Tag Archives: japan

Comparing the Nuremberg and Tokyo Trials

From a history thread on Reddit:

“After WWII the administration of justice in Germany and Japan were markedly different. In Germany, the Nurenberg Trials were overseen by a joint judiciary made up of the Western European Allies, the United States, and the USSR. In Japan, the Tokyo Trials were unilaterally adjudicated by the United States. This was the first problem. In both situations, the United States acted against the wishes of their allies and blatantly or secretly extradited and exonerated hundreds of war criminals from Germany and Japan. This was the second problem. The third problem, and probably the biggest contributor to the current Japanese cultural and societal ethos and perspective of WWII was the control the US exercised over post-war Japan.

In Germany, the Nurenberg Trials were largely a successful exercise in identifying and prosecuting war criminals. These criminals were tried and punished. While there is still a lot of controversy about the proceedings and the manner in which the prosecution acted – i.e. “perspective of the victors” – there is little doubt that the Nurenberg Trials not only established a precedent for future International Military Tribunals, but laid the bulwark for the development of the field of bioethics as it relates to the human experimentation conducted by the Nazis. US interests in the trial and desire to exonerate some of the more “valuable” Nazis for their scientific abilities were nullified by the influence of Western European and Soviet influence. The key point in Nurenberg is this: criminals, by and large were punished.

In Japan, in stark contrast to Germany, the Tokyo Trials were not only shambolic, but the near unilateral control the US had in the prosecution of the war criminals resulted in a complete mockery of justice. Now let me say this: I am a proud American. I was born in America and have American flag shorts I wear on the Fourth of July as I pound brews to the Red White and Blue, but I am also a historian and a realist and realistically America’s history is not pretty. And in Japan, McArthur essentially held a mock trial where literally hundreds of war criminals either avoided the death sentence or were exonerated altogether. The USSR was responsible for the only punishment and sentencing of Japanese criminals involved with Unit 731 in the Khabarovsk War Crime Trials. While the Tokyo Trials had an “international” panel of judges and prosecutors, there is no doubt that the real prosecutorial power lied with the Americans.
In both cases, the US acted explicitly and with a great deal of subterfuge to exonerate and extradite Nazi and Japanese war criminals whom they felt could contribute to American military and strategic interests. This included one of the pioneers of NASAs rocket program Wernher von Braun. The OSS – precursor to the CIA – and other USA military groups attempted to take these individuals to the US where they would receive research grants, government positions, etc. In Germany, these efforts were largely stymied (but still pretty successful) by the Western Allies and the Soviets, in Japan, these efforts were wildly successful.

Culturally, the influence and proximity of the Western Allies, US forces, and the USSR served to constantly remind Germany of their atrocities and fostered a climate of repentance. In Japan, 70% polled did not know about the contents of the Tokyo Trials, which was even higher for people in their 20’s. Even more alarmingly, there are Japanese that believe that WWII was a war of defense and some just recognize a “degree” of aggression on the part of Japanese. Not only did McArthur and the US fail to pursue justice, but also exonerated/absolved the royal family of all guilt and moved quickly to remove the notion of war guilt from the collective Japanese psyche. Consequently, many Japanese do not see the war with regret, like the Germans do, but view it with a mixture of mild regret and a sort of pride.

Ultimately, the end result was a Germany that is repentant, recognizes its atrocities, and has developed a culture/society that, more or less, understands their role in WWII. However, as [another user] points out, one negative side effect has been a very profound guilt complex that affects cinema and other forms of art. In Japan, the people are not only ignorant of their atrocities, but this ignorance has resulted in a dangerous nationalism not at all obfuscated by any guilt from the nearly innumerable atrocities their country committed from the late 1890s to the end of the Second World War. This is not at all helped by textbook revisions that are not only devoid of the atrocities, but paints the Japanese in a sympathetic light.”

Full article http://www.reddit.com/r/korea/comments/1yte4i/japan_considers_revision_of_comfort_women_apology/cfnyhwx

The Japanese Katana and WWII

“In order for the soldier carrying it to feel he was mightier than his foe, that his right to win was unquestionable, he was to be sold a story about his heritage, the nature of the country he fought for, and of those for whom he fought. He was lead to believe that his interests were in line with those who governed because they shared the same land to live on and looked the same. He was taught that regardless of his actual ancestry he was the inheritor of the samurai spirit, that he was required to expend his life to protect and expand the interests of his mother land. To this aim he was given this sword and told he was a warrior. It invokes a certain romanticism, steeling him in his belief that he fights with his ancestors at his side. It looks for all the world like a traditional sword, and it can certainly kill like one, but it is innately different. … It represents the nullifying nature of fascism, which reduces an individual to a vessel for ideology and unquestioning action – the blade incites to violence. Just like the fascist ideology, this sword attempts to imitate and utilise imagined glories from the past. Anyone with any sense would recognise that a sword is generally a very silly thing to have on a modern battlefield, considering how likely you are to be killed at range by rifles, or from artillery fire sometimes originating miles away. So then this item is not a weapon in the traditional sense, but rather an ideological tool. Just as the nazis carried banners resembling Roman standards, these swords were designed to instill an idea in its bearer.It is a wonderful example of the dangers that come with fetishising and utilising times gone by as examples of how to live your life, and a reminder of how those with power will use every tool at their disposal to instill their ideologies in the common people, the vast majority of whom have nothing in common with theirs rulers at all. The sword you possess is a powerful warning to all who gaze upon it. It says, “I tried to build a new world in the parlance of the old, and now I lie crumbling and dead”.”