Reading Group behind the Barbed Wire

When we arrived at the gulag, we did not have books. Since the people in my group were almost all captives from Manchuria, they had various books with them compared to the people who were captured as soldiers in the war zone. However, as they moved from here to there, they had to abandon things that were hard to carry with them. Books were such items because they were heavy.

In the A gulag in Yelabuga, there was a library German captives were using. Most of the books were German. At the door, there was a neatly written sign, “Bibliotek.” The room was not that big, but there were as many as 2,000 books.

Many books were about Marxism and Leninism such as “Marx•Engels Complete Works.” There were quite a bit of German translations of Soviet novels.

In our school days, the Japanese police were strictly controlling any movement of the spread of different philosophies. Especially after I entered university, many students of Tokyo universities were arrested and sent to the Tama prison.

While I was a student at the First High School in Tokyo, we were holding reading meetings. We had to be very careful about using “Kant and Marx” by Vorlander as our text, so we had to change the place to gather each time. The police were very sensitive to the word, Marx. However, I walked around the second-hand bookstores in Hongo, Kanda and Waseda in order to buy Communist books because I thought, as a student, I had to know what Marxism was all about.

I often went to a second-hand bookstore in Isezakicho in Yokohama and bought a lot of books from the owner, who I befriended. He gathered such books in Hokuriku area. I bought several sets of “The Capital Theory” translated by Motoyuki Takabatake as my friends asked me to get them. Hiroshi Furuya, who later became one of the representing scholars of Economics in Japan, was one of such friends. There was Marx•Engels Complete Works in the store with some volumes lacking. Taku Hosomi, another friend of mine who entered the Ministry of Financing together with me and later became a financing officer. He later became the commentator for NHK. I think the books cost seventy yen all together.

Unfortunately, I had no time to enjoy reading such books due to the fact I had to enter the army right away. Therefore, I just kept looking at the covers of tens of such books in wooden boxes, and looked forward to the time I would be able to read them.

When I had to leave for Northern China as a member of Japanese army, I made sure to tell my family to burn those books if something happens to me. However, they did not have to do anything about it because our house was

completely burnt down in the American Air raid of Yokohama in the spring of 1945.

The Gulag in Yelabuga was designated for officers. More than half of them, or most of them, were going to become executive officers who were called into service in the middle of studying in colleges in Japan. Thus, many of them were intelligent and were interested in learning new things. In such a background, we formed a reading meeting. Because it was difficult to share the original text, we decided to take turns to translate it to the Japanese, and use that as a text to be read aloud for further discussions.