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Deutsches Institut für Japanstudien

A Common Past Full of Crimes: Japanese – German Collaboration in the Development of Bacteriological and Chemical Weapons and the War in China

October 17, 2000 / 18.30

Bernd Martin (Professor, University of Freiburg)

It is a known fact that, despite all the declarations made, co-operation between the Axis powers Germany, Italy, and Japan within the Tripartite Pact was none too effective. What has not been known, however, is the fact that in the fields of military medicine in general and biological warfare in particular co-operation did exist to a considerable extent, though carefully hidden from public awareness.

Dating back to the 19th century strong links between Japan and Germany had been formed when in the course of the Meiji Reforms Japan had emulated western, mostly Prussian, models to help her own efforts at modernisation. Especially medical science and military medicine had been built up, their curricula set by German medical scientists at Tokyo University. In the 1930s and 1940s, however, roles were reversed: in chemical and biological warfare it was now the Germans that, though reluctantly, made use of the highly advanced Japanese research.

In his presentation, the author provides details of the research done and retraces the lines along which the research exchange – especially concerning bacteriological weaponry and experiments on human beings – was carried out, naming the persons responsible and the research institutes at their disposal. Furthermore, he tries to uncover the roots of this kind of “perverted medicine” in the socio-cultural background and the prevailing ideology in both Japan and Germany.

Bernd Martin is Professor of Modern History at the University of Freiburg, Germany. His main fields of interest and research are contemporary history of Germany, international relations of the 20th century, history of the Second World War, history of modern East Asia (Japan and China). He is the author of numerous books and articles, among others: Japan and Germany in the Modern World, Providence (Rhode Island) and Oxford, 1995.