Monday, April 6, 2020

Bieganski, Hollywood, and Japanese War Crimes

Bieganski the Brute Polak Stereotype is a hard book to describe to people.

"It's about stereotypes of Poles and other Eastern Europeans as the world's worst anti-Semites, and maybe the worst haters in history. Stupid, brutal, backward."

"But, Poles are terrible anti-Semites. Look at all the crimes committed by Poles during and after WW II. Jedwabne. Kielce. Are you denying that those horrible crimes ever happened?"

"No, Bieganski is not about denial. It's about stereotypes. It's about treating the crimes committed by Poles and other Eastern Europeans differently than crimes committed by members of other ethnic groups."

"So your book is all about denial, then."

How do I get through to such people?

Maybe this way.

Maybe by inviting them to read something as simple and relatively brief as the 42-page Wikipedia entry entitled, "Japanese War Crimes."

Or, if I wanted to demand more of my interlocutor, I could invite him or her to read Iris Chang's bestselling 1997 book, Rape of Nanking, a project that contributed to Chang's ultimate suicide.

WW-II-era Japan was a racist, imperialist nation that committed mass murder and unspeakable war crimes.

Included, at the end of this blog post, is a New York Times description of one such Japanese war crime. I place it at the end of the post because it is so disturbing that you may not want to read it, or, if you do read it, after you are done, you may not want to read anything else.

Again, I invite my interlocutor to read the Wikipedia page on Japanese war crimes, or Iris Chang's book, or even just the excerpt from the New York Times article included below, and then, after that, watch the 2012 film Emperor, starring Tommy Lee Jones and Matthew Fox.

The film is based on the true story of American General Bonner Fellers' (Matthew Fox) work in Japan after WW II. Tommy Lee Jones plays General Douglas MacArthur, but he isn't given much screentime. The movie is mostly about Fox's Fellers. The entire film is available on YouTube.

The film provides Fellers with a fictionalized backstory. He is, of course, in love with an exquisitely beautiful Japanese virginal fairy queen, Aya (Eriko Hatsune). Aya is shown drifting wistfully and laughingly through swaying bamboo. She's more sprite than human. She speaks little. Ethereal, beautiful, gracious Aya is blown to smithereens by an American bomb.

Indeed, Emperor begins with images of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. America, in Emperor, is the bad guy, the aggressor, the bully who goes around bombing charming people who live behind bamboo screens and drink cute cups of tea while kneeling humbly on the floor and cultivate Zen gardens. America Bad. Japan Good.

Japanese in the film are depicted as exquisitely dressed, calm, quiet, obedient, long-suffering, and the tutors in civilization. They have to teach dumbass Americans how to behave in a civilized manner.

In one brief scene, some toughs punch out Fellers in a noodle shop. Those are the only mean, violent Japanese in the entire movie. In another brief scene, a character that is depicted as otherwise protective, honorable, and sympathetic admits that he did bad things during war. What those bad things were, we never hear.

There are multiple scenes of Japanese quietly attempting to go about their daily lives in their American-bomb-wrecked cities.

This isn't the first Hollywood movie to invite Americans to embrace Japan and never focus on its war crimes. Back in 2011, on this blog, I wrote about the 1961 Rosalind Russell and Alec Guinness film, A Majority of One. You can see that blog post here.

This isn't the first film to use sex to whitewash Axis crimes. Sexy Nazis are a recurring them in popular culture and on this blog. You can read numerous blog posts about sexy Nazis here.

Below find an account of Japanese war crimes that you may not want to read.

From the New York Times

Unmasking Horror -- A special report.; Japan Confronting Gruesome War Atrocity

By Nicholas D. Kristof

March 17, 1995

He is a cheerful old farmer who jokes as he serves rice cakes made by his wife, and then he switches easily to explaining what it is like to cut open a 30-year-old man who is tied naked to a bed and dissect him alive, without anesthetic.

"The fellow knew that it was over for him, and so he didn't struggle when they led him into the room and tied him down," recalled the 72-year-old farmer, then a medical assistant in a Japanese Army unit in China in World War II. "But when I picked up the scalpel, that's when he began screaming.

"I cut him open from the chest to the stomach, and he screamed terribly, and his face was all twisted in agony. He made this unimaginable sound, he was screaming so horribly. But then finally he stopped. This was all in a day's work for the surgeons, but it really left an impression on me because it was my first time."

Finally the old man, who insisted on anonymity, explained the reason for the vivisection. The Chinese prisoner had been deliberately infected with the plague as part of a research project -- the full horror of which is only now emerging -- to develop plague bombs for use in World War II. After infecting him, the researchers decided to cut him open to see what the disease does to a man's inside. No anesthetic was used, he said, out of concern that it might have an effect on the results.

That research program was one of the great secrets of Japan during and after World War II: a vast project to develop weapons of biological warfare, including plague, anthrax, cholera and a dozen other pathogens. Unit 731 of the Japanese Imperial Army conducted research by experimenting on humans and by "field testing" plague bombs by dropping them on Chinese cities to see whether they could start plague outbreaks. They could.

A trickle of information about the program has turned into a stream and now a torrent. Half a century after the end of the war, a rush of books, documentaries and exhibitions are unlocking the past and helping arouse interest in Japan in the atrocities committed by some of Japan's most distinguished doctors.

Scholars and former members of the unit say that at least 3,000 people -- by some accounts several times as many -- were killed in the medical experiments; none survived.

No one knows how many died in the "field testing." It is becoming evident that the Japanese officers in charge of the program hoped to use their weapons against the United States. They proposed using balloon bombs to carry disease to America, and they had a plan in the summer of 1945 to use kamikaze pilots to dump plague-infected fleas on San Diego.

The research was kept secret after the end of the war in part because the United States Army granted immunity from war crimes prosecution to the doctors in exchange for their data. Japanese and American documents show that the United States helped cover up the human experimentation. Instead of putting the ringleaders on trial, it gave them stipends…


  1. People who make statements like those you describe tend to have a limited understanding of history and don’t want a less limited one.

    I admire your courage and resolve to try to educate them.

  2. Japanese in the film are depicted as exquisitely dressed, calm, quiet, obedient, long-suffering, and the tutors in civilization. They have to teach dumbass Americans how to behave in a civilized manner.

    Oikophobia at its worst, btw.

  3. Ive read The Rape of Nanking. Absolutely horrific... But no one cares, Im afraid.Chinese are, today anyway, considered more of a threat then as victims. One of my teachers at university,a German, even openly blamed Chang for: antijapanese sentiments and exaggeration.Try the same thing with aby Jewish writer badmouthing Slavs. Ive noticed as of late that more and more people are blaming the Chinese for the Coronavirus and the most outrageous conspiracy theories are making their round. Easier to blame sneaky Chinese people than just accept that, sometimes,bad things just happens.

  4. There is a Polish 1960 novel partially about Japanese crimes - "LeĊ›nie Morze" by Igor Newerly.


Bieganski the Blog exists to further explore the themes of the book Bieganski the Brute Polak Stereotype, Its Role in Polish-Jewish Relations and American Popular Culture.
These themes include the false and damaging stereotype of Poles as brutes who are uniquely hateful and responsible for atrocity, and this stereotype's use in distorting WW II history and all accounts of atrocity.
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