It is no surprise to anyone that World War II was a tough time Around-the World. Nazi Germany basically controlled Continental Europe, with only Britain and its Commonwealth Allies standing in Adolf Hitler’s way. Japan had extended its control in the Pacific, taking over the Philippines and European Colonies, and invading China and Korea. All the while, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s hands were tied due to the Isolationist sentiments by many in Congress.
That mid-century War claimed the lives of tens of millions of Civilians, in both the European and Pacific Theaters; but, mostly in Europe. Millions of people were killed during the Holocaust, in both Allied and Luftwaffe bombings; and obviously the Atom Bombs that the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, among other events. But, what has happened since?
In Europe, many Nazi and some Italian war criminals were tried at the Nuremburg Trials, and either executed or served long terms in jail. Heroes, such as Simon Wiesenthal (Austrian, A/K/A The Nazi Hunter), either working alone or working with the State of Israel, located and brought many former Nazis to justice. And, during the War, Oscar Schindler (German) and Raoul Wallenberg (Swedish), among others, are known to have saved the lives of numerous–Jews and Non-Jews–from the Nazi Gas Chambers.
Since World War II, Germany has acknowledged the horrible, maniacal crimes committed, cooperated with the Nuremberg Trials and other War Crimes Trials since, made financial reparations and assisted in the return of family valuables. Also, in Berlin, there is a Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (Denkmal für die ermordeten Juden Europas).
Things are much different in Japan, however. Only 14 major (Class A) criminals were brought before the International Tribunal for the Far East Crimes Trials. The Government of Japan has not acknowledged any war crimes since the War with Japan ended in mid-1945. And, there have not been any reparations to the survivors, or their families.
The Yasukuni Jinja is a Shinto Shrine to honor war dead (military, government officials and civilians)–including war criminals–who served the Emperor in Wars from 1867 to 1951. The shrine is said to house the actual souls (kami) of the dead and it is believed that all negative or evil acts are absolved upon enshrinement. There have been a number of visits to Yasukuni Jinja by Japanese Prime Ministers and other senior officials, which have drawn protests from within Japan, as well as China, North Korea, South Korea and Taiwan.
In America, there has been a lot more information published about the War in Europe, while much of the War in the Pacific was fought among the various islands, rather than on the Mainland. Besides numerous killings of Chinese and Korean Civilians, in both countries, the Japanese forced many into prostitution, as so-called “comfort women”.
Just a few days ago, Mr. Toru Hashimoto, the Mayor of Osaka (Japan’s second largest city) first denied that some 10,000 Korean Women were forced to serve as comfort women. Also, on successive days, he has made similarly outrageous comments. This has brought forth two 80 year old Korean Women, who were forced into prostitution by the Japanese, to call for his resignation. Such comments have brought similar outrage from many other parts of the World.
So, Germany has acknowledged its evil past and tried to make amends–at least to some extent. The U.S. helped re-build Europe and Japan. But, for Japan, here it is 68 years later, and it seems not to own up to the actions of its soldiers during the War.
NOTE: For history buffs, there is a great book, “The Rape of Nanking”, by Iris Chang, which describes the little-known atrocities, in China, during the Chiang Kai Chek era.