WWII history buffs will certainly be enthused with the historical details the author includes regarding the Japanese occupation of Indonesia and life in the concentration camps for the captured Caucasian women and children.
Book Title: Perils and Pearls: In World War II, a Family's Story of Survival and Freedom from Japanese Jungle Prison Camps by Hulda Bachman-Neeb
Category: Adult Non-Fiction, 190 pages
Genre: Memoir / Japanese History
Publisher: BristleCone Press
Release date: September 16, 2019
Tour dates: Apr 13 to May 1, 2020
Content Rating: PG: There are mentions of decapitation and ugly jail or camp scenes and murder.
In World War II much of Asia fell under Japanese control after the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. All non-Asians were imprisoned in concentration camps until August of 1945, the end of the war in the Pacific. This is the story of a Dutch family, resident in the Dutch East Indies, that fell victim to the Japanese occupation and was interned in jungle camps throughout the war. It tells the journey from riches to rags, from fear and suffering to the joy of freedom and recovery.
Hulda Bachman-Neeb was but a very young child when she, her young brother and mother were enslaved and forced to live under inhumane and horrific conditions for four years under the rule of the Japanese Imperial Army. Before we get to these memories, the author describes her ancestry and how they came to live in Asia from Netherland. The author writes very well, with descriptive scenes that beautifully brought to life the tropical islands of the Pacific. In contrast, there were sections of the book that read like a history book and took away from the more personal aspect of the memoir genre.
The descriptions of life in the concentration camps were heartbreaking. The sadistic treatment of the Japanese toward the POWs was perhaps worse than the Germans. In the last two chapters, we get more of the author's thoughts on her own personal ordeal and the love she received from her grandparents and three compassionate aunts that helped her and her brother heal. Sadly, the Japanese government never compensated those families who had suffered as POWs in the Dutch East Indies.
I'm unsure if it's part of the Dutch culture or the author's own semi-detachment in her telling of it, but I felt like this memoir was missing some of the emotional elements. There were plenty of historical facts and a very detailed accounting of this family's experience, however. And I appreciated the photographs interspersed throughout the book.
I recommend this book to readers who love WWII history and want to learn more about life in the colonized Dutch East Indies in the early 20th century.
Hulda Bachman–Neeb was born in Indonesia of colonial Dutch parentage two years before the Pearl Harbor attack on December 7, 1941. Because much of Asia fell under Japanese control, all non-Asians were imprisoned in concentration camps until August of 1945, the end of the war in the Pacific. As a member of the Dutch Foreign Service in her adult life, Hulda held assignments in twenty-five countries over a period of thirty-six years, retiring in 1996. She is married to an American, James Bachman, a historian and author, and has dual citizenship. Hulda and her husband live in Estes Park, Colorado.