The ‘Captain’-the evil of Willi Herold

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Last week a lady  asked me how was it possible that people committed so may awful atrocities during WWII, did their conscience not bother them. She also thought it must have taken years for people to be indoctrinated in evil thinking.

I told her that it actually takes a very short time for the human psyche to be conditioned to commit evil acts, Experiments like the ‘Stanford Prison Experiment’ and the ‘Third Wave’ has shown it only takes a few days.

The case of Willi Herold shows that people believe authoritative leaders put those leaders in an uniform and the critical thinking gets abandoned, no questions are asked not even a quick check to see if this leader is really who he claims to be.

Willi Herold  was born on 11 September 1925 in Lunzenau, Saxony, the son of a roofer. There is not much more known about Willi as a child, but what he did as a teenager is what makes his story intriguing and disturbing.

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He joined the Wehrmacht on September 30,1943, he had just turned 18.

At the final stages  of World War II, in April 1945,with Germany’s war efforts in chaos, Willi,separated from his comrades,hungry  and desperate  for warmth, comes across an abandoned car with a suitcase that contains an  uniform of a Luftwaffe Captain . He put on this uniform and pretended to be the officer, gathering around him a number of equally lost soldiers. Rather then trying to finish the war somewhere sound and safe Herold becomes a personification of the Nazi regime, upending the German army’s bureaucracy and establishing himself as a force to be reckoned with.

On 11 April 1945, Herold’s group arrived at the Aschendorfermoor prison camp, which housed German army deserters as inmates,

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Herold told the German authorities at the camp that he was acting under the direct orders of Adolf Hitler and he was to take over  command of the camp. Herold and his men then began to murder inmates guilty of any transgression,like trying to escape. Within the followin eight days, Herold had more than 100 camp inmates murdered.

After the camp was hit by an air raid  most of the surviving inmates succeede to escape. Herold and his men left the camp and committed several further war crimes; they hanged a farmer in Leer, East Frisia, who had hoisted the white flag, and also murdered five Dutchmen for alleged espionage.

Retreating from approaching Allied troops, Herold’s group arrived in a town in Lower Saxony ,Aurich, where they were arrested by the local German commander, But Herold was soon released by mistake.

On May 23, 1945 He was arrested by the Royal Navy for stealing a loaf of bread. After an investigation and the questioning of witnesses, Herold was identified as a wanted war criminal. On 1 February 1946, Herold and his men were forced by the British occupying forces to dig up the remains of the inmates they had  murdered at Aschendorfermoor camp ,a total of 195 bodies were excavated. On 29 August 1946, Herold and six other co-defendants were sentenced to death, 5 others were acquitted. On 14 November 1946 Willi Herold was executed by guillotine.

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Willi Herold was only 19 when he ordered those men to be murdered.

In 2017 a movie was made about the events,directed by Robert Schwentke,  titled ‘The Captain’ or ‘Der Hauptmann’

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Sources

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CBS News

Der Spiegel

 

 

 

 

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Wilhelm Boger,the tiger of Auschwitz-Auschwitz Political Department

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The Political Department was the representative of the RSHA( Reich Main Security Office)in the camp, and its main objectives  were

  • Identification documentation
  • Keeping files on individual prisoners
  • Investigations
  • Interrogations
  • Intelligence service
  • Surveillance
  • Camp registrar (sometimes in conjunction with supervision of the crematorium)

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Wilhelm Friedrich Boger who had the nickname ‘the tiger of Auschwitz’, was an officer of Political Department ,which were a part of the Gestapo. He was notorious for the crimes he committed.

He also invented a torture device called the ‘Boger Swing’

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After the war, Boger’s secretary,Frau Braun, gave a vivid description how the Boger Swing was used.

“It was a meter-long iron bar suspended by chains hung from the ceiling(the drawing above is from a different version of the Boger Swing)… A prisoner would be brought in for “questioning,” stripped naked and bent over the bar, wrists manacled to ankles. A guard at one side would shove him—or her—off across the chamber in a long, slow arc, while Boger would ask “questions,” at first quietly, then barking them out, and at the last bellowing. At each return, another guard armed with a crowbar would smash the victim across the buttocks. As the swinging went on and on, and the wailing victim fainted, was revived only to faint howling again, the blows continued—until only a mass of bleeding pulp hung before their eyes. Most perished from the ordeal–some sooner, some later. In the end a sack of bones and flayed flesh and fat was swept along the shambles of that concrete floor to be dragged away”

His evil crimes in the Political Department continued until the evacuation of Auschwitz in January 1945.

After the camp was liberated he went on the run for five months until June 1946.He was eventually caught in Ludwigsburg where his parents lived He was supposed to  have been extradited to Poland for trial but managed to escape later that same year. From 1948 until mid 1949, he managed to get a job as a farm hand in Crailsheim. He then lived with his family under his real name in Hemmingen . He found a job as supervisor of supplies at the Heinkelwerke, an airplane factory in his birthplace Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen, where he was arrested in October 1958 at the age of 51. Untill that time he had lived a ‘normal’ live. His neighbours knew he had worked in Auschwitz and when they asked him about his time he replied”er habe sich nichts vorzuwerfen” he had done nothing to feel guilty about.

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He was released shortly afterwards for he passed denazification. The following assessment of Boger was made:

“.He does not leave the impression of a raw, brutal man, but more one of a rational, well-schooled police commissioner and civil servant.” a the investigation was stopped because it did not warrant any further costs to be borne by the German state.

However in 1959 he was re-arrested and was charged for the war crimes he committed at Auschwitz. On 20 August 1965 he was also tied  at the Frankfurt Auschwitz Trials by the Landgericht Frankfurt am Main under Chief Judge Hans Hofmeyer for aiding and abetting the murder of Jews.

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After several  eyewitness accounts he was sentenced to life imprisonment for murder in at least 5 cases, collective murder in at least 109 cases and aiding  in collective murder.

He died on April 3,1977,aged 70 in prison.

 

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Sources

Der Spiegel

German Wikipedia

Coming face to face with the Holocaust

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In April 1945 the allied troops forced the citizens of Neunburg,Germany to face up to some of the atrocities ordered and  committed by their elected government. They were made to look at bodies of Jewish  and other slave laborers in woods outside Neunberg, where they were marched from a Nazi Gestapo camp and where thy had been killed by firing squads.

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Civilians of Neunburg  were ordered to disinter and rebury victims in the city cemetery.Chaplains of U. S. Third Army held short services for the victims.

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Michael Kitzelmann, his conscience got the better of him.

Michael Kitzelmann

It would be absurd to say that every German soldier was bad. There were some who saw what was happening and protested against it and paid the ultimate price for it.

Michael Kitzelmann had been a loyal soldier of the Wehrmacht. He was company commander at the age of  24,  and was awarded the Iron Cross,Second Class for bravery in battle. He was also a devout Catholic.  In letters to his parents and in talks with his fellow soldiers he would be critical  of war and destruction of those responsible,during Operation Barbarossa.Russland, Halbkettenfahrzeug mit Geschütz

Between January and May 1942 he was assigned  to a unit combating  partisans in Russia, where he witnessed  atrocities committed by  the Einsatzgruppen  on the Russian population and against the Jews.

Traumatized and shocked by these experiences he started to re-examine his conscience. He to detest the Nazis and openly criticize commands.

His attitude resulting from a Christian rejection of war and the Nazi leaders responsible became  apparent in his letters home and discussions with fellow soldiers.

A  comrade betrayed  him in March 1942, whilst he  was being treated for an injury in a hospital. Kitzelmann was subsequently arrested in April 1942.  On Good Friday 1942,he was  sentenced to death for undermining military force.

He  was executed  by firing squad on 11 June 1942 in Oryol prison.Before his execution, he forgave the sergeant who had betrayed him.

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St. Stephen’s College massacre-Japanese Hong Kong atrocity

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The St. Stephen’s College massacre  involved a series of acts of extreme cruelty committed by the Imperial Japanese Army on 25 December 1941 during the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong at St. Stephen’s College.

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Several hours before the British surrendered on Christmas day at the end of the Battle of Hong Kong,

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Japanese soldiers entered St. Stephen’s College, which was being used as a hospital on the front line at the time.The Japanese were met by two doctors, Black and Witney, who were marched away, and were later found dead and mutilated.They then burst into the wards and bayoneted a number of British, Canadian and Indian wounded soldiers who were incapable of hiding.The survivors and their nurses were imprisoned in two rooms upstairs. Later, a second wave of Japanese troops arrived after the fighting had moved further south, away from the school. They removed two Canadians from one of the rooms, and mutilated and killed them outside. Many of the nurses next door were then dragged off to be gang raped, and later found mutilated. The following morning, after the surrender, the Japanese ordered that all these bodies should be cremated just outside the hall. Other soldiers who had died in the defence of Stanley were burned with those killed in the massacre, making well over 100 altogether

When the college and the grounds of Stanley Prison became a civilian internment camp, the internees gathered up the burnt remains, shards of bones, buttons and charred effects from the cremation, and then buried them. A gravestone marks the spot where these items were interred at Stanley Cemetery.

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The Gardelegen massacre

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On May 7th, 1945, Life Magazine published a series of photographs which showed the atrocities discovered by American troops as they fought their way across Germany during the last days of World War II. Included was the photo below, which shows the charred bodies of concentration camp prisoners who were burned to death inside a barn near the Medieval walled town of Gardelegen in eastern Germany on the night of April 13, 1945.

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The Gardelegen massacre was a massacre perpetrated by German SS and Luftwaffe troops during World War II. On April 13, 1945, on the Isenschnibbe estate near the northern German town of Gardelegen, the troops forced 1,016 slave laborers, many of them Poles, who were part of a transport evacuated from the Mittelbau-Dora labor camp into a large barn which was then set on fire. Most of the prisoners were burned alive; some were shot trying to escape. The crime was discovered two days later by F Company, 2nd Battalion, 405th Regiment, U.S. 102nd Infantry Division, when the U.S. Army occupied the area.

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On Friday, April 13th, approximately 1050 to 1100 of the concentration camp prisoners were herded inside a grain barn, piled knee-high with straw, which had been previously doused with gasoline. The barn was then deliberately set on fire by German SS and Luftwaffe soldiers and boys from the Hitler Jugend, according to the survivors. Prisoners who tried to escape from the fire were machine-gunned to death by the Germans guarding the barn, including teen-aged boys in the Hitler Jugend. A total of 1016 prisoners were burned to death or shot as they tried to escape from the unlocked barn. Around 100 of the prisoners survived, including several Russian Prisoners of War who greeted the American soldiers and led them to the scene of one of the most ignominious war crimes of World War II.

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The man who is considered to be the main instigator of the Gardelegen massacre is 34-year-old Gerhard Thiele, who was the Nazi party district leader of Gardelegen. On April 6, 1945, Thiele called a meeting of his staff and other officials at which he issued an order, which had been given to him a few days before by Gauleiter Rudolf Jordan, that any prisoners who were caught looting or who tried to escape should be shot on the spot.

 

On April 14, the 102nd entered Gardelegen and, the following day, discovered the atrocity. They found the corpses of 1,016 prisoners in the still-smoldering barn and nearby trenches, where the SS had had the charred remains dumped. They also interviewed several of the prisoners who had managed to escape the fire and the shootings. U.S. Army Signal Corps photographers soon arrived to document the Nazi crime and by April 19, 1945, the story of the Gardelegen massacre began appearing in the Western press. On that day, both the New York Times and The Washington Post ran stories on the massacre, quoting one American soldier who stated:

I never was so sure before of exactly what I was fighting for. Before this you would have said those stories were propaganda, but now you know they weren’t. There are the bodies and all those guys are dead.

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On April 21, 1945, the local commander of the 102nd ordered between 200 and 300 men from the town of Gardelegen to give the murdered prisoners a proper burial.

 

Over the next few days, the German civilians exhumed 586 bodies from the trenches and recovered 430 bodies from the barn, placing each in an individual grave. On April 25, the 102nd carried out a ceremony to honor the dead and erected a memorial tablet to the victims, which stated that the townspeople of Gardelegen are charged with the responsibility that the “graves are forever kept as green as the memory of these unfortunates will be kept in the hearts of freedom-loving men everywhere.” Also on April 25, Colonel George Lynch addressed German civilians at Gardelegen with the following statement:

“The German people have been told that stories of German atrocities were Allied propaganda. Here, you can see for yourself. Some will say that the Nazis were responsible for this crime. Others will point to the Gestapo. The responsibility rests with neither — it is the responsibility of the German people….Your so-called Master Race has demonstrated that it is master only of crime, cruelty and sadism. You have lost the respect of the civilized world.”

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Gerhard Thiele managed to elude justice in January 1946. He escaped , but it was found out he had lived in Düsseldorf at least until 1991 under a false identity.He died in 1994.

However, at least one of the SS men involved in the Gardelegen massacre was put on trial in 1947, according to Gring. She states on page 34 that SS-Untersturmführer Erhart Brauny was sentenced to life in prison. According to Gring, Brauny had been assigned to the Rottleberode sub-camp in 1944 and he was the transport leader for the prisoners evacuated from the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp who subsequently wound up in Gardelegen and were herded into the barn which was set on fire.

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He was sentenced to life imprisonment and died in 1950 of natural causes in prison.

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Karl Schümers- the butcher of Greece

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Karl Schümers (17 October 1905 – 18 August 1944) was a high-ranking commander in the Waffen-SS and Ordnungspolizei (police) of Nazi Germany during World War II. He commanded the SS Polizei Division in July – August 1944. He was directly or indirectly involved in many of the major atrocities committed in Greece during 1944. Killed by a landmine on 18 August 1944, he was posthumously awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross

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  • On 5 April 1944, Karl Schümers commanded the 7th unit of the 4th SS Polizei Panzergrenadier Division to the execution of 277 unarmed women, children and elders in the village of Kleisoura in Greece as a retaliation of the killing of 3 German soldiers.In the official investigations by his command hierarchy for the massacre he testified that his soldiers had to kill them all because guerrilla forces were hiding in the village, and was acquitted, while it was proven after the war that his testimony was false.
  • On 24 April the his 7th unit committed the Pyrgoi massacre where 368 children were slaughtered.Mnimio-pesonton
  • Men from the same 7th unit, under the command of Hans Zampel and Fritz Lautenbach committed the Distomo massacre, on 10 June, where 218 civilians were brutally murdered for retaliation, one of the cruelest atrocities of WW II; no one was ever tried for this war crime.Distomo_massacre_1944
  • On 17 June 1944 Karl Schümers commanded the execution of 28 civilians and total destruction of Ipati, and the next day, the burning down of Sperchiada and the killing of 35 civilians.
  • After he was assigned the command of the 4th Panzer Grenadier Division, on 22 July 1944,the 8th unit of his forces took part in the operation Kreuzotter (5-31 August 1944) in a failed attempt to eradicate ELAS bases from the mountains of central Greece, Roumeli, Greece , that resulted, among others, in the killing of approximately 170 civilians and the partial or complete destruction of dozens of villages and cities.Αντάρτες_του_ΕΑΜ-ΕΛΑΣ

He was killed on 18 August 1944 when his car stepped into a landmine planted by Greek resistance, in Arta, Greece.

Japanese Human Target practice

Japanese troops using prisoners of war for target practice, 1942 2

The Japanese treatment of prisoners of war in World War II was barbaric. The men shown in the above picture are part of the Sikh Regiment of the British Indian Army. All of them are sitting in the traditional cross-legged prayer position. They’re probably reciting their final prayers as this picture was being taken. It’s very morbid if you think about it. The vast majority of Indian soldiers captured when Singapore fell belonged to Sikh community. These photographs were found among Japanese records when British troops retook Singapore.

Japanese troops using prisoners of war for target practice, 1942 1

If you examine carefully the second picture you’ll note a marker hanging over the heart of each prisoner and the stakes in front bear of the rifle. Each target position is marked with a number, indicating that the solider in position one is going to shoot the prisoner on position one, and so on.

The positions where the targets are located is generally called “the butts”. This is a target practice, not a straightforward military execution by firing squad. A firing squad usually has a half-dozen or more shooters per condemned, to guarantee a pretty instant death. In this case, shooters are assigned one per victim. Moreover in a military execution, victims don’t get bayoneted at the end. If any are still alive, the officer in charge should administer a coup de grace with a pistol.Japanese troops using prisoners of war for target practice, 1942 3

The most severe treatment was directed at the Chinese who were killed in large numbers by a variety of brutal means. The killings were conducted in many ways including shooting, burying alive, bayoneting, beheading, medical experimentation, and other methods.a2e13e6832e9f98f827d8bd31755940b

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Confronted with the crimes of their leaders.

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It would of course be unfair to say that all Germans and Austrians were guilty of the atrocities carried out by their leaders. But it is also unfair to believe that no one of the ordinary citizenship knew what was happening. The excuse of “we didn’t know” should not always have been taken for granted.

Especially those who lived near the concentration camps must have had at least an inkling of what was going on.

The fact is that the crimes were carried out by those who they had elected as their leaders, therefore the crimes were committed in their names.

Below are pictures of the local population and SS officers being made facing the atrocities

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SS officer Eichelsdoerfer, the commandant of the Kaufering IV concentration camp, stands among the corpses of prisoners killed in his camp.

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German civilians under U.S. military escort are forced to see a wagon loaded with corpses in Buchenwald.

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Under orders from the U.S. Army, Austrian civilians dig mass graves for corpses found in Gusen

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On orders from the U.S. Army, Austrian citizens remove corpses from the “Russian camp” section of Mauthausen for burial in a mass grave.

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Civilians from nearby Weimar are forced by American soldiers to see the remains of prisoners in the crematorium ovens of Buchenwald during their tour of the concentration camp.

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Under the direction of an American soldier, German civilians from Gardelegen carry wooden crosses to the site where they were ordered to bury the bodies of concentration camp prisoners killed by the SS in a barn just outside the town.

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German civilians from the town of Nordhausen bury the corpses of prisoners found in the Nordhausen concentration camp in mass graves.Only one man looks at the corpses.

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Pictures courtesy if NARA and USHMM.

 

The evil of Japan during WWII

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Many people forget that the Japanese war crimes were as bad if not worse then those committed by the Nazi’s albeit it on a marginal lesser scale. Beside the crimes and experiment committed by Unit 731 there were a great number of other atrocities, including cannibalism.

https://dirkdeklein.net/2016/07/01/unit-731-japanese-wwii-experiments/

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In “The Knights of Bushido”, Lord Russell of Liverpool describes an unprovoked murder of two Dutch civilian administrators at Balikpapan in Borneo after the Japanese invaded that Dutch colony in 1942. An eyewitness to the murders gave the following horrific account:

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“I saw a district officer and a police inspector, both in uniform, in conversation with a Japanese Army officer. During the interview, the officer had been continually ill-treating the district officer (a Dutchman), slapping his face and hitting him all over his body with the scabbard of his sword. Suddenly, the officer drew his sword and hacked off both the Dutchman’s arms just above the elbows, and then both his legs above the knees. The trunk of his body was then tied to a coconut tree and bayoneted until life was extinct. The Japanese officer then turned his attention to the Dutch policeman, who had his arms and legs hewed off in like manner. The policeman struggled on to the stumps of his legs and managed to shout ‘God save the Queen’

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He then fell dead, a bayonet through his heart”

Lord Russell relates the story of a young American pilot who was captured, murdered, and eaten by Japanese officers on the island of New Britain. The story is narrated by Havildar Chandgi Ram who had been shipped to New Britain with other Indian Army prisoners of war and forced to work as a slave labourer for the Imperial Japanese Army.

“On 12 November 1944, I was digging a trench for the Japanese in the Totabil area of New Britain. About 1600 hours, a single-engined United States fighter plane made a forced landing about a hundred yards away from where I was working. The Japanese from Go Butai Kendebo Camp rushed to the spot and seized the pilot, who could not have been more than twenty years old, and had managed to scramble out of the plane before the Japs could reach him.

“About half an hour from the time of the forced landing, the Kempei Tai * beheaded the pilot. I saw this from behind a tree and watched some of the Japanese cut flesh from his arms, legs, hips and buttocks and carry it off to their quarters. I was so shocked at the scene and followed the Japanese just to find out what they would do with the flesh. They cut it in small pieces and fried it.

“Later that evening, a senior Japanese officer, of the rank of major general, addressed a large number of officers. At the conclusion of his speech, a piece of fried flesh was given to all present who ate it on the spot.”

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Just a day before the British surrendered Singapore, Japanese soldiers stormed Alexandra Military Hospital and slaughtered its occupants, including the medical staff and patients. Even those undergoing surgery were not spared.

Following the massacre, the Japanese forced those left to clean up the mess and then herded them into cramped rooms. When morning came, the Japanese rounded up the 200 survivors (some died during the night) and bayoneted them in the courtyard. Only five survived the second massacre by hiding in a storm drain.

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Japan did not subscribe to the Geneva convention and systematically mistreated and tortured the POW’s . They even used them as target practice(1st picture above)

Close to 200,000 Prisoners of War died during the construction of the Burma-Thailand(death) Railway.

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3,098 Dutch (19%)
6,904 English (29%)
2,646 Australians (31%)
131 American (23%)
180,000 Asiatic (90%)

Even the small South Pacific island of Nauru did not escape the horrors of the war. During their occupation of the island, the Japanese committed a string of atrocities, and a few stood out for their brutality.

After a raid on the island’s airfield by American bombers on March 1943, the Japanese beheaded and bayoneted five interned Australians in retaliation.

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That same year, the Japanese also forcibly deported more than 1,000 indigenous inhabitants as labor to other occupied islands to conserve rations.

During their occupation, the Japanese singlehandedly exterminated the island’s leper colony. Stowing the island’s 39 lepers on a boat, the Japanese led them far out to sea and out of sight. Afterward, Japanese gun boats fired at the vessel, sinking it and killing all onboard.

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One of Japan’s most notorious submarines, the I-8, is best remembered for sinking two Allied ships and for the crew’s terrible conduct in the aftermath.

On March 26, 1944, the sub spotted and sank the Dutch freighter Tsijalak hundreds of miles off the coast of Colombo, Sri Lanka. The Japanese took 103 survivors onboard and massacred them with swords and sledgehammers. They then bound those still alive and left them on deck as the submarine dove below. Only five survived the ordeal.

Just a few months later, the Japanese destroyed the US cargo ship Jean Nicolet and subjected the survivors to the same brutal treatment. The Japanese tortured and killed their prisoners by making them pass through a gauntlet of swords and bayonets before throwing their bodies overboard. The Japanese later dove after spotting an Allied aircraft, with 30 prisoners still above deck. Only two dozen of the 100-plus prisoners survived.

The list of atrocities is neatly endless and these ones weren’t ever the worse, China was suffered most under the Japanese. The rape of Nanking or Nanking Massacre took place between December 13, 1937 – January 1938. The numbers killed are unknown but the consensus is anywhere between 50,000 and 300,000.

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Early in 1945, General Yamashita planned for his men to evacuate Manila and fight in the countryside. However, two Japanese admirals ignored his order and committed their men to a final stand inside the city. When the Americans arrived, the Japanese forces realized that they faced certain death and vented their rage on the hapless civilians trapped inside their lines.

https://dirkdeklein.net/2016/08/10/the-manila-massacre/

For weeks, the Japanese raped, pillaged, and murdered. Aside from the bayonets and beheadings, they machine-gunned captives and set fire to buildings with people trapped inside. The Americans ceased artillery strikes so the Japanese could surrender, but the Japanese instead continued their rampage.

 

 

After the dust settled, all Japanese defenders of the city had died, taking with them 100,000 civilian casualties. The incident left Manila as one of the Allies’ most damaged capital cities, second only to Warsaw.