Sascha Weinzheimer was born February 7, 1933. The daughter and granddaughter of wealthy planters with extensive holdings in California and the Philippines, she lived with her sister and brother, father and mother, uncle, aunt and cousins on a vast sugar plantation in Canlubang, Laguna Province, on the island of Luzon, an hour and a half from Manila. Her grandfather, Ludwig Weinzheimer, had created and overseen the plantation, but early in l941 had left his two sons in charge and had retired to a 1,800 acre ranch the family owned in the Sacramento Valley. In the summer of 1941, Sascha's mother had written to him from Manila, asking if his sons and their families, shouldn't come home to California. War seemed very close. The old man had told them all to stay where they were. The rumors of war were exaggerated, he said.
Sascha had suffered from polio as a baby, and had traveled to California every 15 months for surgeries as well as new shoes and braces. She was due for her next trip in February of l942, but on December 8, 1941 the Japanese bombed the Philippines. A few weeks later, when bombs began falling near their plantation, the Weinzheimers moved into the Bayview Hotel in Manila and Sascha watched from the hotel window as Japanese troops took over the city in early 1942. Sascha's father, along with most of the other male expatriate civilians in the city, was taken to the internment camp the Japanese set up on the walled campus of the Santo Tomas University.
Sascha, her mother, sister and brother stayed out of the camp for over a year "taking refuge first at one convent, then another. But, in February 1943, after Sascha reported having seen Japanese soldiers drowning a small Filipino boy, her mother decided they would be safer in the camp than outside it. Sascha's father had been imprisoned there for more than a year " so long that when they were reunited, his young son no longer recognized him. The Weinzheimers joined some 4,000 other prisoners at Santo Tomas American and British, Dutch and Norwegian, Polish and French.
Soon after she arrived at camp, Sascha began keeping a diary of her experiences in the camp. Over the next two years, conditions would go from bad to worse, particularly after the Japanese military took control of the camp. Food supplies ran out and internees began to starve to death. Sascha's own mother went from 148 to 73 pounds.
Sascha and her family were liberated by American troops of the 1st Cavalry Divison on February 3, 1945, and returned to California by ship in mid-April, a few days after the death of President Roosevelt. They settled on the family ranch in the Sacramento Valley. They attended a small local school largely populated with Japanese American children who had recently returned from American internment camps. Excerpts from Sascha's diary are ready by Rebecca Holtz.