The Australian Pursuit of Japanese War Criminals, 1943–1957

From Foe to Friend


Dean Aszkielowicz

ISBN : 978-988-8390-72-4


March 2017

180 pages, 6″ x 9″

  • HK$365.00

Previous scholarship on trials of war criminals focused on the legal proceedings with only tacit acknowledgement of the political and social context. Dean Aszkielowicz argues in The Australian Pursuit of Japanese War Criminals, 1943–1957: From Foe to Friend that the trials of Class B and Class C Japanese war criminals in Australia were not only an attempt to punish Japan for its militaristic ventures but also a move to exert influence over the future course of Japanese society, politics, and foreign policy as well as to cement Australia’s position in the Pacific region as a major power.

During the Allied occupation of Japan, Australia energetically tried Japanese Class B and Class C war criminals. However, as the Cold War intensified, Japan was increasingly seen by the United States and its allies as a potential ally against communism and was no longer considered a threat to Pacific security. In the 1950s, concerns about the guilt of individual Japanese soldiers made way for pragmatism and political gain when the sentences of war criminals became a political bargaining chip.

Dean Aszkielowicz teaches at Murdoch University and is an Asia Research Centre Fellow. He is one of the four authors of Japanese War Criminals: The Politics of Justice after the Second World War.

‘Aszkielowicz demonstrates that the Australian trials, while pursuing a form of justice, never veered too far away from political and diplomatic concerns. This book charts new research to identify and historicize the evolution and impact of how the Australian nation adjudicated imperial Japanese war crimes.’ —Barak Kushner, University of Cambridge; author of Men to Devils, Devils to Men: Japanese War Crimes and Chinese Justice

‘Australia’s unique contributions to defeating Imperial Japan are legendary, but perhaps less so is the crucial role Australia played in post-war Allied war crimes investigations and trials of the Japanese. Aszkielowicz sheds new light on this underappreciated story, and assesses its implications to Australian domestic politics and international relations in the Asia-Pacific region.’ —Yuma Totani, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa; author of The Tokyo War Crimes Trial: The Pursuit of Justice in the Wake of World War II