Roster of Deceased Siberian POW Internees:
Former Internees’ Protest Against the Japanese Government for its Refusal to Release
 the Roster to the Public

                                                                                        Yuka Ibuki

Tsuneo Murayama, 81 year-old former Siberian Internee, has realized his long-pending dream of privately publishing  Engraving Those Who Passed Away in Siberia: the Roster of the Deceased during the Internment by the USSR, edited and written by Tsuneo Murayama. The book contains around 46,300 names of the victims. It is about 1,000 pages and covered in cloth. 

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Murayama received on March 6, 2007, the Yoshikawa Eiji Cultural Award for 2006. This award is given to individuals or groups, for accomplishing an admirable achievement that has contributed to Japanese culture but haven’t been appreciated enough.

Murayama was conscripted by the Japanese Kwantung Army in May of 1945 in Harbin (former Manchuria) where he was working for National Fishery Institute. When Japan surrendered, he became a POW of the Soviet Army and for four years after the war, he was forced to labor in Khabarovsk and other places in Siberia, suffering from starvation and extreme coldness. He returned to Japan in 1949 and became a teacher. In 1969 he first joined the special Memorial Tour permitted by the USSR, and paid visits to the tombs of his comrades, who passed away as POWs and were buried locally. Standing in front of the rows of mounds, he strongly felt, “The anonymous dead are still denied of their existence as human beings.” Out of estimated 600,000 Siberian/Mongolian Internees, approximately 55,000 to 60,000 are said to have died in captivity. However, the statistics have not yet been certified. Some of the deceased were left in the fields, and others were pushed into the river current through holes cut into the frozen surface. In the Cold War Era, the USSR sealed the information of the deceased internees, and the records were not precise.  Therefore, the real situation of the internment has never been revealed.

Since the 1990’s, the former USSR began releasing the roster of the deceased. The Russian soldiers heard the Japanese names, and recorded them in Russian alphabets, which the Japanese Ministry of Welfare and Labor converted into Japanese pronunciation. The procedure resulted in quite an awful confusion; for example, “ Otozo Hirai” was presented as “Ataji Kirai.” Murayama set to compile the roster of the deceased in their original Japanese letters by copying the names on the epitaphs through his many visits of the graves in Siberia. He was also offered the rosters secretly brought back by the survivors. After he retired, he began putting the data into a computer, which he purchased at the age of seventy. In August 2005, with the assistance of his former students, he launched a website on which the data became publicly available on the internet. Through the website, he offered the names, dates of death, and locations of burial and approximately 46,000 victims. They are arranged according to the order of Japanese alphabets, around 70% of which he was able to introduce in the original Japanese letters of each individual. For Example, “Hotano Tepeneda” in Russian alphabet turned to be “Hamano Terutaro” in his original character, and “Ko/Kauniya Shrao” was found as “Koda Misao”. The release led to the adding of 1,000 more names to the roster. Murayama is still replying the inquiries by the bereaved families, and in the newspaper article he is quoted as saying, “Because the task is still on the way, I felt guilty of receiving the Award, but then I thought this event would help in memorializing and recovering the honor of the deceased.”

It was a task of his resistance against the power, which intends to bury the comrades in the wall of history, as “anonymous soldiers.” Murayama tried to give proof of their existence as human beings so as to memorialize their lives. Not just see the number of the dead, but call each one by name, ask them questions, and listen to their voices. Such attitude of prayer from the bottom of one’s heart must be the true way of condolences and consolation, which will give power to promote the resuscitation for the condolers, involving their country and society, Murayama believes. His former students, who assisted him, have left their comments as they met the names, in each of which “is engraved the one and only life.” One said, “There were some who had the same family name as mine. I felt close to them as if they were my relatives, and their regrets fell heavily in my heart “to seek the original individual names in Japanese letters, which stand for the individual personalities.”

Individual data such as dates of birth and death, especially the location where the victims met their last moment, or the last group they belonged to, or burial sites were shown in most possible details. Along with the map of the whole area of the internment, the whole structure and arrangement of the camps were put into statistics represented in latitude and longitude. A set of codes were applied to each of the more than 860 sites of burial. Devices and ideas are contrived to make it easy to reach an individual with all his data. Through releasing the roster of deceased to the public, Murayama wishes that from now on more and more people will join their efforts in order to improve the roster to be more precise, making the best use of the internet; Part I of the book is the Roster, and Part II Commentary consists of several articles by the author, such as why and how this book was compiled, history and issues of the Siberian/Mongolian Internment.

Following the release in 1990, more individual information in details were offered by the former USSR, but the Japanese Government has never made them open to public on the basis of protection of privacy rights, nor has they made effort to sort out the confused roster. Only limited reference is permitted on the request by former internees or bereaved families, with documents like certificate of resident registration or full copy of their family register. Then they are allowed reference or photocopy of the concerned data. Regarding the Roster of the "Deported to Korea (current North Korea)”, which was offered by the Russian Government in April 2006, the Japanese Ministry of Welfare and Labor, on March 29, 2007, announced they have finished translation and necessary arrangement and will respond to public inquiries in the same conditions with the roster for deceased. However, they have refused to release them on the internet or other means. On that day, All Japanese Association of the Former Internees in Siberia, under Director Yoshio Terauchi, issued a statement of protest, criticizing the Japanese government for refusing to release the roster saying that such a refusal equals an attempt to hide the truth about the Siberian/Mongolian POW Internment.  

On August 22, at 18:30, a Commemoration Party of the two historical books, the above mentioned Roster by Murayama and Siberian Internment 1450 Days, the drawings and essays by Shizuo Yamashita will be held at Kudan Geihinkan Hall.