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October 27 , 2007

When There were Tigers in Singapore

A family saga of the Japanese occupation


Japan invades and captures the British colony of Singapore in 1942. All Europeans on the island are being interned. Edward Schirmer, the author’s grandfather, faces a dilemma — he is German but born as a British subject. In a strange stroke of fortune, he finds himself friends with General Tomoyuki Yamashita, the famed ‘Tiger of Malaya’. Seeing the fate of the other Europeans, Edward reluctantly lets the Japanese assume he is a friendly German national — only Yamashita knows otherwise. The secret of his true identity remains between the two men only but when politics removes the protective Yamashita from the picture, betrayal ensues and Edward finds himself in prison, his family scattered. The autobiography then moves on to the true-life account of Edward’s son and the author’s father, Hans Schirmer — a hellish tale of a six year-old boy’s quest for survival, alone on the streets of a war-torn vanquished nation, where everyone is hungry and racial tension is rife, where martial law allows the occupiers to summarily execute at will. Amid the horrors of the post-war years, a young boy learns to live, while witnessing an epic moment in history.

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