Was Hideki Tojo, Who Saved the Jews, the “Hitler of Asia”?

China is spreading propaganda campaigns against Japan throughout the world to paint the Japanese as the “Nazis of today.” Their propaganda activities have intensified since Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited the Yasukuni Shrine at the end of last year.

The Chinese ambassador to Israel contributed an article to the local English newspaper, saying, “Hideki Tojo was the Hitler of Asia.” He wrote that it was wrong for Prime Minister Abe to visit Yasukuni Shrine that honors the war dead including “Class A war criminals”such as former Prime Minister Tojo.

US major media joined those leveling this criticism. At the beginning of March, the New York Times called Prime Minister Abe a nationalist, stating that he is trying to whitewash the history of the war.

Behind this, there is the vague but commonly held assumption that Hideki Tojo was a Hitler-like dictator who committed something akin to the Holocaust by Nazi Germany. But is it true?


Hideki Tojo Saved the Lives of 20,000 Jewish Refugees

Tojo actually saved many Jews from being massacred, but this fact is little known in the world.

The discrimination against the Jews began shortly after the Nazi Party took power in 1933, and grew in intensity around 1938. In the latter half of that year, the attacks on Jewish businesses and synagogues spread throughout Germany, and some millions of Jews fled the country.

At the time, only a few countries were actively taking in Jewish refugees, and Shanghai, the city that the Army of Imperial Japan virtually occupied, was the only place in the world where Jews could enter without a visa. In Mach of that year, the Jewish refugees flocked in the freezing cold to Otpor, the terminal of the Trans-Siberian Railway, to escape to Shanghai. Manchuria, where Japanese troops were stationed, was near Otpor and they first sought entrance to Manchuria.

As Japan had entered into the “Anti-Communist Pact” with Germany to counter a threat from the Soviet Union, there were calls for further careful argument within the government. Pro-German groups were especially strong in the army. However, as many Jews were freezing to death, Kiichiro Higuchi, major general and commander of the Harbin Special Branch of the Kwantung army, decided they should be helped and allowed their transit into Japan. According to one estimate, some 20,000 people were saved, and many of them headed to Japan and Shanghai.

This provoked much anger on the German side, and Foreign Minister Ribbentrop sought punishment for Higuchi claiming that his act thwarted the plan and ideal of Hitler.

Hideki Tojo, the Chief of staff of the Kwantung Army and Higuchi’s then superior, spurned this demand by saying, “it’s the right thing to do from a humanitarian point of view.” A few months later, Tojo brushed off the calls for punishment from within the army, and transferred Higuchi to the higher post of the second director of General Staff Headquarters.

After the war, Higuchi’s name was engraved in the “Golden Book,” the book-shaped golden monument that inscribes the names of people who have contributed to the founding of Israel. This was done on the recommendation of the representatives for the Jews living in the Far East, but Tojo’s name should also have been inscribed because it was he who gave the formal permission to the rescue of Jewish refugees.


Tojo Paved the Way for the Government’s Decision to Shelter Jews

At the time, both America and Britain imposed a restriction on Jewish immigrants, and both countries sometimes engaged in inhuman acts such as shooting at boats carrying Jewish refugees who barely escaped with their lives.

Under these types of circumstances, Japan officially opened their doors to these displaced Jewish peoples. In December 1938, top-level ministers such as the Prime Minister, foreign minister, finance minister, army minister, and navy minister met at The Five Minister’s Conference to discuss how to deal with the question of Jewish refugees. (The Five Ministers’ Conference) They decided on a policy to protect Jewish refugees, because the expulsion of the Jews went against racial equality that Japan had advocated for years. It was nine months after the Jewish refugees asked Japan for help at the Otpor station. At that point in time, no other country practiced a policy of non-discrimination against the Jews.

It was also Tojo who played an important role in this government decision. About one year before the Five Minister’s Conference, January 1938, the Kwantung army set a policy to shelter Jewish refugees. The policy declared that under the spirit of universal brotherhood (Hakkou Ichiu), the Japanese Army would never discriminate against Jews but would accept and embrace them. In the midst of intensifying persecution by Nazis, the Japanese Army declared that any Jews entering and residing in Japan, China, and Manchuria would be treated the same way as brothers and sisters.

Tojo was the one responsible for making the final decision. The rescue of the Jews by Japan would have been impossible without Tojo’s compassionate and humane decision.


Shanghai Was Considered “Paradise” by the Jews

Under the Japanese policy, the International Settlement of Shanghai was inundated with some thirty thousand Jews. However, the Nazi’s persecution of Jews extended to Shanghai, and in 1942 when Japan went to war with the United States, Reichsfuhrer-SS Himmler, aide to Hitler, sent SS colonel Meisinger over to Japan. The proposals he presented to the Japanese government renewed their awareness of gruesomeness of the Holocaust.

Meisinger’s proposals for the “extermination of Jews” were to include: (1) Putting them on a disabled ship and leaving them to die of starvation in the East China Sea; (2) work them to death at a salt mine; or (3) create a concentration camp at the mouth of the Yangtze River and conduct live-body experiments.

Since the Japanese government had decided on a policy to prohibit discrimination against Jews, Meisinger’s demand was unacceptable by any measure. The government warned the Jews in Shanghai about the immediate danger, while at the same time determining to ensure the safety of the Jews by all means. This was the reason that Shanghai Ghetto (the Restricted Sector for Stateless Refugees) was established.

Ghettos established in Nazi-occupied areas were directly connected to concentration camps, but in the ghetto created by Japan, temporary passes were issued to work so people could freely come and go out of the ghetto during the day and had nothing at all remotely to do with forced labor. There was no forced labor.

For this reason, after the war, some Jewish refugees in Shanghai recalled, “Shanghai was paradise, compared to the Nazi-occupied nations where Jews were massacred.

It was because Tojo adopted the policy to shelter the Jewish refugees that this haven for the Jews existed amidst the appalling persecution elsewhere.


The Government and Sugihara as Japan’s “Schindler”

Regarding Japanese who saved the Jews, Chiune Sugihara, a vice-consul of the Japanese Consulate in Lithuania, is well known and honored around the world for his heroics in rescuing Jews.

In July of 1940, Lithuania was occupied by the Soviet Union, and the Jews who had escaped from Poland to Lithuania began to be persecuted again. The Japanese Foreign Ministry required that transit visas be issued only to those who had visas to a third destination to exit Japan and had money enough to travel and stay in Japan. Sugihara disobeyed these rules and issued visas for over 6,000 refugees, saving their lives.

After the war, Sugihara was granted the honor of “Righteous Among the Nations, by the government of Israeli, and was praised as the” Japanese Schindler.

But actually, Japanese consulates in other cities in Europe also disavowed the rules and Japanese immigration officers too “looked the other way” in an effort to save Jewish lives.

This does not diminish the value of Sugiharas courageous and humanitarian act of issuing the visas that saved human lives, but it is also worth noting the little known policy of the Japanese government of treating Jews as family which was thoroughly ingrained in government personnel. Indeed, the Japanese government at the time acted much like “Schindler” to find creative ways around Nazi policy.


Japan Also Suffered Racial Discrimination

Behind all of this was Japan’s own experience of suffering racial discrimination.

Japan opened the country to the word in the middle of the 19th century, when most Asian and African countries lost their independence and became colonized by the West. Japan modernized the nation to prevent it from being occupied by the West, and in the Russo-Japanese War, it defeated Russia in its attempts to take over the Far East. Indeed Japan was the first nation to push back the colonial aggression of a white power.

However, this gave rise to the “Yellow Terror”, and the expulsion of Japanese immigrants subsequently took place in the United States and other countries. The American media agitated people by saying “the Japanese could attack at any moment. The Japanese immigrants in California would serve as a bridgehead for their country.” Japanese children were expelled from elementary schools and Japanese immigrants were prohibited from purchasing land.

After the Depression, Britain, the United States, France and other nations formed the block economic zone, and the Japanese had to worry about how to survive. What was worse, with the embargo imposed by the US and other countries on valuable resources such as oil, Japan was forced to go to war with the United States.

In 1919 after the First World War, the Japanese delegation to the Versailles Peace Conference proposed adding the racial equality clause in the Covenant of the League of Nations. A majority approved the proposal, but the Chairman, US President Woodrow Wilson, overturned the decision, insisting that a unanimous vote be required on such an important issue. Indeed, Japan had advocated the ideal of racial equality for years.

When the Japanese delegation stopped in New York on its way to Paris, the leaders of an African American civil rights organization in the US asked the delegation for a meeting. They handed the delegation a petition asking them to work to rid the world of all racial discrimination and prejudice.
For black people in the US, the Japanese delegation, not their own President, seemed their last hope for ending the racial discrimination they endured.

As the proposal from Japan was rejected by the US President, black people started riots throughout the US, causing tens of thousands of casualties. These racial riots spread to Egypt, India, and Palestine as well.

One American Senator at the time fearing the global spread of the anti-racial movement said,”If we gave racial equality to Asians, it would threaten the survival of the nation and Western civilization itself may crumble.”

Indeed, the world before the war was based on racial discrimination, and that was exactly what Japan was fighting against.


The Term “Hakko Ichiu” Means Universal Brotherhood

The concept of Hakko Ichiu contained in the policy adopted by Tojo to save the Jewish refugees was misinterpreted after the war as the ideology that justified aggression. However, this was Japan’s ideal of the universal brotherhood and was also considered the spirit of racial equality at the Tokyo Trials as well.

Originally, the first Emperor Jimmu stated this phrase in the imperial rescript at the time of his ascension. The statement means, “I shall cover the eight directions and make them abode.” This became the philosophy upon which Japan was founded.

The Jews who were saved by Japan understood this as well. At the Conference convened in December 1939 by Jews living in the Far East, they expressed their appreciation to Japan for adhering to the national policy of racial equality based on “Hakkou Ichiu” and sheltering Jewish refugees.

In July of 1940, amid worsening relations with the United States and Britain, the concept of Hakko Ichiu, or the spirit of racial equality, was formally contained in the white paper titled “Fundamental National Policy” and literally became “national policy” of Japan. In modern terms, it means: “The aim of Japan’s national policy is the establishment of world peace in conformity with the very spirit on which our nation was founded. Under the spirit of racial equality, we will create a new order in East Asia by uniting Japan, Manchuria, and China.”

This concept was also reflected in the Greater East Asia Conference held in November of 1943. The conference was attended by leaders from Asian countries that had gained independence after the Imperial Japanese army had expelled the colonial powers.
The Greater East Asia joint declaration announced that, “East Asian countries shall deepen relations with the nations of the world, eliminate racial discrimination, nurture culture well, proceed to liberate resources and contribute to the development of the world.”

It was probably Emperor Showa who had understood most deeply about the “spirit of Hakko Ichiu.”At the imperial staff conference in September of 1941, when Japan could not prevent the war with the United States, Emperor Showa read the poem composed by Emperor Meiji. The poem is as follows;”I wonder why there is trouble, even though all the countries overseas in all directions are considered to be brothers and sisters in the world.” He then proclaimed that”I wish to manifest the Meiji emperor’s love for peace.”

Tojo and other Ministers felt the same as they listened to him solemnly. All of them were sought a world free of racial discrimination, a world where universal humanity prevailed.


“Class A War Criminals”such as Yosuke Matsuoka, Seishiro Itagaki and Iwane Matsui Worked Together to Save Jews



Japanese people welcomed Jewish refugees at Kobe by providing food to them. (Photos cited from Rabbi Marvin Tokayer’s book titled Japan-Made in Judea)

For this reason, it was not only Tojo who saved the Jews. Other Japanese leaders who were condemned by China as”Class A war criminals” along with Tojo worked to save Jewish refugees.

Former Foreign Minister Yosuke Matsuoka who led the Tripartite Pact between Japan, Germany, and Italy may have been a politician who lost his perspective, but he was second to none in protecting the Jews.

In the Otpor incident, Matsuoka, who was the president of the Manchurian Railway, ran special trains to Harbin 900 km away. When he was Foreign Minister, he met with Jewish leaders and said to them “I am responsible for allying with the Fuhrer, Hitler, but I have never said that Hitler’s anti-Semitic policy will be carried out in Japan. This is not a personal opinion, but the opinion of the Japanese government.”

The role of the former Army Minister Seishiro Itagaki was also instrumental and contributed to disavowing Hitler and saving Jews.

At the Five Minister’s Conference in December of 1938, where Japan decided that it would not discriminate against Jews, it was Itagaki who made the proposal. Itagaki said at the meeting,”Japan is a nation that values universal brotherhood (Hakko Ichiu). We shall not discriminate against a particular ethnic group, and the Jews are no exception.” He made that pronouncement despite the threats of Hitler.

The “Tokyo Trials” were supposed to be the Japanese equivalent of the Nuremberg Trials. However they lacked the justice exhibited at Nuremberg. In reality the outcomes were predestined. Unlike Nuremberg, where former Nazis who had perpetrated genocide against the Jews were tried, the Tokyo trials lacked witnesses and credible testimony. Assumed”Class A war criminals”who were accused of”crimes against peace, were executed without any judicial impartiality. Indeed the Japanese effort to save tens of thousand of Jews was never acknowledged, witnesses were not heard, and men were condemned based on expedience and hate rather than justice.


The Japanese Army Protected the Jews, but “Massacred the Chinese”?

It was in January 1938 that Tojo made the protection of Jews a national policy. According to China, the “Nanking Massacre” happened a month before that.

This raises a simple question as to whether the Japanese army really massacred 300,000 Chinese people while at the same time saving the lives of Jews in keeping with the spirit of racial equality. China claims that when the Imperial Japanese army entered the city of Nanking, the leader of the troops issued orders to kill civilians indiscriminately, and that the soldiers carried out the orders. It is hard to believe this was the same Japanese army.

Before advancing into Nanking, General Ishine Matsui, who was convicted a Class A war criminal for committing the crime of the massacre in Nanking and was executed, commanded his soldiers to adhere rigidly to military discipline and that those who conducted illegal activities would be severely punished. He made sure that the Chinese soldiers, who lost the will to fight, and civilians, would be treated with the same spirit of tolerance and mercy.

With the fall of Nanking, more than one hundred Japanese and Western reporters and photographers accompanied the Japanese troops, but there was no eyewitness report of a massacre. The New York Times reported in detail the moves of the Japanese troops, but they reported only based upon secondhand information that there were many civilian corpses on the streets. After the war, the reporters who were vetted in Nanking said that they never witnessed a massacre or heard of one from the soldiers either.

Indeed, press conferences were held twice to interview General Matsui who returned to Shanghai right after the Nanking occupation, but nobody questioned him about a massacre.

The troops of the Chinese National Party that abandoned and fled the capital of Nanking gave as many as 300 press conferences before and after the fall of Nanking, but they had never mentioned the atrocity allegedly conducted by the Japanese.


General Matsui Made Sure that Citizens in Nanking Would Be Treated with Tolerance and Mercy

According to the findings by many researchers after the war, the “massacre” was actually the mopping-up operation conducted by the Japanese Army, because many of the Chinese soldiers stripped civilians of their clothing in an attempt to blend in and began to use illegal guerrilla strategy. Guerrilla fighters cannot be treated as captives under international law, and the Chinese soldiers who were executed numbered in the thousands.
This situation is similar to the one wherein the US forces had to continue to conduct its mopping-up operation against the armed insurgents in Iraq even after the Iraq war ended in 2003.

On the other hand, according to the articles written by reporters inside and outside of Nanking, right after the Japanese occupation of the city, order in the city was certainly restored. The Japanese Army provided the citizens with a large supply of food so that no one suffered from hunger, resulting in the rapid increase in the city’s population from 200,000 to 250,000.

The Japanese troops restored the water supply and electricity and people were able to get return to their normal lives before New Year’s Day.

The Japanese soldiers reportedly rendered tender care to the injured Chinese soldiers. No sign of a massacre were to be found.

It was the very spirit of tolerance and mercy that General Matsui instilled in the minds of his soldiers.

There were some cases of lootings and unfortunate rapes conducted by some unscrupulous Japanese soldiers, but they were severely punished, causing some dissatisfaction within the army.

Like Emperor Showa, both Tojo and General Matsui treated the Jews and the Chinese alike in the spirit of universal brotherhood.


Self-Defense Forces also Illustrated the Spirit of “Tolerance and Mercy” to Foreigners

In recent years, we continued to witness the same spirit of tolerance and mercy the Japanese soldiers adhered to in Nanking.

The Self-Defense Forces were dispatched to Samawah, a city in the southern part of Iraq, to provide humanitarian and reconstruction assistance. The SDF engaged in various activities such as maintaining security, reconstructing hospitals, schools, roads, and bridges, and providing water and medical treatment.

According to the local paper, the foreign troops hired local people and told them what to do. On the other hand, SDF personnel, even senior officials, worked together with the local people.

The article stated, “The people in Samawah discovered that the members of SDF are loving people with a strong ethical sense, the same as the Japanese of the past. They have inherited the grand tradition of showing respect for other nations, family life, and occupations of the people in foreign countries.

This shows that the way the Japanese troops treat foreigners has not changed much even 70 years after the war.

General Matsui and other officers heard about the “Nanking Massacre” on a radio broadcast by the US after the war. It was just propaganda under the American military occupation. Obviously China is still conveniently continuing to spread this propaganda.


Tojo Was Evaluated Completely Differently than Schindler

The Jewish people had endured persecutions for thousands of years. The Nazi Holocaust was aimed at exterminating the Jews down to the last soul, bringing the Jews to the brink of extinction. The Nazi’s stripped the Jews of the right to legal protection, took away their property rights, and the right to life and a fair trial. Asset forfeiture, unjust arrest, extrajudicial executions went unmentioned. The final solution was concentration camps and gas chambers.

Then Japan created the ideal of racial equality. They rejected the protests from Germany, then the ally of Japan, and saved as many Jews that they could.

Speaking of the person who saved the lives of many Jews, Schindler, a German industrialist, is best known. He employed the Jews who were about to be taken to camps in his factories. When he moved his factory to Czechoslovakia, he took imprisoned Jews with him, saving the lives of 1,200 Jews.

Schindler’s courageous act of risking his life to save the Jews still continues to move people around the world. However, Tojo, who saved even more Jewish lives than Schindler, was convicted as a”Class A war criminal” and was hanged without any reference to his deeds of courage against his German allies and for the lives of those he quietly saved. Even today, he is condemned as the “Hitler of Asia.” How should we measure the world of difference between the assessments of these two people?


Tojo Who Sought Racial Equality Cried from his Soul

One of the personal notes written by Tojo is “Modern Japan’s Responsibilities for the Greater East Asia War from international Perspective.”
In this note, Tojo sharply criticized the invasion and colonial rule of Asia and Africa by the West.

‘”The Western countries advocated humanity, human rights, freedom, equality, and the rule of law and called the 19th century the century of nationalism’. However, wasn’t this actually ‘the century of the enslavement of Asians’ by the West?'”

“The West may have enjoyed a highly advanced civilization and prosperity through capitalism and global free economy, but we must not forget that this prosperity was built upon the enslavement of over one billion people of color in Asia and Africa under the obscurantist policy.”

“Contrary to justice and humanity taught in Christianity, Western countries engaged in inhumane acts such as subjugation, atrocity, slave trafficking of Africans, the Opium War, acts of violence in the South African War, and the exploitation of India under colonial rule.”

“Remember how the delegations from Britain, Australia, and the US turned down the Japanese proposal calling for racial equality at the Versailles Peace Conference held after the First World War?”
This is Tojo’s cry from his soul for racial equality. This shows Tojo’s character was unlike that of Hitler who massacred millions of Jews.

In actual fact, the Greater East Asia War fought by Japan put an end to the 500 years of colonial rule in Asia and Africa by the West. As Tojo said, over one billion colored people in Asia and Africa were freed from slavery.

Ba Maw, who became the first head of state of Burma after the Japanese army defeated Britain and overran Burma, wrote in his book, “Breakthrough in Burma: Memories of Revolution 1939-1946” the following;

“From a historic perspective, no country other than Japan contributed to the freedom of Asian countries from White domination. The independence of Burma was declared on August 1st in 1943, not January 4th in 1948. The true liberator of Burma was not the Labor Party led by Clement Attlee, but General Tojo and the government of the Empire of Japan.”


Now Is the Time to Remember Japan

After the war, the Soviets identified Higuchi, who saved the Jewish refugees in the Otpor incident, as a”war criminal”and demanded that MacArthur hand over him to the Soviet. After Japan accepted the Potsdam Declaration, the Soviet Union started to invade the Kuril Islands, so Higuchi led the troops and fought against the Soviet military, halting Stalin’s ambition. This infuriated Stalin.

Upon hearing this, the Jewish community in the United States rose up to return the favor Japan bestowed upon them in Otpor. They lobbied General Headquarters of the Allied Forces and had MacArthur refuse to hand over Higuchi to the Soviet. If he would have been turned over to Russia, he would certainly have been executed.

Japan now is being called “the Nazi of today” and condemned as an evil country, and the Western media appears to be going along with this.

It is said that Zionist capitalists dominate the world’s media. How can the Jewish people sit by and watch Japan facing this difficult situation? The answer is that few know about the Japanese acts of humanity in World War II toward the Jews. I hope as history is corrected to include this valiant chapter, that the Jewish people stand up and say, “Now is the time to remember Japan.”

(Jiro Ayaori)

Was Hideki Tojo, Who Saved the Jews, the “Hitler of Asia”?
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