History Podcasts

Who was in charge of the Barysaw massacre (20 October 1941)?

Who was in charge of the Barysaw massacre (20 October 1941)?

We are searching data for your request:

Forums and discussions:
Manuals and reference books:
Data from registers:
Wait the end of the search in all databases.
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.

I'm looking for information about the Barysaw Massacre of 20 October 1941. Who performed it and who was in charge of this operation?

On October, 20-21 1941, the German occupation authority of Borisov (headed by Stanislav Stankevich with the participation of Obersturmführer Kraffe) performed liquidation of the Jewish ghetto. At the day were killed 7 245 Jews. The upcoming action was announced on a banquet by the city administration.

The performers were mostly Russian auxiliary police headed by a Volga German David Egof. Other involved forces were the units of Wehrmacht as well as a Latvian SD company under command of Obersturmführer Kraffe who arrived from Minsk for the event.

According the Egof's words, the next day they also killed about 1000 people in the course of cleaning up the ghetto's territory.

In 1943 Germans ordered Russian POWs to open the ditch and burn the bodies of the victims so to cover up the massacre. All the POWs who participated were executed afterwards.

Before the war Egof was a teacher of German language near Borisov, who was elevated by the German administration due to his German ancestry. He was tried in 1947 and got 25 years in prison, because death penalty was abolished in the USSR at the time. After he served the term he was released.

Before the occupation started Jews constituted 20% of the city's population, that is 10000 people of 49000 total.


The World War II occupation of the Latvian town of Liepaja (Libau, to the Germans) produced mass executions throughout 1941.

This date in 1941 commenced one of the largest such actions: over 2,700 Jews as well as 23 Communists forced over the course of two-plus days to strip on the freezing Skede dunes overlooking the Baltic and there shot by German and Latvian teams into a vast pit. It’s one of the most recognizable Holocaust atrocities because it was extensively photographed.*

As one can see from the pictures, the victims here were mostly women.

Some of the women in this photographs can be identified by name (pdf). Left to right: (1) Sorella Epstein (2) presumably Rosa Epstein, her mother (3) unknown (4) Mia Epstein (5) unknown. Alternate identification makes Mia Epstein (5) instead of (4), and (2) Pauline Goldman.

Almost all of Liepaja’s Jews perished during the war.

* Germany’s Bundesarchiv (search on Libau 1941) confirms the precise December 15 dating for these images it also has some other photographs of atrocities in Liepaja/Libau on other occasions.


In 1942, 360,000 of the Jews who lived in the Lublin District of the General Governorate of German-occupied Poland were murdered during Operation Reinhard. By the end of the year, only 20,000 Jews were living in German camps and ghettos and no more than another 20,000 were in hiding. [1] [2] Beginning in January 1943, Jews launched a series of revolts in the General Governorate, including those at Warsaw Ghetto, Białystok Ghetto and Treblinka extermination camp, while anti-Nazi partisan activity was increasing throughout the area. [3] [4] Although the proximate reason for ordering Harvest Festival is unknown, historians believe that it was in response to the uprising at Sobibór extermination camp on 14 October 1943. [3] Thousands of the Jewish prisoners in the camps of the Lublin District had been transported there from the Warsaw Ghetto after the failure of the uprising there. [5] [6]

In order to avoid further resistance, Heinrich Himmler decided to exterminate the Jewish prisoners at the Lublin camps in a single decisive blow using overwhelming military force. [3] [7] [5] Himmler ordered Friedrich Krüger, Higher SS and Police Leader in the General Governorate, to carry out the murder Krüger delegated it to SS and Police Leader Jakob Sporrenberg, who had recently succeeded Odilo Globocnik. [8] [7] [9] Jewish inmates were ordered to dig zigzag trenches along the perimeter of Majdanek, Poniatowa and Trawniki concentration camps. At Majdanek the trenches were dug by a team of 300 prisoners working in three shifts in field 5, south of the crematorium, and measured about 100 metres (330 ft) long, 2–3 metres (7–10 ft) deep and 1.5–3 metres (5–10 ft) wide. Although the trenches were supposedly for defense against air raids, and their zigzag shape granted some plausibility to this lie, the prisoners guessed their true purpose. [7] [10] [11]

On 2 November, 2,000 to 3,000 SS and police personnel arrived in Lublin: Waffen-SS from as far away as Kraków, Police Regiment 22, Police Regiment 25 (including Reserve Police Battalion 101) and the Lublin Security Police. That evening, Sporrenberg convened a meeting between his own staff, the commandants of Majdanek, Trawniki, and Poniatowa, local Security Police commander Karl Pütz [de] , and the commanders of the various units. [3] [12] The murder operation, due to begin at dawn the next day, was planned as a military operation, with the code name Erntefest ("Harvest Festival"). [5] Two loudspeakers, installed on police cars, were positioned at Majdanek, one near the trenches and the other by the entrance of the camp. [13] [14] The leadership of the Lipowa 7 camp in Lublin, which held Jewish prisoners of war, queried Himmler as to whether they should violate the Geneva Convention by allowing the prisoners to be executed. Himmler's aide, Werner Grothmann, replied that "all Jews without exception are subject to liquidation". [15]


At 5:00 on 3 November 1943, prisoners at Majdanek were awoken as usual in the dark, but the camp had been surrounded by an additional 500 soldiers during the night. [3] [13] [14] The 3,500 to 4,000 Jewish prisoners [16] lived among non-Jewish prisoners. After morning roll call, the groups were separated, with Jews ordered to go to camp 5. [13] [14] Jews in the infirmary were trucked to that location, while the non-Jewish prisoners at camp 5 were moved to camp 4. The barbed wire fence was repositioned to include the execution area within the cordon. Prisoners were forced to undress and driven in groups of one hundred [17] to the three trenches in the field beyond the camp. [18] At the beginning of a ramp leading to the trenches, the Jews were separated into groups of ten and forced onwards to the trenches. [19] Execution squads of 10–12 men each from police battalions and 5th SS Panzer Division Wiking were waiting, [18] and were replaced every few hours. The prisoners were forced to lie down in the trenches and were shot in the nape of the neck. [20]

About 600 prisoners, half men and half women, were selected at the Lublin airfield camp to clean up after the massacre at Majdanek. The rest, some 5,000 or 6,000, [21] along with 2,500 Jewish prisoners of war at Lipowa 7, were marched towards Majdanek. [21] [22] Despite being heavily guarded, [19] [15] the Jewish prisoners of war rushed their guards and tried to escape, reportedly shouting "Niech żyje wolność!" (Long live freedom!) Almost all were shot before they could get away. [23] [15] The first prisoners from the other camps arrived at Majdanek around 7:30 and continued to arrive throughout the morning. [23] [16] Among the Jews from Majdanek, some tried to escape their fate through suicide or by hiding in the barracks. The next day, twenty-three Jews were discovered and were executed at the Majdanek crematorium. [24] [19] The speakers, which had been installed the previous day, were turned on as soon as the gunfire started, but it could still be heard. [19] [16] Local Poles watched from the rooftops of nearby buildings outside the camp, [18] [25] while Sporrenberg observed from a Fieseler Storch airplane. [25] It is not clear who directed the operation as it was ongoing it may have been Sporrenberg or Hermann Höfle. [19] The killing continued, uninterrupted until around 17:00 [24] [19] by then all 18,400 prisoners had been murdered. [18]


Previous to the operation, Polish residents who lived adjacent to the camp were forced to move and those who lived a bit farther away were forced to stay in their homes. Jewish prisoners who lived in the settlement outside the camp proper were returned to the camp. At 5:00 on 3 November, the prisoners were mustered for roll call, [26] rounded up, and marched to the Hiwi training camp, where loudspeakers were playing music beside the trenches. The victims were ordered to disrobe and place their clothing in piles, then to lie face down on top of those already shot, at which point the executioner would dispatch them by a shot to the nape of the neck. [21] Men were shot before women and children. [26] The shooting was already well underway when prisoners from Dorohucza arrived by rail at 7:00. [21] After the trenches were filled, some Jews were executed at a sand pit in the labor camp. [27] The execution of 6,000 Jews occurred continuously until 15:00 (or 17:00), [21] [26] with only a few managing to hide and survive. [21]


Many of the SS and police soldiers who had been at Majdanek continued to Poniatowa, some 50 kilometres (30 mi) distant, after the massacre had finished. [18] [28] The units participating in the massacre at Poniatowa included Reserve Police Battalion 101, [28] [29] Motorized Gendarmerie Battalion 1, Police Battalion 41, and Police Battalion 67. [29] There were 14,800 Jews at the camp before the massacre, [29] most of them having come from the Warsaw Ghetto. [5] On 3 November, the Jews were sent back to their barracks after roll call. [30] The camp was sealed and telephone lines were cut, so that the prisoners would not know what fate awaited them. [25] Some thought that there was going to be a selection, and tried to make themselves look healthier. [18] That evening, the camp was surrounded by 1,000–1,500 German and Ukrainian soldiers, [27] who formed three concentric security cordons around the camp by morning. [29]

The next morning (4 November), at 4:30, the prisoners were awoken for roll call. [26] Most were held in Hall 3, except 200 prisoners who were temporarily spared at the insistence of commandant Gottlieb Hering, in order to clean up after the massacre they were locked in the camp kitchen. Policemen searched the barracks and factory for anyone who was hiding, and then stood guard on both sides of the Lagerstrasse [de] (main avenue) in the camp. Prisoners were ordered to strip naked, hand over all valuables, and walk down the Lagerstrasse in groups of 50, starting with the men. [31] As loud music blared, the prisoners were herded to the two trenches by the entrance of the camp, 95 metres (310 ft) long, 2 metres (7 ft) wide, and 1.5 metres (5 ft) deep. [32] [33] One soldier stood at the beginning of the trench with a whip to encourage the Jews to immediately lie down on top of the bodies of those who had already been shot. Two shooters stood on each of the long sides of the trench, shooting alternately at the victims, each equipped with a bottle of schnapps and an assistant to reload their weapons. [31] According to a witness, many of the victims were not killed and lay wounded in the trench as more bodies piled on top of them, cursing the SS. [34]

Around 14:00, the executions were halted for a lunch break and the drunk executioners were relieved. The trenches turned out to be too shallow and bloody corpses spilled out of the edges. [35] Some prisoners in Poniatowa had formed a resistance group and had managed to acquire a few weapons. At 18:00, a group of around 100 Jews set fire to some barracks full of clothing and then barricaded themselves in another barracks. The Germans set this on fire, killing all of the resistance members. [27] [35] Polish fire fighters were brought in to put out the fires and observed the Germans throwing wounded Jews into the flames. [27] The executions finished around 17:00. [35] Afterwards, German soldiers checked the trenches, executing prisoners who had managed to survive [26] then the corpses were sprinkled with lime and covered with fir branches. [35] Three women survived, climbed out of the mass grave that night, and survived the war with the help of Żegota. [36] Overall, 14,500 people were killed within the span of a few hours. [37]

Removing all traces of the killing was a priority of the Nazi leadership because of Soviet military victories on the Eastern Front. [38] After the German defeat at Stalingrad, Soviet forces recaptured most of Ukraine, Russia, and eastern Belarus by the end of 1943. [39] At Majdanek, the cleanup took two months and was done under the supervision of Erich Muhsfeldt, previously an executioner at Auschwitz. [38] The six hundred men and women from the airfield camp [21] had to sort the clothing of the Jews murdered at Majdanek. [24] Upon the completion of this task the women were deported to Auschwitz and killed in the gas chambers. [24] [19] The men had to cremate the bodies, after which they were either killed [24] or recruited into Sonderkommando 1005. [19] Witnesses recalled that for months, the stench of burning flesh hung around the vicinity. [40] [41] The ditches were filled in with soil and leveled. [40]

The Jews at Milejowo concentration camp were sent to Trawniki on 5 November to clean up the massacre. Six women had to work in the kitchen while the men were ordered to extract gold teeth and hidden valuables from the corpses. After eight days (or two to three weeks), the men were executed, except for Yehezkel Hering, who disguised himself as a woman and hid with them. The women remained at the camp and sorted the belongings of the murdered Jews until May 1944, at which point they were deported via Majdanek to Auschwitz and other concentration camps. [42] [13]

About 50 Jews managed to hide from the shootings at Poniatowa, while 150 were left alive after the shooting to clean up and cremate the corpses. Upon refusing to do so, they were shot on 6 November. [27] Therefore, the Ukrainians were ordered to do so, but they were very reluctant and drank heavily. Many deserted and after a week, the remaining Ukrainians refused to do any more. [35] According to Israeli historian David Silberklang, 120 Jews were brought in from Majdanek to do the work. [43] Other reports have 60 to 80 prisoners of Sonderkommando 1005, who took six weeks to accomplish the task under the guard of Police Battalion 316 from Kraśnik. The bodies were dragged from the trenches by teams of horses, and incinerated on grates with wood and gasoline. Six or eight Jews escaped one night, but many of them were later caught and executed. [35] During this process the decomposing corpses smelled very bad and reportedly caused hardened SS men to vomit. [41] Afterwards the Jewish prisoners were executed by men from Police Battalion 101 in Puławy. [35]

3 November was dubbed "Bloody Wednesday" by Majdanek prisoners. [44] Following the operation, there were ten labor camps for Jews in the Lublin District (including Dęblin–Irena and Budzyń [pl] ) with about 10,000 Jews still alive. [45] The Jews at Budzyń were not executed, despite the camp's status as a subcamp of Majdanek. According to survivors, a handful of Jews were taken from Budzyń to Majdanek, returning with bloody clothing and tales of the massacre. Israeli historian David Silberklang attributes the survival of the camp to the desire of local German functionaries to continue benefiting financially from slave labor and avoid a transfer to the front, but states it is unclear why the camp escaped Himmler's notice. [46]

The Harvest Festival operation coincided with other massacres of surviving Jews in Kraków District and Galicia District, including the Wehrmacht camps in Galicia, but spared the forced-labor camps in Radom District which had not been placed under SS command. [47] [48] In the Lublin District, Jews were killed separately at Annopol-Rachów, Puławy, and other smaller sites. [49] The SS enterprise Ostindustrie, which employed many of the murdered prisoners, was not informed in advance the company was liquidated later in the month. [50] The operation marked the end of Operation Reinhard. [24]

According to Christopher Browning, the minimum estimate of the death toll was 30,500 at Majdanek and Poniatowa, [51] while estimates of those killed at Trawniki start at 6,000, [21] [27] but as many as eight or ten thousand may have died there. [27] Overall, the operation is variously estimated to have killed 39,000 to 43,000, [24] at least 40,000, [3] 42,000, [48] or 42,000 to 43,000 victims. [47] Measured by death count, Harvest Festival was the single largest massacre of Jews by German forces during the Holocaust. It surpassed the killing of more than 33,000 Jews at Babi Yar outside Kiev and was exceeded only by the 1941 Odessa massacre of more than 50,000 Jews in October 1941, committed by Romanian troops. [52]

After the war, Sporrenberg was tried, convicted, and executed by a Polish court for his role in organizing the operation, while Pütz committed suicide. [37] In 1999, Alfons Gotzfrid was sentenced to time served for his participation in the killings at Majdanek. [53] The Majdanek State Museum has hosted ceremonies to commemorate the victims. [54] [55]

Who was in charge of the Barysaw massacre (20 October 1941)? - History

The Occupation of the Soviet Union

Brief Military Overview & Impact on Soviet Prisoners of War and Civilians

Adolf Hitler had decided to attack the Soviet Union as early as July 1940, directly after the victory over the French, and Allied Forces, but for once he listened to the objections of his Generals and decided to delay the invasion, due to concerns over the weather and the need to build up the Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe forces.

Hitler’s decision to attack the Soviet Union under the title of Barbarossa, named after Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, one of the heroes of German history, who at the close of the 12 th century marched with his knights against the infidel in the Holy Land, was designed to give the German people “Lebensraum” – Living Space.

The German General Staff submitted various plans but Hitler’s variant – Barbarossa in December 1940 was the plan that was put into action. His plan envisaged the weight of the invasion was now decisively shifted to the North.

Leningrad became the main military target and Moscow was to be taken afterwards, while the operations in the South were initially confined to the occupation of the Ukraine West of Kiev.

All the variants proposed had the gigantic intention of destroying the Red Army in huge battlements of encirclement in the Baltic States, Belorussia and the Ukraine, to prevent the Soviet forces escaping into the interior of Russia.

The German and Axis forces that invaded the Soviet Union were split into three Army Groups:

Shortly after 0300 hours on the 22 June 1941 the whole of the German front line from the Carpathians to the Baltic moved forward after a short artillery bombardment across the demarcation line, while Luftwaffe squadrons above them flew far into Russia, facing them were 4 Russian Military Districts, as follows:

The German forces in the initial stages benefited from Stalin’s reluctance to believe that Hitler would invade Russia, given the non-aggression pact they had signed in 1939, and the Russians seemed taken by surprise.

The German blitzkrieg advanced very quickly into the Soviet Union, over 100km a day, sweeping all before them, 8 Russian Divisions were virtually annihilated on the first day alone. During the first two days over 2000 Russian planes were destroyed by the Luftwaffe, most of them on the ground.

In a week the Wehrmacht had advanced half way to Moscow and in a month had conquered territory double the size of the Reich. Russian and Baltic States cities fell in quick succession to the relentless German attacks, such as Brest- Litovsk, Vitebsk, Smolensk, Zhitomir, Riga, Kovno and Vilna. Leningrad was surrounded and the siege lasted until late 1943, but the city was never captured, but cost thousands of lives.

The Germans were welcomed in part by some locals in the Baltic States where the Germans were seen as liberators, some of these locals dreamed of self-determination, but quickly found the Nazis unwilling to be that accommodating.

However, some did not welcome the Nazis with open hands, and with good cause not to, behind the front lines roamed the Einsatzgruppen, A, B, C and D whose task was to murder Jews, Communists, Political Commissars and Gypsies. The mass murder was mainly carried out by shooting, but gas vans were used in certain locations.

Hitler saw the war against the Bolsheviks as a fundamental clash of political systems, and he waged this war with utter ruthlessness. This will be covered in more detail in separate article outlining the role of the SS and SD in Russia, and how Hitler viewed the war with the Soviets, particularly in relation to the extermination of Soviet Jewry and Political Commissars.

As the cities fell, the Germans captured vast numbers of Soviet troops often in sweeping pincer movements such as in the Uman pocket, and in the Minsk pocket.

A million Soviet troops were captured in the first month of the invasion, and millions of POW’s died in captivity, often in the most barbarous circumstances. They were held in primitive prisoner –of – war camps such as in Chelm in Poland, and in concentration camps such as Auschwitz and Majdanek but over time could be found in the majority of concentration camps.

The first mass gassing in Auschwitz was carried out on Soviet Prisoners –of War during August 1941 in the cellar of Block XI by Karl Fritzsch, the deputy commandant, using Zyklon B.

Six hundred invalid Russian prisoners-of –war together with two-hundred and fifty inmates of the Auschwitz infirmary were locked in the infamous penal block in the main camp. The windows were earthed in, and the Zyklon B crystals were simply thrown through the door. But on the following afternoon when SS- Haputscharfuhrer Palitzsch entered the cellar many living bodies were discovered and the whole process had to be repeated.

On the 12 August 1941 Hitler orders the Panzers South to the Ukraine to eliminate the Soviet South – West Front, instead of advancing on Moscow, against the advice of his Generals.

The victory by the Germans in the Kiev cauldron was seen as the greatest military catastrophe for the Soviets, in their history, with over half a million Soviet soldiers either dead or captured.

The Germans occupied Kiev on the 19 September 1941 and five days later a huge explosion wrecked the Continental Hotel, the headquarters of the Rear Area Command of the VI Army.

The fires spread rapidly, twenty –five thousand people were made homeless and hundreds of German troops died in fighting the fires. At a conference between Jeckeln, SSPF Russland- Sud, Dr Otto Rasch of the Einsaztgruppe and Eberhardt, the town commandant it was decided that the Jews would be treated as reprisal victims.

What followed was one of the greatest single mass murder actions in history, 33,771 Jews were killed over two days on the 29 September and 30 September 1941, in the Babi Yar ravine.

Standartenfuhrer Paul Blobel was in charge of the Einsatzgruppen shooting squads, who carried out the massacre, the victims received a shot in the neck as they stepped from a plank into the ravine.

The Kiev massacre must go down in history as the most remembered atrocity in the German extermination of Soviet Jewry.

With Kiev captured on the 26 September 1941 Hitler ordered the assault on Moscow, “Operation Typhoon”, the Germans intended to pounce on Moscow like a hurricane and seize it. The offensive began in ideal weather conditions on the 2 October, and things looked promising for the German invaders.

“Operation Typhoon” claimed stunning victories in the Vyazma and Bryansk pockets on the 7 October and the following day the skies opened up and heavy rain fell. Thus began the “season of the mud,” which considerably slowed down the German advance.

After the mud the first snows fell around the 10 October and it quickly became apparent to the General’s in the field that the troops lacked adequate winter clothing, but official requests for winter clothing were ignored

“We were quite happy about the success of the German Armies in Russia and the first inkling that something is wrong was when Goebbels made a big action in the whole of Germany to collect furs and winter clothes for the German troops, and then we knew that something was happening that was not foreseen.”

Stalin appointed Marshall Zhukov who had commanded the defence of Leningrad with great skill, to lead the defence of Moscow. Forty divisions of Siberian troops were also moved from the Siberian front, to bolster up the Soviet forces. A State of Emergency for Moscow and the adjacent regions was declared from the 20 October 1941.

The Germans continued to advance on Moscow but by mid-November 1941 the advance was halted by 20 degree of frost and desperate Russian resistance.

The Panzers continued to roll and reached the village of Krasnaya Polyana at the end of November, a mere 18 miles from Moscow. In the centre of the front they had reached the village of Burtsevo, 25 miles from Moscow, Kashira 69 miles from the capital.

In the central sector on the 4 December 1941 the Army Group Centre continues its advance on Moscow, particularly in the area of Tula, South of the capital. But the next night brings the great frost thirty five degrees below zero.

The tanks will not start, the guns will not fire and thousands of men suffer from frostbite. The following day the 5 December the German offensive stalls in front of Moscow, due to lack of equipment combined with the terrible winter conditions and the Russians launch a general counter- offensive all along the front, especially on the Moscow front.

By the 11 December 1941 the Russians announce the liberation of 400 places in the Moscow area and the destruction of 17 German divisions, including seven armoured and three motorised divisions. Hitler announces the end of the winter campaign against Russia, Operation Barbarossa has ended in failure.

On the 20 December 1941 Josef Goebbels, the Nazi Propaganda Minister makes a broadcast an appeal for warm clothing for German soldiers serving in Russia.

“We were quite happy about the success of the German Armies in Russia and the first inkling that something is wrong was when Goebbels made a big action in the whole of Germany to collect furs and winter clothes for the German troops, and then we knew that something was happening that was not foreseen.”

Despite being regarded as the Untermensch (Sub-human) the Germans waived all such notions when it came to robbing the Jews of the General Gouvernment of their furs, to keep the Wehrmacht warm on the Russian front during the severe winter, whilst they froze in the harsh Polish winters.

Adam Czerniakow the Chairman of the Warsaw Ghetto made this entry on the 24 December 1941:

“I received a message from Warsaw that – according to an edict – we must surrender all the furs – both men’s and women’s. I am to be personally responsible. The deadline has been set for December 28, 1941.”

This will be covered in a separate article.

History of the Second World War published by Purnell & Sons 1966.

The World at War by Richard Holmes published by Ebury Press 2007.

The Field Men by French L MacLean published by Schiffer Military History Atglen PA 1999.

The Final Solution by G.Reitlinger published by Sphere Books Ltd 1971.

The Warsaw Diary of Adam Czerniakow published by Elephant Paperbacks Chicago 1999.

The Rock Springs Massacre

Perhaps the odor of burnt things gave the men some idea of what they were about to see. Mixed with it was a sicker, sweeter smell — the smell of dead things that had started to decay.

The 600 Chinese coal miners had been traveling all day — toward San Francisco, they had been told, and safety. Then they stopped, and the sound of the boxcar doors being slid open came rumbling down the train. Outside it was after sundown, and dark, but still the men knew immediately where they were. They were right back in Rock Springs, Wyoming. Clambering out of the cars and onto the railroad tracks, they saw that little was left of the homes they fled in panic a week before.

Rock Springs’ Chinatown was gone. Even more horrifying, there still were bodies in what had been Chinatown’s streets. Not that many—perhaps a dozen two dozen at the most. Some had been buried by the coal company, but these had not. Many were in pieces. These were bodies of their friends, sons, fathers, brothers and cousins, murdered by a mob of white coal miners.

“[M]angled and decomposed,” the Chinese miners reported later to a Chinese diplomat in New York, the bodies “were being eaten by dogs and hogs.”

And now the coal company, owned by the Union Pacific Railroad, expected the miners to bury their dead, put the memories of this abomination behind them and go back to work. Until new houses could be built, they would be living in the boxcars.

The trouble was a long time coming. The boxcar doors rumbled open on a night in September 1885, but there were Chinese miners in the United States at least since the California Gold Rush in 1849. Nearly all came without their families. In California, they could earn 10 times as much as they could earn in China. If they were careful, in a few years they could save a lifetime’s fortune to take back home.

California welcomed them, badly needing the work they could do. Soon Chinese men were working alongside whites at jobs from farming to cigar‑making.

When it came time to build the transcontinental railroad east from Sacramento, over the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Chinese workers, though physically small, proved to be reliable, strong and very tough. They had to be. Blasting tunnels through hard rock, cutting ledges for the railroad along cliffs and mountainsides was dangerous, difficult work. Out of the 12,000 Chinese who built the Central Pacific, about 1,200 died on the job. In 1869, the Central Pacific met the Union Pacific in Utah, and the nation had a transcontinental railroad. Thousands of jobs disappeared.

Still, the Chinese stayed. Because their families were not with them, the men did not mind living eight or nine to a room to save on rent. This kept their expenses very low. They could afford to accept jobs at a lower rate of pay. They began, in the eyes of white workers, taking jobs away from the white men.

In July 1870, white workers in San Francisco led large street demonstrations making clear the Chinese weren’t wanted—and should not consider themselves safe. In October 1871, when a fight broke out in Los Angeles between rival gangs of Chinese criminals, whites poured into the neighborhood and murdered 23 Chinese. No one was charged with the crimes.

The Chinese still kept coming to the United States. “Sojourners,” they called themselves, meaning that returning to China was always part of the plan. There was more violence—in Arizona and Nevada as well as California. In 1882, Congress finally limited the number of Chinese immigrants. But the new law was full of loopholes, and the immigration question was as open-ended and confusing as ever.

Coal was the main reason the railroad followed the route it did across southern Wyoming. The trains ran on coal from rich Union Pacific coal mines in Carbon, Wyoming, near Medicine Bow in Rock Springs and in Almy, near Evanston.

When the Union Pacific got in financial trouble, the railroad saved money by cutting the miners’ pay. To keep profits higher, the miners and their families were required to shop for food, clothes and tools only at the company’s stores, where prices were high. There were strikes about wage cuts, and more strikes about having to shop at the company stores.

After one such strike in 1871, the company fired the strikers and brought in Scandinavian miners ready to work for less and follow the rules. In 1875, after another strike, the company brought in additional Chinese miners ready to do the same.

It worked. Both times, federal troops came in, and the strikers lost the struggle. After the 1875 strike, the Rock Springs mines started up again with about 150 Chinese miners and only 50 whites. By 1885, there were nearly 600 Chinese and 300 white miners working the Rock Springs mines.

The whites—mostly Irish, Scandinavian, English and Welsh immigrants—lived in downtown Rock Springs. The Chinese lived in what the whites called Chinatown, to the northeast, on the other side of a bend in the railroad tracks and across Bitter Creek. There the miners lived in small wooden houses the company had built for them. Other Chinese who ran businesses—herb stores, laundries, noodle shops, social clubs—lived in shacks they built themselves.

Although they worked side by side every day, whites and Chinese spoke separate languages and lived separate lives. They knew very little about each other. This made it possible for each race to think of the other, somehow, as not entirely human.

Because the Chinese were willing to work for lower wages, everyone’s wages stayed low. This was fine with the company, but white miners resented it. They joined a new union, the Knights of Labor, growing in numbers across the nation at that time. After yet another strike in 1884, mine managers in Rock Springs were told to hire only Chinese.

In the summer of 1885, there were scattered threats against and beatings of Chinese men in Cheyenne, Laramie and Rawlins. Threatening posters turned up in the railroad towns warning the Chinese to leave Wyoming Territory or else. Company officials ignored these signs as well as direct warnings from the union.

On the morning of Sept. 2, 1885, a fight broke out between white and Chinese miners in the No. 6 mine in Rock Springs. Whites fatally wounded a Chinese miner with blows of a pick to the skull. A second Chinese was badly beaten. Finally a foreman arrived and ended the violence.

But instead of going back to work, the white miners went home and fetched guns, hatchets, knives and clubs. They gathered on the railroad tracks near the No. 6 mine, north of downtown and Chinatown. Some made an effort to calm things down, but most moved to the Knights of Labor hall, had a meeting and then went to the saloons, where miners from other mines began showing up as well. Sensing the increasing tension, the saloon owners closed their doors.

In Chinatown, it was a Chinese holiday. Many of the miners stayed home from work and were unaware of what was developing.

Shortly after noon, between 100 and 150 armed white men, mostly miners and railroad workers, convened again at the railroad tracks near the No. 6 mine. Many women and even children joined them. About two in the afternoon, the mob divided. Half moved toward Chinatown across a plank bridge over Bitter Creek. Others approached by the railroad bridge, leaving some behind at both bridges to prevent any nonwhites from leaving. Still others walked up the hill toward the No. 3 mine, north and on the other side of the tracks from Chinatown. Chinatown was nearly surrounded.

In the buildings at the Number 3 mine, white men shot Chinese workers, killing several. The mob moved into Chinatown from three directions, pulling some Chinese men from their homes and shooting others as they came into the street. Most fled, dashing through the creek, along the tracks or up the steep bluffs and out into the hills beyond. A few ran straight for the mob and met their deaths. White women took part in the killing, too.

The mob turned back through Chinatown, looting the shacks and houses, and then setting them on fire. More Chinese were driven out of hiding by the flames and were killed in the streets. Others burned to death in their cellars. Still others died that night out on the hills and prairies from thirst, the cold and their wounds.

With Chinatown burning, the mob confronted the company bosses who hired the Chinese and told them to leave town on the next train. They did. Over in Green River, 14 miles away, Sweetwater County Sheriff Joseph Young learned of the killing spree about an hour after it began. He rushed to Rock Springs on a special train, but no one would join him in a posse. There was nothing he could do, he said later. He and a few men protected company buildings from the fire.

In Cheyenne, Territorial Gov. Francis E. Warren learned of the murders late that afternoon. Union Pacific officials took a special, fast train all the way from company headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska, and arrived in Cheyenne about midnight. Warren joined them on the train. By daybreak on September 3, all were in Rock Springs.

Warren appeared to be the only person who knew what to do. He sent telegrams to the Army and to President Grover Cleveland in Washington asking for federal troops to restore order. And at Warren’s suggestion, the company ran a train slowly along the tracks between Rock Springs and Green River, taking stranded Chinese miners aboard and giving them food, water and blankets.

In Rock Springs, the governor met with more company officials, and then with white miners. The miners demanded that no Chinese would ever again live in Rock Springs, that no one would be arrested for the murders and burning, and they said that anyone who objected to these demands risked being hurt or killed.

To show he was unafraid, Warren left his railroad car several times during the day and made a show of walking back and forth on the depot platform. The people, now quiet and orderly, could see him clearly. Nothing happened.

Meanwhile, in Evanston, Wyoming Territory, on the railroad 100 miles west of Rock Springs, Uinta County Sheriff J.J. LeCain was nervous. Hundreds of Chinese miners lived there, too, and worked the coal mines at nearby Almy. White miners left work in Almy as well, and armed mobs were in the streets. A much larger round of killings could begin at any moment.

LeCain telegraphed Gov. Warren. With no territorial militia to command and still no definite word about federal troops, there wasn’t much Warren could do but go on to Evanston from Rock Springs. He arrived the morning of September 4. LeCain deputized 20 men who were barely managing to maintain order. On the fifth, a small detachment of troops arrived in Rock Springs. On the sixth, the striking white miners at Almy warned the Chinese that if they dared go to work, they wouldn’t leave the mines alive. Troops escorted these Chinese from their camp at Almy to the safety of the much larger Chinatown in Evanston. The company assured them their property at Almy would be safe. But as soon as the Chinese were gone, whites looted their homes.

By now, nearly all the Chinese wanted to get out of Wyoming as soon as possible. Ah Say, leader of Rock Springs’s Chinese community, asked first for railroad tickets. Company officials refused. Then, again through Ah Say, the Chinese asked for the two months of back pay the company owed them. Again, the company refused.

Two hundred fifty white citizens of Evanston next handed Governor Warren a petition asking the same thing—that the Chinese be paid off so they’d have enough money to leave. But the governor refused to do anything—a risky choice, as the situation could have exploded again at any moment. This was a matter between the company and its workers, Warren said, and none of his business.

More troops finally arrived in Rock Springs and Evanston nearly a week after the first killing. On the ninth of September, the company gathered about 600 Chinese in Evanston. Under the protection of armed guards, they were taken to the depot, loaded on boxcars and told they were headed at last to San Francisco and safety. Without their knowing, however, a special car carrying Warren and top Union Pacific officials was attached to the back of the train. About 250 soldiers were on board as well.

The train left Evanston that morning but traveled slowly east, not west, arriving in Rock Springs that evening. At the depot, an angry crowd of white miners had gathered. So the train continued a little farther, stopping just west of where Chinatown had been.

The boxcar doors opened. The Chinese realized they’d been tricked.

For several days, fearful of the jeering, catcalling white miners blocking the entrance to each mine, the Chinese would not go back to work. Again they asked for passes to California and were refused. Again they asked for their back pay and were refused. Finally, the company store refused to sell food or anything else to the Chinese who were not working and threatened to evict them from their temporary boxcar homes. About 60 refused to work and left Rock Springs any way they could.

The rest more or less surrendered. Any miner, the company declared, white or Chinese, not back at work by Monday morning, September 21, would be fired and never hired again anywhere on the Union Pacific lines. And so the miners returned to work.

Sixteen white miners were arrested and released on bail. A grand jury was called to consider what, exactly, should be the charge. Though the killing had been done in daylight, in front of other people, no one could be found who would swear to having seen any crimes. No charges were filed.

In all, 28 Chinese were killed, 15 wounded and all 79 of the shacks and houses in Rock Springs’ Chinatown looted and burned. Chinese diplomats in New York and San Francisco drew up a list of damages totaling nearly $150,000. Congress, under pressure from the president, finally agreed to reimburse the miners for their loss. Still, the government continued to limit the number of Chinese who could come to the United States. Never having planned to stay in the first place, the Chinese gradually left Wyoming throughout the following decades.

In Rock Springs, federal troops built Camp Pilot Butte between downtown Rock Springs and Chinatown to prevent further violence and stayed for 13 more years.

Thanks to Gov. Warren’s decisive courage in the first days after the riot, many more killings were avoided. But Warren also refused to help with the back-pay question and helped trick the Chinese onto the train that took them back to Rock Springs. These actions kept a big supply of Chinese miners around, making sure coal kept flowing from the mines to run the railroad and making it easier for the company to resist demands from the white miners for higher wages. And that was what the Union Pacific had wanted to do all along.

Elaine Massacre of 1919

The Elaine Massacre was by far the deadliest racial confrontation in Arkansas history and possibly the bloodiest racial conflict in the history of the United States. While its deepest roots lay in the state’s commitment to white supremacy, the events in Elaine (Phillips County) stemmed from tense race relations and growing concerns about labor unions. A shooting incident that occurred at a meeting of the Progressive Farmers and Household Union escalated into mob violence on the part of the white people in Elaine and surrounding areas. Although the exact number is unknown, estimates of the number of African Americans killed by whites range into the hundreds five white people lost their lives.

The conflict began on the night of September 30, 1919, when approximately 100 African Americans, mostly sharecroppers on the plantations of white landowners, attended a meeting of the Progressive Farmers and Household Union of America at a church in Hoop Spur (Phillips County), three miles north of Elaine. The purpose of the meeting, one of several by black sharecroppers in the Elaine area during the previous months, was to obtain better payments for their cotton crops from the white plantation owners who dominated the area during the Jim Crow era. Black sharecroppers were often exploited in their efforts to collect payment for their cotton crops. The union had contracted with lawyer Ulysses S. Bratton, whose son, Ocier, was at this meeting.

In previous months, racial conflict had occurred in numerous cities in America, including Washington DC Chicago, Illinois Knoxville, Tennessee and Indianapolis, Indiana. With labor conflicts escalating throughout the country at the end of World War I, government and business interpreted the demands of labor increasingly as the work of foreign ideologies, such as Bolshevism, that threatened the foundation of the American economy. Thrown into this highly combustible mix was the return to the United States of black soldiers who often exhibited a less submissive attitude within the Jim Crow society around them.

Unions such as the Progressive Farmers represented a threat not only to the tenet of white supremacy but also to the basic concepts of capitalism. Although the United States was on the winning side of World War I, supporters of American capitalism found in communism a new menace to their security. With the success of the Russian Revolution, stopping the spread of international communism was seen as the duty of all loyal Americans. Arkansas governor Charles Hillman Brough told a St. Louis, Missouri, audience during the war that “there existed no twilight zone in American patriotism” and called Wisconsin senator Robert LaFollete, who opposed the war, a Bolshevik leader. During this “Red Scare,” the threat of “Bolshevism” seemed to be everywhere: not only in the labor strikes led by the radical Industrial Workers of the World but also in the cotton fields of Arkansas.

Leaders of the Hoop Spur union had placed armed guards around the church to prevent disruption of their meeting and intelligence gathering by white opponents. Though accounts of who fired the first shots are in sharp conflict, a shootout in front of the church on the night of September 30, 1919, between the armed black guards around the church and three individuals whose vehicle was parked in front of the church resulted in the death of W. A. Adkins, a white security officer for the Missouri-Pacific Railroad, and the wounding of Charles Pratt, Phillips County’s white deputy sheriff.

The next morning, the Phillips County sheriff sent out a posse to arrest those suspected of being involved in the shooting. Although the posse encountered minimal resistance from the black residents of the area around Elaine, the fear of African Americans, who outnumbered whites in this area of Phillips County by a ratio of ten to one, led an estimated 500 to 1,000 armed white people—mostly from the surrounding Arkansas counties but also from across the river in Mississippi—to travel to Elaine to put down what was characterized by them as an “insurrection.” On October 1, Phillips County authorities sent three telegrams to Gov. Brough, requesting that U.S. troops be sent to Elaine. Brough responded by gaining permission from the Department of War to send more than 500 battle-tested troops from Camp Pike, outside of Little Rock (Pulaski County).

After troops arrived in Elaine on the morning of October 2, 1919, the white mobs began to depart the area and return to their homes. The military placed several hundred African Americans in makeshift stockades until they could be questioned and vouched for by their white employers. (Union leader Robert Lee Hill was hidden by friends during the violence and later escaped to Kansas.) The violence even claimed those who had nothing to do with the union efforts, such as brothers David Augustine Elihue Johnston, Gibson Allen Johnston, Lewis Harrison (L. H.) Johnston, and Leroy Johnston, who were returning to Helena from a hunting trip when they were attacked and killed on October 2.

Evidence shows that the mobs of whites slaughtered African Americans in and around Elaine. For example, H. F. Smiddy, one of the white witnesses to the massacre, swore in an eye-witness account in 1921 that “several hundred of them… began to hunt negroes and shotting [sic] them as they came to them.” Anecdotal evidence also suggests that the troops from Camp Pike engaged in indiscriminate killing of African Americans in the area, which, if true, was a replication of past militia activity to put down perceived black revolts. In 1925, Sharpe Dunaway, an employee of the Arkansas Gazette, alleged that soldiers in Elaine had “committed one murder after another with all the calm deliberation in the world, either too heartless to realize the enormity of their crimes, or too drunk on moonshine to give a continental darn.”

Colonel Isaac Jenks, commander of the U.S. troops at Elaine, recorded the number of African Americans killed by U.S. troops as only two. In contrast, the correspondent for the Memphis Press on October 2, 1919, wrote, “Many Negroes are reported killed by the soldiers….” Other anecdotal information suggests that U.S. troops also engaged in torture of African Americans to make them confess and give information.

The white power structure in Phillips County formed a “Committee of Seven,” made of influential planters, businessmen, and elected officials, to investigate the cause of the disturbances. The committee met with Gov. Brough, who had ridden on the train with the troops and accompanied them on a march to the Hoop Spur area. The governor, who was reported as saying he was going to Elaine to “obtain correct information,” accepted the authority of the committee in return for its commitment that no lynchings would take place in Helena (Phillips County). He returned to Little Rock the next day and told a press conference, “The situation at Elaine has been well handled and is absolutely under control. There is no danger of any lynching…. The white citizens of the county deserve unstinting praise for their actions in preventing mob violence.”

From this point forward, two versions of what occurred at Elaine exist. The white leaders put forward their view that black residents had been about to revolt. E. M. Allen, a planter and real estate developer who became the spokesman for Phillips County’s white power structure, told the Helena World on October 7, “The present trouble with the Negroes in Phillips County is not a race riot. It is a deliberately planned insurrection of the Negroes against the whites directed by an organization known as the ‘Progressive Farmers and Household Union of America,’ established for the purpose of banding Negroes together for the killing of white people.”

On the other hand, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in New York, which had sent Field Secretary Walter White to investigate the events in Elaine, contested such allegations from the outset. White wrote in the Chicago Daily News on October 19, 1919, that the belief there had been an insurrection was “only a figment of the imagination of Arkansas whites and not based on fact.” He said, “White men in Helena told me that more than one hundred Negroes were killed.” Famed journalist and anti-lynching activist Ida B. Wells-Barnett secretly interviewed some of the prisoners in Helena, from which she produced the pamphlet “The Arkansas Race Riot.” This work also challenged allegations of an insurrection and documented the torture and other depredations the prisoners had suffered.

Within days of the initial shoot-out, 285 African Americans were taken from the temporary stockades to the jail in Helena, the county seat, although the jail had space for only forty-eight. Two white members of the Phillips County posse, T. K. Jones and H. F. Smiddy, stated in sworn affidavits in 1921 that they committed acts of torture at the Phillips County jail and named others who had also participated in the torture. On October 31, 1919, the Phillips County grand jury charged 122 African Americans with crimes stemming from the racial disturbances. The charges ranged from murder to nightriding, a charge akin to terroristic threatening (as defined by Act 112 of 1909). The trials began the next week, with John Elvis Miller leading the prosecution. White attorneys from Helena were appointed by Circuit Judge J. M. Jackson to represent the first twelve black men to go to trial. Attorney Jacob Fink, who was appointed to represent Frank Hicks, admitted to the jury that he had not interviewed any witnesses. He made no motion for a change of venue, nor did he challenge a single prospective juror, taking the first twelve called. By November 5, 1919, the first twelve black men given trials had been convicted of murder and sentenced to die in the electric chair. As a result, sixty-five others quickly entered plea-bargains and accepted sentences of up to twenty-one years for second-degree murder. Others had their charges dismissed or ultimately were not prosecuted.

In Little Rock and at the headquarters of the NAACP in New York, efforts began to fight the death sentences handed down in Helena, led in part by Scipio Africanus Jones, the leading black attorney of his era in Arkansas, and Edgar L. McHaney. Jones began to raise money in the black community in Little Rock for the defense of the “Elaine Twelve,” as the convicted men came to be known. The twelve men were: Frank Moore, Frank Hicks, Ed Hicks, Joe Knox, Paul Hall, Ed Coleman, Alfred Banks, Ed Ware, William Wordlaw, Albert Giles, Joe Fox, and John Martin.

At the same time, the New York offices of the NAACP, upon the advice of Arkansas attorney Ulysses S. Bratton, hired the Little Rock law firm of George C. Murphy, a former attorney general and candidate for governor, as counsel for the twelve men. Even at the age of seventy-nine, Murphy, a former Confederate officer and Arkansas attorney general, was considered one of the best trial attorneys in Arkansas. By late November, Jones was working with Murphy’s firm to save the Elaine Twelve.

Their initial task was to appeal the sentences given to the Elaine Twelve and ask for a new trial based on errors committed by the trial court. Gov. Brough issued a stay of the executions to permit an appeal to the Arkansas Supreme Court after the motions were denied. For the next five years, the cases of the Elaine Twelve were mired in litigation as Murphy and Jones fought to save the men from death. They secured new trials for six of the men, known as the Ware defendants, based on the fact that the trial judge had not required jurors to indicate the degree of murder on their ballot forms.The convictions of the other six men, known as the Moore defendants, were affirmed.

The cases of the Elaine Twelve were litigated on two separate tracks. The re-trials of the Ware defendants began on May 3, 1920. During the trials, Murphy became ill, and Jones became the principal counsel. Hostility toward him was so great from local white residents that, out of fear for his life, he was said to sleep at a different black family’s house every night during the trials. The convictions were again affirmed. Gov. Brough once again stayed their executions until the Arkansas Supreme Court could again review the cases. Ultimately, the Ware defendants were freed by the Arkansas Supreme Court after two terms of court had passed, and the state of Arkansas made no move to re-try the men.

The Moore defendants were granted a new hearing after the U.S. Supreme Court, in the case of Moore v. Dempsey, ruled that the original proceedings in Helena had been a “mask,” and that the state of Arkansas had not provided “a corrective process” that would have allowed the defendants to vindicate their constitutional right to due process of law on appeal.

Instead of pursuing a new hearing in federal court, in March 1923, Scipio Jones entered into negotiations to have the Moore defendants released. To be released, the men would have to plead guilty to second-degree murder and a sentence of five years from the date they were first incarcerated in the Arkansas State Penitentiary. Finally, on January 14, 1925, Governor Thomas McRae ordered the release of the Moore defendants by granting them indefinite furloughs after they had pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. In the interim, Jones had secured the release of the other Elaine defendants.

Though some local white residents of Phillips County still contend that white people at the time acted appropriately to prevent a slaughter in the Elaine area in 1919, the modern view of most historians of this crisis is that white mobs unjustifiably killed an undetermined number of African Americans. More controversial is the view that the military participated in the murder of blacks. Race relations in this area of Arkansas are currently quite strained for a number of reasons, including the events of 1919. A conference on the matter in Helena in 2000 resulted in no closure for the people in Phillips County. On September 29, 2019, a memorial to those who died during the massacre was dedicated in downtown Helena-West Helena. On November 5, 2019, the Elaine Twelve were memorialized on the Arkansas Civil Rights Heritage Trail in Little Rock.

For additional information:
Anthony, Steven. “The Elaine Riot of 1919: Race, Class, and Labor in the Arkansas Delta.” PhD diss., University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, 2019.

Butts, J. W., and Dorothy James. “The Underlying Causes of the Elaine Riot of 1919.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 20 (Spring 1961): 95–104.

Clancy, Sean. “Marking a Tragedy.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, September 29, 2019, pp. 1E, 6E.

Collins, Ann V. All Hell Broke Loose: American Race Riots from the Progressive Era through World War II. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger, 2012.

Cortner, Richard C. A Mob Intent on Death: The NAACP and the Arkansas Riot Cases. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1988.

Dillard, Tom. “Scipio A. Jones.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 31 (Autumn 1972): 201–219.

Dunaway, L. S. What A Preacher Saw Through a Keyhole in Arkansas. Little Rock: Parke-Harper Publishing Company, 1925.

Elaine Race Massacre: Red Summer in Arkansas. UA Little Rock Center for Arkansas History and Culture. https://ualrexhibits.org/elaine/ (accessed November 18, 2020).

Ellis, Mark. “J. Edgar Hoover and the ‘Red Summer’ of 1919.” Journal of American Studies 28 (April 1994): 39–59. Online at http://history.msu.edu/files/2010/04/Mark-Ellis.pdf (accessed November 18, 2020).

Ferguson, Bessie. “The Elaine Race Riot.” Master’s thesis, George Peabody College for Teachers (now Peabody College of Education and Human Development at Vanderbilt University), 1927.

Johnson, J. Chester. Damaged Heritage: The Elaine Race Massacre and a Story of Reconciliation. New York: Pegasus Books, 2020.

Krugler, David F. 1919, The Year of Racial Violence: How African Americans Fought Back. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015.

Lancaster, Guy, ed. The Elaine Massacre and Arkansas: A Century of Atrocity and Resistance, 1819–1919. Little Rock: Butler Center Books, 2018.

McCool, B. Boren. Union, Reaction, and Riot: The Biography of a Rural Race Riot. Memphis: Memphis State University Press, 1970.

McWhirter, Cameron. Red Summer: The Summer of 1919 and the Awakening of Black America. New York: St. Martin’s, 2011.

Mitchell, Brian K. “Soldiers and Veterans at the Elaine Massacre.” In The War at Home: Perspectives on the Arkansas Experience during World War I, edited by Mark K. Christ. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2020.

Mulder, Brandon. “Arkansas Residents Make a Case for Reparations 100 Years after the Elaine Massacre.” American Prospect, September 30, 2019. https://prospect.org/justice/arkansas-reparations-elaine-race-massacre/ (accessed November 18, 2020).

Peacock, Leslie Newell. “To Those Known and Unknown: The Elaine Massacre Memorial.” Arkansas Times, August 2019, pp. 24–31. Online at https://arktimes.com/news/cover-stories/2019/08/02/to-those-known-and-unknown (accessed November 18, 2020).

Research Materials for Blood in Their Eyes: The Elaine Race Massacres of 1919. Butler Center for Arkansas Studies. Central Arkansas Library System, Little Rock, Arkansas.

Rogers, O. A., Jr. “The Elaine Race Riots of 1919.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 19 (Summer 1960): 142–150.

Smith, C. Calvin, ed. “The Elaine, Arkansas, Race Riots, 1919.” Special Issue. Arkansas Review: A Journal of Delta Studies 32 (August 2001).

Stockley, Grif, Brian K. Mitchell, and Guy Lancaster. Blood in Their Eyes: The Elaine Massacre of 1919. Rev. ed. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2020.

Stockley, Grif, and Jeannie M. Whayne. “Federal Troops and the Elaine Massacres: A Colloquy.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 61 (Autumn 2002): 272–283.

Taylor, Kieran. “‘We Have Just Begun’: Black Organizing and White Response in the Arkansas Delta, 1919.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 58 (Autumn 1999): 265–284.

Visualizing the Red Summer. http://visualizingtheredsummer.com/ (accessed November 18, 2020).

Voogd, Jan. Race Riots and Resistance: The Red Summer of 1919. New York: Peter Lang, 2008.

Waskow, Arthur I. From Race Riot to Sit-in: 1919 to the 1960’s. New York: Anchor Books, 1967.

Wells-Barnett, Ida B. “The Arkansas Race Riot.” N.p.: 1920. Online at https://archive.org/details/TheArkansasRaceRiot (accessed November 18, 2020).

Whayne, Jeannie M. “Black Farmers in the Red Autumn: A Review Essay.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 68 (Autumn 2009): 327–336.

———. “Low Villains and Wickedness in High Places: Race and Class in the Elaine Riots.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 58 (Autumn 1999): 285–313.

Whitaker, Robert. On the Laps of Gods: The Red Summer of 1919 and the Struggle for Justice that Remade a Nation. New York: Crown, 2008.

Williams, Lee E., and Lee E. Williams II. Anatomy of Four Race Riots: Racial Conflict in Knoxville, Elaine (Arkansas), Tulsa and Chicago, 19191921. Jackson: University and College Press of Mississippi, 1972.

Woodruff, Nan Elizabeth. American Congo: The African American Freedom Struggle in the Delta. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003.

Wormser, Richard, director. The Elaine Riot: Tragedy & Triumph. VHS Documentary. Little Rock: Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, 2002.


October 18th, 2015 Headsman

On this date in 1862, Union Gen. John McNeil had ten Confederate soldiers shot in what history has recorded as the Palmyra Massacre.

The Slave Power’s northern salient, Missouri was surrounded to the east, north, and west by free soil — which made it an antebellum flashpoint since the days of the Missouri Compromise.*

In the 1850s, the Missouri conflict spilled into neighboring Kansas as the enemy sides of the slavery question fought to determine whether Kansas would enter the Union as slave state or free. The Missouri borderlands of Bleeding Kansas was where the radical abolitionist martyr John Brown made his name, commanding free state militia in a guerrilla war that presaged the coming clash of North and South.

By the time we lay our scene in 1862, John Brown has exited courtesy of Virginia’s gallows, and the dragon’s teeth sown in Missouri and Kansas and everywhere else had sprung to horrible life. Missouri’s own civil war pitted neighbor against neighbor throughout the state in a bushwhacking conflict that extended locally for many years after Appomattox.**

The nastiness of the years to come is aptly suggested by this date’s events.

Like neighboring Kentucky, Missouri was a border state with a Union government, albeit one contested by a rival Confederate government. From the standpoint of the North, all Confederate activity there was behind its lines and the perpetrators therefore potentially subject to treatment (up to and including execution) as spies, saboteurs, and the like.&dagger

Joseph Chrisman Porter, a Confederate officer, was one such possible client of this here site, tapped as he was for recruiting and raiding operations in northeast Missouri. His Union adversary Gen. John McNeil saw Porter as basically a terrorist. In August of 1862, Porter’s aide Frisby McCullough fell into McNeil’s hands: the Union general had McCullough shot.

On September 12, Porter raided the town of Palmyra, where McNeil held a number of Confederate prisoners. In the course of the raid, he kidnapped Andrew Allsman, a 60-year-old Palmyra resident. “It was said of him that he was able to inform the military authorities of certain movements of the enemy, and that he gave definitive information as to the homes and whereabouts of many men of Confederate leanings,” in the words of this pro-Confederate 1902 pamphlet on the incident. “Naturally, this placed him in disfavor with the Southern sympathizers and those who were fighting in that cause.”

What happened next — though it was not known to the Union at the time — was that Allsman was shot. The pamphlet just cited attempts to obfuscate this event into the fog of war and not really Porter’s fault. The bare fact is that his raiders had gone out of their way to seize an aged non-combatant and then summarily executed him.

Not knowing Allsman’s fate, McNeil responded with an ultimatum to his opposite number.

Palmyra, Mo., Oct. 8, 1862.

To Joseph C. Porter.

Sir: — Andrew Allsman, an aged citizen of Palmyra and a non-combatant, having been carried away from his home by a band of persons unlawfully arraigned against the peace and good order of the State of Missouri, and which band was under your control, this is to notify you that, unless Andrew Allsman is returned unharmed to his family within ten days from date, ten men, who have belonged to your band, and unlawfully sworn by you to carry arms against the government of the United States, and who are now in custody, will be shot as a meet reward for their crimes, amongst which is the illegal restraining of said Allsman of his liberty, and if not returned, of presumptively aiding in his murder. Your prompt attention to this will save much suffering.

Yours, etc.,

W.R. Strachan
Provost Marshal General Northeast District of Missouri
By order of Brigadier General commanding McNeil’s column

The Confederates, of course, could not produce Allsman.

So, on the evening of Oct. 17, five rebel prisoners in the Palmyra stockade plus five more held in Hannibal were informed that they would be shot the next afternoon, in ruthless enforcement of the threat.

The men who died this date in 1862 by a volley of musketry at the Palmyra fairgrounds were:

  • Captain Thomas Sidenor
  • William T. Baker
  • Thomas Humston
  • Morgan Bixler
  • John McPheeters
  • Hiram Smith
  • Herbert Hudson
  • John Wade
  • Marion Lair
  • Eleazer Lake

Their names adorn the base of a monument erected in Palmyra in 1907 commemorating the so-called “Palmyra Massacre”. The state of Missouri as a digital archive of original documents relating to the affair available here.

* Missouri was where the slave Dred Scott lived his owner taking him to the neighboring free state of Illinois and thence points north occasioned the notorious Supreme Court case that bears his name.

** Frank and Jesse James were Confederate partisans for William Quantrill in the Missouri war they segued directly into their more celebrated career in outlawry right after the war ended — robbing banks whilst settling scores with pro-Union men for the rest of the 1860s, before branching out to other points on the frontier.

&dagger The Union might obviously have chosen to treat the entire Confederacy as a treasonable enterprise rather than a legitimate enemy belligerent. As a historical matter, it did not take this perspective.


Larry Engelmann has written about a wide variety of topics, ranging from the attempt to suppress liquor during Prohibition to the fall of South Vietnam and the effect of the Chinese Cultural Revolution on the life of a young girl.

In The Goddess and the American Girl: The Story of Suzanne Lenglen and Helen Wills Engelmann tells of two rival tennis players of the 1920s who enjoyed fame and celebrity on a scale not seen before in professional sports. Suzanne Lenglen won sixty-four of sixty-six sets she played during the 1920s, 269 out of 270 matches, and eight major tournaments. Meanwhile, Helen Wills racked up eight Wimbledon singles titles, seven American singles titles, and four French singles titles. Their successes made the two women celebrities whose every move was scrutinized by fans across the world. Engelmann's book, according to Maria Madsen in Women's Sports and Fitness, "tells how these two women rewrote the record books and reached the pinnacle of success in tennis…. If you love the world of tennis, this book is a must."

Engelmann turned to a personal topic for his book Daughter of China: A True Story of Love and Betrayal, which tells of his second wife's career as a Red Chinese espionage agent. When Meihong Xu, one of the few women chosen to become an intelligence officer with the People's Liberation Army, met Engelmann while he was studying in China, she was branded an enemy of the people and forced to charge that he had raped her. Xu was expelled from the communist party, her husband divorced her, and only through the secret assistance of a high-ranking sympathizer was she able to marry Engelmann and leave the country. Daughter of China "reads like a political thriller," according to a reviewer for Publishers Weekly. The "ground-level view [Xu] offers of the Cultural Revolution, the democracy movement, the Tiananmen Square massacre and the hints of struggle among the top leadership will fascinate those familiar with Chinese politics," the critic concluded.

In Tears before the Rain: An Oral History of the Fall of South Vietnam, Engelmann presents the collected first-hand accounts of seventy-five eywitnesses—from U.S. marines to Vietnamese boat people—caught up in the tumult surrounding the fall of South Vietnam to communist forces in 1975. The witnesses "describe the growing chaos, demoralization and panic as the collapse gained momentum," said Genevieve Stuttaford in her Publishers Weekly review.

While noting that some of the interviews can be "repetitive," School Library Journal contributor Roberta Lisker added that the collected chronicles provide readers with a good impression of the era. Lisker singled out sections of the book centering on the Bui Doi, children of Vietnam fathered by American servicemen. Their stories, along with those of Vietnamese refugees, said the reviewer, "go to the heart of what happens to the innocent in a conflict."

Engelmann collaborated with Emily Wu for their 2006 release, Feather in the Storm: A Childhood Lost in Chaos. A child of upper-class parents during China's Cultural Revolution of the 1960s, Wu "faced every imaginable indignity and outrage," as Mick Sussman put it in a New York Times Book Review article. As Chairman Mao Zedong's Red Guard descended on her home, Wu and her siblings were interred in a state facility as their parents were forced from town. After the young woman graduated from high school, she witnessed the shambles left of her society played out in an environment of brutal treatment that led to the suicide of one of her friends.

Booklist critic Steven Schroeder expressed some reservations about Feather in the Storm, remarking that "Wu has a story to tell, but Engelmann's role is unclear and inspires wariness." If Feather in the Storm "lacks the insight and artistry of a first-rate memoir," noted Sussman, the reviewer concluded that the memoir is nonetheless "an effective testament to what Mao's social experiment inflicted on one girl."

Engelmann once commented to CA: "My primary interest is nonfiction. I try to combine what I learned about research in graduate school with what I learned about good dramatic and precise prose from writers like Joyce Carol Oates, Truman Capote, Sinclair Lewis, and William Styron. I am constantly on the lookout for ideas or information that might be developed in stories or articles. As in fiction, the possibilities for subject matter are unlimited, and I enjoy the research and discovery as much as I do writing a final narrative."

The Battle of Singapore, the Massacre of Chinese and Understanding of the Issue in Postwar Japan

Shortly after British forces surrendered in Singapore on 15 February 1942, the Japanese military began operation Kakyou Shukusei [a] or Dai Kenshou [b], known in the Chinese community of Singapore as the Sook Ching ("Purge") [c], in which many local Chinese were massacred.[1] Although the killings have been investigated extensively by scholars in Malaysia and Singapore, this article draws on Japanese sources to examine the events.

Chinese inspected by Kempeitai following the capture of Singapore

The first point to be considered is why the massacre took place, and the second is how the massacre has been presented in postwar Japan. Although even ex-Kempeitai officers involved have admitted that the killings were inhumane and unlawful, little attention has been paid to the episode in Japan. While there has been valuable research carried out on the Japanese military administration of Malaya and Singapore, no detailed Japanese study of the killing has appeared. Moreover, while the Singapore Massacre is well known to scholars, similar killings in the Malay Peninsula only came to the attention of the Japanese public in the late 1980s after I discovered documents relating to the Japanese military units involved.

Why did the Japanese Military Massacre Chinese in Singapore?

On the night of 17 February 1942, Maj. Gen. Kawamura Saburo, an infantry brigade commander, was placed in charge of Japan&rsquos Singapore Garrison. The next morning, he appeared at Army Headquarters and was ordered by 25th Army commander, Lt. Gen. Yamashita Tomoyuki, to carry out mopping-up operations. He received further detailed instructions from the chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Suzuki Sosaku, and Lt. Colonel Tsuji Masanobu. Kawamura then consulted with the Kempeitai commander, Lt. Col. Oishi Masayuki. The plan to purge the Chinese population was drawn up in the course of these meetings. Under this scheme, Chinese males between the ages of 18 and 50 were ordered to report to mass screening centers. Those deemed anti-Japanese were detained, loaded onto lorries, and taken away to the coast or to other isolated places where they were machine-gunned and bayoneted to death. [2] My survey of official documents of the Japanese military revealed two sources that specified the number massacred. One is Kawamura&rsquos diary that shows the figure as 5,000. [3] The other is an issue of the Intelligence Record of the 25th Army (No.62, dated 28 May 1942) prepared by the staff section of the 25th Army. [4] This secret record states that the number missing as a result of bombing and the purge was 11,110. This second record is important because it was drawn up as a secret document shortly after the purge took place. However, it includes both bombing and purge casualties and offers no basis for the figure.

In Singapore it is generally believed that the number killed in this event was about 50,000. [5] However, on the basis of materials available in Japan, Singapore, and the UK, I find no basis for this figure. Although I can not present exact figures, my estimation is that a minimum of 5000 died I can offer no figure for the maximum. The issue of numbers remains unsettled.

The mass screening was carried out mainly by Kempeitai personnel between 21 and 23 February in urban areas, and by the Imperial Guard Division at the end of February in suburban districts. Most accounts of the killings include a map that shows the island divided into four sections, and explain that the Imperial Guards, the 5th Division, and the 18th Division carried out the mass screening in suburban districts. [6] However, on 21 February, the 25th Army ordered both the 5th and 18th Divisions to move into the Malay Peninsula to carry out mopping-up operations. [7] The order assigned the Imperial Guard Division to conduct a mass screening of non-urban areas of Singapore, with the 5th and the 18th Divisions responsible for the rest of the Malay Peninsula. According to war diaries and documents relating to these two divisions, neither played a role in the mass screening in Singapore. The 1947 British war crimes trial in Singapore [8] prosecuted the commander of the Imperial Guard Division, Lt. Gen. Nishimura Takuma, on charges related to the Singapore Massacre, but not the commanders of the 5th or 18th Divisions. This version of events is correct, and the conventional mapping of the massacre is incorrect.

Kempeitai headquarters: the old YMCA Building

It is important to note that the purge was planned before Japanese troops landed in Singapore. The military government section of the 25th Army had already drawn up a plan entitled, "Implementation Guidline for Manipulating Overseas Chinese" on or around 28 December 1941. [9] This guideline stated that anyone who failed to obey or cooperate with the occupation authorities should be eliminated. It is clear that the headquarters of the 25th Army had decided on a harsh policy toward the Chinese population of Singapore and Malaya from the beginning of the war. According to Onishi Satoru, [10] the Kempeitai officer in charge of the Jalan Besar screening centre, Kempeitai commander Oishi Masayuki was instructed by the chief of staff, Suzuki Sosaku, at Keluang, Johor, to prepare for a purge following the capture of Singapore. Although the exact date of this instruction is not known, the Army headquarters was stationed in Keluang from 28 January to 4 February 1942.

Rebuttal of the Defense

Let us consider the justification or defense for the actions of the Japanese army presented by some Japanese writers and researchers. One of the major points is that the Chinese volunteer forces, such as the Dalforce, the Singapore Overseas Chinese Anti-Japanese Volunteer Army, fought fiercely and caused heavy Japanese casualties. This is supposed to have inflamed Japanese anger and led to reprisals against local Chinese. [11] About 600 personnel from among the 1,250-strong Dalforce volunteers were sent to the front. Some 30 per cent of Dalforce personnel either died in action or were killed during the subsequent Purge. [12] It is generally said in Singapore that the Dalforce personnel fought fiercely. [13] Whatever their bravery, however, their role seems exaggerated in Singapore accounts. The volunteers of Dalforce were equipped only with outdated weapons. Japanese military histories make no reference to Chinese volunteers during the battle of Singapore, and report that the opposition put up by British forces was weaker than expected. The greatest threat to the Japanese was artillery bombardment. [14]

During the war crimes trial of 1947, no Japanese claimed that losses suffered by Japanese forces at the hand of Chinese volunteers contributed to the massacre. As noted above, the 25th Army had planned the mass purge even before the battle of Singapore. This sequence of events clearly rebuts the claims.

A second point raised is that the Chinese in Malaya were passing intelligence to the British and that Chinese guerrillas were engaged in subversive activities against Japanese forces during the Malayan campaign, for example by flashing signals to British airplanes. The Kempeitai of the 25th Army was on the alert for such activities during the Malayan campaign, but made only two arrests. Kempeitai officer Onishi Satoru said in his memoirs that they had been unable to find any evidence of the use of flash signals and that it was technologically impossible. Thus, this line of argument is refuted by a military officer who was directly involved in the events. [15]

A third explanation offered for the massacre is that anti-Japanese Chinese were preparing for an armed insurrection, and that law and order was deteriorating in Singapore. They claim that a purge was necessary to restore public order, and this point was raised at the war crimes trial in Singapore. [16] One piece of evidence cited by the defense during the trial was an entry in Kawamura&rsquos personal diary for 19 February that purportedly said looting still continued in the city. The same evidence was presented to the Tokyo War Crimes Trial. However, the diary actually says that order in the city was improving. [17] The extract used during the trials was prepared by a Japanese army task force set up to counter charges made during war crimes trials by the Allied forces. Clearly the evidence was manipulated.

Otani Keijiro, a Kempeitai lieutenant colonel in charge of public security in Singapore from the beginning of March 1942, also rejected this line of defense, severely criticizing Japanese atrocities in Singapore. [18] Onishi stated that he had not expected hostile Chinese to begin an anti-Japanese campaign, at least not in the short term, since public security in Singapore was improving. [19]

The fourth argument is that staff officer Tsuji Masanobu was the mastermind behind the massacre, and that he personally planned and carried it out. Although Tsuji was a key figure in these events, I believe that researchers have overestimated his role. At the time of the war crimes trials, Tsuji had not been arrested. As soon as the war ended, he escaped from Thailand to China, where he came under the protection of the Kuomintang government, having cooperated with them in fighting the communists. He later secretly returned to Japan in May 1948 where he was protected by the US military, namely G2 of GHQ. [20] In this situation, the defense counsel of the war crimes trial of 1947 attempted to pin all responsibility on Tsuji, who could not be prosecuted. This point will be discussed in more detail below.

Let us now examine the reasons why the Japanese in Singapore committed such atrocities. I limit the discussion to internal factors of Japanese military and society.

First, it should be noted that the Japanese occupation of Singapore began a decade after the start of Japan&rsquos war of aggression against China. After the Manchurian Incident in 1931, Japan invaded and occupied Manchuria, setting up the puppet state of &ldquoManchukuo&rdquo in 1932. The Japanese army faced a strong anti-Japanese campaign and public order remained unstable. The military responded by conducting frequent punitive operations against anti-Japanese guerrillas and their supporters. Under normal circumstances, those arrested in these operations should have been apprehended and brought to trial for punishment. However, Japan forced Manchukuo to enact a law in September 1932 that granted authority to army officers, both Japanese and Manchurian, as well as police officers, to execute anti-Japanese activists on the spot without trial. This method of execution, which denied judicial due process to Chinese captives, was usually called Genju Shobun (Harsh Disposal) or Genchi Shobun (Disposal on the Spot) by the Japanese military. [21] With this law in place, the Japanese military and military police killed suspects without trial or investigation. Those killed were not only guerrillas but also civilians, including children, women, and the aged. Such inhumane methods were legalized in Manchuria. From 1937, Genju Shobun was applied regularly throughout the China-Japan War., with civilians denied the right of trial and Chinese soldiers denied prisoner of war status [22]

Yamashita Tomoyuki, the 25th Army commander who directed the invasion of Malaya, played an important role in the evolution of Genju Shobun. As chief of staff of the North China Area Army in 1938-1939, he formulated an operational plan for mopping-up in northern China that drew on the Genju Shobun experience, having earlier been stationed in Manchuria as Supreme Adviser to the Military Government Section of Manchukuo. [23] At the time, the Chinese communists had a number of base areas in northern China. In 1940, following Yamashita&rsquos transfer, intensive cleanup operations called San guang zhengce (Kill All, Loot All, Burn All J. Sanko seisaku) were launched involving unbridled terror during which numerous people in contested areas were massacred or driven from their villages. Yamashita was the link that connected Japanese atrocities in Manchuria and North China with those in Singapore. [24]

During the final phase of the war, Yamashita was appointed commander of the 14th Area Army in the Philippines, where he surrendered to US forces at the end of the war. While he had experienced trouble with anti-Japanese guerillas in the Philippines, he commented to the deputy chief of staff that his policy of dealing harshly with the local population in Singapore had made the local population there become docile. [25]

The army order that began the purge in Singapore and Malaya was issued to the Singapore Garrison Commander, Kawamura by Army Commander Yamashita. When Kawamura presented Yamashita a report on the operations of 23 February, Yamashita expressed his appreciation for Kawamura&rsquos efforts and instructed him to continue the purge as necessary. [26] Yamashita was not a puppet of Tsuji but an active instigator of the Singapore Massacre.

A third important point is that the headquarters of the 25th Army included other hardliners aside from Tsuji and Yamashita. A notable example was the deputy chief of the military government of Singapore and Malaya, Col. Watanabe Wataru. [27] He was the mastermind behind the forcible donation of $50 million and the &ldquoImplementation Guidance for Manipulating Overseas Chinese&rdquo, which set out the fatal consequences of non-compliance. His earlier career included time spent as chief of a secret military agency in both Beijing and Harbin. He delivered a speech at the Army Academy in 1941 advocating strong pressure against those who "bent their knees" to the British and thereby betrayed East Asia. The lesson he derived from his experience in China was that Japan should deal harshly with the Chinese population from the outset. As a result, the Chinese in Singapore were regarded as anti-Japanese even before the Japanese military landed.

In this and other senses, Japanese aggression in Southeast Asia was an extension of the Sino-Japanese War.

Fourth, among Japanese military officers and men there was a culture of prejudice toward the Chinese and other Asian people. These attitudes had deepened following the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95 and were embedded within the Japanese population as a whole by the 1930s.

A final consideration is the issue of &ldquopreventive killing&rdquo. In Japan, preventive arrest was legalised in 1941 through a revision of Chian Iji Ho [Public Order Law], which allowed communists and others holding dangerous thoughts to be arrested and held in custody even if no crime had been committed. A number of detainees were tortured to death by the police, notably the Tokko special political police. The Singapore Massacre bears a close parallel to this method of preventive arrest and summary execution.

Clearly, then, the Singapore Massacre was not the conduct of a few evil people, but was consistent with approaches honed and applied in the course of a long period of Japanese aggression against China and subsequently applied to other Asian countries. To sum up the points developed above, the Japanese military, in particular the 25 th Army, made use of the purge to remove prospective anti-Japanese elements and to threaten local Chinese and others in order to swiftly impose military administration. However, Japanese violence proved counter productive. Strong anti-Japanese feelings were ignited in the local population and not a few younger people joined anti-Japanese movements. The result was that Japanese forces never succeeded in resolving these difficulties in the years prior to defeat in 1945.

Narratives of the Singapore Massacre in Postwar Japan

The Campaign to Undermine the War Crimes Trials in the 1950s

Although the Singapore Massacre generated scant interest among the Japanese people in the postwar era, there has been some discussion of the incident. Singapore Garrison Commander Kawamura Saburo published his reminiscences in 1952, at a time when Japan was recovering its independence. [28] This book contains his diaries, personal letters, and other materials. In one letter to his family, he expressed condolences to the victims of Singapore and prayed for the repose of their souls. The foreword to the book was written by Tsuji, who had escaped punishment after the war. For his part, Tsuji showed no regrets and offered no apology to the victims.

During the 1950s, the Japanese government, members of parliament, and private organisations waged a nationwide campaign for the release of war criminals held in custody at Sugamo Prison in Tokyo. [29] Both conservatives and progressives took part in the campaign, arguing that minor war criminals were victims of the war, not true criminals. A Japanese government committee was in charge of recommending the parole and release of war criminals to the Allied Nations. The committee&rsquos recommendations are still closed to the public in Japan, but can be read in the national archives of the UK and USA.

As an example of the committee&rsquos recommendations, in 1952 the British government was asked to consider parole for Onishi Satoru, who took part in the Singapore Massacre as a Kempeitai officer and was sentenced to life imprisonment by a British war crimes trial. [30] The recommendation says that the figure of 5,000 victims of the Singapore Massacre was untrue and that his war crimes trial had been an act of reprisal. Although this recommendation was not approved by the British government, it reflects the Japanese government&rsquos refusal to admit that mass murder had occurred in Singapore. [31] Among many Japanese, the war crimes trials were, and still are, regarded as a mockery of justice, or victor&rsquos justice.

Japanese Response to Accusations by Singaporeans in the 1960s

Beginning in 1962, numerous human remains dating from the Occupation were found in various locations around Singapore. Prolonged discussions between the Singaporean and Japanese governments relating to these deaths led to a settlement in 1967. This was reported in the Japanese press, but only as minor news. For example, the Nihon Keizai Shimbun quoted a Japanese official involved in the negotiations as saying that no executions by shooting occurred in Malaysia. [32] The Asahi Shimbun reported that it was hardly conceivable that the Japanese military committed atrocities in Indonesia and Thailand. [33] Another Asahi report criticized the Chinese Chamber of Commerce in Singapore for stoking hatred by propagating stories of barbarity by the Japanese military during the war. [34]

Personal mementoes of Singaporeans excavated during the 1960s and presently exhibited in the Sun Yat-sen villa

In 2003, the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs released documents relating to the negotiations between Singapore and Japan during this period. [35] The Japanese government had made use of a report prepared in 1946 by an army committee chaired by Sugita Ichiji, a staff officer with the 25th Army. To counter war crimes charges, the report admitted that there had been executions, but insisted that there were mitigating circumstances. [36]

The figure of 5,000 executions, according to a written opinion by an official at the Ministry of Justice who was in charge of detained war criminals, was an exaggeration: the correct figure might be about 800. The Asahi Shimbun reported this number with apparent approval. [37] Additional figures come from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which accepted that the Japanese military had carried out mass killings in Singapore, but some Japanese foreign ministry documents state that the number of victims was 3,000, while others use 5,000. One ex-foreign ministry official sent a letter to the Foreign Minister saying that Japan should repent and apologize in all sincerity, but this attitude was exceptional among officials.

Changi Beach, site of largescale executions

During negotiations with Singapore, the Japanese government rejected demands for reparations but agreed to make a &ldquogesture of atonement&rdquo by providing funds in other ways. What the Japanese government feared most was economic damage as a result of a boycott or sabotage by the local Chinese should Singapore&rsquos demands be rejected. The agreement with Singapore was signed on the same day as a similar agreement with Malaysia. Singapore was to receive 25 million Singapore dollars as a gift and another 25 million Singapore dollars in credit, while Malaysia was to receive 25 million Malaysia dollars as a gift. [38]

To the last, the Japanese government refused to accept legal responsibility for the massacre or to carry out a survey of the deaths. The mass media in Japan did not examine what had happened in Singapore and Malaya during the war. It is no exaggeration to say that the Japanese media at that time showed no inclination to confront Japan&rsquos war crimes or war responsibility.

Publications in the 1970s

There were, however, some honest responses in subsequent years. In 1967 Professor Ienaga Saburo, famous for his history textbook lawsuit against the Japanese government, published a book entitled The Pacific War that dealt with the Singapore Massacre. [39] In 1970, the monthly journal Chugoku [China] published a feature called, &ldquoBlood Debt: Chinese Massacre in Singapore&rdquo, the first extended treatment in Japan of the Singapore Massacre. [40] The piece was mostly written by Professor Tanaka Hiroshi.

The 1970s also saw publication of reminiscences by some of those directly involved in the Massacre, and by people who witnessed or heard about it, including Nihon Kempei Seishi [The Official History of the Japanese Kempeitai] by the Zenkoku Kenkyukai Rengokai [Joint Association of National Kempei Veterans], [41] Kempei by Otani Keijiro, and Hiroku Shonan Kakyo Shukusei Jiken [Secret Memoir of Singapore Overseas Chinese Purification] by Onishi Satoru. Onishi Satoru was a Kempeitai section commander who took part in the Massacre. In his book Onishi admitted that the &ldquopurification&rdquo was a serious crime against humanity, but he claimed that the number of victims was actually around 1,000. [42] Otani&rsquos book severely criticizes the Japanese military, denouncing the &ldquopurification&rdquo as an act of tyranny and criticizing it from a human perspective. [43]

Although veterans&rsquo associations usually justify or deny that inhuman acts had taken place, the Joint Association of National Kempei Veterans has admitted that the massacre was an inhuman act. [44] A few writers who were stationed or visited Singapore during the war have also published memoirs in which they record what they had heard about the Singapore Massacre. [45] On the whole, nobody denied that the Japanese purge in Singapore was an atrocity against humanity and historians began to pay attention to the episode. However, it failed to catch the attention of the Japanese people.

Research in the 1980s and 1990s

The situation changed in 1982, when the Ministry of Education ordered the deletion of passages relating to Japanese wartime atrocities in Asia from school textbooks, and instructed textbook writers to replace the term &ldquoaggression&rdquo with less emotive terms, such as &ldquoadvance&rdquo. [46] This decision was severely criticized both at home and abroad, and a growing number of historians began to conduct research into Japanese atrocities, including the Nanjing Massacre. [47]

In 1984, while the textbook controversy continued, a bulky book called Malayan Chinese Resistance to Japan 1937-1945: Selected Source Materials was published in Singapore. Sections of this volume were translated into Japanese in 1986 under the title Nihongun Senryoka no Singapore [Singapore under Japanese Occupation], allowing Japanese to read in their own language Singaporean testimony concerning wartime events. [48] The main translator was Professor Tanaka Hiroshi, mentioned earlier as the author of a magazine article on the Singapore Massacre.

Another significant publication was a 1987 booklet by Takashima Nobuyoshi, then a high school teacher and now a professor at Ryukyu University, entitled Tabi Shiyo Tonan-Ajia E [Let&rsquos travel to Southeast Asia]. [49] Based on information Takashima collected during repeated visits to Malaysia and Singapore beginning in the early 1980s, the booklet discussed atrocities and provided details of the &ldquoMemorial to the Civilian Victims of the Japanese Occupation&rdquo and of an exhibition of victim mementos at the Sun Yat-sen Villa. The volume served as a guidebook for Japanese wishing to understand wartime events or visit sites of Japanese atrocities. In 1983 he began organising study tours to historical sites related to Japanese Occupation and to places where massacres occurred in Malaysia and Singapore.

In 1987, I located official military documents in the Library of the National Institute for Defense Studies, Defense Agency that included operational orders and official diaries related to the massacre of Chinese in Negri Sembilan and Malacca in 1942. Newspapers throughout Japan reported these findings, the first time that public attention focused on the killings in Malaya. [50] The documents revealed that troops from Hiroshima had been involved in atrocities in Negri Sembilan and this information came as a major shock to the people of Hiroshima, who had thought themselves as victims of the atomic bomb and had never imagined that their fathers or husbands had been involved in the massacres in Malaya. [51]

In 1988, several citizen groups jointly invited Chinese survivors from Malaysia to visit Japan, and staged meetings where Japanese citizens listened to their testimony. A book that included these statements was published in 1989. [52] Also in 1988, the Negri Sembilan Chinese Assembly Hall published a book in Chinese called Collected Materials of Suffering of Chinese in Negeri Sembilan during the Japanese Occupation, and the following year Professor Takashima and I published a Japanese translation of this volume. [53] Another source of information was the history textbook used in Singapore by students in junior high school, Social and Economic History of Modern Singapore 2, which was translated into Japanese in 1988. The material concerning the occupation attracted the attention of Japanese readers, particularly teachers and researchers. [54]

As might be expected, there was a backlash to these initiatives. It was claimed that Japanese troops killed only guerrillas and their supporters, and that the number was much smaller than reported. Responding to these allegations, I published a book in 1992 entitled Kakyo Gyakusatu: Nihongun Shihaika no Mare Hanto [Chinese Massacres: The Malay Peninsula under Japanese Occupation] [55] that substantiated in detail the activities of the Japanese military in Negri Sembilan during March 1942, when several thousand Chinese were massacred. Since then there has been no rebuttal by those who would not concede the massacres in Malaya apart from personal attacks and contesting of trifling details that have no effect on the central argument. [56]

In 1996, the Singapore Heritage Society&rsquos book, SYONAN: Singapore under the Japanese, 1942-1945 was translated into Japanese. [57] This book comprehensively introduced Japanese readers to the living conditions and suffering of Singaporeans under the Japanese occupation. Further information appeared in a book I published entitled, Sabakareta Senso Hanzai: Igirisu no Tainichi Senpan Saiban [Tried War Crimes British War Crimes Trials of Japanese]. This volume contains an account of the Singapore Massacre based on British, Chinese and Japanese documents. [58]

The Rightist Backlash and the School Textbook Issue Since 2000

In the 1990s, some Japanese high school history textbooks began to provide information on the massacres in Singapore and Malaya, although they devoted only one or two lines to the events. More recently, chauvinistic campaigns and sentiment have become rampant in Japan. A number of ultra right books now claim that the Nanjing Massacre is a fabrication, that the Japanese military took good care of comfort women, and so on. Under pressure from the Ministry of Education, the Liberal Democratic Party, and other neo-nationalists, statements in school textbooks about Japanese atrocities have become less common, and the Minister of Education said in 2004 that it was desirable that descriptions of Japanese atrocities be dropped. [59] Moreover, teachers who explain Japanese aggression and army atrocities are often subjected to criticism by local officials or municipal education boards.

Descriptions of the Singapore massacre in high school history textbooks are particularly rare. According to research in the 1990s, just 8 out of a total of 26 textbooks mentioned the event. [60] The most widely used textbook states simply that &ldquoatrocities took place in Singapore and elsewhere&rdquo. [61] Other textbooks say that the Japanese army massacred tens of thousands of overseas Chinese in Singapore and Malaya, but even these descriptions are limited to one or two lines, and give no details. Anyone who dared set a question about the atrocities for a university entrance examination could expect attacks not only from right-wingers but also from MPs belonging to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

The situation is similar with regard to junior high school history textbooks. In the eight textbooks approved by the Ministry of Education in April 2005 for use from 2006, descriptions of Korean forced labor have all but disappeared, as has the term &ldquocomfort women&rdquo. Overall, references to Japanese aggression and atrocities have been drastically reduced under pressure from the Ministry of Education, the Liberal Democratic Party, and the right-leaning mass media. If the current ultra-nationalistic trend continues, it seems likely that even the few descriptions of the Singapore massacre that do exist will be eliminated.

Civilian War Memorial in War Memorial Park, Singapore

Work by Singaporean and other researchers has produced valuable information about the Singapore massacre, yet it seems to me that there is room for further research. In particular, what seems lacking is collation of documents in English, Chinese, and Japanese. While Singapore citizens have accounts of the Massacre and the suffering caused by the Japanese occupation, students in Japan are unable to imagine what happened in Singapore and Malaya during the Japanese Occupation. Few Japanese students have any opportunity to learn about the Occupation, and the many Japanese who visit Singapore each year generally are unaware of the killings or of the wartime suffering of Singaporeans. It is difficult to redress the balance, but if Japan is to achieve full reconciliation with the people of Singapore and other Southeast Asian countries and gain their trust, steps in the right direction must be taken.

Hayashi Hirofumi is professor of politics at Kanto-Gakuin University and the Co-Director of the Center for Research and Documentation on Japan&rsquos War Responsibility. His books include Okinawasen to Minshu (The Battle of Okinawa and the People), Otsuki Shoten, 2001 and Ianfu, Senji Seiboryoku no Jittai: Chugoku, Tonan-Ajia, Taiheiyo Hen (The Comfort Women and Wartime Sexual Violence: China, Southeast Asia and the Pacific), Ryokufu Shuppan, 2000. He wrote this article for The Asia-Pacific Journal.

Recommended citation: Hayashi Hirofumi, &ldquoThe Battle of Singapore, the Massacre of Chinese and Understanding of the Issue in Postwar Japan&rdquo The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 28-4-09, July 13, 2009.

[1] The Japanese term &ldquoShukusei&rdquo was used by the Japanese Army at the time. In the Chinese community of Singapore it is usually called &ldquoSook Ching&rdquo (mandarin &ldquoSuqing&rdquo).

[2] For details on the decision-making in the 25th Army, see Hayashi Hirofumi, Sabakareta Sensō Hanzai [Tried War Crimes: British War Crimes Trials of Japanese](Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1998) and &lsquoShingaporu Kakyō Shukusei [Massacre of Chinese in Singapore]&rsquo Nature-People-Society: Science and the Humanities, Kantō-Gakuin University, No.40, Jan. 2006.

[3] Kawamura&rsquos diary is preserved in the National Archives of the UK in London.

[4] This document is preserved in the Library of the National Institute for Defense Studies [LNIDS], Defense Agency, Tokyo.

[5] For example, Singapore Heritage Society, Syonan: Singapore under the Japanese 1942-1945 (Singapore: Singapore Heritage Society, 1992), National Archives of Singapore, The Japanese Occupation, 1942-1945 (Singapore: Times, 1996), p. 72.

[6] For example, National Archives of Singapore, The Japanese Occupation, 1942-1945, p. 68.

[7] The operational order of the 25th Army and the order of the 5th Division dated 21 February 1942 in LNIDS.

[8] In this trial seven officers were prosecuted. Among them two were sentenced to death, while other five were sentenced to imprisonment for life. This is one of most famous war crimes trials held by the British in Singapore.

[9] &ldquoKakyō Kōsaku Jisshi Yōryō [Implementation Guidance for Manipulating Overseas Chinese]&rdquo in LNIDS.

[10] Onishi Satoru, Hiroku Shonan Kakyo Shukusei Jiken [Secret Memoir Overseas Chinese Massacre in Singapore] (Tokyo: Kongo Shuppan, 1977), p. 69 and p. 78.

[11] This claim is prevalent among researchers in Japan. It is believed even by those who are not right-wingers. I have not clarified who put forward this reason for first time.

[12] The Dalforce file in &ldquoBritish Military Administration, Chinese Affairs, 1945-1946&rdquo (National Archives of Singapore).

[13] Numerous books contain such assertions, particularly books in Chinese.

[14] Rikujo Jieitai Kanbu Gakko [Ground Staff College, Ground Self-Defense Force], Mare Sakusen [The Malay Campaign] (Tokyo: Hara Shobo, 1996), pp. 240-1.

[15] Ōnishi, Hiroku Shonan Kakyō Shukusei Jiken, pp. 87-8.

[16] Furyo Kankei Chōsa Chuō Iinkai [Central Board of Inquiry on POWs], &ldquoShingaporu ni okeru Kakyō Shodan Jōkyō Chōsho&rdquo [Record of Investigation on the Execution of Overseas Chinese in Singapore], 23 Oct. 1945 (Reprinted in Nagai Hitoshi (ed.), Sensō Hanzai Chōsa Shiryō [Documents on War Crimes Investigation] (Tokyo: Higashi Shuppan, 1995).

[17] See Hayashi Hirofumi, Sabakareta Senso Hanzai, p. 224.

[18] Otani Keijiro, Kenpei [The Military Police] (Tokyo: Shin-Jinbutsu Oraisha, 1973), p. 189.

[19] Ōnishi, Hiroku Shonan Kakyō Shukusei Jiken, p. 86.

[20] The intelligence files on Tsuji are preserved in Boxes 457 and 458, Personal Files of the Investigative Records Repository, Record Group 319 (The Army Staff), US National Archives and Records Administration.

[21] Asada Kyoji and Kobayashi Hideo (eds.), Nihon Teikokushugi no Manshu Shihai [Administration of Manchuria by the Japanese Imperialism] (Tokyo: Jicho-Sha, 1986), p. 180.

[22] See Ōnishi, Hiroku Shonan Kakyō Shukusei Jiken, pp. 88-92.

[23] Bōeichō Bōei Kenkyusho Senshi-bu [Military History Department, National Defense College, Defense Agency], Hokushi no Chian-sen, Part 1 [Security Operation in North China] (Tokyo: Asagumo Shinbunsha, 1968), pp. 114-30.

[24] See Chalmers Johnson, Peasant Nationalism and Communist Power. The Emergence of Revolutionary China, 1937-1945 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1962), pp. 55-58 Yung-fa Chen, Making Revolution: The Communist Movement in Eastern and Central China, 1937-1945 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986), pp. 98-116 Edward Friedman, Paul G. Pickowicz and Mark Selden, Chinese Village, Socialist State (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991), pp. 29-51.

[25] Kojima Jo, Shisetu Yamashita Tomoyuki [Historical Narrative Yamashita Tomoyuki] (Tokyo: Bungei Shunjusha, 1969), p. 325. See also Yuki Tanaka, &ldquoLast Words of the Tiger of Malaya, General Yamashita Tomoyuki,&rdquo The Asia-Pacific Journal, September 22, 2005.

[26] Kawamura&rsquos diary. See also Hayashi, Sabakareta Senso Hanzai, p. 220.

[27] See Akashi Yoji, &ldquoWatanabe Gunsei&rdquo [Military Administration by Watanabe], in Akashi Yoji (ed.), Nihon Senryōka no Eiryo Mare Shingaporu [Malaya and Singapore under the Japanese Occupation, 1941-45] (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 2001).

[28] Kawamura Saburo, Jusan Kaidan wo Noboru [Walking up Thirteen Steps of Stairs] (Tokyo: Ato Shobo, 1952).

[29] See Hayashi Hirofumi, BC-kyu Senpan Saiban [Class B & C War Crimes Trials] (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 2005), ch. 6.

[30] FO371/105435(National Archives, UK).

[32] Nihon Keizai Shimbun, 3 Nov. 1966.

[33] Asahi Shimbun, 20 Sept. 1967.

[34] Asahi Shimbun, 18 Sept. 1963.

[35] These documents are open to the public at the Diplomatic Record Office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

[37] Asahi Shimbun, 29 Sept. 1963.

[38] Hara Fujio, &ldquoMareishia, Shingaporu no Baishō Mondai&rdquo [Reparation Problem with Singapore and Malaysia], Sensō Sekinin Kenkyu [The Report on Japan&rsquos War Responsibility], No. 10, Dec. 1995.

[39] Ienaga Saburō, Taiheiyō Sensō [The Pacific War] (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1967).

[40] &ldquoKessai: Shingaporu no Chugokujin Gyakusatsu Jiken&rdquo [Blood Debt: Chinese Massacre in Singapore], in Chugoku [China], vol. 76 (Mar. 1970).

[42] Ōnishi, Hiroku Shonan Kakyō Shukusei Jiken, pp. 93-7.

[43] Otani Keijirō, Kempei, p. 189.

[44] Zenkoku Kenyukai Rengōkai, Nihon Kempei Seishi, p. 979.

[45] For example, Terasaki Hiroshi, Sensō no Yokogao [Profile of the War] (Tokyo: Taihei Shuppan, 1974), Nakajima Kenzo, Kaisō no Bungaku [Literature of Recollection], vol. 5 (Tokyo: Heibonsha, 1977), Omata Yukio, Zoku Shinryaku [Sequel: Aggression] (Tokyo: Tokuma Shoten, 1982), and so on.

[46] See Rekishigaku Kenkyukai [The Historical Science Society of Japan], Rekishika wa naze Shinryaku ni kodawaruka [Why Historians adhere to Aggression] (Tokyo: Aoki Shoten, 1982).

[47] Composed of historians and journalists, Nankin Jiken Chōsa Kenkyu Kai [The Society for the Study of Nanking Massacre] was established in 1984. It remains active, although the scope of research has been extended to Japanese atrocities in China and the rest of Southeast Asia.

[49] Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1987.

[50] This article was prepared by the Kyodo News Service and appeared in newspapers on 8 Dec. 1987.

[51] As mentioned before, the 5th Division conducted purges throughout the Malay Peninsular except Johor. The headquarters of the Division in peacetime was situated in Hiroshima and soldiers were conscripted in Hiroshima and neighboring prefectures.

[52] Sensō Giseisha wo Kokoro ni Kizamukai [Society for Keeping War Victims in our Heart], Nihongun no Maresia Jumin Gyakusatu [The Massacres of Malaysian Local Population by the Japanese Military] (Osaka: Toho Shuppan, 1989).

[53] Originally published in 1988. The Japanese translation was as follows: Takashima Nobuyoshi & Hayashi Hirofumi (eds.), Maraya no Nihongun [The Japanese Army in Malaya] (Tokyo: Aoki Shoten, 1989).

[54] Ishiwata Nobuo and Masuo Keizo (eds.), Gaikoku no Kyōkasho no nakano Nihon to Nihonjin [Japan and Japanese in a Foreign Textbook] (Tokyo: Ikkosha, 1988).

[55] Tokyo: Suzusawa Shoten, 1992. For arguments of right-wingers, see Chapter 8 of this book.

[56] See, for example, two articles by Hata Ikuhiko in the journal Seiron, August and Oct. 1992 and Professor Takashima&rsquos and my responses in the same journal in Sept. and Nov. 1992.

[58] Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1998.

[59] See Hayashi Hirofumi, &ldquoNihon no Haigaiteki Nashonarizumu wa Naze Taitō shitaka&rdquo [Why Japanese Chauvinistic Nationalism has gained strength] in VAWW-NET Japan (ed.), Kesareta Sabaki: NHK Bangumi Kaihen to Seiji Kainyu Jiken [Deleted Judgment: Interpolation of the NHK TV Program and the Politicians&rsquo Intervention] (Tokyo: Gaifusha, 2005).

[60] Zenkoku Rekishi Kyōiku Kenkyu Kyōgikai [The National Council for History Education] (ed.), Nihonshi Yōgo-shu [Lexicon of the Japanese History Textbook] (Tokyo: Yamakawa Shoten, 2000), p. 291.

[61] Shōsetsu Nihonshi [The Details of Japanese History] (Tokyo: Yamakawa Shoten, 2001), p. 332.


Although many believe Hitler to be the biggest mass murderer of the Holocaust, Himmler was worse. It is believed that the Holocaust would not have even happened if it had not been for Himmler.

Himmler was a main architect of the Holocaust, using his deep belief in the racist Nazi ideology to justify the murder of millions of victims.

On Hitler’s behalf, Himmler formed the Einsatzgruppen and built extermination camps. After Heydrich was killed, Himmler took over leadership of the RSHA and stepped up the pace of the killing of Jews in Operation Reinhard, named in Heydrich’s honor. He ordered the Aktion Reinhard camps—the first extermination camps—to be constructed at Bełżec, Sobibór, and Treblinka.

Thus, as facilitator and overseer of the concentration camps, Himmler directed the killing of some six million Jews, between 200,000 and 500,000 Romani people, and other victims the total number of civilians killed by the regime is estimated at eleven to fourteen million people. Most of them were Polish and Soviet citizens.

The Nazis wanted to breed a master race of racially pure Nordic Aryans in Germany. As an agronomist and farmer, Himmler was acquainted with the principles of selective breeding, which he proposed to apply to humans. He believed that he could engineer the German populace, for example, through eugenics, to be Nordic in appearance within several decades of the end of the war.

Himmler was captured after the war, and when he unsuccessfully tried to negotiate with the West, he was shocked to be treated as a criminal.

Watch the video: Το Ολοκαύτωμα των Κερδυλίων. 17 Οκτωβρίου 1941 (August 2022).