World War II was without doubt the most intensly racist war in human history. Race was actually a relatively modern construct in warfare. Race was not a foot note to the War. It was central to the German war effort as in reading of Hitler's Mein Kampf. The NAZIs did not only want to rule foreign lands, they wanted to eradicate many foreign peoples so they could colonize a land cleared of the existing population. It was also important to the Japanese war effort. The Japanese saw themselves in their island nation as a pure people undiluted with immigration from foreign lands, in sharp contrast to America which they saw as a mongrel nation. The Allies did not have racist goals in fighting the War. The Allied populations, however, to vsrying degrees had racist feelings. And in the case of the United states, racist laws existed in parts of the country. It should not be thought that racist attitudes only existed in the West. Given the intensity of the racial animus during the War, the aftermath of the War is stunning. The occupation of Germany and Japan was conducted without racial animus. This was obvious in Germany as the Allies were not racially different. It was somewhat surprising in Japan given the racial difference and the terrible war crimes committed by the Japanese military. It would of course have been a very different story had the Axis won the War. There was a sharp shift in racist thought throughout Western Europe an the United States. Western Europeans and Americans seeing where racism led began to moderate their attitudes toward other races. This shift was most notable in America which had a substantial non-European population. Prejuduice toward Asian Americans despite the Japanese war crimes and Jews practically disappeared over night. Prejudice toward Blacks was a more deeply enbedded problem. But the War in many ways set the Civil Rights Movement in motion. Today in the West, one of the worst things you can say about another person is that they are racist. The situation in Soviet-controlled Eastern Europe was different. Socialist ideology criticizes racism. Soviet policy, however, included some racist elements. And unlike the West, racist thought while supressed during the Cold War emerged after the fall of the Soviet-imposed Communist regimes. Change in racist attitudes in the Third World was less dramatic. There racial and ethnic differences were less affected by the War.
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