Jews and Japanese Imperialism

The institution of the United Nations (UN) Holocaust Remembrance Day and the UN outreach programme to promote the worldwide teaching of the Holocaust is a dubious policy of this supra-national organization: Is the suffering of one people more significant than the suffering of another? Is the suffering of ethnic persecution a sound basis for universal morals?

The Holocaust education and subsequent teaching of Jewish history also can be very embarassing, especially when Jews were complicit in foreign occupation and brutal oppression. In this article, Part 2 of a series (Part 1 is here), I discuss the Jewish role in facilitating Japanese imperialism.

Jews and Japanese Imperialism

In 1905 the Russo-Japanese war for the domination of Manchuria—nowadays the northeast of China—was in a deadlock with neither party gaining the upper hand. Japan could not sustain a long-term expensive land war with Russia and their opponents knew that. Moreover the Russians had the advantage that the White nations were not willing to support an emerging non-White nation to compete over foreign markets and colonies.

Nevertheless there was one important source of money which greatly contributed to the Japanese cause — the loans from the Jewish activist banker from New York: Jacob Schiff. Schiff was the point man in what might be termed the Jewish foreign policy of the period: Hostility toward Russia because of its treatment of Jews. The entire organized Jewish community throughout Europe and America actively opposed Russia. For example, in America in 1911, the American Jewish Committee, led and financed by Schiff, successfully advocated the abrogation of a trade agreement with Russia over the veto of President Taft.

Schiff’s loans effectively tilted the balance in favor of the Japanese, which could literally buy time to sustain the land war and meanwhile defeat the Russian navy at sea. The Russian defeat shook the Empire to its foundations and revolution was in the air. The Japanese on the other hand had a boost of self-confidence, being the first non-White modern nation to defeat a European superpower both on land and at sea. By defeating the Russians in Manchuria the Japanese blocked further Russian expansion in the Far East and opened up perspectives for their own imperial schemes, especially in China. One could say that the Russo-Japanese war unleashed Japanese imperialism which would ultimately lead to the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941.

The Japanese were well aware of the contribution of Jacob Schiff to their war effort and bestowed many honors on him. He was awarded the Japanese Order of the Sacred Treasure in 1905, and in 1907 he was honored again with the Japanese Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star. Ultimately Schiff was the first foreigner to have been personally awarded the Order by the Japanese Emperor in the Imperial Palace (see here, p. 17). Back then the Japanese emperor was considered a demi-god by ordinary Japanese and seeing him or even meeting him was one of the greatest honors which could be received.

Candidates for Manchuria

In 1931 the Japanese provoked the Mukden Incident and occupied Manchuria, which was considered a part of China. In other to legitimize their occupation they set up the puppet state of Manchukuo (literally: Land of the Manchu). The Manchu are an ethnic minority from which the last Chinese emperors descended who were native to the northeast of China. The Japanese even managed to install the last Chinese emperor Pu Yi as a puppet king. Manchuria was independent in name only and was not recognized by the international community. In fact it was a huge slave-state in which the local Chinese were brutally exploited. They even experimented with chemical and biological agents on a huge scale causing the death of upward of 200,000 people.

The Japanese army was keen on attracting Japanese colonists to Manchuria to govern the newly acquired land, but the colonial schemes never met their expectations. During the 1930s Japanese officers developed a plan to create a layer of trustworthy middlemen between them and the locals by importing Jews in a scheme called the Fugu Plan. The role of Jews as middlemen between alien ruling elites and the people is an ancient and recurring theme of Jewish history.

The Japanese managed to attract thousands of Jews, especially from National Socialist Germany from 1938 onwards. The Japanese army officer and diplomat Kiichiro Higuchi was instrumental in issuing passes to Jewish refugees. Higuchi would later play a role in the ill-fated Japanese invasion of the Aleutian islands during World War II, the only Japanese occupation of American soil.

Jews were already living in Manchuria, and the Jewish community was bolstered by the influx of thousands of Jewish settlers. The dominant culture among Jews in Manchuria was the ideology of Zionist racialist Ze’ev Jabotinsky, which was thoroughly militarist. Jews created a militia, the so-called Betar, and paraded in full uniform and with flags through the streets of the Manchurian capital of Harbin (see here, p. 52). The Jews would prove to be willing middlemen in the Far East, unlike other Europeans who were put in concentration camps to work, often dying from starvation, sickness or pure exhaustion. Jews were willing to support the Japanese war cause, announcing in a Jewish-Japanese conference in 1940 that they would help to build the New Order in East Asia. Special prayers were reserved for the welfare of the Japanese emperor by the rabbi of Tientsin (see Herman Dicker, Wanderers and Settlers in the Far East [Twayne Publishers 1962] p. 59).


In 2004 the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert visited the grave of his father in Harbin on an official state visit to the People’s Republic of China. Nowadays the Chinese are looking for good relations with the state of Israel, but after World War II the Jews who had not left yet were expelled from China after the conclusion of the Chinese civil war in 1949. Chairman Mao banned the Jewish religion from the registration of cults in China. It was the only officially banned religion.

Time has apparently faded the Chinese memory of the Jewish complicity with Japanese occupation of Chinese territory and their war crimes, like the mass experimenting of chemical (and biological) agents in Manchuria, the exploitation of slave-labor causing millions to die, and the brutal cultural and political oppression of Chinese. World War II in China (1937–1945) cost the lives of at least 20 million Chinese civilians, most deliberately killed in scenes like the Nanking Massacre or the sanko sakusen (The “Three Alls Policy”: loot all, kill all, burn all).

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