While many know the fiction from having seen the movie Bridge On the River Kwai, few alive know the facts. Loet Velmans, a 17-year-old Dutch émigré was beaten, enslaved, and set to work on the Burmese railroad in camps where as many as 200,000 died. His memoir, performed with a tone of reasonableness that belies the story’s outrage, is one of a mental and emotional struggle. With a return to the River Kwai 57 years after an indomitable spirit allowed him to survive as a catalyst, Velmans searches for an answer to a paradox of humanity: How can one group of people impose near-unimaginable, inhumane horrors on another?/p>
The astounding memoir of a World War II veteran who spent three and a half years in the slave-labor camps made famous by The Bridge on the River Kwai.
Loet Velmans was 17 when the Germans invaded Holland. He and his family fled to London on the Dutch Coast Guard cutter Seaman’s Hope and then sailed to the Dutch East Indies - now Indonesia - where he joined the Dutch army. In March 1942, the Japanese invaded the archipelago and made prisoners of the Dutch soldiers. For the next three and a half years Velmans and his fellow POWs toiled in slave-labor camps, building a railroad through the dense jungle on the Burmese-Thailand border so the Japanese could invade India. Some 200,000 POWs and slave laborers died building this Death Railway. Velmans, though suffering from malaria, dysentery, malnutrition, and unspeakable mistreatment, never gave up hope. Fifty-seven years later he returned to revisit the place where he should have died and where he had buried his closest friend. From that emotional visit sprung this stunning memoir.
Long Way Back to the River Kwai is a simply told but searing memoir of World War II - a testimonial to one man’s indomitable will to live that will take its place beside the Diary of Ann Frank, Bridge over the River Kwai, and Edith’s Story.