Horror in the East: Japan and the Atrocities of World War II

Horror in the East: Japan and the Atrocities of World War II by Laurence Rees Read Free Book Online

Book: Horror in the East: Japan and the Atrocities of World War II by Laurence Rees Read Free Book Online
Authors: Laurence Rees
them I always refused,’ she says.‘If you die you die, and can’t be revived.’She learnt first hand how ‘some soldiers were deaf and hard of hearing, some were near blind, because of all the slapping, the violence they went through.I could see some soldiers who were hit and who were really bullied by the other soldiers, and I saw one Japanese soldier who actually committed suicide by diving into a pond.’
    For all this suffering, for enduring all this horrific treatment, Sol Shinto was paid a salary of precisely nothing by the manager of the military brothel she worked in.‘I got pocket money sometimes from the soldiers and the officers,’ she told us.‘But I never got any wages.’
    There is no exact figure for how many ‘comfort women’ (though ‘victims of forced rape’ is a more accurate term) were employed and abused by the Japanese in this way.Estimates range from 80,000 to 100,000.But the overall scale of the crime is clear, as is the complicity of the Imperial Army and Japanese government of the time.In the words of Professor Yuki Tanaka, who has made a special study of Japanese policy towards comfort women: ‘The comfort women case could well be historically unprecedented as an instance of state controlled criminal activity involving the sexual exploitation of women.’ 11
    Moreover, if the purpose of the ‘comfort stations’ was to prevent Japanese soldiers raping Chinese women, then the policy was a spectacular failure — not just because of the infamous events in Nanking, but because of the subsequent behaviour of Japanese troops during the war against China, particularly in what became known as the Sanko ‘pacification’ actions in the north of the country.Hajime Kondo took part in the Sanko actions and paints an astonishing picture of the mentality of the Japanese soldiers who fought in this brutal struggle.‘We had the feeling that in the enemy district we could do anything,’ he says.‘We were not told officially we could do anything but we learnt it from our senior colleagues.Basically it was all connected to the emperor system.We were brought up to kill communists and in this province everybody was communist so these people should all be killed for the emperor.That was the thinking of the ordinary soldiers.’
    This attitude of’kill all the communists’ is reminiscent of the behaviour of German troops in the war against the Soviet Union which began in 1941.Hitler had declared that Germany’s war in the East was to be a ‘different kind’ of war from that fought in the West.The war in the East was to be a war of’annihilation’ against ‘sub-humans’.And the parallels do not end there: to anyone who has heard German veterans speak about their attacks on Russian villages suspected of concealing ‘partisans’, the testimony of Masayo Enomoto, who served in the Imperial Army in China, sounds chillingly familiar: ‘When you enter a village, first you steal their valuables.Then you kill people and then you set the village on fire and burn everything.Such killing, burning and robbing was seen everywhere.’
    However, there is one glaring respect in which the Japanese soldiers behaved differently from their German allies.Whilst both Germans and Japanese raped women in the territories they occupied, the Imperial Army committed the crime on a far greater scale.German rape of Russian women was against explicit Nazi racial teaching, but the Japanese had no such racial ‘scruples’ when it came to sex and it appears that any Chinese woman was fair game.Enomoto was one Japanese soldier who freely confessed he had committed rape during his time in China.‘We’d go into villages as part of the operations, singly or together, and then if we saw any women in the village we would rape them.And if there were two of us, then one would keep guard and we wouldn’t talk about it afterwards.’On occasion Enomoto did not choose to rape the women he found — he chose to torture them

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