Verhagen: Japan’s war victims must never be forgotten

‘The hunger, disease, violence, sexual abuse and brutal treatment of Dutch civilian internees and prisoners-of-war during the Second World War must never be forgotten,’ said Maxime Verhagen, Minister of Foreign Affairs, speaking at a remembrance ceremony at the Hodogaya war cemetery in the Japanese city of Yokohama.

The minister went on to say that although the Netherlands and Japan were reconciled after the war, and that the traditional ties of friendship had been restored, ‘the war and the past are important elements of our bilateral relations. We cannot allow the pain of the victims to be forgotten.’

Twenty-one Dutch prisoners-of-war are buried at the Hodogaya cemetery. They were killed when the ship transporting them to Japan was hit by a torpedo. A total of 20,000 Dutch prisoners-of-war were held in Japanese camps, and large numbers of civilians – men, women and children – were interned.

For the first time during such visits by the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, Japan also laid a wreath. Mr Verhagen, the representative of the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and all those who attended the ceremony observed a one-minute silence to remember the victims of the war in Asia.