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Newly Found Records List Deaths of Japanese Captives in Mongolia; Documents Name 283 Men Taken Prisoner by Soviet Military

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Hirohiko Ide, who discovered previously unknown documents about Japanese ditainees in Mongolia

Documents containing the names of 283 Japanese people who died in Soviet military captivity in Mongolia after World War II, as well as the causes of their deaths, have been discovered at a state archive in Ulaanbaatar.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry regards the documents as important source material that sheds light on the circumstances surrounding the deaths. It is cross-checking the documents with related source materials in Japan in a bid to identify the victims.

Approximately 1,100 pages of documents, including death certificates, were discovered in January 2020 by Hokkaido-based journalist Hirohiko Ide, 68. He has been reporting and doing research about Japanese detainees in Siberia since the days when he worked as a reporter for The Yomiuri Shimbun.

The documents contain the names and causes of death for detainees who were taken to Mongolia by the former Soviet Union and died in a prison in Ulaanbaatar or elsewhere.

After the war, about 575,000 Japanese nationals, many of them soldiers, were taken captive by the former Soviet Union and were taken to prison camps in the Soviet Union, Mongolia and elsewhere. They were forced to do hard labor, and about 55,000 of them died.

About 14,000 Japanese nationals were imprisoned in Mongolia, and about 1,700 of them died.

One of the people listed in the documents was a 27-year-old private of the Japanese Imperial Army who lost consciousness on two consecutive days while engaged in labor. He received first aid but could not be treated with medication due to insufficient supplies, and ultimately weakened and died.

After being informed that the documents existed, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry obtained copies in Mongolia and has used them to identify six victims so far.

In August, Ide published a book titled “Inochi no Tangansho: Mongol-Siberia yokuryu Nihonjin no shirarezaru monogatari o otte” (Petitions for life: In search for hitherto unknown stories of Japanese held captive in Mongolia and Siberia). In the book, which was published by Shukousha, Ide wrote about an army medic and others who tried to help their fellow prisoners under extreme circumstances. The book is mainly based on his research in Mongolia.

He decided to include the names of all the victims in the book, as “I wanted to provide their bereaved families with records of the circumstances of their deaths.”

“The relatives are getting old and don’t have much time left. I hope they’ll read my book and send me information [about the victims],” Ide said.

Printed on A5 paper, the book is 1,296 pages long and priced at ¥9,680.