A well-argued analysis of a key trial in postwar Japan.




An Australian jurist evaluates the legality of the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal that followed Japan’s surrender at the end of World War II.

Smith (Sail the Solomons, 1998, etc.) takes readers through the legal foundations of the tribunal that tried Japanese leaders for war crimes during World War II, and specifically uses the trial of Japanese premier Koki Hirota as his focal point. He begins by analyzing the legal basis for the tribunal, which was led by the United States under the authority of the Instrument of Surrender that marked the end of the war. He then delves into Japanese history, explaining the legal and cultural structures that governed Hirota’s activities as a civilian member of the government and identifying concepts of imperial authority and obedience. The book then takes readers through the trial itself, which led to the convictions of Hirota and several other top officials; their superior, Emperor Hirohito, was never tried. Smith relies on both legal philosophy and documentary evidence to present a convincing case for the tribunal’s shortcomings, and he ultimately condemns the verdict against Hirota. The book presents reasonable arguments against many charges, arguing that, for example, no international legal authority had banned the act of going to war in 1941. Smith also shows that the lawyers representing the defendants were prevented from obtaining evidence and making arguments on their clients’ behalf. The book is a dense, demanding read that requires readers to comprehend difficult legal concepts, but the prose is clear, and it includes several anecdotes that may take readers by surprise; for instance, several indicted Japanese officials weren’t tried at all simply because the courtroom’s dock didn’t have room for them. Thorough references and substantial excerpts from primary sources help Smith provide a solid basis for his conclusions.

A well-argued analysis of a key trial in postwar Japan.

Pub Date: Nov. 24, 2013

ISBN: 978-1480181564

Page Count: 576

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2014

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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