Have you ever talked with a Japanese or German soldier or civilian about WW2?
Is it awkward or uncomfortable? Do they get defensive or do they just want to forget about it? Are they apologetic? Are opinions varied or generally the same. I know personally I would probably think it a little rude to bring it up, but has it ever come up in conversation?
- EllyLv 51 decade agoBest answer
I am German, so yes, but not as often as you would expect. Of course I have met many Germans who lived then, but usually I didn't talk about the war with them. I once worked in a nursery home full of Germans who were adults during World War II, but never dared to ask anyone about this, though I did ask myself what they had done then.
Actually I spoke only once with a German World War II veteran about the war and it was very strange. That was 3 years ago in Russia when I was in a children's village there as a volunteer. This man was there to guide the construction of a playground at that place (he was an architect). One time I heard how he said to a 19 year old Russian girl that without America, Germany would have won the war because they would be better and stronger and Russians would be primitive and could not succeed in anything on their own. The Russian girl said that Russians fought for their country and their existance and would have defeated the Germans that wanted to destroy their country at any cost, that they fought with all their faith and dedication and would have won in any case. He said that he had done nothing wrong, tried to justify the German attack on the Soviet Union and said that he had generously forgiven the Russians and they should be grateful to him. I got quite upset and I said to him that the German attack on the Soviet Union was criminal and he should stop to make derogatory remarks about Russians. Then he called me a traitor and communist, went away and shouted all over the place there that the Russians were all communists and should be grateful that he had forgiven them and would now even help them to build a playground for their kids. I was more upset than the Russians who said to me that he was just a bitter old man and I should not care about him. He confused me because on the one hand it seems he wanted to make his peace with Russians as he worked there even at an age when he would have been normally retired (I mean he must have been at least about 80 years old as he had been a soldier in WW2), and on the other hand still believed in his superiority and all that, I really didn't understand him.
I spoke a lot with my parents about their memories, but they were children when the war ended, my mother was 3 1/2 and my father was 9. So my mother hardly has memories of the war but she told me all she knew about the postwar period and all she heard from her parents and others (her parents died short after my birth, so I have never spoken to them). Her parents were the type that claimed they had never known anything. It was very difficult for my mother to talk to them about this at all, and I am sure that none of them was ever honest.
My father has memories from the time of the war but he was a child, so he doesn't need to justify himself which makes it easier to speak about it. His mother died in 1947 so she never had time to see things from the retrospective. His father died when I was 11 but I never got to know him.
So that were my personal experiences in that matter. Now as for your that question if opinions vary, yes they do, but I think most of the old people are defensive, and try to excuse themselves in one way or the other, by claiming that they knew nothing about the Holocaust, or saying that you have to fight for your own country in war, or that they couldn't do anything as it was a dictatorship, and some even claim that they had to fight "against Bolshevism for the Western civilization", I have even read how some people claimed Germany and not the USSR would have been the "true" ally of the US in the war. These are things I have mainly read about in public discussions about German guilt, the role of the Wehrmacht and such questions. But not all are that way. In the debate about the Wehrmacht exhibition (War of Extermination: Crimes of the Wehrmacht 1941-1944) there were veterans who claimed that they had not known anything about war crimes against civilians and said the exhibition was "slander", but there were others who admitted it. And there was a debate about whether the exhibition was good or bad, there were people who supported it and said it's good that the truth is shown and others who were against it because as I said they called it "slander".
- Just meLv 51 decade ago
I was stationed in Okinawa. There is still a lot of hard feelings towards the Japanese from the older Okinawains. Most of the younger generation are forgetting their home language (Okinawain, similar to Japanese, but not exact.)
When I was in Korea the Koreans felt the same way about the Japanese still. Again, it's mostly the older generation. I talked with a cab driver about it. He said he along with others were forced to learn Japanese and he still remembered most it but that he would never use it because the memories were too painful.
It was not awkward at all to talk with locals about this. I was a cop on base and so we worked with locals a lot, they were our friends. The younger ones did not have as much of an opinion as the older. They were all very nice, would take us to clubs that you had to be sponsored by a local to get in.
The ways it would come up would be when asking about language, and driving. When we (the US) handed Okinawa back over to Japan they made them change the side of the road they drove on. When they were under us, they drove on the same side of the road as us, now that they are under Japan (which has been since the 70's) they drive on the left side of the road. Many talk about what it was like that day and how many problems it created.
- 1 decade ago
I have been lucky enough to meet several Japanese soldiers of the WW2 generation. They of course are old men now, and have seen their country change a lot. Were they apologetic? No. Were they proud of their service? Yes.
I attended the annual memorial on the Island of Iwo Jima, and saw veterans from both sides shake hands and embrace.
They know that they did not personally start the War, and were following the orders and fighting for survival.
If you really want to understand the mind of the Japanese soldier, there is a wonderful book called "BLOSSOMS IN THE WIND" by a Mr Sheftall.
- John TLv 61 decade ago
Lots of good stories here already.
I've talked to many Germans about WWII. The younger generation in general is ashamed of it, to the point of negativity to their nation. I was glad to see them proud of their nationality in the recent world cup.
The older generation is much more practical. My landlords wife was a child at the end of the war and loved Americans. She talked about the chocolate the soldiers gave her. When she grew older, she was hitchhiking with her girlfriend and picked up by Elvis. She didn't go into details but her husband was there anyway and I wouldn't have asked but have my thoughts. She still loved Americans when I left.
I never met anyone that served on the Western front (that fought the US). They all fought the Russians on the Eastern Front, then again most marines I meet are Force Recon. (I must have met the whole unit by now!) They were proud of their service and said they had hoped we would advance quicker because they knew what the Russians would do. (They were right.)
I also met the mother of girlfriend that absolutely hated Americans. I don't know why or what happened by I could tell it was bad. She walked rather than letting me give her a ride home.
In other words, yes, it is varied, but most from the era are glad we came, did not support Hitler's genocidal programs but did his economic programs.
The Japanese I met always turned the topic to Hiroshima rather than accept blame for Pearl Harbor. Don't know if that is symptomatic or not, but it has been in my experience.
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- Anonymous1 decade ago
Yes.I have talked with Japanese soldier about WW2.
It's my gland father.He was a Japanese soldier.
He was a volunteer.
No,he didn't get defensive but not aggressive.
No,he and I want to forget about it.
I never forget it.
No,he not apologetic.Coz he fought as a Japanese proudly,I thinsk.
Japan lost the war, and the Japanese armed forces were dissolved.
He had a hand to be in the Self-Defense Force, but he did not do so it.
Probably he would learn lesson from war.
sorry..I haven't good English.Forgive it.
- 1 decade ago
Yes, 3 all German. Was there 27 months. The 1st guy got so out of hand about being shot down that I asked my friend to tell the guy my father was the one that shot him down. It shut him up and he left.
A local guy showed us 2 pictures of himself. One in his SS uniform in 1942 (he was a captain). The other picture he was sitting next to JFK having lunch in one of the mess halls at Fliegerhorst Kaserne. Pres. Kennedy was on his way to Berlin. They were posing workers and others with the Pres.
The most ridiculous was a submariner that spent most of the war as a POW in England. He really hated the English. Why he hated them was the crazy part. They treated him fine, he had no complaints about that. he did not speak English so a girl was translating. When she finally asked what the problem was he pounds his fist on the table and very loudly says "Tea und cake, tea und cake, nicht bier!" The brits would not give them beer. How horrible
Any other time it came up with someone old enough to have been in the war they would tell how much they hated Hitler and did not hate anyone and only did what they were told. It was all someone else that did the bad stuff. Even the guy that was SS claimed he never did anything bad to anyone.
My Dad was in the 317th Infantry Regiment from 9/6/44 till the end of the war. The 317th liberated Buchenwald. When I got home and told him these stories he laughed and said everyone they caught close to the camps always used the "Not me" excuse.
- Anonymous1 decade ago
Amazing some of the strange answers you get on this site. Everyone jumps in but does not answer.
Yes, I have talked to both Japanese and German Veterans.
They all believed thier country was doing the right thing and that they were the ones wronged. They had no more Idea what was going on in thier camps than we had of abu grahib or Gitmo. They knew nothing of massacres just as none of u knew about 1,200 Taliban Prisoners slaughtered by our "Northern Alliance " allies in one afternoon while US Advisors watched.
They have as much reason to be uncomfortable as we do. Before the Bush Administration I used to think we had the high ground.
- 1 decade ago
The company I work for recently opened a plant in Germany, and we had employees in our facility to train. They were here in the US for several months and we got to know them very well, and it did come up. Remember, for the most part, the vast majority of German people were not full Nazi fanatics. Hitler, with all his obvious faults, was a good politician. He knew how to tell the people what they wanted to hear. After WW One, the German economy was a mess, mass unemployment, very similar to the US during the Depression. Hitler offered the people a way out. He also offered them something to blame their problems on, the Jewish people. Also remember, in the 30's and 40's, people did not have access to as much information as they do today. No internet, no CNN, CSPAN, anything like that. The news they got was what the ruling powers wanted them to get. The German people I talked to are somewhat ashamed of the crimes committed during the war, but they also want people to realize that they did not personally committ them. They are a proud people and proud of their country and history. They do not deny the past, they do not like to talk about it. The majority of German soliders were regular people, not much different from the average American G.I. Quite a few of them were born, educated, or had lived in the US before the war. Not all German soliders worked in the camps. The SS was formed because the average solider could not emotionally deal with orders to kill non-combatants. Some even committed suicide. During the war, soliders on both sides were treated fairly well if caputred. Obviously there are cases when this is not true, but German and American soliders found it easy to identify with each other. They pyshically looked similar, had common religious beliefs, and many spoke the others language or had similar backgrounds.
Now, as for the Japanese, very different story. The Japanese culture at the time was deeply rooted in tradation and honor with a rigidly defined social heirarchy. Americans were protrayed as brutal thugs who would kill surrendering Japanese soliders. It was also considered a great dishonor to surrender in battle, and doing so would bring shame on ones family. Again, yes, sometimes surrendering soliders were shot, but this was not the norm. Also, the Japanese Emporer was not considered a man, he was beheld as a living God. And as anyone knows, when a Army believes God is on their side, it's going to be one hell of a fight. Japanese considered other races sub-human, or beneath them. They did not believe they were treating people inhumanly because they did see them as human. Soliders who surrendered were looked on as cowards with no honor. A great book on how brutal Japans Army was in WWII is "The Rape Of Nan King" The average Japanese was much more brutal then the average German. Japan as a nation has denied the atrocities committed during the war, including genocidal policies and mistreatment of civilians and POW's. They do not care to talk about it and very rarely make apoligies.
Sorry if I got off topic, but I hope I answered in some way.Source(s): Military and WWII history buff
- 1 decade ago
I have talked to many Germans and Austrians who lived during WW2.
One of my friends tells me that her 18 year old brother was forced into the SS by threats against his family. What would your 18 year old son or brother do if he were told that if he refused to join, his family would be sent to the camps? This young man was captured by the Americans 2 days later and spent years in a pow camp in the US. He loved it so much here that after the war he became a US citizen and has lived in NY ever since.
My friend's father gave his papers to a Jewish friend and hid him in their mountain vacation home. She came from nobility and they lost everything to the Germans: 2 castles and properties, their valuable works of art, and their many Jewish friends. They were not alone.
My Austrian friend says that she is upset about the documentaries that her children are shown over and over so the same mistakes will not be made again. She was an innocent child who lived in the mountains and does not see why her little children should carry the guilt of others.
Another Austrian friend was captured and tortured by the Russians. He survived, and when we get upset about the little things in life, he always says: It does not matter.
A neighbor served in Hitler's Navy with PRIDE. And he is happy to brag about it.
Another German friend was the only young man from his village who survived the war. When the train on which his unit was being transported stopped, he took off for the hills, made his way to Switzerland, and eventually came to America. He runs a business here today.
And so, opinions are varied. Many people do not think of it as rude to bring it up. They would like the world to know that many innocents were victims of that war... not just the Jewish folks.
- 1 decade ago
Yes. I talked to a German soldier captured by American forces. As part of the Roosevelt negotiation fiasco, he was turned over to the Russians, who treated him badly. I got him to agree the Americans treated him well, but he was bitter towards Americans about his treatment by the Russians. He really let me have it, until his son told him to stop.
My general understanding is to never bring the subject up. Most people, including me, have no idea how atrocious wars are.