The Secret (2004) Pierre de Lens, 44 cm When I was eight years old, I was already aware of what secrecy was. You had to hide secrets well because they were dangerous. We had lived under the Japanese occupation in the former Dutch East Indies. My father was already imprisoned in a camp at the time, but I was still living with my mother, sister and brother in our house along the Eendenvijver (Duck Pond). My mother taught us a few hours of class every day and for the rest of the day we were allowed to play in the street as much as we wanted – the schools were closed. Sometimes a few Japanese soldiers strolled past and wanted to chat. They usually asked us whether we weren’t supposed to be school and we always lied and said ‘no’. We knew that school was banned.

And not long thereafter we also ended up in a camp, a camp for women and children. And after we’d been there a year, the Japanese started sending everyone who was Jewish to a different camp. They were simply mimicking Nazi Germany with which Japan was allied with.

My mother was not Jewish but my father was, so that meant me and my brother and sister were all half Jewish. That meant we were forced to move to that Jewish camp and leave behind our non-Jewish friends. It remained unclear for a long time whether my mother was also going stay behind. That was until she decided to lie and claim she was Jewish too. Ultimately they let her accompany us and so I had my second secret to keep. I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone that my mother was not actually Jewish and that we were only half-Jewish.
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