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Was there a "ratline" for Japanese ww2 criminals?

Discussion in 'WWII General' started by ram daryanani, Jan 20, 2020.

  1. ram daryanani

    ram daryanani New Member

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    The Germans had a number of "ratlines", i.e escape routes for Nazis fleeing to South Americans and other countries. I am not aware of similar organised groups in Japan to help Japanese war criminals such as POW camp commandants to 'disappear' only to continue as a successful citizen in post-war Japan.
    Is anyone aware of such attempts or any stories relating to Japanese war criminals later found out as wealthy or influential people in post-war Japan?
     
  2. Otto

    Otto Rested & Resupplied with MREs. Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

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    I don't recall references to them in any literature I've read, but I could easily be wrong as I'm not very well read in this area. I'd say there were a lot of Japanese war criminals that were wholly untouched by any criminal proceedings post-war. Hirohito comes to mind.

    I suspect any efforts to hide Japanese war criminals after the war would have been more effective within Japan than exporting the suspect to another country. A Japanese man of military age appearing outside the home islands would certainly have been notable in any surrounding Asian nation that were subject to the recent invasion and brutal occupation by those same Japanese people. Not many surrounding nations were sympathetic to Japan and would be unlikely to support any efforts to evade detection for Japanese nationals. Outside of Asia proper, the presence of a Japanese person with their obvious difference in race, and no overtly supportive government to hide them would present a very high risk of detection.

    The Germany-South america connection is rather odd and there was no similar cross-nation connection for the Japanese. South America in general, and Argentina in particular had people of similar racial appearance, a large prewar German population, and most importantly a very sympathetic proto-fascist governments. These nations presented a good option for the most extreme war criminals to evade prosecution in the post war era. For the Japanese, there was no "Argentina" where one might flee.

    I'll also add that there is a big difference between the invasion, utter destruction, occupation, and cleaving in half that the Germans experienced vs the surrender without an invasion that Japan experienced. Psychologically the Japanese would be much more likely to identify with and support military personnel within their nation than a post-war German. Even today there are strong beliefs within Japan that WWII was a defensive war, I'm not sure any German would (or could) say the same about Germany's participation in WWII.

    In the post-war period, Europe/Germany itself was somewhat hostile to German war criminals, especially compared to those within the independent Japanese islands and were likely more supportive of the Japanese military personnel. There probably wasn't a need for clandestine evasion networks, as many Japanese could be counted on to support Japanese military veterans. German war criminals had friendly places to escape to, where the Japanese did not. Overall, so few people were prosecuted for crimes compared to the scope of the crimes, that there must undoubtedly have been many Japanese war criminals continuing careers without any question or concern.
     
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  3. Jack B

    Jack B Active Member Patron  

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    Great post, Otto.

    I was thinking that there was in fact a significant Japanese population in Brazil. Could Brazil have been a 'bolt hole" for Japanese during or after the war?

    A little reading in Wiki has dispelled that notion:

    "The beginning of World War I in 1914 started a boom in Japanese migration to Brazil; such that between 1917 and 1940 over 164,000 Japanese came to Brazil, 75% of them going to São Paulo, where most of the coffee plantations were located."​

    "The Japanese Brazilian community was strongly marked by restrictive measures when Brazil declared war against Japan in August 1942. Japanese Brazilians could not travel the country without safe conduct issued by the police; over 200 Japanese schools were closed and radio equipment was seized to prevent transmissions on short wave from Japan. The goods of Japanese companies were confiscated and several companies of Japanese origin had interventions, including the newly founded Banco América do Sul. Japanese Brazilians were prohibited from driving motor vehicles (even if they were taxi drivers), buses or trucks on their property. The drivers employed by Japanese had to have permission from the police. Thousands of Japanese immigrants were arrested or expelled from Brazil on suspicion of espionage."

    "During the National Constituent Assembly of 1946, Rio Miguel Couto Filho proposed Amendments to the Constitution as follows: "It is prohibited the entry of Japanese immigrants of any age and any origin in the country". In the final vote, a tie with 99 votes in favour and 99 against. Senator Fernando de Melo Viana, who chaired the session of the Constituent Assembly, had the casting vote and rejected the constitutional amendment. By only one vote, the immigration of Japanese people to Brazil was not prohibited by the Brazilian Constitution of 1946."​
     
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  4. Biak

    Biak Adjutant Patron  

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    On my tablet so it's hard to post but...
    Goggle Japanese Unit 731.

    It seems the situation in Japan at the end of the War led to many of the worst of the worst being able to simply fade into the background. It didn't hurt that the US turned a blind eye to known atrocities. Kinda like when we embraced a few top German scientists.
     
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  5. Jack B

    Jack B Active Member Patron  

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    731. The Japanese still don't talk about that horror show.
     
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  6. ram daryanani

    ram daryanani New Member

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    Hi Otto – Great post, thank you.

    Since putting out my post, I spent some time on google, and I have found two instances or stories of Japanese war criminals who escaped punishment and went on to prosper.

    First is Masanobu Tsuji. A good account is given on the following link https://doinghistoryinpublic.org/20...se-former-military-elite-officers-after-1945/

    He was the driving force behind the 1941-42 Malayan Campaign and campaigns in the Philippines and Southeast Asia, and deeply involved in the massacres in Singapore and the Phillipines.

    He escaped to Japan disguised as a monk. In 1950, a general amnesty allowed him to re-surface, wrote several books about his wartime experience and became a celebrity in Japan. Amazingly, he became a diet member in the Japanese parliament.

    The second is the case of Mutsuhiro Watanabe. A full account can be read in Wikipedia. The American Olympic runner Louis Zamperini became a POW in a Burmese camp where Watanabe was a guard. After the war he wrote a book about the brutality and atrocities against the prisoners committed by this particular guard.

    Watanabe escaped and never faced the Japanese War Tribunal. A number of other guards from that camp were found guilty and sentenced to death or life imprisonment.

    He went into hiding and re-surfaced in Japan after the amnesty in 1950. He went on to become a very wealthy businessman.

    A movie of Zamperini's book was made in 2014 directed by Angelina Jolie titled “Unbroken”.

    As an aside, when the movie was first shown, there were widespread protests in Japan where the population refused to believe that such atrocities actually were committed. I saw the movie last night. I can tell you that the reality was far worse than the film portrays. Which makes me believe that the Japanese population is in denial and the Japanese government and establishment are still guilty of covering up and sanitising a dark period of their history.
     
  7. Riter

    Riter Member

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    I doubt if any nation that was invaded by Japan offered a ratline to them including the ones long occupied by them prior to the 1939 (Both Koreas and the province of Taiwan).
     

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