It is undeniable that World War I and World War II were both essentially political wars fought by world powers to establish their dominion in the nations. But what has been forgotten apart from the genocide of the Jews is that racism remains one of the great neglected subjects of World War II.
John Dower’s book War Without Mercy helps us to understand the racist atmosphere that developed in both Japan and in the United States. He writes, “To scores of millions of participants, the war was also a race war. It exposed raw prejudices and was fueled by racial pride, arrogance and rage on many sides.
In 1996 Gregory H. Stanton presented a briefing paper to the U.S. State Department that included eight stages of genocide. Gregory claimed that these stages always unfold in both predictable and chronological order. The earlier stages continue to operate even as the process continues to progress. Stanton identified the eight stages as classification, symbolization, dehumanization, organization, polarization, preparation, extermination, and denial. Gregory discusses these patterns of genocide in further detail on his website.
Dehumanization of the Enemy
Dehumanization is when one group denies the humanity of the other group. Members of it are equated with animals, vermin, insects or diseases. Dehumanization overcomes the normal human revulsion against murder. At this stage, hate propaganda in print and on hate radios is used to vilify the victim group.
On Sunday, December 7, 1941, Japan reportedly attacked Pearl Harbor. In his exhaustive and groundbreaking research, IBM and the Holocaust, Edwin Black wrote,
Within forty-eight hours, the Bureau of the Census published its first report on “Japanese Americans entitled Japanese Population of the United States, Its Territories and Possessions.” The next day it published “Japanese Population by Nativity and Citizenship in Selected Cities of the United States.” And on December 10, it released a third report, “Japanese Population in the Pacific Coast by Sex, Nativity and Citizenship, by Counties.” Using IBM applications, the Census Bureau had tracked the racial ancestry of Japanese Americans based on their responses to the 1940 census. Census Director J. C. Capt confirmed, “We didn’t wait for the American declaration of war which was proclaimed Monday afternoon, December 8. On Monday morning, we put our people to work on the “Japanese thing.” Since only 135,430 Japanese Americans lived in the United States, the results were tabulated quickly. A single sort was necessary: race.
By February 19, 1942, President Roosevelt could confidently sign Executive Order 9066 authorizing the internment of Japanese Americans on the West Coast. On March 22, 1942, the evacuations began in Los Angeles. The U.S. Supreme Court later upheld the legality of such a measure based on ancestral grounds alone.
It was the dehumanization of the enemy that made possible the devastation of civilian populations that included Christians. The American people, including American Christians, were psychologically prepared to accept and even applaud the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
As Howard Zinn notes, the use of nuclear weapons was made possible through years of dehumanizing the enemy and prepared the public for the use of such weapons. When the enemy isn’t seen as a human being created in the image of God, it’s easy to dismiss their deaths as necessary and for a greater good.
Do you remember the phrase “either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists”? That is the definition of dehumanization. The media manipulated the thinking of the people by using propaganda to increase support for the war and foment hatred for the enemy. Time Magazine said, “The ordinary unreasoning Jap is ignorant. Perhaps he is human. Nothing…indicates it.
But these were human beings created in the image of God, just like the people from every nation. President Harry Truman had instructed Secretary of War Henry Stimson to only seek out military targets—not women and children—but he forgot that a bomb with the explosive force of about 15,000 tons of TNT would completely destroy an entire city.
Of course we shouldn’t minimize the terrible atrocities perpetrated by the Japanese army in the Philippines and in China. At the start of World War II, Nazi warplanes dropped bombs on the civilian populations of Rotterdam in Holland and Coventry in England. President Franklin D. Roosevelt described these bombings as “inhuman barbarism that has profoundly shocked the conscience of humanity.”
But not too long after that the United States and Britain were doing the very same thing, and on a far larger scale. But the Americans who had bombed civilians in German cities were not considered subhuman.
Racism and War
We know that racism is insidious, intensifying all other factors. And the persistent notion that the Japanese were less than human probably played some role in the willingness to wipe out two cities populated by people of color. Ultimately, however, it brought about a revolution in racial consciousness throughout the world that continues to this very day!
But does race justify the war that kills innocent people? In trying to answer this question, activist John Cavanaugh-O’Keefe explains what it takes to slide into the abyss of war through another lesson from Nazi Germany. America and Britain are not Nazi Germany, but we can learn valuable lessons from its history:
Different people give very different explanations for war. To persuade them to risk their lives, you need a mixture of motives and abilities, including an enemy, weapons, a practical goal, and an ideal. In World War II, the Nazis used eugenics for three of the four critical ingredients of war. There must be a clearly defined enemy, someone to oppose and to shoot at. Eugenics provided that: dysgenic Jews and their Marxist allies. There must be weapons; eugenics did not provide that. There must be a practical goal, something to be achieved by the bloodshed. Eugenics offered that: living space for the master race. There must be an inspirational ideal, greater than material goods, to justify sacrifice and bloodshed. Eugenics provided that a better world populated by an improved race and run by the best people.
Christopher Browning expressed this same fear of living in a world in which war and racism are prevalent, in which the powers of government mobilization and legitimization are powerful and increasing, in which a sense of personal responsibility is increasingly reduced by bureaucracies, and in which the peer group exerts tremendous pressures on behavior and sets moral norms. “In such a world,” he writes, “I fear, modern governments that wish to commit mass murder will seldom fail in their efforts for being unable to induce ‘ordinary men’ to become their ‘willing executioners.
In Nazi Germany decent men were taken by Heinrich Himmler who eventually violated and destroyed their consciences in order that they would perform very inhuman and barbaric acts to fellow human beings. In Hitler’s Cross, Erwin W. Lutzer describes how power hypnotized an entire nation:
Both Hitler and Himmler believed that each of the SS troops had to perform some deed that would violate his conscience and sense of decency. Only when they did what others found to be reprehensible would they break away from their old values. The conscience had to be deadened through these acts of barbarism, and this would serve the dual purpose of cutting the recruit off from his past ties, his family, friends, and thereby boding him to his new peers and his leader. The break would be so complete that he could never go back. An act of torture or murder would unite him with blood brothers who had crossed the same line, felt the same numbness, and sworn themselves to uphold the same cause….
To transform the men into non thinking, unfeeling machines Himmler needed to indoctrinate them into a secret society of their own. He assured them that a master race was developing, and if the inferior races stood in their way the scientific belief in the “survival of the fittest” dictated that these races had to be exterminated……The Nazis proved that ordinary people, if controlled with rigid discipline and the power of mass psychology, can be induced to carry out the most brutal and destructive crime the human mind can devise. Researchers have concluded that Hitler’s SS troops were not different psychologically from the rest of humanity.
In this short video Dan Carlin explains why the Nazis and Soviets were able to convince millions of people to enslave and murder their countrymen.
After careful reflection and studying, the similarities of what happened in World War II and what is happening today are very compelling. Make no mistake about it, without a Great Awakening both spiritually and politically, history will repeat itself on a far larger scale. The only hope we have is in Jesus Christ. When asked by His disciples about the signs of the times and the end of the age, He said,
And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24: 6:14)