Sunday 15 March
The Sydney Jewish Museum’s Community Stories department is proud to launch The Burma Railway: The War Diary of Guus Fonteijn.
Guus’ diary is an often heart-wrenching account of his time as a forced labourer on the Thai/Burma railway. The detail he provides gives the reader a real sense of the horror faced by the men in those appalling conditions, not only from their Japanese captors, but also from Allied bombings.
Guus was born in Indonesia, then a Dutch colony, in 1923 to a happy, Jewish family. In 1932 they returned to Holland and after a period, seeing the threat posed by National Socialism. He fled back to Indonesia with his parents, younger sister and uncle and aunt in 1939 believing it to be a much safer alternative. Tragically, in 1941 Japan annexed much of South East Asia and Guus was conscripted into the Royal Dutch Navy at the age of just 17. Within six months he was taken prisoner and so began the three and a half year nightmare which is the subject of this book.
So many stories have been written about the experiences of Jewish people trapped in Europe during the Holocaust, including stories of concentration camps and ghettos, living in hiding, survival on false papers and being saved by ‘righteous gentiles’. Stories such as Guus’ and his sister Lini are lesser known but no less important and also need to be told.
The Museum’s Resident Historian, Emeritus Professor, Konrad Kwiet, will officially launch the book.
This is a free event but bookings are essential.