Cover image for Horror in the East : Japan and the atrocities of World War II
Horror in the East : Japan and the atrocities of World War II
Rees, Laurence, 1957-
Personal Author:
First Da Capo Press edition.
Publication Information:
Cambridge, Mass. : Da Capo Press, 2002.

Physical Description:
160 pages : illustrations, map ; 24 cm
General Note:
"Published to accompany the television series 'Horror in the East, ' first broadcast on BBC2 in 2000"--T.p. verso.
Geographic Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DS777.533.A86 R44 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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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 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."

Author Notes

Laurence Rees , the head of historical programs for BBC Television, has been called by the Times of London "Britain's most distinguished producer of historical documentaries." The author of four previous books, he lives in London.

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

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. (Sept. 19) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved