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"Our Victims Do Not Count". The Third World and the Second World War

Rheinisches JournalistInnenbüro (Hg.): "Unsere Opfer zählen nicht" Die Dritte Welt im Zweiten Weltkrieg [Rhenish Journalists’ Office: “Our Victims Do Not Count“. The Third World and the Second World War], edited by: Recherche International e.V., 444 pages, 400 photographs and 10 maps, Hamburg: Verlag Assoziation A, 2005, € 29,50

Their actions at war do not appear in history books, and their fallen soldiers are listed nowhere. Hardly any memorials are dedicated to their victims and no series on TV remind of the bomb war on their towns and cities. Most of their forced labourers do not receive any compensation and most of their veterans are not paid any war pension. The Third World paid a high price in the Second World War, but it has been thoroughly forgotten and denied ever since.

The publication “Our Victims Do Not Count” wants to remedy this situation. It focuses on this dark part of the history of the Second World war which has been ignored in Europe up to now. Based on long-term research and numerous interviews with war veterans, contemporary witnesses and historians from more than thirty countries in Africa, Asia and Oceania, this work provides the first overview ever of the far-reaching consequences of the Second World War for the Third World from the perspective of those concerned. The authors and editors of this volume – the Rhenish Journalists’ Office – are an association of five journalists dedicated to “grass-root journalism”, who try to keep connected to political movements and initiatives at grass-root level. The association has been existing for more than twenty years. “The journalists presenting this work give a true, authentic, sensitive and human voice to those from Africa, Asia, Latin America and Oceania who have remained without a voice for so many years”, Prince Kum’a Ndumbe III, professor at the University of Yaoundé in Cameroon, writes in his preface, emphasising the fact that this publication breaks with Eurocentric traditions of historiography. Kum’a Ndumbe is one of the most renowned experts on Africa and a lecturer for African History at the Otto-Suhr-Institute of the Free University of Berlin for many years. From 1970 to 1990 he was a member of the “International Committee for the History of the Second World War”. “To have power is to be in charge – this is also true in modern historiography. Therefore, the actions and the victims of the suppressed and colonialised people do not count. Germany and Japan have been defeated, but historians worldwide have dedicated a great deal of detailed research work to them, as they were among the main actors of the war. But those who were forgotten after the war, as if they had never taken part in it, are the real losers”, Ndumbe states not without bitterness. When he started his research into Hitler and Africa in the early seventies, German historians tried to discourage him, saying he would not find any material on the topic. Nevertheless, he found a wealth of documents in the archives that had never been sighted nor made accessible.

Millions of war victims and serious war damages in the Third World have been forgotten, suppressed and hushed up. Many Third World countries became battle fields, others had to supply the raw materials for war production. Millions of soldiers from Africa, Asia, South America and Oceania fought and died in the Second World War caused by Italian Fascism, German National Socialism and Japanese Imperialism. Africans faced each other on both sides of the front in Abyssinia, one hundred thousand soldiers from Western and Southern Africa fought against the Japanese army in Burma, ten thousands of Indians fought against the German army in France. Brazilians were used in Italy, Koreans in the South Pacific. From China to Vietnam to Indonesia and the Philippines, local guerrilla groups operated against old colonial rulers and new occupants.
Millions of people served the warring parties as carriers, construction workers, guides, coast guards, scouts behind enemy lines and rescue workers for wounded soldiers. Auxiliary troops and workers from the Third World were paid less and given worse food, accommodation and general treatment than their “comrades” from the First World. Strikes and rebellions against this unequal treatment were suppressed by brutal force.

Hundreds of thousands of women fell victim to sexual violence. The Japanese alone abducted 200,000 women from the Philippines and Korea to their military brothels. However, the Third World was not only a victim in the War. Many volunteers from Third World Countries fought for the Fascist powers. Anti-colonial movements – from Egypt and Palestine to Iraq and Iran in the Middle East and from India to Burma, Thailand and Indonesia in Asia sympathised with the Fascist powers and provided hundreds of thousands of volunteers for their war. 3,000 Indians of the “Indian League” recruited by the Nazis became enrolled in the “Waffen-SS” in 1944 and took part in massacres of the French population. These facts are also included in this excellent book, which creates an awareness of the Eurocentric view of the Second World War. It is expressly recommended as a standard work on this hitherto neglected topic.

 

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