Civilian Massacre

Civilian Massacre during WWII

On August 20th, 2013, Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor at the time, visited the Dachau concentration camp, marking the first visit of a concentration camp by a German leader. There, she offered flowers and bowed to the victims of the Second World War. This was her sincere apology to the Jewish people for the ethnic cleansing of German Nazism and the unforgivable cruelty of the Nazis.

During World War II, German Nazis confined 6 million Jews into concentration camps and slaughtered them in order to create justification for their power. In the camps and during transportation, many innocent people, including children and the disabled, were killed in inhumane ways, such as amputation of their sexual organs. Moreover, nearly 3000 people were murdered in gas chambers daily for human experimentation.

These kinds of civilian massacres do not apply only to German Nazism, however. Japan’s imperialists, also mainly responsible for World War II, performed similar acts that could be referred to as the “Asian Holocaust.” Though it is not as widely known as the German Holocaust, Japanese militarists also brutally exterminated many civilians in Asian countries. As an act of revenge against Koreans who opposed Japan’s colonization through the March 1st Movement, the Japanese government massacred people in Jeamri, indiscriminately slaughtering numerous Korean civilians. Japan’s Unit 731 conducted medical experiments on more than three thousand Asians. During the comparably well-known ‘Rape of Nanking,’ Japanese troops massacred and raped thousands of civilians in Nanking, China. As these examples show, damages caused by Japanese imperialism were devastating.


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Untied States Holocaust Memorial Museum. (2013, June 10). Einsatzgruppen (Mobile Killing Units). In Holocaust Encyclopedia. Retrieved from


Einsatzgruppen, the Nazi’s paramilitary death squads, played a major role in the Holocaust that killed more than 6 million Jews. Einsatzgruppen means “deployment groups” in German, and it was the unit comprised of the German SS (Schutzstaffel; protection squadrons) and police squads. They undertook assignments to murder ethnical enemies, such as Jews, and political enemy forces in German-occupied territories. The “Final Solution,” the Nazi’s attempt to kill all the Jews in Europe, was the pretext for these massacres. Germans killed all those who defied them – not only Jews but also gypsies, Russians, disabled and the mentally insane in hospitals.

The Einsatzgruppen massacred civilians in extreme and brutal ways. When Germany invaded Russia in June, 1941, they mobilized the local police to shoot all the civilians who lived in the occupied areas. Einsatzgruppen’s way of decimating the Jews was different from the Nazi’s in that they went to their homes to murder them on the spot, instead of transporting them to concentration camps. Targets of murder gradually expanded, from mostly Jewish men in the beginning to all Jews regardless of age and gender, even children and women. As the number of their targets increased, Einsatzgruppen realized the inefficiency of shooting and began to use poisonous gas for mass murder. They killed millions of Jews by putting them in gas trucks and suffocating them to death with carbon monoxide gas. Furthermore, they forced the victims into buildings and then burned or exploded the buildings as another way of mass killing. This case is similar to the Japanese imperialists’ “Jeamri Massacre” which occurred during similar time frame.


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Zen, E., & Lewis, Ken. (1998, April 17). The Einsatzgruppen. In The Nizkor Project. Retrieved from

Auschwitz Concentration Camp

The Auschwitz is the most widely known concentration camp of the Holocaust. It is the symbol of the Nazi’s imprisonment and murder of the Jews. The Nazis built nearly 20,000 concentration camps from 1933 to 1945, and when Germany invaded Poland in 1939, they started building concentration camps in Polish territory in order to put prisoners to work. The Auschwitz concentration camp, built as a labor camp, kept millions of Jews and even Poles and Soviets who weren’t Jews. In such poor working conditions, many died horrible deaths from overwork and sunstroke.

Starting in September, 1941, the Germans began their first mass murder of the prisoners of Auschwitz concentration camp. The Nazis used gas chambers full of poisonous gas as a way to exterminate the elderly, women, and children who weren’t capable of manual labor. Gas chambers were built in similar structures to shower rooms. Ordering the victims into the gas chambers, the Nazis told them to take off their clothes under the pretense that they were going to take a shower – and then pumped the chambers full of Zyklon B, a deadly gas. About 2000 Jews were murdered in this way every day, and those killed were cremated in furnaces. Historical evidence that the Nazis used Jews’ hairs to make blankets and carpets clearly displays their extreme brutality. The amount of hair left in furnaces after the incineration of bodies weighed more than 7 tons. Some Jews were killed not by forced labor or mass murder but due to medical experiments.

Prisoners who spent day after day in brutal Nazi concentration camps were finally liberated when the Red Army of the USSR invaded Poland. According to an article that was released during the 60th Anniversary of Auschwitz\’s Liberation, the death toll of Jews was estimated in the millions. Of the 150,000 non-Jewish prisoners in Auschwitz, over half died.


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Civilian Massacres in Korea

Like the Nazi soldiers in Germany’s concentration camps, Japan’s imperialist forces were notorious for their civilian massacres and frequently targeted Korean citizens in both Japan and Japanese-controlled territories. The most well known incidents are the Jeamri Massacre, Gando (Jiandao) Massacre, and the Great Kanto Earthquake Massacre.

  • The Jeamri Massacre (1919)
  • The Gando Massacre (1920)
  • The Great Kanto Earthquake Massacre (1923)

The March 1st movement, a non-violent Korean resistance against Japan’s forceful colonization, was the root cause of the Jeamri Massacre and the Gando Massacre. Even after the Japanese government mobilized its army and forcibly quelled the movement, they massacred citizens in several towns as revenge on Korea’s resistance. In Jeamri, Hwasung City of Gyeonggi province, about 30 citizens were forced to enter the local church and were shot by the Japanese army. In order to remove all traces of the massacre, the soldiers burned down the church and killed those who narrowly survived on the first attack. Despite the Japanese army’s effort to destroy all evidence, foreign missionary Dr. Frank W. Schofield witnessed the massacre and published reports exposing its brutality. The United States press caught wind, and the news of the massacre spread in the United States.

The Gando Massacre was also an indirect result of the March 1st movement. Emboldened by the efforts in Korea, Koreans living in the Gando area of Manchuria began to resist the local Japanese forces.  As revenge, the Japanese military massacred all civilians residing in Korean villages in Manchuria over a four-month period. They burned down all villages, plundered properties, and murdered everyone in their paths. Though the exact number is unknown, it is estimated that millions were killed during those four months.

Another famous mass murder by the Japanese imperialists is the Great Kanto Earthquake Massacre. On September 1st, 1923, an earthquake with magnitude of 7.9 struck the Kanto area of Japan, which killed about 140,000 people in that area. Afterwards, the Japanese government spread the rumor that the disaster was deliberately caused by Korean residents – that the earthquake was a means for Koreans to revolt against Japan. Both Japanese soldiers and Japanese civilians, angered by the earthquake, sought revenge against the Koreans; more than 6,000 Korean citizens were murdered in the Kanto area.


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Maruta Experiments

During World War II, Nazi doctors performed human experiments on Jews, such as injecting poisons in their bodies or removing their sexual organs. Likewise, the Japan also performed barbarous experiments on Asian prisoners of war.

During World War II, Unit 731 used prisoners captured in China, Russia, Korea and Mongol as guinea pigs to develop bacteriological weapons. These prisoners were called “Maruta,” meaning “logs” in Japanese, revealing Japanese sentiments that such prisoners were not even human.

The various types of experiments performed by Unit 731 were shocking. Experiments and dissections on “marutas” were done without anesthesia to increase the precision of experiments. Such experiments included cutting off parts of the human body and attaching it elsewhere or cutting pregnant women’s stomachs open and removing the undeveloped fetuses. In addition, human experiments to build weapons such as bacteriological weapons were common – they would inject germs “for vaccination” in the subjects’ bodies, or simply peg them down to burn them with a flamethrower. Approximately 600 Asian men and women fell victim to these inhumane crimes, and it was confirmed that at least 3000 “marutas” were killed during the Second World War.


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Nanking Massacre (1937-1938)

During World War II, Nazis indiscriminatingly massacred tens of thousands of non-Jewish Europeans. Similarly, victims of Japan’s mass murder were not limited to citizens of Korea.

The Nanking Massacre, the murder of more than 300,000 Chinese civilians during the Japanese invasion of China, is considered one of the worst events committed by Japan during the 20th century. It occurred during the six weeks, from December 1937 to January 1938. In order to threaten China, the Japanese army invaded Nanking without notice and immediately began performing cruel acts on civilians. Japanese soldiers tossed infants and young children into the air and pierced them with spears as they fell to the ground. This was considered as “sport” and enjoyed by many soldiers. Up to 80,000 Chinese women of all ages were raped. Soldiers also forced incest among family members before killing them. Japanese acts of cruelty during the Nanking massacre were beyond imagination.

The key figures of the Nanking Massacre were hung after World War II, but no additional reparations or apologies were made to the Chinese government. China has consistently demanded formal apologies from the Japanese government, but Japan has yet to acknowledge its past and has even denied the Nanking Massacre on national TV networks such as NHK.


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