Horror In The East: The Japanese at War 1931-1945

Horror In The East: The Japanese at War 1931-1945
Pub date 17th July 2001
Publisher (UK) BBC Books (World)
Publisher (US) Da Capo Press (Perseus Books Group)
International publishers Byblos/Roularta (Belgium), Euromedia Group (Czech Republic), Wilhelm Heyne (Germany), Schibsted (Norway), Critica (Spain)

From the award-winning Producer of The Nazis a Warning from History Laurence Rees turns his gaze to the atrocities committed by Japanese soldiers in World War II. In his incisive but accessible study, Laurence confronts one of the most dramatic and important historical questions of the twentieth century why did Japanese soldiers behave as they did? The Japanese treatment of allied prisoners in the Second World War is infamous. Yet, during the First World War, they fought on the Allied side and treated captured German soldiers with civility.

Horror in the East examines how this drastic change could have come about. Japan first turned to the West in the early 20th century, appearing to adopt Western values. But, with a rapidly increasing population and inadequate resources, those values proved difficult to support. One solution, favoured by many in the Japanese army and navy, was to build an empire. They encouraged the concept of the Emperoro as an all-powerful, 'living god' and believed they were only ultimately answerable to him. Elected Japanese politicians found it almost impossible to control them. On the 60th anniversary of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbour in December 2001, this book probes the Japanese belief in their own racial superiority and the mentality that led them to contemplate suicide when they failed. Newly discovered archive together with specially shot film and interviews with Japanese eye witnesses including perpetrators makes this into a compelling portrait of war. From the teams interviews with Japanese eye witnesses, shocking stories of cannabalism, vivisection, rape, prostitution, starvation and slaughter are uncovered. Laurence goes back to the Japanese wars against the Chinese to discover why the Japanese took on the militarily superior Americans and why they thought they would win.


Reviews for Horror in the East

'A harrowing chronicle of appalling inhumanity... Intelligent, provocative, and absorbing...reasoned and balanced... [A] work of penetrating scholarship and lucid prose.' — WWII History

'Based on a film documentary Rees produced for the BBC, this chronologically organized book does a nice job of explaining the cultural attitudes and historical events that lay behind Japanese atrocities during World War II, but as a full catalog it is incomplete. Of six chapters here, the first is devoted to political and historical background on Japan and its war with China during the 1930s, including the rape of Nanking in 1937. The second, "Dealing with the West," covers Japan's aspirations for European-held East Asian colonies (such as Indochina) that led to a U.S.-led oil embargo-and Pearl Harbor. Chapter three centers on the appalling treatment of 100,000 Allied prisoners captured after the quick fall of Singapore in 1942, while "Lurching towards Defeat" offers a view of the Pacific war 1942-1944, including the motivations of Japanese kamikaze pilots (which included "the spiritual faith that after death... their souls would dwell in the emperor's own shrine") and the rationalizations behind other Japanese atrocities. This is certainly the most valuable part of the book, although some explanations seem to go to great lengths to mitigate Japanese actions: Americans and British are unequivocally described as holding racist views in dealing with the Japanese, while "the Japanese treated the Chinese so badly" because they considered them "utterly inferior." A summary of recent academic research on Japanese emperor Hirohito's complicity is also valuable, but Rees's frequent juxtaposition of Allied crimes with those of the Japanese forces will feel apologistic to some readers, and the book does not fully recent scholarship that documents horror on a much larger scale than specifically presented here.' — Publisher's Weekly


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