Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN


October 24, 2013

WWII prisoner's paintings on display

COLUMBUS – Paintings of Gustav Potthoff to be on display in the Columbus Learning Center.

The paintings of Gustav Potthoff, a World War II prisoner of war, will be on display in “Room to Breathe” at the Columbus Learning Center from Oct. 30 until Nov. 13. The Learning Center hours are 8 a.m. until 10 p.m., Monday through Thursday; 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. on Friday; and 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Saturday. The public is invited to stop by at any time during these hours.

Gustav Potthof was born in Indonesia. In 1941, he enlisted in the Netherlands Army Tank Battalion. Japan invaded Indonesia in January of 1942; after two months of fighting, the Royal Netherlands Indian Army capitulated, and 40,000 soldiers, among them Potthoff, were taken captive and sent to prisoner of war camps. Potthoff survived the brutal heat, lack of food, and vicious captors but remained haunted by his nightmarish captivity in Thailand. Decades later, he began painting visceral, yet spiritual, scenes of POW camp life, including the guards, beatings, the jungle, escape attempts, and those left behind.

During these three years, he and other prisoners were forced to work on the Burma-Thailand railroad, including at the infamous camp at the River Kwai.

During its construction, approximately 13,000 prisoners of war died and were buried along the railway. Because he believes angels protected him, Potthoff’s paintings always include angels and other symbols of his time spent building the bridge.

Potthoff gained his freedom in 1945 when the war was over. In January of 1946, he was recalled to active duty; he retired from the military in 1962.

He then came to Columbus, where he went to work for Cummins in 1965 until his retirement in 1987.

Potthoff will come to the “Room to Breathe” at noon on Wednesday, Oct. 30, for several hours to talk about his paintings and answer questions.

– Daily News

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