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Sascha Weinzheimer: Diary excerpts
Samples from the diary of Sascha Weinzheimer
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We live on a sugar plantation near Manila in a lovely white house with a big rolling garden This house of ours seems like the most wonderful home a girl could have. Beautiful tropical flowers, hibiscus, ginger flowers, gardenias, [and] orchids.

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That night we had our first blackout. We kids thought it was fun! Jesus, our cook, made piles of sandwiches before it got dark so that it would be easy chow to eat in the dark. My baby brother, Buddy, was no trouble to feed, except to Mummie.

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It was so crowded everywhere as people came from all over the island to the city. "There is really nothing to worry about, Darl." That's what Daddy and my mother always called each other.

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On New Year's Eve, Daddy brought home three soldiers. When they all had big glasses of whiskey and soda in their hands they started telling stories about fighting the Japs. They always smiled when people wouldn't believe them when they said, "Lady, we haven't got a chance." Mother scolded them for talking that way.

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The first thing I remember was looking across the street towards the Bay and seeing Japanese soldiers and officers around the flagpole, hoisting up the Japanese flag where out Stars and Stripes had been. Soon, trucks came rolling down the Boulevard yelling, "Banzai!" We were told to be calm, and keep away from the windows. Everyone was nervous, especially mother.

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After Daddy started to say goodbye I could just hardly stand it, and for the first time I was afraid. I thought he would suffer like in a jail "“ so I screamed and held on to Daddy until I had to be pulled away. Then he ran out and that was the last we saw of him for a few months. Mother had a hard time to get me quiet, but I couldn't help it, I just couldn't stop.

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When Bataan fell there was great Japanese celebrating outside on the street, yelling and screaming all night and shouting, "Banzai!" The Filipinos were made to do it, too. We felt sad because we still kept hearing about "Help's on the way."

After a while, Corregidor fell. Then all the big guns were quiet. We listened to the radio when General Wainright spoke to all American and Filipino soldiers to give themselves up. His voice sounded tired and he was made to repeat the speech over again two and three times. Mother said, "Sascha Jean, you are listening to history."

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On February 15, 1943, a few days after my tenth birthday, we moved into the Santo Tomas Camp. We left Nila, our amah, crying loudly. After bowing to the sentry on duty, we went through the gate where Daddy was waiting for us.

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It was funny to see bank presidents and other men like that cleaning toilets and garbage cans. Mother had toilet duty four times a week. There were all kinds of people in camp. Some were hard workers, like Daddy, others were gripers who liked to talk a lot and gold bricks who didn't do anything at all.

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We got our chow from the lines in tin cans, then we would eat in our shanty, and Mother said that no matter what happened we would eat off our bridge table with a table cloth with our colored dishes and small bowl of flowers so long as we could.

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The American government sent a list of names of people they wanted, which was only about 65. The rest were supposed to be picked from the sick people. I know there were many angry people in camp because only a couple of the sick ones were chosen, the rest were perfectly well people. These people were friends of the Nips, I guess, especially of Mr. Kodaki, the commandant. He liked the ladies very much. That's why he allowed some healthy, but very good looking young women to go on that ship. Mother said I'd better not put down their names.

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The rumor about the Japanese army taking over the camp was true. If we thought we had reason to complain about how awful our life was in a concentration camp, we soon changed our minds and knew we had been on a picnic till then. From now on we would be the same as military war prisoners and not civilian prisoners.

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So almost everything was taken away from us at once. We began to know how bad things could be. Even though Mummy and Daddy kept telling us kids to eat everything on our plates because the day would come when we might have very little to eat, we didn't really believe them.

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August, Santo Tomas Camp, Manila.
Daddy is now out of tobacco "“ he dries papaya leaves on the roof and smokes that. People use anything to roll their cigarettes. Some even use pages from the Bible because the paper is so fine.

Every day I hear of some person doing strange things. A Catholic priest did a mortal sin by going around with a lady, then falling in love with her, acting so mushy in front of everybody that he was kicked out of the church.

I heard a husband and wife fighting loudly "“ she yelled at him, "If I hadn't married you, I wouldn't be in this camp now!"

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September.
People are really getting awfully hungry now. Women are using their cold cream for cooking. Every day people are stealing more and more "“ anything they can to eat. Daddy says, "When one gets hungry, you are apt to do most anything."

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September 21, 1944.
This morning about 9:30 there were seven Nip planes above us practicing diving. It was a bright sun-shiny day. Then, we heard the sound of many planes in the distance but didn't pay much attention. Mother said, "That's a different sound. Can't you hear it?" Mother ran outside and we heard her yell, "Look, look! There are hundreds of them." We all ran out and right over our heads were planes! planes! planes! Everyone was screaming and pointing up at them.

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Everyone was so excited. Of course it was very dangerous for us because of the shrapnel falling all over the camp from the ack-ack guns; but everyone seemed to feel that Our Boys and Our bombs couldn't hurt us. [Daddy called it, "The most wonderful show on earth, and we had ringside seats." ]

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[November 30, 1944.]
Thanksgiving: We had half a can of Spam, cooked one extra cup of rice and got enough talinum from our garden for a salad with three whole garlics chopped up in it. We thank God we are all together and not really sick like so many people in here are.

As usual, we talked about our next Thanksgiving. Buddy wouldn't know what a turkey was anyway, but I still remember what good food we always had.

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Mother said it was best to forget Christmas this year but we can't on account of the little kids. She told them because of the anti-aircraft guns in Manila, Uncle Sam told Santa to keep away this year and leave his gifts for the kids in San Francisco.

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When you stop and think how hard our boys are fighting for us, I guess we can take it, too. But just a little more rice would be all I can ask for. We always picture Opa and Oma on their farm in California.

[It's forty-five times as big as Santo Tomas. They have hundreds of cows, chickens, hogs and sheep, vegetables and fruit.]

If they only knew how hungry we are, they would be very sad. I guess even when we tell them they will never, ever believe it.

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The Nips didn't celebrate Christmas but they are making up for it on New Year's. They started last night by getting drunk "“ yelling all night -- and Uncle Connie could see Geisha dancing girls in the Ed Building through the windows. All day they yelled, drank and ate with such very red faces. Played leap-frog all over the place. They killed pigs, cows and ducks and feasted all day. We could hardly stand the smell of roasting pork but worst of all was to see some internees hanging around their kitchen trying to get something from them. I even saw some looking through their garbage cans. Taking out fish heads, bones and other scraps like dogs. Their dogs got the best of it.

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Gosh! Maybe soon we can sing "God Bless America" out loud! Maybe we can see our flag flying again! What a thrill it will be when our first boys come through that gate! Mother says we fought this war, too, like soldiers.

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January 12.
People are dying every day from starvation. Fred Fairman and Mrs. Everett yesterday. We have such a short time to go "“ what a pity they couldn't hang on to life just a while longer. Mother weighs only 73 pounds "“she used to weigh 148 "“ and Dr. Allen says she has to stay in bed from now because she can't walk.

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January 17.

Buddy's favorite expression is, "Let's talk about food." He has a favorite suit, too, which he calls his "Gate suit." He's been taking this suit out almost every day for months, putting it on the bed and saying, "I'll put my Gate things right here Mummy, so I can be ready." All of us have something saved to wear out the Gate. All of us except Daddy who has been bare-footed now for six months. "I don't need a thing for the Gate except two good legs to walk out with," he said.

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January 28.
The Nips are still bringing in big legs of meat and plenty of rice for themselves. They want us to die "“ how awfully wicked they are. Right this minute those awful soldiers are yelling at their bayonet practice "“ yelling as if they are really killing our soldiers. Mother thinks they do that to get us down.

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February 1.
This morning Auntie Bee came to visit. She works in the hospital. She says the doctors expect seven more to die today "“ all from starvation.

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February 3.
At about five o'clock last night ten of our planes came over our Camp. One pilot dropped his goggles with a note tied to them "“ it fell in the main building patio where there weren't any Nips "“ and lucky a friend of ours found it because we found out right away what it said: "Roll out the barrel! Your Christmas will be here today or tomorrow." Shortly we heard guns and tanks in the distance. Everyone thought it must be the Japs except Daddy. He was sure it was the Americans!

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March 8:
Major George Woods took mother, Dad and me through Manila in a jeep to see the ruins. We had heard how badly Manila was destroyed but until we saw it with our own eyes, we couldn't believe such a thing could happen. The whole city "“ Nothing left! Taft Avenue, the Boulevard, everything in ruins. The odor from the dead was awful and whenever we stopped the big green flies were all over us.

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When we came to the ship's dining room we could hardly believe our eyes! Long tables with white table cloths, glasses "“ not cups "“ white plates, two spoons, two forks and what chow! Ice cream and red apples, too!

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The ship's crew has been so wonderful to all us kids. In the ship's newspaper was this poem:

Look here, Little man, let's get this thing straight,
Reach some understanding before it's too late.
I'm just a G.I. and I work on this ship
While you're an American kid on a trip.
I work on the boat and you're the boat's guest,
So nothing's too good for you, even the best.
A stateroom, clean linen, a deck up above.
All the chow you can eat of the kind that you love "“
After three years or rice, Lad, you rate a good break,
So fill up your belly with ice cream and cake.
But look my young fellow "“ don't go quite so fast
You've got our ship's discipline lashed to the mast.
The deck crew is jittery, Skipper is wild
The stewards are suffering, mess cooks are riled.
The mischief you're into, you and the others,
I should think would be the death of your mothers;
You've marked up the bulkheads with crayons and chalk;
You've kept us from duty with incessant talk,
Greased all the handrails, with butter I think,
Splashed all the bedsheets with fountain pen ink,
Built bonfires in places where powder is stored "“
You've just about driven morale overboard.
Now don't get me wrong, Pal, we're friends, you and me
You remind me of my boy, whom I'm longing to see
But hold it, Lad, hold it! You're one up on the Japs,
You're raising all Hell with the Admiral Capps.

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April 8, 1945
I was up on deck with Mother when we passed the Farralon Islands. It was still dark. After a quick breakfast we came up again, and there, straight ahead, we saw the sight we had been thinking about, talking about, and praying about for so long! The Golden Gate! "The Golden Gate in forty-eight" was what we'd said for so long in camp! Now we knew we were really home!