Japanese prisoners of war in the Soviet Union

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Repatriated Japanese soldiers returning from Siberia wait to disembark from a ship at Maizuru, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan, in 1946 Japanese Soldiers Returning from Siberia 1946.jpg
Repatriated Japanese soldiers returning from Siberia wait to disembark from a ship at Maizuru, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan, in 1946

By the end of World War II there were from 560,000 to 760,000 Japanese personnel in the Soviet Union and Mongolia interned to work in labor camps as POWs. [1] Of them, it is estimated that between 60,000-347,000 died in captivity. [2] [3] [4] [5]

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

Soviet Union 1922–1991 country in Europe and Asia

The Soviet Union, officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was a socialist state in Eurasia that existed from 1922 to 1991. Nominally a union of multiple national Soviet republics, its government and economy were highly centralized. The country was a one-party state, governed by the Communist Party with Moscow as its capital in its largest republic, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Other major urban centres were Leningrad, Kiev, Minsk, Alma-Ata, and Novosibirsk. It spanned over 10,000 kilometres east to west across 11 time zones, and over 7,200 kilometres north to south. It had five climate zones: tundra, taiga, steppes, desert and mountains.

Mongolia Landlocked country in East Asia

Mongolia is a landlocked country in East Asia. Its area is roughly equivalent with the historical territory of Outer Mongolia, and that term is sometimes used to refer to the current state. It is sandwiched between China to the south and Russia to the north. Mongolia does not share a border with Kazakhstan, although only 37 kilometres (23 mi) separates them.

Contents

The majority of the approximately 3.5 million Japanese armed forces outside Japan were disarmed by the United States and Kuomintang China and repatriated in 1946. Western Allies had taken 35,000 Japanese prisoners between December 1941 and 15 August 1945, i.e., before the Japanese capitulation [6] The Soviet Union held the Japanese POWs much longer and used them as a labor force.

Kuomintang political party in the Republic of China

The Kuomintang of China is a major political party in the Republic of China on Taiwan, based in Taipei, that was founded in 1911, and is currently an opposition political party in the Legislative Yuan.

History

The majority of Japanese who were held in the USSR did not consider themselves as "Prisoners of War" and referred to themselves as "internees", because they voluntarily laid down their arms after the official capitulation of Japan, i.e., after the end of the military conflict. The number of Japanese prisoners captured in combat was very small. [7]

After the defeat of the Kwantung Army in Manchuria, Japanese POWs were sent from Manchuria, Korea, South Sakhalin and Kuril Islands to Primorski Krai, Khabarovsk Krai, Krasnoyarsk Krai, Kazakhstan (South Kazakhstan Province and Zhambyl Province), Buryat-Mongol ASSR, and Uzbek SSR. In 1946, 49 labor camps for Japanese POWs under the management of GUPVI housed about 500,000 persons. In addition there were two camps for those convicted of various crimes.

Soviet invasion of Manchuria

The Soviet invasion of Manchuria, formally known as the Manchurian Strategic Offensive Operation or simply the Manchurian Operation, began on 9 August 1945 with the Soviet invasion of the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo. It was the last campaign of the Second World War, and the largest of the 1945 Soviet–Japanese War, which resumed hostilities between the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the Empire of Japan after almost six years of peace. Soviet gains on the continent were Manchukuo, Mengjiang and northern Korea. The Soviet entry into the war and the defeat of the Kwantung Army was a significant factor in the Japanese government's decision to surrender unconditionally, as it made apparent the Soviet Union had no intention of acting as a third party in negotiating an end to hostilities on conditional terms.

Manchuria geographic region in Northeast Asia

Manchuria is a name first used in the 17th century by Japanese people to refer to a large geographic region in Northeast Asia. Depending on the context, Manchuria can either refer to a region that falls entirely within the People's Republic of China or a larger region divided between China and Russia. "Manchuria" is widely used outside China to denote the geographical and historical region. This region is the traditional homeland of the Xianbei, Khitan, and Jurchen peoples, who built several states within the area historically.

Sakhalin large Russian island in the North Pacific Ocean

Sakhalin is Russia's largest island, lying in the North Pacific Ocean between 45°50' and 54°24' N. It is administered as part of Sakhalin Oblast. Sakhalin, which is about one third the size of Honshu, is just off the east coast of Russia, and just north of Japan. The island's population was 497,973 as of the 2010 census, made up of mostly ethnic Russians and a smaller Korean community. The indigenous peoples of the island are the Ainu, Oroks and Nivkhs.

Handling of Japanese POWs was, in line with the USSR State Defense Committee Decree no. 9898cc "About Receiving, Accommodation, and Labor Utilization of the Japanese Army Prisoners of War" ("О приеме, размещении, трудовом использовании военнопленных японской армии") dated by 23 August 1945.

A significant number of Japanese were assigned to the construction of the Baikal-Amur Mainline (over 200,000 persons), in eight camps, in Komsomolsk-on-Amur (two camps, for two railroad branches), Sovetskaya Gavan, Raychikha railroad station (Khabarovsk Krai), Izvestkovaya r/r station (Khabarovsk Krai), Krasnaya Zarya (Chita Oblast), Taishet, and Novo-Grishino (Irkutsk Oblast). [4]

Komsomolsk-on-Amur City in Khabarovsk Krai, Russia

Komsomolsk-on-Amur is a city in Khabarovsk Krai, Russia, located on the left bank of the Amur River in the Russian Far East. It is located on the Baikal-Amur Mainline, 356 kilometers (221 mi) northeast of Khabarovsk. As of 2010, it had a population of 263,906 (2010 Census); 281,035 (2002 Census); 315,325 (1989 Census).

Sovetskaya Gavan Town in Khabarovsk Krai, Russia

Sovetskaya Gavan is a town in Khabarovsk Krai, Russia, and a port on the Strait of Tartary which connects the Sea of Okhotsk in the north with the Sea of Japan in the south. Population: 27,712 (2010 Census); 30,480 (2002 Census); 34,915 (1989 Census).

Krasnaya Zarya is the name of several rural localities in Russia.

The repatriation of Japanese POWs started in 1946.

yearnumber releasednotes
194618,616
1947166,240
1948175,000
194997,000971 transferred to PRC
19501,585leaving 2,988 remaining in USSR

Those remaining after 1950 were detained having been convicted of various crimes. The release of these persons continued from 1953 under various amnesties, and the last major group of 1025 Japanese POWs was released on 23 December 1956. [4] From then on, some Japanese POWs were released in small groups, including those who would only return in the 1990s following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Some Japanese prisoners who had been held for decades, who by this point had married and had started families, elected not to permanently return to Japan. [8] [9]

There are about 60 associations of Japanese former internees and members of their families today. The Soviet Union did not provide the lists of POWs and did not allow the relatives of those POWs who died in captivity to visit their burial sites. This became possible after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. [7]

Japanese internees and Russians

Historian S. Kuznetsov, dean of the Department of History of the Irkutsk State University, one of the first researchers of the topic, interviewed thousands of former internees and came to the following conclusion:

"Siberian Internment" (the Japanese term) was a unique and paradoxical phenomenon. Many of them have nostalgic and sentimental recollection of this period of their life. In their memoirs and recollections they drew a distinction between the attitude of the Soviet state machine and ordinary Russian people. Unlike Germans, Japanese were not associated in the perception of Russians with Nazi atrocities in the Russian land, although initially the attitude of Russians was hostile, under the influence of Soviet propaganda. What is more, romantic relations between Japanese internees and Russian women were not uncommon. For example, in the city of Kansk, Krasnoyarsk Krai, about 50 Japanese married locals and stayed. Japanese noticed the overall poverty of the Russian population. They also met Soviet political prisoners in the GULAG prison camps abundant in Siberia at the time, and acquired a good understanding of the Soviet system. All of them recall the ideological indoctrination during the compulsory daily "studies of democracy", however only a very small number of them embraced communism.

However, many of the inmates do not share Kuznetsov's views and retain negative memories of being robbed of personal property, and the brutality of camp personnel, harsh winters and exhausting labor. [10] One of these critics is Haruo Minami who later became one of the most famous singers in Japan. Minami, because of his harsh experiences in the labor camp, became a well-known anti-communist.

Most Japanese were captured in Soviet-occupied Manchuria (northeast China) and were taken to Soviet POW camps. Many Japanese died while they were detained in the POW camps; estimates of the number of these deaths vary from 60,000, based on deaths certified by the USSR, to 347,000 (the estimate of American historian William F. Nimmo, including 254,000 dead and 93,000 missing), based on the number of Japanese servicemen and civilian auxiliaries registered in Manchuria at the time of surrender who failed to return to Japan subsequently. Some remained in captivity until December 1956 (11 years after the war) before they were allowed to return to Japan. The wide disparity between Soviet records of death and the number of Japanese missing under Soviet occupation, as well as the whereabouts of the remains of POWs, are still grounds of political and diplomatic contention, at least on the Japanese side.

According to the map formulated by combining two maps, published by the former Ministry of Health and Welfare and the current Ministry of Labor, Health and Welfare of the Japanese Government, there were more than 70 labor camps for the Japanese prisoners of war within the Soviet Union:

LEGEND:NOTE 1. *Large Circles with heavy outline (numbered in red): Over 20,000 detained. *Black circles (numbered in blue): Over 10,000. *White, small circles (numbered in black): Less than 10,000. ^Triangles (numbered in Green): Small number. NOTE 2. The above-designated graphic symbols show the principal area of the labor camp location.Created by combining two maps, published by the former Ministry of Health and Welfare and the current Ministry of Labor, Health and Welfare of the Japanese Government: 1)Koseisho engokyoku [Bureau of Assistance, Ministry of Health and Welfare]. Hikiage to engo sanjunen no ayumi [Thirty-year progress of the repatriation and assistance]. Koseisho. 1977. P56. 2)Koseisho shakai/engokyoku engo gojunenshi henshu iinkai [Editorial Committee of Fifty-year history of assistance. Bureau of Social/Assistance, Ministry of Health and Welfare]. Engo gojunenshi [Fifty-year history of assistance]. Gyosei. 1997. pp524-525.Location names, listed originally in katakana-Japanese, have been transcribed into English using five maps published in the United States, United Kingdom, and USSR. A)Union of Soviet Socialist Republic. Compiled and drawn in the Cartographic Section of the National Geographic Society for the National Geographic Magazine. Grovesnor, Gilbert. Ed. Washington. U.S.A. 1944. B)U.S.S.R.and Adjacent Areas 1:8,000,000. Published by Department of Survey, Ministry of Defense, United Kingdom. British Crown Copyright Reserved Series 5104. U.K. 1964. C)USSR Railways. J.R. Yonge. The Quail Map Company. Exeter. U. K. 1973. D)USSR Railways. J.R. Yonge. The Quail Map Company. Exeter. U.K. 1976. E)Soviet Union. Produced by the Cartographic Division. National Geographic Society. National Geographic Magazine. Grovesnor, Melville B. Ed. Washington. U.S.A. 1976. F)Union of Soviet Socialist Republic. Moscow News Supplement. Main Administration of Geodesy and Cartography under the Council of Minister of the USSR. U.S.S.R. 1979. MAP&LIST of the General location of the Japanese POW Laborers' camps in the Soviet Union and in Outer Mongolia around 1946.pdf
LEGEND:NOTE 1. ○Large Circles with heavy outline (numbered in red): Over 20,000 detained. ●Black circles (numbered in blue): Over 10,000. ○White, small circles (numbered in black): Less than 10,000. △Triangles (numbered in Green): Small number. NOTE 2. The above-designated graphic symbols show the principal area of the labor camp location.Created by combining two maps, published by the former Ministry of Health and Welfare and the current Ministry of Labor, Health and Welfare of the Japanese Government: 1)Kôseishô engokyoku [Bureau of Assistance, Ministry of Health and Welfare]. Hikiage to engo sanjûnen no ayumi [Thirty-year progress of the repatriation and assistance]. Kôseishô. 1977. P56. 2)Kôseishô shakai/engokyoku engo gojûnenshi henshû iinkai [Editorial Committee of Fifty-year history of assistance. Bureau of Social/Assistance, Ministry of Health and Welfare]. Engo gojûnenshi [Fifty-year history of assistance]. Gyôsei. 1997. pp524–525.Location names, listed originally in katakana-Japanese, have been transcribed into English using five maps published in the United States, United Kingdom, and USSR. A)Union of Soviet Socialist Republic. Compiled and drawn in the Cartographic Section of the National Geographic Society for the National Geographic Magazine. Grovesnor, Gilbert. Ed. Washington. U.S.A. 1944. B)U.S.S.R.and Adjacent Areas 1:8,000,000. Published by Department of Survey, Ministry of Defense, United Kingdom. British Crown Copyright Reserved Series 5104. U.K. 1964. C)USSR Railways. J.R. Yonge. The Quail Map Company. Exeter. U. K. 1973. D)USSR Railways. J.R. Yonge. The Quail Map Company. Exeter. U.K. 1976. E)Soviet Union. Produced by the Cartographic Division. National Geographic Society. National Geographic Magazine. Grovesnor, Melville B. Ed. Washington. U.S.A. 1976. F)Union of Soviet Socialist Republic. Moscow News Supplement. Main Administration of Geodesy and Cartography under the Council of Minister of the USSR. U.S.S.R. 1979.

Because of the difficulty in retrieving formal USSR Government records, the numerical data are based on reports obtained from former POWs and elsewhere by the former Ministry of Health and Welfare and the current Ministry of Labor, Health and Welfare of the Japanese Government. The Japanese Government is disinterring the remains of the Japanese POWs who died in the USSR; more data may be anticipated, for example, at sites such as http://www.mhlw.go.jp/seisaku/2009/11/01.html "Investigation of records regarding persons deceased during detention in Siberia." (Ministry of Labor, Health and Welfare Policy Reports 2009.)

Japanese ex-internees today

Various associations of former internees seek compensation for their wartime treatment and for pensions from the Japanese government. [11] An appeal to the Commission on Human Rights says

Japan had a moral and legal responsibility to compensate the victims of its aggression, yet the Japanese Government had so far refused to provide compensation to former prisoners of war for their period of forced labour in Siberia, although it had made concessions to prisoners from other regions. The veterans had sued the Japanese Government in 1981 for compensation and had eventually been issued with labour certificates by the Russian Government, as requested by the court, but their appeal had been rejected.

Those who chose to stay in Russia and eventually decided to return had to deal with significant Japanese bureaucracy. A major problem is the difficulty in providing the documentary confirmation of their status. Toshimasa Meguro, a 77-year-old former POW, was permitted to visit Japan as late as in 1998. He served 8 years of labor camps and after the release was ordered to stay in Siberia. [12]

Tetsuro Ahiko is the last remaining Japanese POW living in Kazakhstan. [13]

Research in Russia

Research into the history of the Japanese POWs has become possible in Russia only since the second half of the 1980s, with glastnost and the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Until this time the only public information about any World War II POWs taken by the Soviet Union was some numbers of prisoners taken. After opening the secret Soviet archives the true scope of the POW labor in the Soviet Union has become known, [4] and the topic has been discussed in the press.

Japanese POWs have become the subject of the historians of Siberia and the Russian Far East, who gained access to local archives of NKVD/MVD and CPSU [14] A number of kandidat (PhD) dissertations had been presented about Soviet POW in various regions. In 2000 a fundamental collection of documents related to POWs in the USSR was published, which contained significant information about Japanese. [4]

In the 2000s, several books about Japanese POWs were published in Russia. [15] [16] [17]

About 2,000 memoirs of Japanese POWs in the Soviet Union have been published in Japan. [10]

In fiction

The Japanese novelist Toyoko Yamasaki wrote the 1976 novel Fumō Chitai, about an Imperial Army staff officer captured in Manchuria, his captivity and return to Japan to become a businessman. This has been made into a film and two television dramas.

A dramatisation of experiences as a Soviet POW form a portion of the latter part of the epic movie trilogy, The Human Condition, by Masaki Kobayashi.

Kiuchi Nobuo reported his experiences about Soviet camps in his "The Notes of Japanese soldier in USSR" online comic series.

The South Korean movie My Way (2011) also shows the treatment of Japanese and Japanese-recruited Koreans in Soviet POW camps.

See also

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References

  1. "シベリア抑留、露に76万人分の資料 軍事公文書館でカード発見". Sankeishinbun. 24 July 2009. Archived from the original on 26 July 2009. Retrieved 21 September 2009.
  2. Japanese POW group says files on over 500,000 held in Moscow, BBC News , 7 March 1998
  3. UN Press Release, Commission on Human Rights, 56th session, 13 April 2000.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 POW in the USSR 1939–1956:Documents and Materials Archived 2 November 2007 at the Wayback Machine . Moscow Logos Publishers (2000) (Военнопленные в СССР. 1939–1956: Документы и материалы Науч.-исслед. ин-т проблем экон. истории ХХ века и др.; Под ред. М.М. Загорулько. – М.: Логос, 2000. – 1118 с.: ил.) ISBN   5-88439-093-9
  5. Anne Applebaum Gulag: A History, Doubleday, April 2003, ISBN   0-7679-0056-1; page 431.Introduction online Archived 13 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine .)
  6. Ulrich Straus. "The Anguish of Surrender: Japanese POWs of World War II". Seattle and London: University of Washington Press, 2003. ISBN   978-0-295-98336-3.
  7. 1 2 Japanese POW in the USSR (in Russian)
  8. https://www.nytimes.com/1998/04/12/world/japan-s-blossoms-soothe-a-pow-lost-in-siberia.html
  9. http://www.japansubculture.com/the-last-japanese-man-remaining-in-kazakhstan-a-kafkian-tale-of-the-plight-of-a-japanese-pow-in-the-soviet-union/
  10. 1 2 Russia in the Eyes of Japanese Internees (in Russian)
  11. Japanese, Korean, Dutch POWs to hold meeting in Tokyo Archived 2 November 2007 at the Wayback Machine .
  12. "Japan's Blossoms Soothe a P.O.W. Lost in Siberia", New York Times , 12 April 1998
  13. Noorbakhsh, Sarah (7 February 2011). "The last Japanese man remaining in Kazakhstan: A Kafkian tale of the plight of a Japanese POW in the Soviet Union". Japan Subculture Research Center. Retrieved 21 February 2011.
  14. Internment of Japanese in the USSR in Soviet and Russian historiography Archived 26 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine .(in Russian)
  15. Kasatonova E.L. (2003) "Japanese POW in the USSR: A Big Game of Great Powers" (Yaponskiye voyennnoplennye v SSSR: Bolshaya igra velekikh derzhav) ISBN   5-89282-218-4 (in Russian)
  16. Bondarenko, E. Yu. (2002) "Foreign POWs in the Russian Far East, 1914–1956" ISBN   5-7444-1326-X (in Russian)
  17. Kasatonova, E. L. (2005) "The Last Prisoners of the World War II: Little Known Pages of the Russia-Japan Relations" ISBN   5-89282-258-3 (in Russian)

Further reading