World War II Vet Lomax Was 'Soldier Who Forgave'

Former British World War II soldier Eric Lomax died last week at the age of 93. He was the author of the best-selling memoir, The Railway Man, which chronicled his time as a prisoner of war in Japan. Lomax finally met face-to-face with one of his interrogators, Nagase Takashi, nearly half a century later. Nagase expressed deep sorrow and regret over his actions, and Lomax offered his forgiveness. Melissa Block and Robert Siegel have this remembrance.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Now, to a man who never forgot, but learned to forgive.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED INTERVIEW)

ERIC LOMAX: I can see no point in perpetuating hatefulness or bitterness because it just pulls down the person who is being hateful and bitter.

BLOCK: That's Eric Lomax in a 1995 interview with WHYY's FRESH AIR. Lomax died last week at the age of 93.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

He was a British army officer and held prisoner by the Japanese in World War II. He was one of thousands of soldiers forced to build the railway to Burma, famously portrayed in the 1957 film "The Bridge on the River Kwai." During that time, Lomax was interrogated and severely beaten.

BLOCK: The experience left him with multiple broken bones and a longing for revenge for one man in particular: Nagase Takashi, Lomax's tormentor.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED INTERVIEW)

LOMAX: The entire Japanese army was practically focused to me through this one particular face, this one particular voice. It was unusual for any POW to become so close, in the worst sense of the term, with any particular Japanese.

BLOCK: In 1995, Lomax told The New York Times, at the end of the war, I would have been happy to murder him.

SIEGEL: But Lomax had a change of heart half a century later. After years of trying to track Nagase down, Lomax found an article about him describing his remorse over the ill treatment of a British soldier.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED INTERVIEW)

LOMAX: And the whole thing, quite obviously, referred to myself. It took quite a little while before it really sunk in that after several years work, I had finally identified the man that I was pursuing.

SIEGEL: The two developed a correspondence and eventually met face to face in 1993 not far from the bridge on the river Kwai.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED INTERVIEW)

LOMAX: I addressed him in Japanese. I just said, good morning, how are you? And he replied in English, expressing his sorrow for what has happened. We shook hands, and we went to sit on a nearby seat in the shade. And we talked, almost as if we were old friends meeting for the first time after many years interval.

SIEGEL: About three weeks later, Lomax wrote a letter to Nagase saying he had forgiven him.

BLOCK: In 1995, Eric Lomax published a memoir called "The Railway Man." It ends with this line: Some time the hating has to stop. Or as he told WHYY's FRESH AIR...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED INTERVIEW)

LOMAX: It does suggest that it is possible for two people with good will to become reconciled.

BLOCK: Eric Lomax, the soldier who forgave, died last week at the age of 93.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.