Hospitals and Clinics

In the  gulag, there were both a hospital and a clinic.  Many Russian doctors and nurses were working every day, but many Japanese doctors and male nurses were also working to take care of the needs ofthe Japanese.  In fact, there were actually more Japanese working there.  There were many military doctors and excellent doctors who were detained there as well because it was a gulag for former military officers.

The deterioration and lack of facilities, equipment and medications in suchahospital and clinic was a big problem.  Luckily, I had to go into the hospital for only ten days when I was suffering from the whip lash that reoccurred.  

We had a health examination every month, and a female doctor in the clinic was in charge.  The way she examined us was as follows; she did not do use a stethoscope to examine our bodies, but made us line up just with our underwear Then she took a brief look at all of us to compare the colors of the skin.  In the end, she tapped on our bottom and said, “Khorossho (good)!”  Once in a while, when she found someone looking pale, she pinched his skin at the bottom and checked the elasticity.  If that was ok, she said, “Khorosssho!” 

I thought the way it was conducted was quite irresponsible, but it may have been the easiest and logical method to take care of 5000 people every month. Comparing everyone together all in line must have immediately shownherhow we were doing.

It was terrible that we had no access to any medicine.  When there was a wide spread of typhus, the area around the buildings where the army unit of the sick patients were was roped off, and then they simply sprayed the whole area with white chlorinated lime. As more patients were found one by one, more army units were quarantined.  Actually, those who were inside the quarantined area rejoiced because they did not have to go to work.  

When they got a free day, as soon as they finished breakfast, which consisted of very littlefood, they began to enjoy playing mahjong, a Japanese chess or “go” board game.  Those who did not want to do anything  just laid down in order not to waste their energy. 

As the numbers of the patients increased, the numbers of the army units in quarantine increased.  As a result, there were less numbers of the ones that were not in quarantine. Consequently, the method changed to the reverse , to separate the ones that did not have the patients instead.  In that situation,  those who belonged to healthy units did not have to go to work.  Looking back it was such a primitive method of management, but it somehow worked and typhus was wiped out in three months.

There was no medicine even when we caught a cold,.  The only thing we could do was to put a wet towel on our foreheads and stayed still in our beds in a hospital.  Most of us had enough physical strength to recover with this simple method. There was aspirin to decrease fever however.  It wasonlygiven to patients withareally high fever. The aspirin wasmade in the US or in Germany.  The one made in the US came via Soviet, and the one made in Germany came via East Germany.

I witnessed a lot of facts to become convinced at how different countries were providing  strong supports tothe  SovietUnion.  I thought the Soviets would not have accomplished defeating the German army without such supportthat were allowed. For example, I have seen  six-wheel trucks by Studebaker all over the place, and the airplanes that looked exactly likeaB29.  Sugar was from Cuba and meat came from Chicago.  

Germans were saying they were not defeated by the allied forces. They said they were simply smaller in number.  We could have said the same thing in regards to Japan’s defeat to the US army, but it did not mean anything to discuss such a thing.  Such a difference was obvious from the beginning.  Therefore, I can not help saying that starting the war was truly thoughtless.

There is no use talking about such a thing, but I would like to repeat how terrible it was not to have enough medical machines and tools, medicine and health related goods.  I was lucky enough not to go through any physical surgery, but I do have an experience of receiving their treatment for my toothache.  

When I was in the hospital at Zelenodoisk, my teeth became all loose probably because of malnourishment.  When I was in middle school, I received a lot of treatment for cavities at the dental office near my house in Nishitakenomaru in Yokohama city. The problem was also because of the gold caps used to cover the teeth at that time.  They were rubbed off or broke in the course of time. 

There were three or four chairs for dental treatment. The  dentists were all German army doctors.  The one who treated my teeth did not seem  bad at all, but I was so restless because there was almost no medicine or health related materials.  In addition, our communication was limited because we were speaking in German.  Manyof my teeth were extracted at that time.  It still scares me when I recall how it happened. 

German medicine has been the model for the Japanese since the Meiji era began. Most of the Japanese doctors read German books and the patients’ records were written in German back then. However, nowadays, we can hardly see any doctors who practice using German like that.  Some medical terminologies still seem to be German, but English is predominantly used now.  I hear there are some problems when doctors’ conversation is understood by patients who understand and can comprehend English.  

Ten percent of the 600,000 Japanese military force who were interned inthe  SovietUniondied.  There were those who were crushed by the logs cut downin the forest, and those who died in the unexpected disasters in the cave-in accidents in the mines.  However, majority of them died of sickness due to mal nutrition, typhus, T.B, and dysentery.  Malnutrition is really notadisease because it happens with the extreme lack of food.  When it exceeds a certain limit, the ability to absorb nutrition is damaged in a human body.  How scary it was for me to see so many people dying like that in front my eyes!  Their bodies became as skinny as skeltons. Then death came. In other words, they were killed.   

The Soviet would explain that their nation was suffering from foodshortage  themselves, and they were doing the best they could in such a condition.  If they say so,  I want to ask them why they dared to send 600,000 people knowing how terrible the conditions were.  

We have to continue to pursue the responsibilities of the Soviets for such a huge tragedy.