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Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012

'Death Railway' survivor who could forgive dies at 93


LONDON — It's an unusual man who can forgive his wartime torturer — or whose quest to do so can touch so many people around the world.

Eric Lomax, a former British prisoner of war whose moving tale of wartime torture and forgiveness is being turned into a film, died last week at age 93 in Berwick-upon-Tweed in northern England, his publisher, Vintage Books, reported.

Lomax was a British Army officer when he was captured by Imperial Japanese forces as they overran Singapore in 1942. Lomax endured horrific conditions and savage beatings as he and thousands of others were put to work building the infamous "Death Railway" from Siam to Burma.

He endured years of suppressed rage at the torture he suffered at the hands of his Japanese captors, but when he finally tracked down his interrogator, Takashi Nagase, it set the stage for a dramatic act of forgiveness that formed the heart of his celebrated 1996 memoir, "The Railway Man."

Rachel Cugnoni, publisher of Vintage Books, called "The Railway Man" one of the landmark works of the 1990s, a testament to the "great capacity of the human spirit for forgiveness."

"It tells Eric's incredible and moving story with grace, modesty and exceptional humility. All characteristics Eric had as a man," Cugnoni said in a statement.

The book is currently being made into a film starring Academy Award-winners Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman.

Lomax was born May 30, 1919, in Edinburgh. He returned to the Scottish capital in 1945 after more than three years of torture and interrogation following his capture in Singapore.

He later wrote of his own skepticism ahead of meeting with Nagase, whom he had managed to locate following his retirement in 1982.

"I strongly suspected that if I were to meet him I'd put my hands round his neck and do him in," Lomax wrote on the website of The Forgiveness Project, a U.K.-based reconciliation charity. "After our meeting, I felt I'd come to some kind of peace and resolution. Forgiveness is possible when someone is ready to accept forgiveness. Some time the hating has to stop."

Lomax is survived by his wife, Patti, his daughter from his first marriage, Charmaine, and his stepchildren, Graeme, Nicholas, Mark and Jennifer.

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