In This Review

Confronting Memories of World War II: European and Asian Legacies
Confronting Memories of World War II: European and Asian Legacies
Edited by Daniel Chirot, Gi-Wook Shin, and Daniel Sneider
University of Washington Press, 2014, 440 pp

Wars evoke powerful emotions: grief and pride, humiliation and honor, outrage and exultation. As this excellent volume reveals, such feelings can come to form essential parts of national mythologies, and this has been especially so in the case of World War II. Japan, for example, has only grudgingly accepted its guilt -- a task complicated, perhaps, by the fact that the Japanese can also claim that they were the victims of a terrible act of war: the U.S. nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. When China needed Japanese investment to grow its economy, Chinese officials avoided condemning Japanese brutality during the Nanjing massacre of 1937; now that China and Japan are once again locked in a fierce rivalry, some members of China’s leadership point to Nanjing as evidence of Japanese immor-ality. Unlike Japan, Germany has fully come to terms with its guilt. But German contrition has allowed others countries -- Austria, for example -- to avoid reckoning with their collaboration with the Nazis. This book explores what is normal in war and what constitutes exceptional atrocity, and it underlines the importance of independent and honest historical writing that stays close to the evidence and steers clear of mythmaking.