A Look Back into the Abyss: The Atrocities of World War II

World War II is probably one of the most influential events in all of human history and continues to affect the modern world even as we speak. While World War I was actually more brutal and the Cold War had much more horrifying implications, World War II is certainly the go-to point in history when people want to tell stories of either epic heroism or unspeakable villainy. What’s sad though is that many Filipinos don’t understand the full implication of that great and terrible conflict and how it continues to shape many policies of today such as human rights and the laws that are established to prevent war crimes.

With the youth today, despite the fact that the Philippines was occupied by Imperial Japan for at least two years, most will just say something like this: “The Japanese came, raped a lot of women, killed a lot of people and the Americans came and kicked them all out.” While this isn’t far from the truth, one can note that the circumstances were far more complicated than that and that everything that happened here in the Philippines was also related to what was happening on a worldwide scale. The participation of Filipinos in fighting the Axis Powers is largely downplayed in media, especially in local ones, even though the Philippines was actually a crucial part of the war.

Anyhow, without further ado…

The Holocaust

wehrmachtThis is perhaps the most popular of all the atrocities that took place during World War II but I think a few others like the rape on Nanjing are every bit as horrific or even more so. Nonetheless, based on statistics, more people were killed in the Holocaust than just about any other genocide and is why nothing speaks “human rights violation” more than the Nazis. Contrary to popular belief, Jews weren’t the only victims of the Holocaust although they were probably the most numerous alongside the Romani (Gypsies) folk and Soviet POW’s. Other victims included homosexuals, people with disabilities and anyone who opposed the Nazi regime and its ideologies like the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Freemasons.

When it all started of course, nobody seemed to care. The Jews, the Romani and homosexuals have been receiving plenty of discrimination even since before then and, before the Holocaust began, probably just thought: “They’ve been bullying us for centuries now, I doubt they’ll really go through with it.” Remember also that Jews, Romani and homosexuals weren’t just hated in Germany, or Europe for that matter, they were hated throughout the world for being deviants with a penchant for criminality. Even the Americans hated them and note how the word “Hudyo” (Jew) in the Philippines is often (or at least once was) a derogatory term which my (Filipino) grandparents and parents used as a way to describe greedy people.

What mattered was, despite evidence to the contrary, many of the Holocaust victims (except for maybe the Soviets who also hated the Nazis with a passion) didn’t believe that the Nazis would never go through with their threats of annihilation. Sure, they would probably be bullied and they already were but they probably didn’t expect the terrible massacres that would follow. In the end, the death toll of the Holocaust was about around 5.93 million Jews, 2-3 million Soviet POW’s, around 2 million Polish people, maybe 200,000 Romani and 15,000 homosexuals.

War Crimes of Imperial Japan

To put things in perspective, majority of the Japanese soldiers who fought for the army back then were conscripts, normal citizens who were forced into the army and trained through rather inhumane methods in order to become capable combatants. However, this does not excuse the terrible atrocities they would go on to perpetrate over the course of the war against the Chinese, Koreans, Allied POW’s and, of course, Filipinos. Given the order to “rape all, kill all, burn all” by Emperor Hirohito, many Japanese soldiers did just that, violating and slaughtering all the captives they could find. Unfortunately, despite all the terrible atrocities that they committed, many Japanese officials continue to deny some claims and mitigate the rest.

One of these of course is the Rape of Nanking when the forces of the Japanese Imperial Army stormed the city and committed just about every heinous act possible against the hapless citizens and refugees in the city. The Japanese troops raped just about every girl and woman they could get their hands on and raped them on a regular basis and often outright killed them afterward. Men were just outright killed or were at least brutally tortured first before they were butchered like animals. With the order to “KILL ALL CAPTIVES”, there were around 200,000 victims of the Rape of Nanking and, while many Japanese citizens of today want to apologize for what happened, many elements of their government refuse to even acknowledge the event and there are those who insist on removing it from Japanese history books.

The Japanese were also notoriously cruel to their prisoners. In the Philippines alone, there were quite a few prison camps where the Japanese killed Allied prisoners (including Americans, Australians, British and Filipinos) by the thousands. Let’s not also forget the Bataan Death March that involved marching POW’s across 97 kilometers with very little food or rest and any stragglers being shot out of pure spite. More than 70,000 participants, at least 10,000 of said POW’s never made it to their destination.

To top it all off, the Japanese are quite infamous for their creation of a ring of sexual slavery in East Asia. There has been much talk on the subject of comfort women for quite some time now but many government officials in Japan continue to deny it. My grandmother almost became one but narrowly avoided that fate by hiding with some of her relatives in the dense woods of Ilocos. There have also been quite a few women throughout East Asia who have admitted to becoming victims of the Japanese Imperial Army including Ms. Rosa Henson of the Philippines and Jan Ruff O’Herne, a Dutch Australian.

So I say this to President Aquino after his infamous speech about “crushing” the critics of his administration. Your ancestors sided with the Japanese Axis Powers during World War II. These are the same people who destroyed Manila and raped and killed countless hapless citizens there. So now, if you’re really serious about what you said, then by all means do it. Your ancestors allowed so many of our fellows to die miserably at the hands of Japanese soldiers. So go on, show us that you’re one of them. You’ve shown quite a bit already after your refusal to admit to so many mishaps that have happened in this country from the recent hostage crisis, the Yolanda victims to the Fallen 44, showing us that you’re no different from the Nazis or the Imperial Japanese Army isn’t going to surprise me anymore.


Post Author: Grimwald


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15 Comments on "A Look Back into the Abyss: The Atrocities of World War II"

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My late Dad was a survivor of the infamous Bataan Death March. He was just 20 years old , then. I would not had been born, if he did not survive.

Benigno Aquino, Sr. , was the cause of many tortures and death of Filipino Guerrillas in World War II. My father went to join the Filipino Guerillas, after his release in Camp O’Donell in Tarlac.

We should never forget these tragedies in our country.

Dos Equis

Thanks for the history lesson. BUT, THE JEWS were not the biggest holocaust in history.’POGRAMS’ or ‘ETHNIC CLEANSING’ before WW2, and after, have been far worse than the horrors that befell Europe in the early 1940’s.
The ARMENIANS at the turn of the 20th century,the Canaanites,the Africans in Dharfur,Ruwanda and all over Africa for that matter.
IF IF IF it seems that the Jews in WW2 were the worst holocaust of all-time it is only because they cried the loudest and never stop crying about it. WHAH !!!!

Dos Equis

Worry about how the Filippines is a complete mess and getting worse. As it stands now, the entire country is ALMOST better off sinking into the Pacific Ocean, how’s that for screwed?

In regards to the war crime mitigation by the Japanese, you have to go about this in a different viewpoint. No country wants to paint themselves as the villain. For instance, the Filipinos killed Magellan, one of the greatest pioneers of his time yet PH history books write it off as a valiant achievement against Imperial Spain. Have you read any US textbooks that shames itself because they orchestrated the Trail of Tears? Good luck with that. All this proves that humanity itself has a sense of pride they still need to uphold despite the faults they have committed. It’s… Read more »

Benigno Sr and Benigno Jr were agents of foreign countries, the former for the Japanese, and the latter for the Americans and the Malaysians. Both ‘served’ their country by screwing the Filipinos. Why should we Filipinos think that from this root a fruit would come out differently?

Sick Amore
“while many Japanese citizens of today want to apologize for what happened, many elements of their government refuse to even acknowledge the event and there are those who insist on removing it from Japanese history books.” To those who wanted it removed, they maybe thinking it won’t do to dwell with the past that is far from the progressive and tranquil life they are already living. Descendants of the sufferers who don’t want to forget, like the Chinese people, stay angry with the Japanese if not wanting to take revenge even if the guilty parties are already dead and the… Read more »

People will continue to commit atrocities as long as they believe in absurdities.

The japanese were horrible…. they even killed their supposed allies in Manila, German Nationals… The German Club massacre of WWII a shared world war II memory. LOCATED in Intramuros between the centuries-old Manila Cathedral and the San Agustin Church, the bronze sculpture by young artist Peter de Guzman is mounted on black granite. Intramuros was brutally damaged along with Ermita, Malate and Paco in the Battle for Manila. ”ON THE MORNING of Feb. 10, 1945, about 800 people including Filipinos, Spanish and five German nationals, went to the [German Club] clubhouse on San Luis Street in Ermita to find shelter… Read more »
Regarding some Japanese officials denying the atrocities, I believe one of them is incumbent prime minister Shinzo Abe, and according to what I have read about him, he has an ancestor who was a war criminal, thus his denial (possibly to cover up what his said ancestor did and save face) and why Emperor Akihito was kinda criticizing him in a speech that he delivered last Aug. 2015 (forgot where I read this from, though). So yeah, guess I shouldn’t be surprised if he and Noynoy does get along quite well? :p Also, in one of the lectures of one… Read more »