I saw a disturbing documentary on ABC Television the other night, aptly named “Horror in the East”.
It described the build up of Japanese militarism following the First World War, the Japanese invasion of China and the opening stages of the Second World War.
We don’t hear much about Japan in this country and know little about it except the country produces motor vehicles, buys our coal, has lots of people and treated our prisoners of war very badly.
The documentary started with the observation that early 20th century Japan was anxious to emulate all things western. Imperial princes visited England in western dress. Japan was a British ally in WW1. The German prisoners they captured were treated extremely well. Some were so happy that they stayed in Japan after the war.
The Depression years saw a build-up of Japanese military power. The Army effectively took control of the government and used public adoration of the Emperor to its advantage.
Soldier recruits were bullied and encouraged towards violent behavior.
The Japanese invaded China in the late 1930s. This I knew and I had vaguely heard of the terrible way they treated people in Nanking, the then capital of China. The brutality was shocking and the film included interviews with survivors.
One woman was stabbed with bayonets when she resisted rape, killing her unborn baby son. She commented sadly that he would have been more than 60 years old if he had lived to be born.
The Japanese veterans were illuminating. They told how they were self-conscious of brutal acts at first, but became immune to them. The culture was one that encouraged, even rewarded brutality. Chinese and other Asian races were regarded as sub-human.
It was in that context that Australian, British and Dutch people were captured and treated so badly, but not so badly as native Asians.
It’s ironic that Japan claimed to be saving Asia from colonialism, only to replace it with an imperial yoke.
As someone interested in history and politics I’m interested to learn more about Hitler’s attitude to the Japanese. He had an alliance with them, but was it one of convenience, like his original pact with Stalin?
Hitler detested non Europeans. Why did he allow the Japanese to control French Indochina and the Dutch East Indies, given that France and the Netherlands became subservient to Germany?
Some more reading is required.