In another class I am taking called Japan during the Second World War we’ve been discussing the Tokyo war crimes trials that took place after Japan surrendered the war. Which is where most of the information I’m using for this post comes from.
The Nuremberg trials were very different than the Tokyo War Crimes trials for a lot of reasons. Emperor Hirohito was still alive for the trials unlike Hitler, however Hirohito was not put on trial. He was allowed to stay in power and was basically just told that he had to renounce his god like power and then had to share power while the Americans were occupying the country. I highly doubt that if Hitler were still alive at the time of the Nuremberg trials that he would be allowed to stay in power and he would not even be sent to trial as a way to help gain the trust of the German people. Granted the two countries Germany and Japan are very different culturally, which played into the choice to allow Hirohito to stay in power. I doubt that there would’ve been any talk of allowing Hitler to stay in control of Germany after the war had he still been alive, there would be no option to not put him on trial and he most likely would’ve been found guilty and sentenced to death.
The idea of taking an individual who was a leader of a country during a wartime and then allowing them to stay in power after the war is over seems insane to me. I understand the political reasons for keeping the Emperor in power as a way to prevent a revolution but no one would ever have considered keeping Hitler in power to prevent a revolution or overthrow of the government who was in power for a period of time. I find it incredibly interesting that the man who was in power when the Pearl Harbor attacks occurred was not put on trial for any type of war crimes. There were many other differences between the two trials, for example the Tokyo trials really went all the way down the line and anyone in a uniform who engaged in an atrocity was put on trial and it was in a very public manner where in Germany the smaller trials weren’t as well known and not as public.
However one man in the Tokyo trials actually won his case. Foreign Minister Togo made a claim that many people don’t understand Japanese and there are many words in the language that can’t be translated well from Japanese to English or vice versa. No one in Germany could make a claim like this because it wasn’t as difficult to translate from English to German or the other way around. Imagine how many men in Germany might have used the same defense if they had the ability, would’ve all of those men have won their cases too?
I can’t help but wonder how exactly the world would’ve handled the situation if Hitler were still alive and if then Hitler was sentenced to death while Hirohito wasn’t even put on trial.
This image is of the Doctors trial at Nuremberg you can see that the men have on the headphones so that they can hear the translated version of what was said.¹
¹”View of the Tribunal during a Session of the Medical Case (Doctors’) Trial in Nuremberg.” – USHMM Collections Search. Accessed December 3, 2015. http://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/pa1036703.