World War II Vet Lomax Was 'Soldier Who Forgave'

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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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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...


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.

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