I note the NYTimes article on the passing of Eric Lomax, the WWII River Kwai prisoner who forgave one of his captors:
One of his constant torturers stood out: Nagase Takashi, an interpreter.
“At the end of the war, I would have been happy to murder him,” Mr. Lomax told The New York Times in 1995, shortly after [his book] “The Railway Man” was published and became a best seller.
In the book, Mr. Lomax described having fantasies about meeting Mr. Nagase one day and how he had spent much of the 1980s looking for information about him. He learned that after the war Mr. Nagase had become an interpreter for the Allies and helped locate thousands of graves and mass burial sites along the Burma Railway.
The Railway Man film starring Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman, is scheduled for next year.
This all reminds me of three films, and another book:
First, the book is one quite well-known: Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, relating not only the survival of American serviceman Louis Zamperini, but his dramatic struggles against a sadistic Japanese prison torturer and the breathrough of forgiveness (not to mention his conversion).
Second, film. Not mentioned by the Times, the film To End All Wars, based on a true story, is about British prisoners of war in a Japanese camp and includes as one of the main characters Nagase Takashi, the same man who tortured Eric Lomax. It is a very intense film, including a crucifixion.
Takashi after the War, as mentioned, helped the British locate mass graves and burial sites along the railway. In facing death and destruction on a mass scale, many involved in war see it for what it is. And there is something in the humane soul that seeks to respond in some way to counter the mystery of evil that gives birth to war. The minimal act of mercy shown to the dead in properly burying them and remembering them can lead one to reflect on the sins of cruelty. This is captured well in the film The Burmese Harp, set during and after WWII, featuring a Japanese soldier who becomes a Buddhist monk after the war. He is profoundly moved by a British burial service.
And, finally, Laura Hillenbrand’s book Seabiscuit was made into a film; the same seems to be in the works for Unbroken, but I’ve seen no updates. It’s a great story. If you haven’t read the book, buy it today. I hope the film gets made, along with The Railway Man. It is important for us to know and remember the past, and the need for forgiveness.