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Horror In The East: Japan And The Atrocities Of World War - II

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The question is as searing as it is fundamental to the continuing debate over Japanese culpability in World War II and the period leading up to it: "How could Japanese soldiers have committed such acts of violence against Allied prisoners of war and Chinese civilians?" During the First World War, the Japanese fought on the side of the Allies and treated German POWs with re The question is as searing as it is fundamental to the continuing debate over Japanese culpability in World War II and the period leading up to it: "How could Japanese soldiers have committed such acts of violence against Allied prisoners of war and Chinese civilians?" During the First World War, the Japanese fought on the side of the Allies and treated German POWs with respect and civility. In the years that followed, under Emperor Hirohito, conformity was the norm and the Japanese psyche became one of selfless devotion to country and emperor; soon Japanese soldiers were to engage in mass murder, rape, and even cannibalization of their enemies. Horror in the East examines how this drastic change came about. On the basis of never-before-published interviews with both the victimizers and the victimized, and drawing on never-before-revealed or long-ignored archival records, Rees discloses the full horror of the war in the Pacific, probing the supposed Japanese belief in their own racial superiority, analyzing a military that believed suicide to be more honorable than surrender, and providing what the Guardian calls "a powerful, harrowing account of appalling inhumanity...impeccably researched."


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The question is as searing as it is fundamental to the continuing debate over Japanese culpability in World War II and the period leading up to it: "How could Japanese soldiers have committed such acts of violence against Allied prisoners of war and Chinese civilians?" During the First World War, the Japanese fought on the side of the Allies and treated German POWs with re The question is as searing as it is fundamental to the continuing debate over Japanese culpability in World War II and the period leading up to it: "How could Japanese soldiers have committed such acts of violence against Allied prisoners of war and Chinese civilians?" During the First World War, the Japanese fought on the side of the Allies and treated German POWs with respect and civility. In the years that followed, under Emperor Hirohito, conformity was the norm and the Japanese psyche became one of selfless devotion to country and emperor; soon Japanese soldiers were to engage in mass murder, rape, and even cannibalization of their enemies. Horror in the East examines how this drastic change came about. On the basis of never-before-published interviews with both the victimizers and the victimized, and drawing on never-before-revealed or long-ignored archival records, Rees discloses the full horror of the war in the Pacific, probing the supposed Japanese belief in their own racial superiority, analyzing a military that believed suicide to be more honorable than surrender, and providing what the Guardian calls "a powerful, harrowing account of appalling inhumanity...impeccably researched."

30 review for Horror In The East: Japan And The Atrocities Of World War - II

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jen

    Do you have an inscrutable fascination with human depravity? Boy have I got a book for you! Have you ever, while experiencing the worst acid trip of your life, found within you, the sinister kernel which would allow you to subordinate yourself to a mob and commit unspeakable acts of coalitionary violence? Here’s some confirmation. Very briefly, I think the take home of this book is: If you want to elevate human cruelty to an art form, indoctrination and dehumanization are the most vivid colors on Do you have an inscrutable fascination with human depravity? Boy have I got a book for you! Have you ever, while experiencing the worst acid trip of your life, found within you, the sinister kernel which would allow you to subordinate yourself to a mob and commit unspeakable acts of coalitionary violence? Here’s some confirmation. Very briefly, I think the take home of this book is: If you want to elevate human cruelty to an art form, indoctrination and dehumanization are the most vivid colors on your palette. This is a short examination of the Japanese Imperial Army and it’s heinous actions during World War II, peppered with interviews of survivors, and a dash of wider contextual information. I read this in one sitting and consider it an excellent overview. I’d recommend it to dabblers, but not scholars. As a lovely side effect; it has prompted me to seek out a more thorough treatment of Hirohito’s enigmatic character. While I was marveling at suffering on a scope and scale that would embarrass even the most ambitious sadist, I asked myself the question (and not for the first time) “Why do we read about things like this?” Which may be tantamount to asking why people study history at all, since peace and prosperity rarely seem to occupy our attention the way strife does. I don’t think this question admits of a simple answer, and you might go one further and ask why humans spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about death in the abstract. But, as I alluded to in my opening, I think it’s vitally important to realize how otherwise normal individuals can become complicit in the worst acts of history. We would all like to think that we’re exceptions to this; the facts suggest otherwise. Violent psychopaths represent about 1% of the population, if the official score is to be believed, and I assume, unless you’re living in a country ravaged by war, your every day experience bears this conclusion out. Even if we account for a disproportionate number of those individuals gravitating towards military service, you still can’t escape the reality that ordinary people, under the right circumstances, can be truly monstrous. Books of this kind also offer a palliative for compulsive whinging, when you realize that the anguish of dropping your sundae on the pavement isn’t quite up to snuff in a historical context. My feeble attempt to answer this question is truncated by time and inclination, and I submit myself to the coked-out speculations of Freud for a more robust (if empirically vacuous) explanation of my morbid curiosity. So! Are you someone who, for whatever reason, feels compelled to read about torture, rape, cannibalism, infanticide, human vivisection, biological warfare, starvation, and insanity? First: Why? Second: Enjoy! Become hugely depressed and introspective with this book!

  2. 4 out of 5

    kagami

    This book does an excellent job of not only presenting the reader with rare first-hand accounts of the atrocities committed by the Japanese Imperial Army during the Second World War, but, more importantly, explaining the background that made these atrocities possible. To me it was an invaluable help in understanding why Japan has, to this day, not apologised for the horrors inflicted on the world in the name of its emperor. The book, however, is far from defending the Japanese. On the contrary, This book does an excellent job of not only presenting the reader with rare first-hand accounts of the atrocities committed by the Japanese Imperial Army during the Second World War, but, more importantly, explaining the background that made these atrocities possible. To me it was an invaluable help in understanding why Japan has, to this day, not apologised for the horrors inflicted on the world in the name of its emperor. The book, however, is far from defending the Japanese. On the contrary, it pauses some very disturbing questions. A really good read - highly recommended.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Pranky reads

    My first book on Japan's involvement in the world war 2, their fighting spirit, the motivation behind. The emperor Hirohito being a god and people were ready to do anything for the country. Their atrocities on Chinese people and the POW is unimaginable. But that did come to an end, and rather a very sad end. The army was committing suicide, some resorted to cannibalism and their was mass suicides by people as they did not want to surrender to their enemies. Well, the emperor still sat on the thr My first book on Japan's involvement in the world war 2, their fighting spirit, the motivation behind. The emperor Hirohito being a god and people were ready to do anything for the country. Their atrocities on Chinese people and the POW is unimaginable. But that did come to an end, and rather a very sad end. The army was committing suicide, some resorted to cannibalism and their was mass suicides by people as they did not want to surrender to their enemies. Well, the emperor still sat on the throne when they surrendered to Japan after the bombings. Imagine the devastation, this books covers interviews from the perspective of people of Japan , the Chinese victims, British victims, American army, Japanese survivors and Japanese army. The writing is very simple and easy to understand.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

    This was a great book, although full of graphic detail and heartbreaking stories of the innocent Japanese, Chinese and American civilians who survived the war in the Pacific. This book however does give insight into why the Japanese fought the way they did and gives reasoning behind their thinking. Japanese survivors tell their story as to why their commrades committed suicide and why it was so important to never surrender.

  5. 5 out of 5

    khordofon

    Ainda bem que acabou. Ufa. Um pouco denso, escrito de forma não muito apaixonante ou apaixonada. Vale muito pelas descrições individuais de situações e menos pela política na época, e também pelo epílogo que discute a ética situacional. Fora isso, achei que o autor conseguiu transformar algo muito interessante como os crimes de guerra no oriente em algo maçante, mecânico (exceto pelas entrevistas e falas).

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jo

    Clear, concise, and incredibly engaging writing. Absolutely horrific stories of what happened under Japanese brutality, and it was fascinating to hear different voices from different people: the Chinese victims, the comfort women, the European and American victims, and what I found the most fascinating and esoteric, the Japanese veterans themselves and how they were raised to believe what they believed when they were fighting during the war.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Sarah De Beer

    Interesting but short After reading a few novels about Korea during WW2 I have been interested to read about Japanese atrocities that were perpetrated. This book was really interesting but I feel it only scratched the surface. Pretty grim reading though.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Claire Wright

    Didn't go into as much depth on the experiences of POWs as I had hoped (I bought this book for more information after reading the Narrow Road to the Deep North) but it does set the context for the atrocities that were perpetrated by both sides during this conflict. Didn't go into as much depth on the experiences of POWs as I had hoped (I bought this book for more information after reading the Narrow Road to the Deep North) but it does set the context for the atrocities that were perpetrated by both sides during this conflict.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Seshu

    Doesnt give as much detail as I hope More of a shirt history of japan then any in depth study of the madness. The author spends tge last chapter on how such monstrosity occured and his argument backed by data made a convincing read. Over all the book was fine and performed its goal, only I would have preferred more data presenting his argument as I did not feel fully convinced by it. And much of it before the last chapter felt like a history lesson that didnt always tie up to the argument he was Doesnt give as much detail as I hope More of a shirt history of japan then any in depth study of the madness. The author spends tge last chapter on how such monstrosity occured and his argument backed by data made a convincing read. Over all the book was fine and performed its goal, only I would have preferred more data presenting his argument as I did not feel fully convinced by it. And much of it before the last chapter felt like a history lesson that didnt always tie up to the argument he was trying to lay out. In the end while I understood some of the mentality that led to unspeakable horrors, I still couldnt fathom how this could ever lead to cannibalism, something prevalent in the japanese army.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ivan

    A short, yet riveting book. Its language is simple (which is good) and it probably isn't a serious historical study. But neither am I a serious history person. It tells the story of World War II, specifically, events around Japan and Asia, and also features brief fragments of interviews of actual people who fought, and why did they do the (horrible, as title suggests) things they did. The most horrible thing shown is probably how ideology and conditioning can make a regular person do normally unt A short, yet riveting book. Its language is simple (which is good) and it probably isn't a serious historical study. But neither am I a serious history person. It tells the story of World War II, specifically, events around Japan and Asia, and also features brief fragments of interviews of actual people who fought, and why did they do the (horrible, as title suggests) things they did. The most horrible thing shown is probably how ideology and conditioning can make a regular person do normally unthinkable things, like raping or killing civilians or bombing cities etc. Most memorable parts for me were the ones about the comfort women and the recollections of a woman who survived firebombing of Tokyo, these touched me deeply for some reason.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Keith CARTER

    This book is a very brutal example of the futility of war. It is an emotional rollercoaster as you read first-hand accounts of the brutality and cruelty meted out ( on all sides ) to women children and prisoners of war. We in the west for the past 65 years or so have lived with the impression of the atrocities handed out by the Japanese during WW2, howeverMr Rees has put together an eye-opening seminal study of the war in the east. In parts, I found it very hard to read due to the horror of the This book is a very brutal example of the futility of war. It is an emotional rollercoaster as you read first-hand accounts of the brutality and cruelty meted out ( on all sides ) to women children and prisoners of war. We in the west for the past 65 years or so have lived with the impression of the atrocities handed out by the Japanese during WW2, howeverMr Rees has put together an eye-opening seminal study of the war in the east. In parts, I found it very hard to read due to the horror of the unbelievable cruelty. This is a must read for anyone with any interest in the war.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Riki Urabe

    A good read that covers the various atrocities done by the Japanese from the comfort women to the treatment of prisoners. Learned how some of the Dutch in Indonesia were treated and how the both sides were underestimating each other.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Shirsendu

    This book offers unbiased and scrutable explanations of the atrocities committed by the Japanese Imperial Army in the Asia-Pacific during WW2. The final chapter also contains notable details pertaining to US involvement and some arbitrary thrown in snippets about the havoc they wreaked upon and expectedly concluding on the nuclear carnage. The fact that makes this book thoroughly engaging and clearly distinguishable is the first-hand accounts by representatives from both parties involved which i This book offers unbiased and scrutable explanations of the atrocities committed by the Japanese Imperial Army in the Asia-Pacific during WW2. The final chapter also contains notable details pertaining to US involvement and some arbitrary thrown in snippets about the havoc they wreaked upon and expectedly concluding on the nuclear carnage. The fact that makes this book thoroughly engaging and clearly distinguishable is the first-hand accounts by representatives from both parties involved which is deployed by the author to form convincing opinions almost all times. It is astounding how Japan, through the lens of Western allies, managed to overturn the perception of being a place charged with credulous and ghastly fanatics ready to go to the bitter end, to a nation revered for preserving its culture; being an epicurean, tech, and comic haven in a mere span of 70 years, in addition to developing strong bilateral ties with most of its belligerents. This antithetical shift in attitude towards Japan definitely paves way for another supposedly interesting read: 'Embracing Defeat' and this read has definitely been monumental in keeping that interest sustained, though, I feel, in many instances, it mostly scratches the surface in terms of intricacies.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Albert

    I really love your story, it deserves a lot of audience. If you have some great stories like this one, you can publish it on NovelStar, just submit your story to [email protected] or [email protected]

  15. 5 out of 5

    Raul

    Nice overview but I’m a bit disappointed. Was expecting more “meat”. It goes quite lightly on all the battles and issues in the pacific war.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ayan Dutta

    Brief introduction to Japanese culture and war atrocities committed by the imperial army during the sino-japanese war and WWII

  17. 5 out of 5

    Stuart Hill

    Grim stuff indeed. Rees is best known as a producer of several documentary series for television about the Second World War, with this book being based on one about Japanese atrocities. I haven't seen the related series but the book seemed to follow its format quite closely, being chiefly based around interviews with Japanese soldiers, their Allied opponents and various civilians. Throughout, Rees' intention was to seek an explanation for why the atrocities occurred. He did attempt to produce a b Grim stuff indeed. Rees is best known as a producer of several documentary series for television about the Second World War, with this book being based on one about Japanese atrocities. I haven't seen the related series but the book seemed to follow its format quite closely, being chiefly based around interviews with Japanese soldiers, their Allied opponents and various civilians. Throughout, Rees' intention was to seek an explanation for why the atrocities occurred. He did attempt to produce a balanced account by mentioning moral lapses by the Allies where appropriate. I found this to be a compelling read, though inevitably the horrific nature of the events related made it hard going at times. The context of the events was explained very well, with several reasons for the brutality of the Japanese soldiers being proposed: notions of racial superiority, endemic bullying within the armed forces, pressure on participants to stay within the group rather than protest, absolute loyalty to the Emperor as a living god, and the idea that surrendering was dishonourable being among them. The latter was quite a compelling argument for why POWs were harshly treated, as in comparison civilians held at interment camps such as Lunghua near Shanghai seem to have been treated relatively benignly, although the regime there did become harsher towards the end of the war as food supplies began to run low for the Japanese administrators as well as their captives. The book is relatively short so did not really have space to explore some issues in real depth. I would have liked to have read more on racial theories and the postwar trials and American occupation period. Rees suggests that as the Emperor was retained after the war this made it very difficult for people in Japan to be able to apologise for their conduct during the war but other factors may well be involved; emotionally there would be great loss of face in making apologies, and the postwar trials were only of a few thousand people with many being rapidly paroled, so there was arguably less of a sense of condemnation of wartime conduct than had been the case in Nazi Germany where most of the political leadership had been captured and put on trial at Nuremberg, events well publicised in the newsreels and popular press of the era. There were only a couple of points I found somewhat contentious. Rees proposes that the high population density of Japan resulted in the emphasis on the group (geri) but there are many other societies which subscribe to similar notions which do not resemble Japan in terms of population density. Events such as the Cultural Revolution in China would not have been possible without most people agreeing to fit in with what the group wanted to do, no matter how irrational. I would also take issue with the description of Churchill as a highly moral leader. Churchill was a firm believer in the British Empire an institution which existed due to oppression of colonial possessions, sent out the army to deal with striking miners in 1910 and had actually considered the use of chemical weapons prior to the Second World War, stating "I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes." Deployment of poison gas against Iraqi Kurds was considered although ultimately it does not appear to have been used due to either unavailability of supplies or the effectiveness of air power making their use unnecessary. On the whole though this was an impressive, thought-provoking book which provided a good introduction to the subject.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Theresia Pratiwi

    (Note: I haven't read the documentary to which this book is a companion.) So. The noble warrior of WW I turned to a monster in WW II, and every finger itched to point at something to blame. Was it the military, who might or might not propelled the Showa Emperor to the status of man-god? Was it the emperor himself? Was it the spite born out of the West's double standard in looking at and allowing (permitting? participating? making the cake and eating it, too?) imperialism/colonialism in Asia? Was (Note: I haven't read the documentary to which this book is a companion.) So. The noble warrior of WW I turned to a monster in WW II, and every finger itched to point at something to blame. Was it the military, who might or might not propelled the Showa Emperor to the status of man-god? Was it the emperor himself? Was it the spite born out of the West's double standard in looking at and allowing (permitting? participating? making the cake and eating it, too?) imperialism/colonialism in Asia? Was it Japan's whole post-Meiji nation-state concept, revitalized/modernized/Westernized after the Restoration and looking very much based on Renan-esque's definition? What a kaleidoscope (I really, really like this word) of questions--to the point that the coverage of the organized mass suicide, brutal military recruitment and training, and aggression (i.e. Manchuria, Nanking, Saipan) are compiled to lead to this kaleidoscope, and that's that. There are a brief mention of the racism in the Allied army and the bombing of Tokyo, but that doesn't balance the much colorful atrocities laid upon Japan. If it takes two to tango, it's only fair that the two that it takes to war have equal proportion of discussion.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Theresia

    (Note: I haven't watched the documentary to which this book is a companion.) So. A noble warrior in WW I turned into a monster in WW II, and we begot a kaleidoscope (I really, really like the word, by the way. Thanks, DCFC.) of questions. Was it the military, who propelled Emperor Showa to the godhood status? Was it the emperor himself? Was it the bitter spite due to the West's double standards in practicing, justifying, and excusing the practice of colonialism/imperialism in Asia? Was it Japan's (Note: I haven't watched the documentary to which this book is a companion.) So. A noble warrior in WW I turned into a monster in WW II, and we begot a kaleidoscope (I really, really like the word, by the way. Thanks, DCFC.) of questions. Was it the military, who propelled Emperor Showa to the godhood status? Was it the emperor himself? Was it the bitter spite due to the West's double standards in practicing, justifying, and excusing the practice of colonialism/imperialism in Asia? Was it Japan's post-Meiji nation-state concept, itself looking very much as if based on Renan-esque definition? This book compiles many atrocities--organized mass suicide, brutal military recruitment and training, and aggression to neighboring area (Manchuria, Nanking, Saipan) to provide examples to said kaleidoscope. On the other side of the coin, there are a brief mention of racism in the Allied force and a bit of the bombing of Tokyo. If it takes two to tango, the two that it takes to war then deserve balanced proportion of discussion.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Diego González

    Breve repaso a las atrocidades del ejército japonés en Asia durante la II Guerra Mundial, de Nankín al trato a los prisioneros de guerra, o el secuestro de mujeres occidentales y no occidentales para convertirlas en "mujeres de asueto", también conocidas como esclavas sexuales. El libro está basado en un documental de la BBC así que el tratamiento es necesariamente superficial y no aporta nada al que ya está ligeramente metido en el tema, pero abre puertas para seguir conociendo detalles (normal Breve repaso a las atrocidades del ejército japonés en Asia durante la II Guerra Mundial, de Nankín al trato a los prisioneros de guerra, o el secuestro de mujeres occidentales y no occidentales para convertirlas en "mujeres de asueto", también conocidas como esclavas sexuales. El libro está basado en un documental de la BBC así que el tratamiento es necesariamente superficial y no aporta nada al que ya está ligeramente metido en el tema, pero abre puertas para seguir conociendo detalles (normalmente inquietantes) acerca del comportamiento humano en las guerras.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jake Larson

    Great historical book about a side of WWII that is usually not talked about. Interesting to hear the stories from both sides of what was going on. Should be for anyone who is interested in parts of history that aren't main stream. Great historical book about a side of WWII that is usually not talked about. Interesting to hear the stories from both sides of what was going on. Should be for anyone who is interested in parts of history that aren't main stream.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Steven

    Good insight into the atrocities committed by the Imperial Japanese in the Pacific theater. Sometimes overlooked by WWII historians due to the sheer volume of war crimes committed in the European theater. IJA soldiers practicing cannibalism was particularly shocking.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sylvene

    Should the United States have made the decision to drop atomic bombs on Japan? This book offers detailed insights and interviews with both Allied and Japanese survivors. Thought-provoking.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Rose

    Tough read...Trying to understand the mindsets of those who committed the worst atrocities of WWII.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Nmorley14

    I personally found the human experimentation on the chinease, and american POW's was a horrible war crime. I personally found the human experimentation on the chinease, and american POW's was a horrible war crime.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sea L

    The last chapter id the best. Wish a whole book was written on the topic of the last chapter. Overall, an important read on japanese atrocities during WWII!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    I could not put this down. I was gripped from the start and was shocked by the many accounts of what the Japanese did in WW2.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ben Austin

  29. 5 out of 5

    Byhorror horror

  30. 5 out of 5

    Mark

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