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Former POW camp evokes memories of WWII

2013-06-05 15:54 Xinhua     Web Editor: Gu Liping comment

At the age of 88, Li Lishui still remembers every detail of his heroic assistance to an Allied prisoner of war (POW) held almost seven decades ago at a Japanese internment camp in northeast China's Liaoning Province.

The wartime 1940s saw twenty-something Li working at a Japanese mechanical factory in a part of China occupied by Japan at the time. One day, he risked his life to share several cucumbers he stole from a dining hall cart with starving detainee Neil Gagliano, who was forced into labor at the factory.

After a six-year revamp, the former POW camp in which Gagliano suffered has just opened to the public. The atmosphere at the former site of the Mukden Internment Camp, located in Dadong District in the provincial capital of Shenyang, will be particularly evocative on Thursday, the 69th anniversary of the Normandy landings that falls on Thursday.

While touring the camp in the run-up to the anniversary, Li told Xinhua, "[Gagliano] gave a longing look at the cucumber. So I threw two to him without hesitation, right under the watch of the Japanese guards."

"I didn't know his name then, I just saw his code number, 266," Li said, adding that Chinese workers at the factory were barred from communicating with the Allied prisoners.

The Chinese government spent more than five million yuan (815,500 US dollars) restoring the original look of the camp, as well as installing a museum and a memorial wall inscribed with the names of over 200 Allies who died there due to severe cold and diseases including malaria and dysentery.

One of the most strongly protected Japanese camps in Asia, the 50,000-square-meter site encompasses a two-story red-brick building, several bungalows, a hospital and a water tower, according to Jing Xiaoguang, an academic specializing in the history of the Japanese invasion of northeast China.

In the cavernous barracks with dim light, large wooden beds are kept intact. Eight captives used to huddle on one bed in wartime.

During the days of captivity, three prisoners created more than 100 pencil-drawn caricatures depicting their suffering in the camp. Replicas of the paintings are exhibited in the newly built museum.

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