Shirakawa Camp POW Memorial, Tainan

When the Karenko Camp closed in June 1943, many of the remaining prisoners were moved to a new camp at Shirakawa. In operation from 1943 until the end of the war, Shirakawa Camp was originally used as a Japanese Army training ground and barracks. Following its conversion into a POW camp, the number of internees there ranged from 300 to 500 men at any one time. Like with the other prison camps in Taiwan, the men were forced to carry out physical tasks on a daily basis, including farming livestock and food, collecting water from the nearby river and emptying the camp latrines. Although the basic conditions caused many of the men to become sick from disease and starvation, only a total of five prisoners at Shirakawa died during World War II.

For most of 1943 and 1944, the camp was a rather relaxed space. The men were able to rest, play sport, write letters home (one per month) and read books from the makeshift library. There was even a camp magazine published that featured the prisoners writing, poems and illustrations. Prisoners were also paid a small wage for their labour and were able to buy various objects that were available at the time. In October 1944, most of the senior officers interned at the camp were sent to the hellship ‘Oryoku Maru’ to be transported to northern China. Conditions at the camp deteriorated rapidly after this event and the privileges once allowed were all but banned.

Throughout the latter half of 1944 and 1945, Camp Shirakawa became more of a hospital camp, receiving sick and starved prisoners from other camps across the island. Prisoners received simple medical treatment up until August 1945 when the war finally ended and the camps were closed down. Those left at Shirakawa at this time were moved to a proper hospital at Taihoku until they were finally evacuated by Allied forces in early September.

The Taiwan POW Camps Memorial society erected a stone memorial in 2013 at the site of the former Shirakawa POW Camp. The commemoration ceremony was attended by military officials and families of the POWs held at Shirakawa.