all for Tenno.'

Next year's ministry's validated Snr High School text book.

-6 ( +2 / -7 )

DogNov. 29, 2013 - 11:04AM JST

Is it supposed to be a joke?

Hague Convention of Laws and Customs of War on Land http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/hague04.asp

Art. 6.

The State may utilize the labour of prisoners of war according to their rank and aptitude, officers excepted. The tasks shall not be excessive and shall have no connection with the operations of the war.

It is OK to force POWs to work in rail road building or mining. It is called forced labor or slave labor.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

@CH3CHO Italian POWs in Scotland were used as labour until Italy surrendered in 1943... This from Visit Scotland:

In March 1940 Winston Churchill approved the building of ‘causeways’ to link the south isles to Mainland Orkney and so closing off the eastern approaches. Work soon started and continued a-pace but a shortage of local labour was causing delays so in early 1942 Italian POWs were shipped in to work on the huge building project. Many camps were established to house these POWs. The Italians POW status changed however in September 1943 when Italy capitulated to the allies and the workers were given more freedom and were actually paid properly for their labours.

I think most countries used POWs as labour to some degree, although the Burma Railway is at the other end of the scale. I'm not condoning what the Japanese did, just pointing out that a lot of countries would have to a much lesser degree.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

i am dutch so this may be awkward for japanese and i have to excuse to all of you as it is not meant to insult japan or accuse them of anthing. the big problem for ex-indonesian veterans who had to go through a part of the 2th pan-chin war in the dutch indies is the fact that they where never been taken serious in their own country by family, community and the state. everytime they said something about their story they were mett with the responce that the germans were so evil and life in the netherlands was so hard. this resulted that many war veterans from the east developed big anti feelings towards their own goverment and called them the the hague mob! the compensation to wwII victims and pow in the western front was in total disbalance to those who had to protect oure indonesian colony. i can speak about this as i am the grand child of one of those war veterans, my grand father fought the imperial army but never held an grudge to japan nor their soldiers; as he allwa's said ; we all had to do oure duty. offcourse many white people who were in indonesia saw themself superior to asian people, those people really got some emotional problem as the were inclosed to workcamps, same with the jews in germany who also saw themself superior to normal europeans. but most soldiers there did not see it like this, like my grandfather he allway's had a deep respect to the japanese soldiers for their skills, deep respect! this old man wants his own goverment who just left their man to suffer to compensate, just like his goverment claimed compansation to the japanese authorities. why should japan compensate his goverment but his goverment does not compensate him.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The moral here: Don't surrender.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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