Military History Reader Poll – January 2011

Were the Japanese atrocities of World War II—and the rationale behind them—worse than those of their German and Soviet contemporaries?

12 Responses

  1. Robert Kapanjie

    The German and Soviet atrocities were by and large against their own people or against civilians in occupied territories. By scale and magnitude the Germans were the worse offenders e,g. 6 million holocaust victims. The Japanese atrocities were pale in comparison. I feel that the Japanese were the greater villians—simply because they never adequately admitted their guilt and crimes to the extent that the Germans did. Even to this day the extent of the Japanese depridations is not taught in schools and Japanese officials pay homage by visiting the Yasakuni shrine in which are buried many war criminals. The Germans quickly recognized the state of Israel , paid large reparations to Israel and outlawed holocaust denial—all in an effort of atonement… In as much as the Russians were victorious they never had to admit to guilt. This is fortunately changing with with recent acknowledgment by them of the Katrin Forest massacres. In short German actions during WW 2 were despicable, but I feel Japanese actions following the war was just as bad, even worse, showing a clear lack of a moral compass.

  2. JimmyP

    Very interesting discussion , but an atrocity is an atrocity. If any justification can be given the Russians in East Prussia and Germany had the best rationale. Their country had been destroyed, their fellow soldiers murdered in prisoner of war camps, civilians brutalized and resources looted, can you blame them for taking revenge on the German people. Of course there was no excuse but Stalin’s megliomania for Katrin . The Polish officers killed there would have been a great asset if they had been recruited into the Soviet Army after the German invasion. In some respects the Japanese do seem worse because it was the regular Army, not specialized SS units, and Japan had not suffered the way Russia had. But still atrocity is atrocity. War breeds it. Look at Dresden. I can justify it but it was terrible.

    • CPT J

      Russian attrocities occured prior to Operation Barbarossa. Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, etc were prior to and during the period they were allies with Germany.

  3. Ron H

    Japs by far. They still show no remorse for anything they did. Look at the percentage of POWs murdered by them. How anyone can buy a Honda is beyound me.
    Ron H

  4. Greg McGinty

    It is quite clear to me that Germany was the blame for the atrocites of war. The Holocaust still remains among the worst thing one man can do to another man. The book the Rise and Fall of Third Reich further supports this. German sceintists and physicians experimented on the prisoners for their own studies & amusement.

    It must be added that when Germany had attacked Russia and had invaded the Ukraine, it was the beginning of their demise that took no Ukraine prisoners; they demolished the villages, raped the women & had hung the men. How little did the Germans realize that the Ukraine was at odds with Stalin & had hated him.

    Once the Germans had ruined their opportunity by having the Ukarines side with them to defeating Russia, The Ukrainians, along with the Germans, were knocking on Germany’s door at the end of the war.

    It was also revealed the German army would had rather surrendered to America and her allies than the Russians, because they were unequivically afraid of their own life in prisonment. When Paulus, the comander-in-chief had surrenedered his forces to the Russians, only a handful ever had returned home out of 250,000 troops.

  5. Kenneth

    November 2010


    I remember back in the late 1960’s and most of the 1970’s everything that had to do with the military was considered evil. Military = war = atrocities. Now in 2010, how society has changed, in Japan, Germany, Russia and America. Today we feel different.

    The question was; was one nations atrocities worse than anothers. How do we compare or rate a nations atrocities?
    Number of victims?
    Amount of time it goes on?
    Ancient or Current?
    Dropping two atomic bombs on Japanese civilians?

    The only nation in the history of the world that used nuclear destruction in warfare. Perhaps, we should put or own house in order before rating other nations.

    Or perhaps, we should open our eyes and open our ears, because atrocities didn’t die sixty five years ago, it has an old ally, called genocide. And its going on right now, even as you read these words.

    The Old Man, Kenneth Miller

    • krb

      You make some good points…war certainly breed atroscities from both sides. It is unfortuante, but a reality in total war.

      However, you must also put into perspective some of those events. Remember it was Germany and Japan who started the war. It was Germany and Japan who committed the first atroscities. It was Germany and Japan who brought the wrath of the Allies down on their heads.

      Dropping of the Atomic bombs on Japan ended a brutal war and actually saved lives in the long run. I probably would not be writing this now had the U.S. been forced to invade the Japanese main Islands. My dad fought on Leyte and Okinawa and was training for the main invasion. His task was to have been to take out re-inforced bunkers using satchel charges…an expected better than 50% casualty rate for those involved.

      The dropping of the A-bombs prevented that from having to happen. although Japan as a nation was all but defeated, the Japanese Army was largely still intact on the mainland and would have put up a tremendous fight. They were the ones who put us in the situation to have to do such a thing as drop those bombs. To not have done so would have resulted in tremendous casulties on both sides…including civilian.

      No one likes a bully…Japan and Germany were state sponsored bullies to the highest degree who got what they deserved. The unfortuante thing was that as bullies often do, they hide behind the innocent for protection…and thus we are having this discussion.

  6. CPT J

    All nations at various times in armed conflict have commited attrocities.

    If we are to limit the comparison as to whether Russia, Germany, or Japan during WWII commited the “worst” attrocities, by including a rationale, then the clearly Japan is the least among the three for the time period. The Russians were brutal across the board, commiting attrocities in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and the Ukraine prior to Operation Barbarossa when they were invaded, and Germany targeted atrocities towards ethnic groups that affected them at home as part of policy in occupied areas. The Japanese did not have a systematic program of violence targeting populations, and when their Armies began to get out of control, the higher command (eventually) corrected the paradigm as can be seen in the Japanese actions in SE Asia (Thailand, Cambodia, Burma, etc).

    Russia wins, Germany second, and Japan a distant third.

    If we look a few years outside of WWII we can see that China wins overall in shear volume of barbaric massacre with 60 to 80 million civilians killed in the 50s and 60s.

  7. mugisha richard

    Japs pale in comparison to the germans in terms of numbers, the only difference is that they killed for the sake of it and had no regard for human life since many of the soldiers were green, having left home for the first time, never exposed to other civilisations and having grown in a culture where men are not supposed to show remorse. Russia mainly killed its citizens suspected of collaboration, germans perfrected the art of killing by first robbing all the energy from prisoners in forced labour style but feeding them the minimum amount, then killing those who weakened beyond repair by gassing them( the cheapest way), extracting gold from those with filled teeth, removing hair to make felt boots and crushing bones to make fertilisers. they stopped short of processing and packing meat left on their haggard bodies for feeding their soldiers

  8. Grokit01

    The Japanese by a mile. Their atrocities were of a distinctly ‘Only we are human’ type. No rationalizations as I’ve read above. The Japs were and to some extent still are sociopathic.

  9. krb

    Although it is difficult to qualify such things as atrostities commited in wartime…you really have to do so and separate “War Related Military Atroscities” from “State Atroscities”.

    By far the Japanese committed the worst War Related Atroscities with the deplorable treatment they subjected toward POW’s. A much higher percentage of POW’s died in captivity at the hands of the Japanese than did at the hands of Germany. Although being a POW in German hands was no picnic by any stretch of the imagination, the Germans for the most part seemed to provide at least a reasonable level of care of the POW’s they possessed…where as the Japanese tended to live by the Bushito code where surrender was seen as dishonable and anyone who did so deserved to be treated as cowards.

    When you look at the state sponsored atroscities…both Japan and Germany rank very high in total…pretty much a wash. What the Japanese did in China prior the US getting involved ranks as one of the most brutal occupations of all time. No one will ever know how many died at their hands, but it was probably in the millions. What Germany did during the holocost is well documented and scorned…what they did in the over-ran Soviet territories was unfathomable…and probably one of the worst miscalculations of the war. Most of those people probably would have helped Germany get rid of Stalin, they for the most part hated the man…but instead, the German SS turned on the people and lost all hope of ever converting them to their cause.

    Speaking of miscalculations of war…maybe this forum could interject a question related to what was the worst mis-calculation of WWII.

  10. Lyndon

    Expecting Germany to withdraw from Poland after France and U.K. declared war on
    Germany in 1939.

    What about a bit closer to now.
    Bush exclaiming “Mission Accomplished”?


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