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Beschreibung des Verlags
The brutal Japanese treatment of allied prisoners of war, as well as countless thousands of Chinese civilians, during World War 2 has been well documented. Here Laurence Rees, award-winning historian and author of Auschwitz: The Nazis & The 'Final Solution' and World War II: Behind Closed Doors, turns his attention to a crucial but less understood factor of one of the most dramatic and important historical events of the 20th century: why were these atrocities carried out?
More than 70 years after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, this incisive but accessible study examines shocking acts performed by Japanese soldiers, and asks why seemingly ordinary people were driven to mass murder, rape, suicide and even cannibalisation of the enemy. Uncovering personal accounts of the events, Horror in the East traces the shift in the Japanese national psyche - from the civil and reasoned treatment of captured German prisoners in World War 1 to the rejection of Western values and brutalization of the armed forces in the years that followed. In this insightful analysis, Rees probes the Japanese belief in their own racial superiority, and analyses a military that believed suicide to be more honourable than surrender.
Based on a film documentary Rees (The Nazis: A Warning from History) 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 catalogue 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.