The recent death of Eric Lomax, a Signals officer captured by the Japanese in Singapore and tortured at Kanchanaburi camp in Thailand, comes shortly before the release of The Railway Man, a film based on the extraordinary story of what happened to Lomax and the Japanese associated with his abuse after the war:
A fellow former-prisoner then gave him a cutting from the Japan Times about a ex-Japanese soldier who had been helping the Allies to find the graves of their dead and claimed that he had earned their forgiveness. The accompanying photograph showed Takashi Nagase, the interpreter during Lomax's interrogation, and the man with whom he most associated his ordeal.Nagase and Lomax finally met in 1994 and there was peace and forgiveness between them. The knowledge of what he had facilitated, including the deaths of several colleagues of Lomax, had haunted Nagase and receiving forgiveness from Lomax meant much to him.
But Nagase was not the only Japanese with a connection to Lomax. Osamu Komai was the son of the 2ic of Lomax's camp; that man, Mitsuo Komai, was tried by the British after the war, found guilty of war crimes and hanged. Osamu Komai grew up with the stigma of being the child of a war criminal; it would have been easy to resent this, and to resent the British who had hanged his father. Instead he took it upon himself to make apology for what his father had done:
Since I could not read English, I asked my acquaintance to translate the record. I found out that of those who my father beat severely, Lieutenant Lomax was seriously injured and Lieutenants Hawley and Armitage died as a result. Knowing the actual names of these British soldiers after 55 years profoundly affected me. Without realizing, I was bowing and apologizing from bottom of my heart. I forwarded the entire record to Mr. Nagase.In 2007 Osamu Komai travelled to Berwick-on-Tweed to meet Lomax and the two men became friends.
I learned from the reply from Mr.Nagase that Mr. Lomax was now a friend of his and was well in England. I wrote to Mr. Nagase, "I would like to meet Mr. Lomax and apologize on behalf of my father."
"Continuing to hate gets you nowhere," says Eric. "It just damages you as an individual. At some point, the hating has to stop."It has been 67 years since the end of the fighting in the Pacific, and some of the wounds inflicted in that fighting have taken many decades to heal. But if people like Nagase, Komai and Lomax can apologise for and forgive what happened, it shows hope for the human race.
Lomax's book "The Railway Man: A True Story of War, Remembrance and Forgiveness" on which the forthcoming film is based sounds like quite the read; I look forward to both book and film.