Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Posts Tagged ‘peace

Japan, a safe haven for Jews in World War Two?

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Oddly enough, yes, Japan was a safe haven for Jews in World War Two. How the hell was this possible, wasn’t Japan an ally of Nazi Germany? Yes, yes they were. Didn’t Hitler want the Japanese to round up their Jewish population? Yes, yes he did. Why did the Japanese refuse? And how come there were Jews living in Japan in the first place? It’s an interesting story, and that’s bread and butter for Doug’s Darkworld, so here it is …

As one might expect, Jews are a recent arrival in Japan. Very recent, mid nineteenth century recent. There may have been the occasional traveler, but no Jews settled in Japan before then. In fact Japan lived in splendid isolation until 1848, when the USA forced them to open their country up to foreign trade. Shortly thereafter, small numbers of Jews settled in Japan. I don’t know why, but suspect it was the usual reason, they visited the place and liked what they saw. Also there was no antisemitism in Japan, and they were generally welcomed as knowledgeable westerners who would help bring Japan up to speed with the west. And no doubt the occasional Jew settled because some cute Japanese girl (or vice versa) caught their eye.  People are people.

All was well for the tiny handful of Jews living in Japan up until the early 20th century. Then the wave of antisemitism sweeping Europe from such things as “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” arrived in Japan, and some Japanese bought into the conspiracy theories surrounding the Jews. Most didn’t though, and while there was some antisemitism in Japan, it never reached anywhere near the levels it reached in European countries. If anything the Japanese are a pragmatic people, and their government’s reactions to rising Nazism and other antisemitic tropes was pragmatic indeed. The early 20th century Japanese government instructed their intelligence agencies to look into the whole “The Jews are secretly plotting to rule the world” theories. Japanese intelligence agencies investigated carefully, and determined it was all garbage, there was no secret Jewish conspiracy, and Japan’s Jews were not a threat to Japan in any way.

And that was that. The background at least. And then came the war. A lot of people know about the Japanese diplomat in Lithuania who gave travel documents in World War Two as German armies approached, Chiune Sugihara, saving thousands of Polish and Lithuanian Jews. He was just the best known Japanese citizen who helped saved Jews, partly because he saved so many and partly because he was a diplomat. He wasn’t the only one, numerous other Japanese citizens, mostly ones working abroad for the Japan Tourist Bureau, also did what they could. And all for the right reasons as far as I can tell, IE, pure humanitarianism.

How many Jews escaped to Japan and Japanese occupied territory before and during the war? I couldn’t find consistent figures, but upwards of 20,000 is reasonable. It’s a complicated story. There is even the idea that Japan planned to start a “Jewish Homeland” in Japanese occupied China, the so called Fugu Plan. While most sources still treat this as fact, apparently it’s based on some very limited scholarship by one author, and other historians are not convinced anything of the kind was ever planned. That’s one of the problems with history, it’s not nearly as cut and dried as many people would think.

Sadly the Japanese who helped Jews escape weren’t exactly popular with their countrymen. I’m not exactly sure why, though some, at least in Chiune Sugihara’s case, suffered career-wise because they had acted against the wishes of their superiors. Still, their contribution to humanitarian values is has recently become more acceptable in some circles, and efforts are being made to identify and thank them. One such person was Tatsuo Osako, a young employee of the Tourist Bureau at the time. He died in 2003, and seven photos of Jewish escapees were found in his diary. One of the photos is reproduced above. The identity of the people in the photos is not known, but efforts are being made to find out and track down relatives. Holocaust survivors and escapees got out with very few personal effects, so these photos are a precious and rare reminder of a sad and terrible chapter in human history, and the undeniable fact that there are always a few people who do the right thing no matter what the risk to themselves.

It frankly is the only thing that gives me hope for the race, and it’s a slender hope at best. Next up, another story from World War Two Japan … Japanese war resistors, were there any?

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. God only knows who holds the copyright, since it’s not being used for profit and indeed is posted in the hopes someone may recognize the young man, I think I’m good. Do any of my illustrious readers recognize him? He doesn’t look like anyone in my family, plus they were all farmers back then.)

Written by unitedcats

November 28, 2012 at 8:06 am

The 1914 Christmas Truce Revisited

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The people in the above photograph are all dead. Most of them have been dead for decades, some of them more than likely were dead within a few years or less of the date when this photograph was taken. They are German and British troops on Christmas day, 1914. In the two years since I originally posted this image and below post I am more than ever convinced that people, left to their own devices, will get along just fine. When was the last time the gentle reader  went out and tried to kill their neighbours? I suspect that for most if not all readers, the answer is “never.” Yet as I type governments and insurgents around the world are killing people, most of them innocent of any wrongdoing. Organized mass murder is the most popular “sport” on the planet … and some wonder why the aliens haven’t contacted us yet?

In 1914 during the First World War, something remarkable happened. In parts of the front lines on the western front, soldiers on both sides declared an informal and unofficial truce on Christmas Day. After months of bloodshed and horror in the trenches like the world had never known, the protagonists not only laid down their arms, in many cases they fraternized and socialized together. As well they used the opportunity to both safely retrieve the dead from no man’s land, and safely transport the wounded away from the front lines. Leaders on both sides were so moved and shamed by their troops courage in seeking peace with their enemies, that they heeded the Pope’s call for a negotiated end to the war, thus saving countless lives and ending a bloody pointless war less than six months after it had started.

I jest. In actuality, leaders of both sides were horrified by the truce, and went to great lengths to downplay it, deny it, and make sure it never happened again. There were minor outbreaks of peace on subsequent Christmases, but widespread artillery bombardments on Christmas Eves did a pretty good job of discouraging the idea that their opponents were human beings. Such is the evil of war, that the leaders of both sides colluded to continue the slaughter rather than encourage peace.

On this Christmas Day I hope that the memory of this event serves to show us that people want peace, and left to their own devices peace is what they do. Most humans by nature would rather make love than war. It is our leaders, and their lies, madness, stupidity, and greed, that lead us into war. As the world slips further into insanity and yet another terrible world war looms on the horizon, I can only hope that enough people everywhere , of all faiths, choose peace rather than war. We are all brothers and sisters in God’s eyes, Dear God give us the strength to act like it.

The story of the Christmas Truce can be read here, with many links to other resources on this little known chapter in the history of peace. The last known survivor of the Christmas truce died in 2005, his story is here. God rest his soul.

And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.

Luke 24:36

Since I wrote the preceding in 2008 I have become an atheist … and have become ever more passionate in my understanding that there is no such thing as a “just” war. Violence is the problem, not the solution. And all too often God is used to justify said violence, something that would bother him immensely if he actually existed. This is my favourite religious reading, and I recommend it to anyone who hasn’t seen it before: God Angrily Clarifies “Don’t  Kill” rule.

25 December 2010

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. Peace on Earth and Good Will to All!


(The above image predates 1923 and is public domain under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

December 25, 2010 at 12:43 pm

Wilsonian Armenia, How the Armenians got Screwed After World War One

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OK, in my previous post I laid a bit of the background behind the Armenian Genocide. Yes, it happened. Yes, the Turks still deny it. Yes, everyone who was a participant is dead. So why are the Armenians still pressing for an apology from Turkey, and why are the Turks so adamant about refusing to even acknowledge the crime? Heck, it’s not even legal to teach about the Armenian Genocide in Turkish schools. We’re talking systematic denial here. I mean, what has Turkey got to lose by apologizing about something that happened nearly a century ago?

Well, as the map above so clearly indicates, quite a lot. A lot, because the  key word that comes after apology is … reparations. Today’s Armenians insist that they should be compensated for the property and wealth that was stolen during the Ottoman rule. And that the territory they were promised by treaty after World War One be restored to them, or at least Mount Ararat, the “Mt Fuji” of the Armenian people. Illustrated above is what is now referred to as “Wilsonian Armenia.” This was the territorial division that the Ottoman Empire agreed to after the war in the Treaty of Sèvres in 1920. However, the treaty was never ratified or put into action as the Ottoman Regime fell apart. And a few years later the new nation of Turkey signed the Treaty of Lausanne, which superseded the Treaty of Sèvres and established the current borders of Turkey. And so the Armenians got hosed by the Turkey and the western powers.

So do the Armenians have  a case? Legally, yes, it’s pretty clear under international law. There is no statute of limitations on crimes against humanity, and the nation of Turkey, being the successor state to the Ottoman Empire, is in fact obligated to make reparations for their crimes. And if it was a perfect world, they would do so and that would be that. Unfortunately this is where the many thinkers end their analysis. No offence, but for one thing, any government of Turkey that actually tried to give a quarter of Turkey to Armenia would be overthrown during the first commercial break after the announcement. So as things stand now, it seems unlikely that the Armenians are going to get either an apology or reparations from Turkey. And it’s fairly easy to see why the Turks are reluctant to even acknowledge the crime, let alone apologize for it. To apologize would be to give the Armenians much stronger grounds to make their case for reparations and even territorial claims, no government is going to voluntarily do that except under extreme conditions.

So what do I think, and what’s to be done? Well, for one thing, I think holding the modern Turks responsible for the genocide, or demonizing them for their failure to apologize is a bit, well, ridiculous. Racist even. More importantly, it’s counterproductive. Racism and demonizing is always counterproductive, though it’s amazing how many people who consider themselves highly moral engage in it, but that’s a topic for another post. And it obscures the point that there are Turks who acknowledge the crimes of their fathers, the Armenians would do well to try and work with them. There are Palestinian and Israeli peace groups working together. If they can, anyone can. However, don’t construe this as my trying to delegitimize the Armenian claims or the horror of the Armenian genocide, as always I’m trying to look at things from different perspectives to help my understanding of them. I’m just saying that the Turks  collectively aren’t being evil for refusing to apologize, though no doubt some of them are. In fact some Turks apparently have made threats against Turkey’s remaining Armenian population if other Armenians don’t drop their claims, which is evil.

My final point, the point I have been leading to, is that looking at things like the Armenian Genocide in isolation is missing the big picture. And if we step back, the world is full of legitimate claims for reparations and territorial adjustment. There were literally dozens of genocides and ethnic cleansings  in the twentieth century that have yet to even make it into the history books and general consciousness, let alone be acknowledged by a dozen or more governments as the Armenian Genocide has. Compounded by the fact that many of the world’s borders, including pretty much all of the borders in the middle east and Africa, were drawn up by the colonial powers to facilitate resource extraction, with little or no relevance to ethnic realities on the ground. This was the point I was making some years back when I published my “New Middle East Map” post. Which is still getting nasty comments to this day, even though it is very clear that this map is simply grounds for discussion, not an actual proposal.

Moving right along, until we as a race are willing to acknowledge and fix the horrible legacy of the colonial era and redraw the world’s borders in a sensible way,  let alone grant reparations for past crimes, we are doomed to a world where ethnic cleansing, genocide, and war are the norm, not the exception. As is being demonstrated in Kyrgyzstan as I type. Will we ever be able to do that? I don’t know, but as military technology gets ever more lethal and trickles down to the lowest of the low, as it always does, the cost of not doing so will continue to rise. Will humanity grow up before the cost is our very survival as a species? The jury is still out on that one.

(The above image image of Greater Armenia/Wilsonian Armenia is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit, it’s the best image I could find on line to illustrate the concept, and it’s use here in no way interferes with the copyright holder’s commercial use of the image. Plus I am acknowledging that the Armenian claim for reparations and an apology from Turkey is legitimate, so hopefully the image is being used to further their cause. Credit and copyright: Final note: Both of my Armenian genocide posts are simply discussion, I hope and pray for a just peace and reconciliation between the Turks and the Armenians, and know there are good people on both sides working for just that.)

Written by unitedcats

June 17, 2010 at 7:30 am